Death Most Definite – a deadly debut

death most definite by trent jamiesonDeath’s big business — cutthroat, too. This is brought home to Pomp (alas, the circumstance!) Steven de Selby, a minor rung in the corp’s Brisbane ladder, when everything goes to Hell. Helping spirits pass over to the great fig tree under the world is a family talent, though there are those who have spurned the calling. Not Steven, who finds the task of Pomping somewhat cushy: it pays well, and the only effort he has to make is visiting the recently departed once in a while to make sure that unruly denizens of the netherworld — Stirrers — don’t pop into the recently vacated meat and take it for a test drive. But now the old firm is suffering a shake-up and the new broom is sweeping mighty clean indeed. Steven’s on the run, his life in tatters and under considerable threat. Through south-east Queensland he flees, with a gorgeous ghost watching his back (and other bits of his anatomy as well). Steven’s gonna have to step up and set things to right, or die in the attempt, and all of Australia — if not the world — is at stake.

Death Most Definite, the first of a series, is the debut novel (with an awesome, Angel-like cover) of Brisbane’s Trent Jamieson (a man whose prose I’ve long admired and who I have had occasion to share a drink with). Here, he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve. It’s an endearing feature of his prose — the man’s a short story genius — that the emotions run high and true, more often than not. The prose is on the money — fast and self-deprecating, with touches of beauty where appropriate, and insights into the morality of modern life (and a further insight into Trent’s CD collection — but hey, if any story was befitting of London Calling for its soundtrack, this is it).

Brisbane stands up quite well to its central role as sub-tropical battleground, its smallness of city and bigness of town adding to Steven’s woes. Just goes to show, you don’t need to be in Manhattan to have an enjoyable apocalypse. The supernatural elements, particularly the rituals, are suitably visceral, and should satisfy the eye of those looking for awards shortlists.

For the most part, the pace of this crime/horror thriller skips along nicely, smoothing over the couple of logic potholes that are adequately filled by the time we reach the denouement which sets up the next leg of the arc. Steven is a cool dude, a philosophical slacker and easy mark who rises to the occasion and provides pathos, a few chuckles and plenty of slick gory moments along the way.

This is an accomplished debut. Devilish fun!

Goldfrapp rock Melbourne

All kudos to Alison Goldfrapp, but let’s also hear a cheer for her band and sound team, who all came together with nary a missed beat to provide a thrilling climax to her Australian tour at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre on Tuesday night.

Goldfrapp, soldiering on despite the death of her mother (announced on her blog in July), headed a band as tight as her body suit: a keyboardist with a Chrissy Amphlett fringe who was either busy with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the synthesiser or boogeying away at the front with a keytar; a Sheena Easton lookalike drummer presiding over a hybrid electric-acoustic kit; a cruisy bassist who might’ve been Jason Statham’s little brother; and a ringmaster who bounced around with a certain impish glee with his wild hair and beard and pyjama style body suit as he added highlights with an electronic violin thingy, guitar or keytar – the double keytar attack on some songs was truly awesome. And then there was Goldfrapp herself, raising hairs with those high notes, and otherwise enthralling with a set to seduce, all breathy and note perfect as she strutted centre stage and reeled off an hour and a half of hits, including two encores.

The lighting was striking, centred on a silver doughnut at stage rear, with lots of strobes and smoke, but it was the sound that made the night: the keyboards were working overtime, laying the foundation with a huge sound complemented by the rhythm section’s driving beat.

There was little chitchat from Ms Goldfrapp, looking resplendent in her mix-and-match black bodysuit and makeup lifted from the Alive music clip – minimalist but for the dark eyeshadow that enhanced the silvery undead gleam from the stage lights.

Light and shade were provided by a range of songs (penned by the songwriting duo of Goldfrapp and Will Gregory) from the cruisy Utopia, from debut album Felt Mountain, to more wistful Black Cherry to the joyful dancefloor pop of recent singles Alive and Rocket. The band were sharp, stopping and starting in perfect sync, and the tunes arranged to provide moments of quiet for Goldfrapp’s high range to weave its magic.

It was an impressive display of slick musicianship that could only have been improved by having Tycho Brahe in support!

Concrete Blonde touring Australia in October

It’s official: Concrete Blonde are to tour Australia in October playing Brisbane (19th), Sydney (21st), Melbourne (22nd) and Perth (23rd). I am ecstatic.

The band, who broke through with the single Joey and just couldn’t sustain the chart impact, are touring to mark the 20th anniversary of their brilliant album, Bloodletting, which has recently been released in a remastered edition with extra tracks.

Madigan Mine: launched!

kirstyn mcdermott at the launch of her novel madigan mine

Madigan Mine has been officially launched! A most excellent crowd attended at Melbourne’s Carlton Library (three cheers for the brilliant staff) to see a metaphoric bottle of bubbles broken over the bow of Kirstyn McDermott’s debut novel. Lucy Sussex (who has her own launch coming up) did the honours, fitting the Melbourne-set thriller into the wider context of Australian Gothic and saying some very nice things about Kirstyn’s prose.

It was grand to see such support for a local writer, with publisher Pan Macmillan sending representatives, including the artist who designed the superb cover.

Kirstyn provides the author’s perspective of the event, and there are more pictures here.

Lucy Sussex launches Madigan Mine

John Foxx – songs for the urban condition

The good folk at Projekt recently made available a very attractive 2CD/1DVD set of John Foxx’s new collection, Metatronic.

Foxx is the founder of Ultravox, a pioneer of synthesiser music and all-round clever artist. I saw him rip up Brisbane’s venerable Tivoli theatre two years back, proving that a man and a keyboard or three of electro goodness can put on a hell of a show (having Louis Gordon bouncing around like a mad thing doesn’t hurt, either).

In an interview prior to that tour, Foxx told me about his fascination with the urban landscape. That fascination is apparent on Metatronic, a retrospective put together by Foxx that showcases what he considers his darker material spanning his 30-year career to date.

On early listenings, it’s delivering what I was looking for: a soundscape for the city, lonely and echoing in places, peak-hour and oblivious at others; at times melancholy and other times strident, but almost always evoking a sense of isolation however desperately it might be resisted. Compelling bass lines lay the foundation, with slick, crisp production adding fill and texture (see The Noise). His almost desperate, hoarse vocals complete the picture: love lies lost in the rush and buried under the cacophony, leaves burn, cars burn, “there’s no one driving”.

While disc 1 is the showcase, the second value-adds with live tracks from Foxx’s gig in Sydney in 2008 supplemented with remixes. The DVD includes several music clips and two live clips.