Emilie Autumn Down Under – meow!

emilie autumn album opheliac

Emilie Autumn is heading for Australia for what is reportedly her first Antipodean tour – reason to celebrate for those who like their piano and violin served with lesbian pantomime, burlesque, circus and a good dollop of Victoriana, amongst other things.

I caught her act in San Francisco in October 09 and found it a hell of a lot of fun. EA’s Opheliac (there are several versions of the 2CD title, with catchy songs such as Dead is the New Alive, Liar and I Want My Innocence Back) has been a best-seller at Australia’s Ground Under Productions store, qualifying her as a bit of a goth darling, but the crowd at the charming Great American Music Hall showed plenty of non-goth/emo/alternative folks getting into the show, or at least hanging out for the sexy stuff.

EA has inculcated a strong following not just of her own brand of musical performance, but of her sideshow as well, with each of her gal pals drawing a fan base. There was hot competition at the SF gig to lock lips with Naughty Veronica, for instance.

There was slightly too much banter for comfort at the gig I saw, but I can’t see Emilie Autumn disappointing. One word of advice: if you don’t want to be the subject of a rant, don’t yell for her to take her gear off. I’m sure the ears of the unfortunate voyeur in the audience, a girl since you asked, must still be ringing.

Autumn plays Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in March.

Here’s a neat doco about the current tour:

In a similar vein, it’s worth pointing out that the erstwhile Amanda Palmer is hitting Australia again in February and March. Somewhat less histrionic than EA, but with a strong theatrical element thanks to the performances of the Danger Ensemble, Palmer put on one of the best shows I saw last year. Recommended.

Felinedown

I don’t know what to make of their name — a crashed kitty? furballs? a depressed puss? — but I do know damn fine music when I hear it. Months and months after I had a flyer for this outfit thrust into my hand at Soundwave, I finally tracked the Brissie band down, closing off an evening of musical might at the Globe headed by the always fun The Wretched Villains (love that violin, sad to hear that Peter the guitarist is leaving, rockin’ out to the new album!). And they rocked.

Here’s a four-piece who know how to pen a song, offer variety in their approach, and have a fab stage presence. Meow!

Felinedown’s Magazine Dream

Brigitte Handley & Wretched Villains

I’m happy to report that the energy required to drag my sanguine carcass down to the inaugural Dead of Winter festival at the Jubilee Hotel was repaid in spades by Brigitte Handley’s Dark Shadows, recently (as in, two days!) returned from touring in Europe and the US, and Brisbane’s Wretched Villains.

Handley’s trio of herself on vox and electric guitar, with Carly Chalker on bass and Nerida Wu on drums, have become more confident and more polished since I last saw them a couple of years ago on a boat trip down the Brisbane River. Their new material is sensational rock ‘n’ roll, delivered with aplomb. Each member engages with the audience; Wu is a dynamo. The band stretches Handley’s deep passion for classic 50s and 60s rock all the way to thrash, with some very cool arrangements showing the band maturing and experimenting. There was no sign of jet lag as they drew an appreciative crowd in the Jube’s beer garden. The Dark Shadows journey north from their hometown of Sydney again in August.

Earlier, the Villains road tested some new material ahead of their CD launch on July 31 at the Globe, but were beset by a woeful mix and a set cut short due to the festival running behind time (depriving us of the delightful Lisa Lamb’s fireshow, to boot! Boo!). And while I’m whining, how hard is it to provide bands with a decent light rig these days?

Anyway, the new songs showed great promise, with the keys and violin getting some space to strut their stuff.

I know I should’ve stayed for the Kidney Thieves who always put on a great show — they must be delighted at the news of Faith No More getting back together, given there’s some pretty clear homage going on there! — but I’d had enough of the stench of cigarettes wafting over from the smokers’ cage and my ears were ringing after the Dark Shadows’ big finish. The festival did seem pretty successful if the number of punters was any indication, packing upstairs and down, and what a fine mix they were, too: the goths, the punks, the normals, the normals in zombie attire, the rockers, the metalheads, all getting along just fine, thanks very much.

I interviewed Brigitte when she released her Identity EP in 2006. She talks about her band, her love of horror movies and her classic guitar. Read it here.

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:

REVIEW

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.

Brisbane’s goth scene – a clubber’s update

I’ve been sidelined of late thanks to a major meltdown at my ISP, Optus, who sure dragged the chain sorting their gear out. But for now, at least, I’m back in the cyber game 🙂
Haven’t got much to show for my absence except an article for the Courier-Mail providing a vague update on Brisbane’s goth scene. The article was spawned when some suit in admin noticed the amount of goths/emos hanging around in the mall and wondered how they could bear to wear all that black, coats and all. So I, for some reason :P, was asked to write something about it. I felt like asking if anyone had ever wondered about all the businessmen in their suits and how they handled the Queensland heat and humidity, but I figured that probably wasn’t as interesting …
Anyhoo, the result: a yarn slashed to fit a standard CM tabloid page — but at least a *whole* page 🙂 And here it is, with a neat rundown of the core clubs playing gothic music for a predominantly gothic crowd.

Which is a nice segue into a mention of having seen Dandelion Wine play their last Australian gig for the forseeable future, at Faith night club’s Love Cats night a couple of weekends back. Fans of Lisa Gerard/Dead Can Dance should enjoy this duo’s music, as it often involves medieval and world music elements played with synths, flute, guitar and dulcimer. I’m told they used to have a percussionist, too, which I think would round out their sound beautifully.
Dandelion Wine are off to Germany to pursue their creative career. Cool, eh?
And finally, kudos to Faith: the new venue in Mary Street is really something else. Spacious, decent dance floor and brilliant set lists (IMHO), with a nice long bar, lots of gorgeous sofas, a chill-out room, Korean restaurant next door … it’s a superb venue. Faith is running every Saturday now, rotating through its various theme nights.


Coming up: Tycho Brahe and Leaders of Men at Atmosphere night club, Tank St, Brisbane, on April 18.


I am particularly dark that I won’t be able to make the Midnight Calling gig on April 25, featuring one of my fave Brissie bands, The Wretched Villains.
 
 

Gary Numan

gary numan album jagged

gary numan album jagged


Electronic music pioneer Gary Numan is coming to Australia for only the second time in his 30-year career. Yep, we’re excited 🙂 Readers of a certain vintage or particularly astute young’uns might know him from hits Cars and Are Friends Electric?. Numan’s enjoyed a resurgence of interest in his catalogue in recent years, thanks in part to some dark, heavy albums.

I had the good fortune to talk with Numan about his return to popularity, but here’s a choice quote about the appeal of electronic music that didn’t make the cut:

“I’m a massive fan of guitars and drums and use them on my albums, but with technology it’s about the very sound itself. I can spend days and days just making the sound. It’s another level of music most people don’t go into. Sound creation is the most rewarding and most exciting thing I do. It’s a great sense of pride for me … to make an album with 40-50 sounds that no one’s ever heard before is very exciting. I could listen to sound effects tapes all day. I think if I wasn’t making music I could work as a sound effects engineeer.”

Numan plays Brisbane’s gorgeous Tivoli on March 2.

roue cyr and doch

I stumbled across this new-ish form of circus act today, Roue Cyr, and it’s way cool.

doch

doch

I came across mention of it in an article about Gypsy band Doch doing a show with circus performers at Brisbane Powerhouse. We caught Doch at the Woodford Folk Festival and they were pretty darn exciting. Add in some gymnastics and whatever else, and it would make for an interesting show.

At last year’s Woodford, I was blown away by another Gypsy-style band, The Counterfeit Gypsies. Worth checking out!

counterfeit gypsies at woodford 07

counterfeit gypsies at woodford 07

blues and Woodford

img_0754Is there anything that cuts to the heart like 12-bar blues?

I’m thinking this as Jimi Hocking brings down the curtain on my Woodford Folk Festival experience for 2008.

The day was hot and muggy, clouds building for a cooling gloaming shower that triggered mist to rise from the brown ponds that dot the sprawling site in the green Woodford hills.

mama kin

mama kin

We start the day with Jimi Hocking, former guitarist of Screaming Jets and now blues man with a craving for mandolin, then work our way through the crowded dirt lanes searching for music. The air is filled with tribal drum beats and Gypsy violins, the smell of sate and frying onions.

doch

doch

We enjoy our fix of Brisbane Celtic band Sunas and get all the fiddle we can handle from Fiddlers Feast and Doch, Jigzag and Dev’lish Mary. We get guitar from Jeff Lang, with his band and later in a guest spot with Mama Kin. Katie Noonan’s high notes catch the ear from a lane away. Melodics and Matt Kelly and the Keepers are added to our list of bands to find out more about. Roz Pappalardo, of Women in Docs, is an absolute scream as she leads her Wayward Gentlemen through a country-ish set.

We weren’t quite sure why Kate Miller-Heidke’s at the folk festival, but we’re glad she is with her quasi Kate Bush act that packs the punters into a nighttime natural amphitheatre on the outskirts of the fest’s bustling village.

jimi hocking

jimi hocking

And finally it’s Jimi Hocking again, his audience sapped by Kate and TaikOz and The Barons of Tang and the burlesque girls of La La Parlour’s Tarnished. He doesn’t seem to mind as he belts out his mandolin blues and then picks up his electric guitar and blasts out the blues into the Queensland night.

It’s the music of a humid night, all sweat and mosquitoes and sluggish brown river and long, straight dusty roads through cane fields. It’s heartache and loneliness and desperate company lost too soon. It’s the echo of a soul that’s lost its way but still trying to be true. It’s that irresistible beat that convinces you that you can laugh and cry at the same time. And even with Hocking’s antics, his good-time vibe that has the punters up and dancing from the first mandolin note to the last fade-out of the guitar, it cuts to the heart.

The Birthday Massacre

tbm1 

Chrissy Amphlett has a daughter, and she’s Canadian.

That’s what I was thinking on November 20 when we caught Canadian band The Birthday Massacre at The Zoo in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

Their lead singer, Chibi, all of 5’2, looked so cute in her school uniform of white blouse, vest and tartan skirt, complete with pig tails and fringe dangling down to past her nose.

Unlike the venerable singer of the Divinyls, though, she didn’t play the sex card, but rather revealed a malleable face that switched with a blink and a wink from mischievous to innocent. She pranced, thrashed, pointed, shook hands with the crowd… played up to her bandmates … all the stuff you’d expect of an experienced campaigner on the stage. But these kids look so young!

The rest of the band — there were five of ’em — didn’t let her carry the load by herself. Everyone contributed, making lots of eye contact with the audience, exercising their adopted stage persona. Lead guitarist Rainbow was a bit over the top in his grotesque act — I could’ve done without the drooling, but the belting around like a manic thing with its shoes on fire was priceless.

Musically, even allowing for the very ordinary sound and lighting on stage, the band could use a few new tricks. After the hour-and-a-half they played, I felt like I’d heard all they had, more than once, and the one new song they played didn’t suggest any great leaps.

Luckily, what they have is highly listenable: a strong pop aesthetic decorated with electronica and industrial. A killer cover of I Think We’re Alone Now that made me think, for the first time hearing that song, of a stalker. And their stage presence is something that so many of the bland, corporate-alternative Aussie bands could use a good dose of. Get off the mic, move your arse, and stop swearing to provoke a crowd reaction. For all their Goth fashion sense, and their industrial lashings, The Birthday Massacre didn’t swear once that I heard. And I didn’t miss it.

Read my interview with Chibi