"Nocturnal X" Mick Harvey and the Intoxicated Men Gemini 4 Harry Howard and the NDE Tiamo 3 Primo! Melbourne Museum, Friday, April 5 2019
Upstairs at the Melbourne Museum hosts a local exhibit, a collage of images, dioramas, reportage and oral testimonies from the city’s post-invasion history. In a corner of the exhibit can be found a movie telling the evolution of post-war Melbourne, from the faceless images of businessmen in John Bracks’ Collins St, 5pm painting, to the vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis of the present day.
A black and white photo from 1979 shows five youths staring at the camera, sullen, callow, defiant and charmingly obnoxious. The adult voice of one of those rebellious kids talks of the change in Melbourne’s character: Mick Harvey, Boy Next Door, Birthday Partier, Bad Seed. Back in the day, Harvey intones matter-of-factly, the inner-city was a cultural backwater.
I have actually lost count of the number of times I’ve played this. I keep doing it. In the car, on the computer and around the house. Bloody hell it’s good.
Ever find yourself in the situation where you’re presented with a band with an unpromising name, an enigmatic if not daft cd title which, upon listening, you are so transported and delighted with that you play the item over and over in amazed disbelief, discovering as you go, humming and singing around the room, that the band have been in existence for quite some time and have five more LPs to their name and you paw miserably at your spartan wallet, realising that the next pay packet will have to do..?
Yes, Black Moose is one of those albums. Like listening to a smart blend of Lovecraft, R.E. Howard and the darkest American blues and country while reading Grimm to a terrified child. It’s as real as reality, and as tangible as imagination.
I've been looking forward to hearing “Jackdaw” for a while, but I must confess I didn't expect it to be this damn good. The last thing I said to Ed was, “Well, look, you know me. If I don't like it or I think it's bad, I'll tell you I can't review it. I'd rather have the friendship.” He understood.
Bad reviews, pfft, they're mostly just juveniles showing off how clever they are, and I've got better things to do with my time. Also, I'm not clever. Years ago, the New Musical Express and Melody Maker used to hire such clever types and, while they could sometimes be amusing, they would often miss brilliance in preference to their own self-swagger (for example, XTCcopped endless daft reviews which completely missed how fucking sharp, funny and evocative they were). So to “Jackdaw”.
This band was formerly known as Fleshlight, comprises four actors and played live (in drag) at the Gasometer in Melbourne precisely once before recording this bunch of songs, sans overdubs, and promptly disappearing.
This is a seven-inch EP of five songs on a boutique label.
Spoiler alert: There's much more to this story but don't read on if you want the mystery to be preserved...
Adelaide-based writer, editor, and sometime-musician Robert Brokenmouth took the time, during lockdown — well, lockdown for us non-South Australians, at least — to reflect on his literary and musical trajectory. It’s a curious bundle of projects and interests that Brokenmouth juggles — the war buff and the punk music-buff occupy the same territory (no military pun intended) without apparent contradiction.
Brokenmouth’s published achievements include his chronicling of Melbourne’s punk scene in the 1996 book “Nick Cave: The Birthday Party and Other Epic Adventures” as well as editing‘fictionalised’military histories such as Australian WWII navigator Ray Ollis’s 101 Nightsand air gunner John Bede Cusack’s “They Hosed Them Out”.
For Brokenmouth, war and punk have one thing in common, perhaps: both are opportunities for adventure, in very different shapes and forms, but adventure nevertheless.
With COVID-19 limiting opportunities to meet for an interview, Robert kindly responded to my questions via email — and though you might not getting him talking so prolifically in real life, it’s clear that when he puts pen to paper, or finger-pads to keyboard, he’s got a lot to say, and a rollicking history all his own.
I’ve pulled out some choice tidbits from Robert’s life and career to give you a sense of the Boys’Own, Boys Next Door fan.
Adelaide's Wheatsheaf Hotel (aka the Wheaty) is one of those modernised, forgotten pubs with pricey but excellent wines and beers. Local families bring their kids and they run amuck.
There is a beer garden, but few people smoke (which I can’t understand). Coffee and hot chocolates are available at the bar. There are no pokies and no ATM (you withdraw at the bar). They have exhibitions of art, photography, hairdressing and whisky tasting.
The back room (where bands play) is essentially a newish tin shed with a ceiling, lights, formica tables and period chairs, and everyone squashes in somehow.
Multi-instrumentalist and hypnotic crooner, Hugo Race, returns home to Australia in June and July, fresh from an intense wave of European solo headline concerts in support of his latest EP "Ophans".
The five-city tour will include dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania.
Race delivers a unique take on experimental blues, folk and dark-edge, dragging inspiration from artists the likes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground and Wilco.
His EP is credcited to Hugo Race Fatalists, the collaboration between Race and Italian instrumental gurus, Sacri Cuori , and is said to create "ground-breaking, intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock".
Mick Harvey: "Intoxicated Man. Presenting the Songs of Serge Gainsbourg" Elder Hall, Adelaide March 14, 2019 Mandy Tzaras photos
Verdict in a nutshell: Brilliant. You shoulda been there. Get the CDs instead.
It's a strange place, Adelaide. A reputation for bizarre and secretive murder blends with a town which happily dozes for most of the year, abruptly jerks to life as summer hits with the subtlety of a jackhammer, and keeps the long-suffering residents on their toes: the steady stream of utter twatheads who emerge from beneath sordid rocks, blinking into the light of the civilised world for the first time; the ubiquitous meth-heads roaming the streets and communing with the sky; the endless and confusing roadworks; endlessly over-running building works; a hospital which doesn't seem to work very well (though it does provide an excellent example of how to make a place unpleasant for the customers with, presumably, the intent of discouraging their attendance for all but the most involuntary admission)...
These are all everyday local wonders, and frankly we should charge admission. The Festival, The Fringe, the stupid car race, the writers week, WOMAD and so on and so on and so on, all serve to ensure large numbers of normal South Australians keep their distance.
There will be a a special encore cinema screening of "Descent Into The Maelstrom" at the Sedition 2019 Festival in Sydney on September 21 - part of a three-film offering that will bring together some unlikely bedfellows. And we don't mean past and present Radio Birdman members...
To complement the screening of "Descent", producer Jonathan Sequeira is putting together some of the documentary's extra material for a short film about the Darlinghurst underground music scene and The Funhouse, called "Let the Kids Dance".
"This will be a ONE OFF SCREENING only. Some of the material might be in the extras, but the film itself is ALL NEW and will only show at Sedition!," Sequeira said.
Capping it off will be a screening "Murder Ballads", the story of the creation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album of the same name, featuring exclusive interviews with Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, among others. This could be the first and last time The Dark Lord Cave, The Budgie and the Birdmen appear on the same silver screen at the same time. The venue is the Palace Cinema at 17 Oxford Street, Paddington, and it runs from 7-11pm.
For an Australian, Jack Saint comes across as Warsaw's own version of Tex "The Everyman" Perkins crossed with Sir Nicholas Cave. If that means he's destined to star in a country and western stage show and become a conjoined twin to Warren Ellis, so be it, but it's a meeting of the musical minds that we're talking about.
Jack Saint sure sounds like took advantage of the lifting of the Iron Curtain to sip deep at the well of St Nick and his Seeds and (more relevantly) the Beasts of Bourbon. "Girl What You Looking For?" sounds like it could have fallen off "Sour Mash", the 1988 Beasts record where Tex and the boys got all bent out of shape over Captain Beefheart.
"Girl...?" changes direction four times over its course with Wolf's repeated jagged guitar figure the familiar reference point. Jack Saint (the singer) intones/preaches like Jeffrey Lee Pierce. The band's cover of The Gun Club's "Stranger In Our Town" is a dead giveaway of another influence.
Guess who's coming to dinner? Kid Congo Powers (right) and the Pink Monkey Birds.
Kid Congo Powers’ musical career is a lens through which can be seen some of the most intense and evocative music of the last 40 years.
Born Brian Tristan in the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente, Kid Congo Powers famously met Jeffrey Lee Pierce in the line at a Pere Ubu concert. Pierce was the president of the LA chapter of the Blondie Fan Club; Powers was the president of local chapter of The Ramones Fan Club. Pierce recruited Powers to join his fledgling band, Creeping Ritual, later to become The Gun Club.
In 1980 Powers joined psychobilly band The Cramps, who’d recently moved to LA from New York (it was Cramps lead singer Lux Interior who bestowed Brian Tristan with the moniker Kid Congo Powers).
From the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.
“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.
I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.
We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.
And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.
The blurb says it’s more “individually distilled” than the last album and maybe that’s why it took time to latch onto what “Reap What You Sow” is about.
The debut “Jack Saint” was a lot more obvious in its display of influences like the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club, while “Reap” seems in the thrall of Jon Spencer without being able to completely divorce itself from early pre-Warren era Nick Cave.
First time I laid my tired eyes on the impactful, dark, visually striking, elemental art work of Hieronymous Bogs, I knew he had come to some of the same conclusions about life and death as I had.
Like a candle flickering in the dark, his prophetic folkart, found object assemblages, and iconic religious alters are invested with a compassion and humility one seldom sees, nowadays. His multimedia sculptures and paintings are filled with visceral, primordial, intimate terror and sadness, gratitude and grace, and his music has that same kind of rawness and naked vulnerability, beat poet bravery, and Cohen like melancholy.
If you see him in his big hat, hitch-hiking on the side of the lonesome highway, with a crow on his shoulder and bluebirds nesting in his beard, pick him up, and he will humbly regale you with vividly spun, purplish tales of poignant observations and quiet awakenings.
Dig it: “The Spirit” is a five star album and Hugo Race and the True Spirit will be touring it through Europe, from West to East, from October 2015 onwards. There will be a second record from the recording sessions (not featured here): “False Idols” will appear in October. When you get the vinyl of “True Spirit” there’s a CD included; hell, that’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned.
Brace yourselves, Europeans. Buy tickets - and Hugo’s back catalogue. You’re in for a treat. No gig will be the same: “Each time we play one of our songs the interpretation changes because of the sound - the sound is always morphing, it’s always coming through us and we’re changing all the time and open to the fact that we’re channeling music as much as we’re playing it. Performance blurs those lines…”, Hugo explains.
Longtime Bad Seeds pianist Conway Savage has passed away, aged 58. Close friends confirmed his passing on Facebook.
The Melbourne-based former Feral Dinosaurs and Happy Orphans member joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1990 and had been a fixture until last year’s US tour when illness forced him to step down. Savage was operated on for brain cancer and is understood to have been in care recently.
He guested on many albums by the likes of ex-GoBetween Robert Forster, Kim Salmon, Dave Graney, former Triffids member David McComb and Spencer P. Jones.
Savage has a string of solo releases and collaborations to his credit. His most recent EP was 2010’s “Pussy’s Bow”.
Starbirth/Stardeath - Hugo Race and the True Spirit (Gusstaff Records)
Hugo Race: Troubadour, manic perpetuum mobile and musical engine, was fortunate enough to be in his home town of Melbourne while the global pandemic unfolded, trapping him in a world he never made. Gigs were cancelled around the world, his plans spun away...and he turned inward.
Then, outward. Even after the first few songs, it seems clear that Hugo is looking for some sort of reinvention, a crossing of a Rubicon. "Starbirth/ Stardeath" definitely marks a new phase.
Alright, for the uninitiated, I could cite Race's lengthy rep: noted spark in Melbourne's late 1970s and early '80s underground; former Bad Seed (on what is arguably Nick Cave's most sonically extreme album); leader of The Wreckery, and his own True Spirit; writer of books, soundtracks, and songs for other people and songs for us...but that tells you little.
So why is a free downloadable single such a significant item?
Because it’s not just a cheaper snapshot into an artist’s work. It can be an Instagram into an imaginary, lush and extraordinary world. The single worships the song itself, transforms it from one more song in a sequence (as with a CD or LP) and one more song in a set, and draws the song into greater, more concentrated focus.
Which means, when you hear something labelled a single, if it’s an old single, like from before the 1990s, you really do have to imagine the new owner playing the song over and over.
Boy on Fire. The Young Nick Cave By Mark Mordue (Harper Collins)
Lou Reed famously used the phrase "Growing Up in Public", but it's seriously arguable that he ever grew up at all. As represented in "Boy on Fire", Nick Cave grew up in public, and it's that Odyssean journey which we want to follow. 'Cause success, well, that's over-rated. It's nice that you're not poor anymore, but boy, if you had problems before, you could easily have a worse time dealing with them.
So author Mark Mordue begins with some of what he already knew, and of what we already know, before plunging down a rabbit-hole beset on all sides with imminent spiteful criticism, fact-checkers, poor-memory merchants and "it wasn't that way at all" keyboard numptys.
That he suspects what he's in for is quite clear from his early observation of the bond between Nick and his mum before Cave heads off to accept an ARIA Award in 2007. To his credit, although he was only nominated himself, Cave also inducted the other members of The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds on the night. (Most annoyingly, he forgot to mention the band's original drummer, Phill Calvert).
Like I said, brave or damned foolish; it's hard to be a writer, not a hack, and make any money (Mordue has a day job, he's no fool). "Boy on Fire" deserves to be purchased for yourself, your friends and anyone you know interested in music. Period.
One reason is that, if you know enough about Cave, you'll also know that any decent book about him should always have a modicum of humour. I found myself chuckling out loud on the bus within minutes of beginning and, while it's not written with laughter in mind, you will find the several threads which Mark sets up quite early, vividly rewarding. Cave himself, an adventurous mischief-maker, possesses a savage and spontaneous wit, and his company can be addictive. Small wonder that so many who have encountered him either don't comprehend him, or find him boorish, or jaw-droppingly fascinating.