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.
  • Life is a near death experience

    On his 2008 album City That Care Forgot, Dr John sings that ‘life is a near death experience’. Ever the pragmatist, Dr John, and on this album, a rather angry one, addressing the concerns of post-Katrina New Orleans.

    It’s an album that takes on wider meaning in the aftermath of Queensland’s devastating run of floods and storms — burdens shared in NSW and Victoria, Tassie too — and WA’s fires and now, most recent horror of horrors, the earthquake that has torn New Zealand’s Christchurch apart.

    I can’t imagine it, that suddenness: a terrorist couldn’t have timed it better. A crowded city centre, a lunch time crowd running errands, shopping, eating … and then the moment when it all goes to hell. Buses crushed, buildings collapsed, cliffs fallen…

    There’s word that a youth hostel is the site of multiple fatalities, bringing to mind the horrible arson in Childers that killed so many backpackers. That distance from home, that has to add salt to the viciously ripped wound; a long-ago far-away farewell and no homecoming, just a box, and grainy, goofy pictures from the interwebs plastered on websites under the title of ‘coverage’ as we try to make sense of it all.

    It’s the arbitrariness of death that helps to make it such a fearsome force. Even when human agencies are at hand, there’s that element of chance, of randomness. That building, that car, that spot on the sidewalk… but not mine. The person next to me. But not me. Not this time.

    Dr John’s album is an indictment, a plea, a rallying cry. It points the bone at callous politics and immoral big business; it urges strength in the face of indifference. It urges perseverance and pride, and finds strength in history and community.

    My friends scuffling with contractors/permits and roofers/on top of tons property damage/feel like insurance companies screwed us

    The song title? We Gettin’ There.

    There might be a bit of Aussie irony in Dr John…

    Australia and New Zealand are fortunate places; not perfect, by any means, but the ongoing crises demonstrate that the quality of compassion hasn’t been lost. Our musicians don’t have to write protest songs after a national tragedy to make the rest of the country give a damn. The two countries rally around their own, they help any way they can. Mere hours after the earthquake, Australian relief workers were winging their way across the Tasman. The message is clear, from the Government all the way down to the folks leaving messages of support on the interwebs: we share your pain; we’ve got your back. Godspeed.

    Dr John in Australia

    dr john, new orleans blues musician

    Renowned New Orleans piano man Dr John brought some hoodoo to Melbourne last night.

    Playing a packed house at the Corner Hotel, the 69-year-old, backed by the superb Lower 911 on bass (David Barard), drums (Herman “Roscoe” Earnest III) and guitar (Reynard Poche), cast a spell in this sideshow gig ahead of Byron Bay’s East Coast Blues and Roots Festival at the weekend.

    John looked resplendent in purple suit and hat. There were skulls on his piano and organ, a little bit of bone-shaking during a voodoo tune, a necklace of what looked like alligator teeth. (Barard, who played a solo support slot, had a Mardi Gras throw hanging from his mic stand.) But the magic was in the music, a parade of swampy R&B/blues/funk/gospel that had many in the crowd moving in time in defiance of a couple of sound glitches.

    John looked a little slow on his feet, but the voice was as strong and distinctive as ever, joined in places by the throaty growl of Barard. He has a particularly fetching way of saying “all right”, that Southern accent carrying the charm of New Orleans in two simple words. He didn’t have a lot to say, but when he did, he revealed a dry sense of humour that appealed to the audience, if the shouts, claps and chuckles were an indication.


    He played for 90 minutes, with Right Place, Right Time in the mix, and a couple of covers I didn’t recognise but apparently one has been around since “eleventeen years after dog shit”.

    The encore saw John return for a version of Let the Good Times Roll, taking up the guitar — he started his career as a guitarist before an injury to his hand saw him turn to the piano — to rock out his farewell.

    I still haven’t worked out what the object hanging from his right ear is, or how he manages to keep his glasses attached to the top of his ears. But there’s no doubting the good doctor still has his mojo.

    As an aside, I’m not sure the Corner was the ideal venue for this gig. The general admission sweat pen might suit the young’uns who don’t mind pushing up the front once the gig has started, but I felt sorry for the older people in the crowd — and there were plenty of them as you’d expect for a performer of this style and vintage — forced to stand for at least two hours in the hot crush. Being shouldered and having line-of-sight disrupted by latecomers and drink-bearers is, unfortunately, par for the course when you’re surrounded by rock pigs, but you have to wonder how the grandparents enjoyed their not-cheap concert from the floor as the humidity and body odour rose.