Heaven and Hell aka Dio’s Black Sabbath

It looks like the Heaven and Hell tour of 2007 has stirred the blood of the Black Sabbath veterans, headed by Ronnie James Dio. The band have a new album due out in May, appropriately called The Devil You Know, led by the cracking single Bible Black. I got to interview Geezer Butler in 07 ahead of the tour, and what a lovely chap he was. Still miffed I wasn’t able to make that gig, so I’ve fingers crossed for a second shot if their current tour makes it Down Under.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs/White Lies/Howling Bells/Kristeen Young

While I’m in a musical mood, a few quick bites:

A review of last night’s Tycho Brahe — really hitting their chops, obviously supporting Human League has done them the world of good — gig is here.

yeah yeah yeahs, it's blitz

yeah yeah yeahs, it's blitz

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz

Really enjoying bashing this album from the New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs and not missing the indie guitar sound at all. Of course, with a lead singer such as Karen O, they could probably make a polka album and I’d love it… hm, maybe not. Here’s a taste, the insanely catchy single Zero.

white lies, to lose my life

white lies, to lose my life

White Lies, To Lose My Life

Balancing out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, English outfit White Lies’ have a superb, shiny retro sound (Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen) that catches the ear. Such as on the song, To Lose My Life. Not sure how much shelf life this album will have — I’m betting more than the Killers, with whom they share some slinky rhythms — but it certainly has some strong tunes that deserve a listen.

Howling Bells, Howling Bells

On advice from Cam of Company Sin, I’ve eschewed the new Howling Bells album, Radio Wars, in favour of their self-titled debut, and am enjoying the early listens. Low Happening is a good example of their sound, stripped and a bit more miserable than their most recent effort, I’m told. Vis:


Kristeen Young, Music for Strippers, Hookers and the Odd-Onlooker

KRISTEENYOUNG, a New York-based duo, dedicate their latest album to Morrissey, with whom they’ve toured and sensationally been fired from.

They’ve certainly got the complementary dark edge, the sarcasm, the cynicism. I Won’t Be Home for Chrismas, He’s Sickened by my Crude Emotions, If You Marry Him, Comfort Is Never a Goal … there’s not a lot of sweetness and light here.

The emotions explode on this album, featuring Kristeen Young on keys and Baby Jef White on drums and percussion. The combination might bring Dresden Dolls to mind, but this is no slinky cabaret; there is little glimmer of Amanda Palmer’s trademark tease.

Young comes across like Kate Bush on speed, Tori Amos stripped of subtlety and armed with a carving knife. The album, her sixth, is produced by Tony Visconti, who’s worked with Morrissey and Bowie, on whose album Heathen Young performed.

The opening three songs are frenetic, and even the slower, more introspective Everybody Wants Me to Cry has an ominous tone to its piano.

Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Vaughn Stump guests on the catchy, sombre That’s What It Takes, Dear.

Music … is not a background album. The cut and thump of the drums; Young’s distinctive, high voice; the crash of the keys — Comfort Is Never a Goal is a good example, with its pop chorus and fractured verses _ demand attention.

Keyboard like a Gun introduces synths to offer a whimsical experimental/pop interlude, essentially bridging the 14-song album to its encore including Protestant, which comes across as a shot at her fundamentalist Christian upbringing.

Thanks to the performance, and the sparse production, there’s a live feel to this overlong album that helps make it rewarding, if not always comfortable, listening.

the top 150 songs of all time … or not

Music’s an amazing force, isn’t it? I can’t think of another artform that has such power to unite, polarise and divide. Dissemination is comparatively easy, sharing to a mass audience ridiculously so (if you can get them to listen, and there’s the rub).

So when a media outlet, as is their wont, publishes a list of, well, anything really, but music in particular, you can bet they’re really just spoiling for an argument. My mate, Noel Mengel, the chief music writer at The Courier-Mail, has set himself up as a clay target by listing his best 150 songs of all time, even as he acknowledges it’s such a subjective topic as to be almost meaningless. He says he’s a product of his time, as are, I will hazard, we all. Alas, there isn’t a lot of synthesiser in Noel’s list, nor down-tuned guitars. And he hasn’t tried to reach out to cover all genres, all movements, not even those amazing songs that have defined eras and forged new musical directions. It’s upapologetically heart on sleeve stuff, which got me thinking: what does it for me? And why? And just how bloody hard would it be to try to make such a list?!

So I’m giving it a go. Herewith, 30 old friends, the tunes that’ve stuck with me through thick and thin, or serve as milestones on the journey:

Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joy Division: The song came out after Ian Curtis killed himself, highlighting the sheer bloody waste. I often wonder what words he could’ve delivered to us had he hung on in there. The song is an obvious choice, a regular favourite on Triple J radio’s ‘best of’ lists. I once maintained it was my favourite love song, but of late, I’m less sure. I still wear the t-shirt, though!

Hurt, Nine Inch Nails: As with Joy Division, or any of one’s favourite bands, trying to pick the definitive song is a mission impossible – especially given the strength of NIN’s debut album, Pretty Hate Machine. Favourites change, from mood to mood, moment to moment. But this is an unforgettable song (from The Downward Spiral), Trent Reznor in his maudlin, angst-ridden glory. See also the reflective version by Johnny Cash.

Scarred, Johnette Napolitano: The lead singer of Concrete Blonde, Napolitano possesses one of the most distinctive, emotive voices in rock, and a gift for deft lyricism. Scarred, from the album of the same name, is a coming of middle-age song, acceptance of the path that’s been trodden, the journey ahead and the ultimate end of the road.

Bloodletting (The Vampire Song), Concrete Blonde: Horror writer, remember? So given the uniform strength of the CB songlist, why not go with the one with bite — New Orleans by night, creatures of the night, and a swaggering bass beat. Yummy.

Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode: Time for a dance? This one never fails to get the foot tapping. Johnny Cash also covered this, sublimely.

More, Sisters of Mercy: Predictable for an ’80s Goth tragic such as moi, but it’s a crowd-pleaser from the pretentious tosser who largely introduced me to the genre of Goth rock — even if Andrew Eldritch is too up himself to acknowledge his fan base.

Edie (Ciao Baby), The Cult: Ian Astbury has a set of lungs with few rivals, a Jim Morrison aura, and as this tune reveals, a strong interest in Andrew Warhol and his coterie of muses. Another band with such a massive catalogue of hits and dancefloor favourites, I went for something less obvious than She Sells Sanctuary.

Sister Awake, The Tea Party: Speaking of Jim, The Tea Party frontman Jeff Martin is another with a leonine presence and a gift for poetic lyrics, sometimes obtuse. Haven’t been to a Tea Party/Martin gig yet without being skewered through my emotional centre by one song or another.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Bauhaus: It’s long, it’s atmospheric, it name-checks one of my favourite actors from one of the best vampire movies ever made (that’s another list!), and I can’t hear it without thinking of those nights on the dance floor, wreathed in smoke from the fog machine, barely moving to this hypnotic beat. And of course, it was used in unforgettable fashion in the movie The Hunger.

Vienna, Ultravox: If you’re not going to send the kids home from the club with Bela Lugosi’s Dead, then this synth pop classic is another apt choice for bringing down the curtain.

Reckless (Don’t Be So), Australian Crawl: Classic Aussie rock from a classic Aussie band, poking their tongues at middle class pretension and generally having a hell of a good time. The Crawl were huge during my high school years, still love ’em. Along with Icehouse, INXS, The Church, Divinyls … ah, those were the days…

Do You Love Me, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: It’s raw, it’s dark … duh, I hear you say.

Back in Black, AC/DC: Headbangers of the world unite. Shared some good red-eye drives down the coast with my uni mates with Acca Dacca keeping our eyes open.

The Night, Heart: The Canadian sisters were at their height in the 80s with some rather saccharine power rock, but their depth goes further, melding folk, rock and a touch of world music a la their heroes Led Zeppelin. The Night, from the Brigade album, is about a vampire. At least, that’s my interpretation.

Kashmir, Led Zeppelin: Love the funereal beat, though Stairway to Heaven would be a more logical choice.

Paranoid, Black Sabbath: Where would we be without Ozzy and co? Somewhere nicer, but definitely nowhere as interesting!

Black Night, Deep Purple: Completing the triumvirate of classic ‘heavy metal’ founders, this track should be mandatory on all driving compilations.

Nothing Else Matters, Metallica: My sister introduced me to Metallica’s Black album, for which I’ll always be thankful. She had far less success with her Mariah Carey fetish.

Epic, Faith No More: Not my favourite FNM song, but memorable for being the one I *didn’t* like until my Carey-lovin’ sister and I went to their gig and were knocked out by their performance. Mike Patton is a genius. I think.

The Thrill is Gone, BB King: Tellin’ it like it is. The beauty of the blues is, it can make you tap your foot and nod your head at the same time as it tears out your heart.

New Orleans, Louisiana Gator Boys and the Blues Brothers: From the Blues Brothers 2000 soundtrack, an album played repeatedly by a good friend in Canada while we were driving to the Rockies and back, ahead of a trip to New Orleans. Good times… file with Baby, Please Don’t Go (Lightnin’ Hopkins, for starters), House of the Rising Sun (Animals) and Summer Breeze (Type O Negative version) for other N’Awlins-evoking tunes.

Creep, Radiohead: Oh the angst! Still the only Radiohead song I’ve bought. That whiney Thom Yorke voice kind of works on this one. Check out the Amanda Palmer ukelele version!

Angel, Massive Attack: Came late to these too-cool dudes, but this track offers lovely sentiment and reminds me of the gang I used to hang with when I first moved to Brisbane.

Wild is the Wind, David Bowie: I bought a best of with this song on it after hearing an interview with Bowie in which he said this song probably offered his most authentic voice. It’s a beautiful cover from one of the modern era’s true musical geniuses.

Proud Mary, Tina Turner: Blew me away live, this rollicking ode to paddle steamers on the Mississippi. Creedence do an awesome version, too.

Born on the Bayou, Creedence Clearwater Revival: Another southern homage that gets the foot tapping, conjuring memories of my favourite city. If you get a chance to see John Fogerty in concert, take it!

Walk This World, Heather Nova: A song that strikes straight at my wanderlust, best shared with someone special. The lovelorn might like to check out her London Rain, too.

Rio, Duran Duran: Another ’80s holdover, from one of the few albums I distinctly remember buying. On cassette, in Darwin!

Cities Lie in Dust, Siouxsie and the Banshees: Appropriate or otherwise, I’ll always remember this tune playing through my mind pretty much all day on September 12, 2001. From one of Goth rock’s truest characters and longest survivors.

Principles of Lust, Enigma: The MCMXC AD album was already a favourite, but it’s indelibly imprinted on my mind as the soundtrack to driving past fields at dawn in a Romanian taxi, heading to the Hungarian border after a paperwork issue resulted in my being removed from a train.

Thirty songs. Thirty moments in time, some fixed, some still unwinding. With new milestones ahead, either yet to be written or simply yet to be discovered. Viva la music!

Sounds of the Universe by Depeche Mode

depeche mode: sounds of the universe

depeche mode: sounds of the universe

Oh my goodness. Depeche Mode turning to lounge room singers?

The new album, Sounds of the Universe (Universal/Mute), hits its lowest point with Jezebel, with Martin Gore on vocals. A dreary tune, it features some amazing ’70s organ effects that should have relegated this song to the discard pile.

The English electronica champions seem to have overlooked their recent successes with heavier singles such as Suffer Well and A Pain That I’m Used To to wallow in their ’80s glory.

Plenty of attention has been paid to studio production, not enough to grabbing the listener’s attention as the album cruises along on a bed of synthetic beats.

Fortunately, Dave Gahan is in superb voice, managing to infuse some emotion into relatively emotionless, but cleverly layered, arrangements. Check out In Chains, which opens the account on this, the group’s twelfth studio album.

Single Wrong (check out the funky, Saw-like reverse driving clip below!) is not a fair indicator of the frequently pedestrian fare on offer, although the superb closing song, Corrupt, ensures the album finishes on a high with trademark DM synth groove and heavier bass.

Gahan showed solid writing chops with Suffer Well, on the band’s previous album, 2005’s Playing the Angel, and contributes three co-written tunes here: Hole to Feed, Come Back and Miles Away/The Truth Is. Hole to Feed is the pick, one of the more distinctive tunes on the album thanks to its swaggering percussion, although Miles Away offers a catchy chorus.

Each song rewards independent listening with its individual touches _ fuzz guitar on Fragile Tension, for instance _ but few stand out from the crowd.

And surely it’s past time to be dangling a few twee bars of musical noodling minutes after the last song has ended, just to stretch out the album’s duration.

One of the Sunday-Mail’s funkiest reporters, Sally Browne, chatted with Dave Gahan and reports a visit to Australia as part of their Tour of the Universe (which wouldn’t be much of a ‘universe’ without an Aussie leg, would it?). Fingers crossed!

Wrong by Depeche Mode

Zombies have their day … and night

The indominitable Chuck McKenzie, his glee barely contained by the electrons, points out this piece in Time magazine proclaiming that the zombies’ day has come. If it means less twee Twilight and more actual, you know, horror with something to say, bring it on. Though Chuck, the vampire will never die, my friend ๐Ÿ˜‰

Booked in Bundaberg

I’m excited to say that I’ll be joining some excellent writers at Bundaberg Library’s Booked program in May. Stephanie Laurens, Kirsty Brooks and Kim Michelle Toft will be sharing the love and angst at panels, chats and, I believe, over lunch. I grew up in the Wide Bay region and still have good friends in Bundy, so it’s a bit of a return to my old stomping grounds, bringing some Gothic vampire love with me ๐Ÿ™‚
Booked is on Sunday, May 17, conveniently dovetailing with Writefest the day before, run by Bundaberg Writers Club. So I’ll be popping in there for a look-see, too. Sue Abbey is among the professionals running workshops at Writefest: I can’t speak highly enough of her skills and friendly advice.
Two other events worth noting: the mob organising the national science fiction convention, Conjecture, in Adelaide in June have extracted their digit and posted more information on the website, allaying mounting fears that the long period of silence heralded a fizzler. Mind you, with that many wineries within cork-popping distance, that was never really going to be an issue, was it?
Another cool event that has got cooler is Continuum, in Melbourne in August, where Melbourne writer Narelle M Harris has been added as a guest of honour. Harris has had a vampire novel published by Brisbane’s Pulp Fiction Press; they make a commendable team ๐Ÿ™‚
The other key convention for spec fic writers and readers this year is Conflux, in Canberra in October, but unfortunately I won’t be making that. Rather I’ll be at my Edge writers group’s annual retreat, hoping to make something beautiful come of it.