Abbe May, leader of the CD stacker

kiss my apocalypse by abbe mayPerth singer-songwriter Abbe May blasted onto my radar with 2011’s Design Desire, a rockin’ album, blistering and sexy. So blistering in places I’d quite forgotten its tender, electronic moments that have been further explored on Kiss My Apocalypse.

This album is insanely slinky, sexy, cool. DD‘s bluesy, rock guitars are eschewed for synths and beats: steamy, savvy, invasive… the title track and Karmageddon are the kinds of tunes that you find yourself humming hours after.

Throughout, with the amps down, May’s voice is allowed to roam through her impressive range. It’s pop meets electro meets attitude. There’s even an undertone of flamenco.

Outside the couple of atmospheric bites and minute-and-a-bit F**k/Love, each song carries its own weight on what is a fairly even-tempo collection.

There’s an inner city or inner suburban feel; a sense of melancholy, of waiting, of love on hold or disappointed; of frustration and defiance and a will to overcome. That we will not fall into the cracks in the pavement, we will not go quietly, we will not accept the betrayal and the inadequacies; we will demand respect.

Maybe the message of the album is that, when love lies bleeding, we will rise above. And if not, well, this is a damn fine album to go down to.

Other new music of 2013 on rotation:

savages album silence yourselfWild ‘n’ arty England four-piece Savages‘ debut, Silence Yourself. If Abbe May is seducing you into the end of the world, then these gals are tearing it down around your ears. There are clear roots to the 80s — Joy Division, Siouxsie Sioux, Bauhaus — but there’s a modern polish, aided in no small measure by the vocals of Jehnny Beth. Getting slammed shouldn’t feel this good, should it?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ newish album Mosquito provides a pleasant mix of textures, none tastier than the title track. Opener ‘Sacrilege’ feels almost like a bridge from previous, electro outing It’s Blitz until the guitar buzz opens up on the way to a gospel conclusion, and the suggestion of Blitz 2 is left behind. ‘Subway’, backed by train-on-sleeper rhythm, shows they can tone it down, too. Eminently listenable, but then, Karen O is, ain’t she?


 
I helped kick-start Free Dominguez‘s Volcano and the Sea, based on the ear-grabbing awesomeness than is her band Kidneythieves. Alas, the poppy solo outing isn’t quite as grabby, sliding by innocuously and pleasantly enough with plenty of style, but failing to announce its presence. There’s a remix ep that features a cracking KMDFM version of ‘The Wolf’.

Likewise, Helalyn Flowers‘ new album, White Me In Black Me Out, sports a couple of wonderful tracks — the title song’s one of ’em — but too much of this new album from the ’80s-loving Italian electro-goths does too little.


 
Into that same territory of passing good but unexceptional are The Next Day from David Bowie — extra points for using the word ‘gormless’ in a song — and Depeche Mode, following up the meh of Sounds of the Universe with equally meh Delta Machine. Black Celebration feels like such a long time ago. Oh, crap, it was!

falling echoes album counterclockwiseAnd finally, fresh out in cyberspace, is the debut album from Falling Echoes, being my mate Aaron R Walker of Wretched Villains fame and his mate Cristian Matheson (not to be confused with the writerly son of Richard Matheson, Christian with a h). Those familiar with the Villains’ foot-tapping gloom rock will appreciate this outing, though might miss Peter Green’s axe. The album, Counterclockwise, is a rhythm-led, simmering affair with touches of Cure-like joie de vivre. Ideal for walking home from the station on foggy nights.


Check these out on bandcamp:

  • Attrition: album The Unraveller of Angels electro-industrial goodness, hovering between the sensuous delights of sex and death
  • Nicki Jaine: Her album Of Pigeons and Other Curiosities should please Jill Tracy fans with its gritty cabaret sound — ‘untitled’ is particularly suitable in these days of depressing headlines, filling my head with noirish imagery of sweaty bedroom sheets and barely turning fan and, on the other side of the dusty blinds, streets descending into bedlam.


    Retro buy:

  • Dr John‘s 1968 debut, Gris Gris. Swamp blues comin’ at you, bone-shakin’ and bayou drippin’. Play it with the lights down low and go, baby, go.
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    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

    Tron, Depeche Mode and Fox Klein (and SF stuff at the end)

    What, I hear your cyberbrains muse, do those three things have in common? No, wait, that’s not you at all, it’s the rickety desk fan making that peg-leg rattle because it’s set on 2 and the little pin that stops it from rotating isn’t working quite right. But it’s a fair question, just the same.

    Thursday. Another dull day at the sausage factory. Cut, paste, upload. Repeat. And then Sean Williams, bless his love of 80s electronic music, sent me this. It is essentially a trailer for Tron, set to one of my favourite Depeche Mode songs, Suffer Well. And done very nicely, too.

    And where does the comedian Fox Klein fit in? Well, nowhere, except that he, and the two Coronas I had with dinner, were the highlight of the evening at the Sit Down Comedy Club. A charismatic comedian, offering a storyline or at least a consistent theme with moments of absolute cleverness, and lots of relationship/sex talk without resorting to smut.

    Which goes to show how music, fantasy and a sense of humour will overcome 🙂

    Meanwhile, check out this download from ABC Radio’s Book Show, featuring Aurealis Award winners Jonathan Strahan, Alison Goodman and KA Bedford talking about the importance of the awards, speculative fiction’s ability to compete for attention in the wider market place, and other stuff.