reviews

Peter Fenton: In The Lovers Arms (2004)

This is an older interview of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Originally published September 2004.

R-5554611-1457749426-1151.jpeg[1]There’s a line in Peter Fenton’s debut solo album, In The Lovers Arms that accurately encapsulates its author’s thoughts on songwriting. On opener ‘The Song People’, appears the refrain

Song… Song… Song…
It’s where you’ve been

It’s also pretty apt for where the artist is at in his life. Song is, in some ways, a transcript, a record of where you’ve been. And for Fenton, it’s been quite a journey. In The Lovers Arms is the end result of recent ruminations on life, love and solitude, and it’s a welcome release.
The album is the singer’s first solo release since Crow – the best fucked-off-with-life band of dark-eyed troubadours since Nick Cave stopped writing Latin on his chest and decided to keep his suit-jackets on – imploded after the release of Play With Love in 1998. Since that time, he’s begun a career as an actor, and this album marks his return to the world of recording, after a period of disenchantment with the industry at large.

There’s two things to note about this return, too. Firstly, it’s a concept album. Secondly, it’s a product that makes the waiting worthwhile. (more…)

Book review: Chasing the Scream

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on DrugsChasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The War on Drugs has been in existence for decades. Thousands of people – if not millions – have died as a result of the prosecution of this war. But we’re never allowed, really, to question the success or the basic justice of such an event: drugs are bad, right?

Well now. (more…)

Book review: Amnesia (2014)

Amnesia.Amnesia by Peter Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve long been a fan of Peter Carey’s work, so I was pleased to be given Amnesia as a birthday present. I was further pleased to discover that, though the work is flawed, he’s created here one of his more memorable characters – Felix Moore, a weakling, a drinker, a leftie and crucially, a journalist.

Having worked in the industry for years, the portraiture is remarkably accurate. There’s a quote in it,

“I had a lifetime of hard-won technical ability but was my heart sufficient… Did I have the courage for something more than a five-column smash and grab?”

which pretty much encapsules the mind of the jobbing journo in a few scant lines. (more…)

Book review: A Feast for Crows

A Feast for CrowsA Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suppose the people were right when they suggested I’d seen nothin’ yet if I thought GRRM’s penchant for waffling was excessive in the previous book. This was easily the series’ most padded work. Many times I found myself retreading ground, or having stuff explained that’d been explained in either another book in the series or in another chapter of this book.

That’s understandable, I suppose – there’s hundreds of cast and dozens of locations in the world Martin’s created – but it certainly is very obvious when you’re reading the series (as it stands) end to end. As you start to build up your own storehouse of lore and family trees, the constant hand-holding can really weary. (more…)

Mark Lanegan Band: Bubblegum (2004)

Click to visit his homepage.This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. Again, it’s a long ‘un. A decade ago I obviously wasn’t into precision. 

Until now, most people who’ve been aware of Mark Lanegan’s solo career have been die-hard fans. His solo work – a brace of pared-back albums that provide distinctly uneasy listening – is more noted for its barely-restrained menace, rather than the volume-heavy terror of the singer’s turns with Screaming Trees or Queens Of The Stone Age. His work over albums like Field Songs and The Winding Sheet contained a starker, (more…)

Oxbow: An Evil Heat (2002)

Oxbow: An Evil HeatThis is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

Once in a while, a record comes along that makes you question the sanity of the people who made it — or a CD makes you feel that there’s something, at a basic level, terribly wrong. An Evil Heat is one of those recordings. Try taking the big guitar sound that was found on some Rage Against The Machine tracks, and giving it to the Birthday Party. Pour them full of crack and paranoia, and then make Nick Cave slur more, utilising a vocal technique that varies between the squalling of newborns, the ranting of mental patients released into the community, and demon wails.

Like The Jesus Lizard after a stay in prison, Oxbow‘s music is dangerous, in-your-face and utterly compelling. Their live act is described as “live cock fun”, which is pretty much what you get here: demonic cock-rockin’ riffs, corralled by someone who sounds like he’s working through some serious problems. It’s truly oceanic. (more…)

Book review: Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked

Two book reviews for the price of one. Read before a re-watch of David Fincher’s Zodiac because these were instrumental in its creation. My advice? Stick with the film. There’s a little repetition in the reviews because REPETITION IS WHAT YOU GET FROM READING THESE BOOKS, BUCKO.

ZodiacZodiac by Robert Graysmith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cartoonist-cum-chronicle Robert Graysmith has a pretty decent retelling of the Zodiac killer story here. As well he should, given he was working at one of the newspapers to receive ciphers and cheery letters from the murderous astrology fan. (more…)

What Is Music? @ Gaelic Club, Sydney, 12/02/2004

WHAT? YOU'LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP.

Festival artwork, 2004.

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

What Is Music? is a festival that’s been running since 1993 and aims to show gig-goers that there’s more to music than three chords and the truth. Judging from the mixture of baffled and ecstatic faces seen in The Gaelic Club this evening, the education continues.

As punters entered the room, Matthew Chaumont was already well under way. Seated in front of the stage, manning a couple of computers, a mixer, and what appeared to be a large speaker attached to a couple of metres of industrial ducting. Apparently called Metaphenomena, the piece was a series of bowel-shakingly low tones with a satisfyingly dirty texture. (more…)

Alan Moore and Tim Perkins: Angel Passage (2002)

Alan Moore and Tim Perkins: Angel Passage (re:)This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Angel Passage is an odd disc. It’s a studio reworking of a performance Moore and Perkins presented as part of the Tygers of Wrath concert, presented at the end of Tate Britain’s William Blake exhibition. And as such, it sits in no-man’s land; it’s not a run-of-the-mill spoken-word album, nor is it a cast-recording album. It’s a weird hybrid, like reading Moore’s meditation on Blake’s life while ghostly music that’s not quite separate floats through the air. Occasionally, it’s problematic — I just want to hear what he’s saying, dammit — but for the most part, it adds a well-judged air of mystery. (more…)

Nerve Net Noise: Meteor Circuit (2002)

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

No two ways about it, you’re either going to love Meteor Circuit or think it’s the most annoying con-job going in electronica. Nerve Net Noise, a Japanese duo, take homemade oscillators and basically let them play themselves. They claim to be going for the middle ground between planned and unplanned, suggesting that there’s a kind of life created here. Then again, their liner notes also make links between the creation of the world and their music, in a display of whimsy that elsewhere would annoy, but here appears to fit entirely with the project: machines playing themselves, humans acting merely as scribes. (more…)