Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Am The Rain, I Am The New Year. I Am The Sun.

Last New Year's Eve it was hot, damned hot. A bunch of us bummed around the house for a bit, then when it had cooled down enough jumped on our bikes and went from party to party until we found ourselves, at around 4am, at the annual gathering in the park next to Fitzroy Pool. I felt pretty good about going home at that point.

This year it ain't so hot. We're going to be riding our bikes around again, with a few ideas about possible destinations. There may be fireworks at some point, but I doubt I'll make it til 4am. What with Public Enemy playing at the Espy on New Year's Day, and a ride to Mt Donna Buang looming on the second day of the new year, the significance of tonight is fading fast. But even when everything else seems more important, we must remember this: tonight will be our last chance in a thousand years to wear those glasses with the two zeros in the middle. Bring on 2009.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not Growing Up

This came a few days ago from the bikesnob:

"One of my favorite things about cycling is that it can reward suffering with joy. Another thing I love about it is that it often rejects those who don't understand this. Cycling teaches you that there's such a thing as necessary suffering and such a thing as unnecessary suffering, and that sometimes a short cut is a dead end. I'm sorry the hardships Mackey encountered while cycling and blogging made him "feel awful about the world." If he'd looked at them differently, they would have made him love it."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Time Is Up.

Last year, for pretty much the whole year, I woke up with the Constantines song Lizavetta in my head. This year it's the Constantines again, but these mornings I'm all about Million Star Hotel. Though they're a fucking great live band, this video doesn't really do the song justice - on record that riff is bludgeoning, sharp and heavy like a cleaver. I've tried, repeatedly, to convert people to the Cons, with limited to no success, and I have no idea why.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are You Holding On?


Apparently riding your bike doesn't always have to be about pain, suffering and going really really fast. Picture used entirely without permission. Sorry Genevieve.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Soldiers.

I was talking to this American cyclist the other day at DISC. She had been here for the track world cup, and was sticking around for a bit in order to prepare for the next round in Beijing. It's perhaps needless to say that she knew what she was talking about. I listened hard (you know, playing cool at the same time). We bantered a bit, she gave me good advice for my next races and I asked her about training. "It was so tough today," she said, "I spent most of the day in the pain box." I'd never heard this expression before, so rolled with it, making jokes about the only pain box I know being when Home and Away comes on the TV. And then she dropped something into the conversation that, despite a good three years of serious athletic training, any number of stupid hill rides and a human art gallery of bodgy tattoos, never really occurred to me before. "That's really the main difference between a good athlete and a great athlete," she explained. "The great athlete knows how to cope when they're in the pain box."

Let me tell you, I totally slaughtered people on the commute home tonight, thinking about the pain box.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Play Us A Song You're A First Here.

These days I'm pretty much throwing myself wholeheartedly into biking, and the long hours I spend alone battling hills give me a lot of time to think about things. The thing I seem to spend the most time thinking about are the differences between my first real love - punk rock - and my newfound infatuation with two wheels and the truth. Cycling, for me, represents the polar opposite to what I used to love about punk: it is easily quantifiable, whereas punk and music in general is about quality; it is individualistic, whereas punk, for me at least, is all about community; it's competitive, whereas most punks seem to prefer co-operation; it's physical whereas punk is mental (and, at best, emotional); and punk is messy whereas cycling is simple. In my head I know that punk - and that activism that, for me, accompanies it - is where I should be dedicating my time. But I'm not. Instead of staying out late discussing the anarcho-syndicalist revolution while listening to Crass, I'm waking up early to ride out to Kinglake. I don't really have any justification for why. But I know I'll be doing the same next weekend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wasting Your Time.

I sometimes wonder if when I'm typing the acronym for the Bureau of Meteorology into Google a little warning light doesn't go off at the Defence Signals Directorate under the big sign that says "Illiterate Terrorists".

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Time It Takes To Make A Cup Of Tea.

I gotta confess, the first time I saw Cuz Bro I didn't think a whole lot of him. There's a lot of kids getting into riding fixies these days, and when I saw him rolling around the meeting point for the Wednesday night ride I wrote him off as just another newbie. He was wearing short stripey shorts and a V-necked t-shirt that screamed the wrong side of the river, and had a bike that looked like it'd been cobbled together five minutes ago. But he was a mate of Matt's, so I gave him a go. It wasn't til the ride ventured up the Punt Road Hill that I realised how wrong I'd been. The kid didn't just beat me up that hill. He fucking destroyed me.

I've ridden around with him a bunch of times since then, including in his first alleycat, this Halloween just passed. He was dressed up as Spiderman and had no idea where he was going. I was dressed up as a rapper and was lugging a five kilo boombox in my messenger bag. I sucked his wheel and yelled directions at him over the hip hop blasting from my back. Matt was in the mix, dressed as Superman, and we both latched on. We thread our way through the traffic, weaving impossible lines and creating space from nothing, and eventually took first, second and third place.

This last Sunday, racing again, he got away from me a little bit, and I was able to watch him in amidst the chaos. Smashing it down the Collins Street Hill he didn't stop at Russell, didn't slow down, didn't even pause. He just thread the eye of the needle between two cars, with about five centimetres either side. I was keeping pace with Andy White at the time. The bloke has ridden - and won - alleycats on three continents, including a handful in New York. He knows his shit. So when he turned around and gave the international sign for 'crazy', index finger circling his ear, it was obvious that he'd seen something impressive.

And Cuz is impressive to watch. Thinking about the ride later on that evening I felt like Kerouac thinking about Neil Cassady, who later appeared in On The Road in the guise of Dean Moriarty. One bit in particular sprang to mind - when Kerouac is talking about Dean's driving, and how the gaps he found were so small, so non-existent, that he must have somehow factored in the moment of hesitation on the part of the other driver. As if he has made every possible calculation in a fraction of a second, and somehow come up with the precise answer. Remembering Cuz in the traffic that Sunday afternoon is to remember so many factors at play, and all of them coming together at once. Even if he did get lost and come in pretty close to last. Even if he did bin it. He may not have won, but fuck, either did Cassady.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You Can't Feel The Hunger.

I had a night off a while back and so dragged Casey along to the Nova to see Hunger. I'm a sucker for movies about the IRA, and there are few stories as compelling as that of Bobby Sands. I did, however, feel a trifle guilty about scoffing a whole packet of raspberry shortcakes while we watched him waste away.

And In The Meantime.

So, I'm taking a little time out. Mostly in order to let the Our Anatomy controversy die down a little bit, but also because it's sunny out and I'm hoping to remove some bodgy tattoos through a process of constant peeling. So, with this avenue of procrastination lost for the time being, I can only suggest you try wasting your employer's valuable time here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Set Your Body On Fire.

A while ago I was talking to education commentator, Shakespeare fanatic, father to the cutest kid ever and occasional teacher Tony Thomson. He was telling me about how they used to calculate numbers when he used to do a radio show back in the 80s. The formula was simple: one caller equaled ten listeners. The same formula could well be applied to blogs: one comment equals ten readers. So check this out! 110 readers! And counting! Thanks, Our Anatomy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Put The Past Away.

Man, am I the only one not particularly excited about the Bicycle Film Festival? Don't get me wrong. As both this blog and my dramatically oversized calves will attest, I love bikes, and am of the opinion that anything that encourages more biking is generally a good thing. I also love films, especially this one. But the organizers of the BFF (an acronym which I often confuse with Best Friends Forever, resulting in much blushing on my part) really don't seem to have tried too hard. Some very average movies, a few of which have been readily available on DVD - and in some cases VHS - for some time, and a majority of which boast minute counts barely into the double figures. Perhaps this reflects the average attention span of the projected BFF audience, whose brains have obviously been firing off electrons at unnatural rates due to their compulsive consumption of energy drinks. As well as the movies there's an art show, a My Disco show and a bunch of bike-themed parties. I think there's also a Bike Polo tourney and the Abbotsford Cycles swap meet, but they were probably happening regardless, so they don't count. It all seems a bit like a token effort from this vantage point. Sure, the smaller things, like valet bike parking, may pull in the commuter cyclists, but I can scratch the crap out of my own bike, thank you very much. Seriously, BFF.com.au, you're going to have to pull your finger out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No Cause For Alarm.

You know what? I told some girl the other day that I was vegan, and she didn't even care. Not impressed in the slightest. Sure, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise, but maybe being vegan just isn't cool any more. Maybe hipsters don't even have to pretend to be concerned about what their fries are cooked in these days. I mean, I'm a long way from having my finger on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist, but the sheer number of former vegans and vegetarians in my immediate circle who are now just totally down with killing and torturing animals seems to be growing daily. In a way it kind of makes sense. I mean, if you're ok with showing that much underwear or wearing that much fluorescent headgear or inflicting your shitty art on the world, then you must be ok with increasing suffering.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why, Lord?

In these days of text messaging, internet forums and strangely accurate set times, it's not often that I'm forced to endure a band that is really, truly awful in order to get to the band I want to see. But last night I was tired and kind of in a funny mood, so I wandered down to Pony around ten, even though the Diamond Sea weren't playing until eleven. This turned out to be a very bad decision, as it meant that I was forced to sit through possibly the worst band I have seen this year: Our Anatomy (lest you think that I bestow this title lightly, I was forced to do some quick mental arithmetic as the band played. Fortunately their songs are longish and boring as all fuck, so I was able to spend some time figuring out if I'd seen Luca Brasi this year. I haven't, so congratulations, Our Anatomy. You've won the only prize you ever will). Seriously the worst kind of late-90s Coldplay-inspired jangly-guitar crescendo-building dross, the band were so bad that they drove me to abuse as early as the first song. "Hey Harriet!" I said to the poor girl next to me, whose name, fortunately, was Harriet, "Do you like Radiohead? I like Radiohead! I bet these guys like Radiohead a lot!" It seems I had said it louder than I thought. One of the band members uttered "Harsh," into the mic. "Harsh but fair," I countered. Another band members wondered aloud how they could go on with any confidence after a call like that, to which I could only think to myself, "Well son, perhaps you should just stop." But I didn't say it. Harriet kindly pointed out that abuse like that is best written on the internet and captured for posterity. So here we are.

The saddest thing about this band is not that the lead singer / guitarist was wearing boat shoes (I looked around outside to see where he had parked his yacht, to no avail) or that I'm willing to bet that he spent a long time perfectly positioning his neckerchief. No, the saddest thing here was that this band has one of the best drummers going around in Scotty from the Diamond Sea. To see such talent going to waste is always a tearjerker. Give that boy a grind band asap.

Other than Scotty, Our Anatomy has now nicely come to represent a scene that I seriously cannot fucking tolerate. For some reason it, like almost every other scene, is dominated by boys, but the reason here can't be testosterone, as there's simply none to be found. Nope, this scene is the aural equivalent of a poetry zine: self-indulgent, wanky, made by uni students who don't hate Triple J, often influenced by Pink Floyd, overly concerned with fashion and constantly talking about feelings. But for some reason, a dodgy trade or a show that starts late, it occasionally falls into your hands. And that's when, my friend, you will suffer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Everybody Wants To Be Our DJ.

There are three other guys in the Noodle Hut on Sydney Rd, all of them ordering dinners for one, the same as me. Singular little paper boxes of starch, vegetable matter and what I like to think is strictly tofu. The other guys are clad in varying degrees of leisure wear - trackie dacks and nikes - but are all a bit portly. There's a lot of noodles in those white boxes. They all sport their own interpretations of three day growth and have let a few months go since their last haircuts. I pick up my Mi Goreng and walk back to my house, where I watch Lockie Leonard share his first kiss with Vicky Streeton on dvd. Perhaps I'll see if Casey wants to come around later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Orchestra Aborted.

When I first started dating Kim she told me she was from Hudson, Québec. I didn’t know where that was. “It’s across the Lac des Deux Montagnes from Oka,” she told me, thinking I’d be aware of the popular tourist destination. Instead, I started singing,

“…This song’s not about some romantic account of history,
It’s not about martyrs or myths or heroes or burnings-in-effigy,
It’s about a native kid flipping her lid just trying to keep some self-respect intact.
It’s about an Oka the size of a fist in resistance and a will to fight back.”

It’s perhaps one of my favourite early Propagandhi songs, a song that, like life itself, ignores the arbitrary line between the personal and the political. In a way the Oka Rebellion does the same for me. I ended up living in Hudson for quite some time, a good fifteen years after the crisis had ended. When Kim and I were fighting I’d take my bike across the lake on the ferry and ride through the pine forests of the Kanesatake land. I’d see the Mohawk warrior flags strung up across the roads in the town and admire the anti SQ graffiti covering the walls. I’d cut through the golf course at the centre of the controversy and pedal through streets where, less than a generation ago, there had stood barricades. And, occasionally, some local would tell me to fuck off out of some area I shouldn’t have been biking through. The issue is, for me, so tangled up in all the emotion of that time that it’s difficult to write about.

This article, therefore, is perhaps not the best place to get an overview of the 78-day standoff. There’s an excellent book entitled People of the Pines by Geoffrey York and Loreen Pindera that gives a definitive account, and the archives at the CBC have a whole host of news clips from the time, for those of you to lazy to read a whole book. For those of you too lazy to even click on links, however, here’s a brief outline: in early 1990 the mayor of Oka wanted to extend the Oka golf course into Mohawk burial grounds. The Mohawk people protested and were duly ignored. The Mohawks then built barricades and armed themselves. The Sûreté du Québec were called in and shots were fired. A cop was killed. The SQ pulled back and the army was called in. Eventually the Mohawk warriors surrendered. A bunch of them were arrested and taken into SQ custody, but were released after a few days. A fact sheet on everything that the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs has done with the people of Kanesatake since is also available.

When she was going to school at McGill Kim wrote a paper on her experience of the Crisis. She wrote of the helicopters swirling around, media packs lining up to board the ferry, the floodlights and the fires burning through the night. She wrote that even with all this going on barely five hundred metres away, in a town that they’d skated across to when the lake froze in the winter, the issue was never mentioned in schools, as if students were too simple to understand the complex issues at stake. At night, she wrote, they sometimes snuck out and headed down to the beach, to watch the lights and try to make sense of what was happening for themselves. Eventually the local Hudson cops would drive by and move them along.

There’s an important distinction to be made there. Hudson had its own local police force. Up until around the time that I arrived in late 2004 they refused to let the SQ have jurisdiction. Eventually the town, under considerably provincial pressure, relented, but not until this singular point had been made: SQ cops are as racist as fuck. They’d even treat me like crap for not being able to speak French, until they found out I was Australian, when they’d begrudgingly let me off the hook. Hudson, as a majority Anglophone town in a majority Francophone province in a majority Anglophone country would have been constantly made victim of this kind of linguistic racism if it hadn’t been for the dual barrels of privilege: money and influence. Oka as a town and Kanesatake as a Mohawk-controlled Indian band had neither, was also majority English-speaking, and had the added stigma of being native. That early negotiations between the Province of Québec and the Mohawk people focussed on keeping the SQ out, and that the initial conflict was between Mohawks and the SQ, should have come as a surprise to no one.

While we’re on the topic of language I should briefly also point out a discrepancy in the nouns used to describe what occurred during those 78 days. The CBC tends to describe it as The Oka Crisis, whereas in York and Pindera’s book it is almost exclusively known as The Oka Rebellion. This deliberate use of language is so cliché that is should be embarrassing. I can understand the CBC not wanting to use descriptors that are romanticizing, but what happened in Oka was almost a dictionary definition of rebellion.

And this is perhaps why I feel the events in Oka so deeply, so much so that even now, eighteen years after the crisis took place, and almost two years since I left Hudson, I feel compelled to write this article. I wasn’t there, didn’t even hear about it until years after the fact, and haven’t ever talked to anyone who was directly involved. And yet driving across the lake at Vaudreuil for the last time, on my way to Trudeau airport to depart Quebec forever, I realized that living across the lake from Oka was the closest I had come to a genuine uprising against a government. Governments are universally oppressive, reviled the world over and protested against almost constantly, but rarely does a group of individuals take up arms and demand that their rights be respected. I grew up an hour or so from Ballarat, where the Eureka Rebellion took place, but let’s face it, that was ages ago, and now so broadly accepted by the powers that be that it is taught to students in primary schools. Oka was so new, still so raw, that the names of families involved still adorn houses in the town. This wasn’t privileged white kids exorcising their guilt by throwing some rocks at cops protecting some economic forum from the socialist alternative. This was a minority that has been fighting for their own right to dignity, self-determination and pride for over five hundred years finally telling the world that they were simply not going to take it any more.

The last few clips in the CBC archive show the ridiculous melee that the rebellion descended into as the army advanced and the Mohawks were taken into police custody. The sense of defeat on the faces of the Mohawk women interviewed is palpable – their tears are not merely because they have been kicked or choked by the SQ, but that they have been humiliated by institutions that have proven, once again, that they are more powerful. This always seems to be the case immediately after the barricades have been dismantled and the warriors forced back into acquiescence. It’s easy to see the resolution of the Oka Crisis as a loss to the people of Kanesatake. But that’s not really the case. Uprisings such as Oka irreversibly alter the way we think about our relationship to power, and remind us the forward march of history consists of seemingly spontaneous insurrections of people against the institutions that oppress them. We see the Mohawks of Kanesatake rise up, and begin to believe that maybe for a moment, we too could take an Oka the size of a fist in resistance and, eventually, find the will to fight back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Extremely Dangerous.

Been a while, and will probably be a while yet. With the warmer weather I'm out biking more often, giving the ipod a workout with the bunch of hip hop records that arrived in the mail the other day. Just quickly, though: anyone who even thinks they might like hip hop should own The Goats 'Tricks of the Shade', and should also consider the self titled Intelligent Hoodlum double cd, that includes both his first records. Underappreciated classics, both of them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We Are Warriors, Great Exploriors.

Old mate Katie Lansell went and bought herself a new bike the other day. I bumped into her a week or so later. "I rode 34 kilometres today!" she exclaimed, pretty damn proud of herself. Katie's expression at this point perfectly illustrated my favourite thing about biking - that it significantly expands your radius of possible destinations (a phrase I just coined, just then, and may well copyright). Before, when she was getting around on foot, her radius was probably five kilometres, tops. Add PT into the equation and it probably pushed out to ten or fifteen - because let's face it, no one wants to spend that long on the freaking tram. But with her new bike, Katie can go wherever she wants to, and she can go further than ever before. The best factor, however, is this: the radius keeps expanding. As she keeps riding she'll get fitter and fitter, and be capable of rides way beyond her current abilities. There are about a billion good reasons to ride, but this is easily my favourite.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pink Ribbon Scars.

I was biking in the hills up around Bright the other day, listening to my ipod on shuffle. It was a warm day and I was suffering a little bit. Coming up to the highest peak on my route I wondered if I would be able to make it. And things were looking grim. The cairn atop the summit was in view, but my muscles were burning and I was gulping in air. "Fuck you, hill!" I was saying to myself, "You think you can defeat me? You're nothing, hill!" But really, inside I wasn't so sure. And then, all of a sudden, like a clarion call from the Billy Corgan within, I heard the first few notes from the Smashing Pumpkins' Today. And together we beat that fucking hill down to the ground.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gravity Rides Everything.

Moral conundrum for the day: is it wrong to benefit off other people's stupidity? I mean, if I can see Public Enemy play with the Jungle Brothers on New Year's Day at a venue with a capacity of only about a thousand, and only pay seventy dollars for it, there must be something immoral going on, right? People are obviously too stupid to create the demand to see two of the best hip hop groups of all time, and part of me feels like it's wrong to take advantage of that. I feel somewhat compelled to mount an education campaign extolling the virtues of these two bona fide legends, especially in contrast to summerdaze or the falls or whatever other shitty festival is going on at that time, to offset the unbelievable bargain that has been bestowed upon me. I mean, I probably won't. But I will feel a little bad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Earth Died Screaming.

Last night at dinner Penny Modra suggested that every Tom Waits song was essentially a variation on a basic twelve bar blues. By the end of the evening Leith had convinced her that there were some exceptions, but not many. Now, I'm a pretty big Tom Waits fan, and though I'm a little taken aback by her claim, I'm not quite willing to dismiss it altogether. The thing is, I don't really care. It doesn't really matter that Tom Waits has been stealing his riffs from the blues for over thirty years now. Hell, in some songs John Lee Hooker only really uses one note, and he's another favourite of mine. While I agree that structure is important for songs, it's not the be all and end all. And it's the other stuff that Tom Waits does that make his songs fucking amazing; the flesh he puts onto these basic bones is like one one else's in the world.

Also, Flesh vs Venom are playing their last ever show at the East Brunswick Club on Friday night. The Diamond Sea are supporting, as well as Default Jamerson and Dead Boomers. A varied lineup, just like the days of yore. Attendance is highly recommended.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This Summer I Hear The Drumming.

I've been away the last couple of days, during which I pretty much listened exclusively to this song:



I also finally got around to reading Christy Road's Indestructible. I wasn't going to - I also took with me a book on the West Memphis Three that was more pressing, due mostly to it not being mine - but I was flipping through the first few pages of Indestructible and the word janky caught my eye. Now, I'm not entirely sure what janky means, but it stuck in my mind for some reason, and I ended up belting through the entire book late one afternoon. I still don't have a precise definition, but for me it's come to mean grotty, angry, a bit stinky, rough as guts, tomboyish, playful and proud, all rolled into one. It doesn't sound like much of a compliment, and in the wrong hands it probably isn't, but it seems to describe a lot of my favourite folks. Even if I'm appearing pretty respectible these days, it's comforting for me to know that there are still people out there for whom being punk means giving accepted conventions a crusty kick in the guts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Everybody Wear The Mask.

Most of you will have probably heard by now that a cyclist was killed on Swanston Street this morning. Apparently she got caught on the tram tracks, fell off, and went under the wheels of one of those tourist buses. Something similar happened to me a week or so ago on Sydney Road, but I was lucky enough just to be stuck under the front wheel of a BMW with anti-lock brakes. It's much worse, of course, when someone has passed away. There's a sense of confusion, like no one has any idea of what they should do. At the rally this evening we just stood around feeling awkward while journalists took photos and interviewed people. The sense of outrage we all feel when a fellow cyclist dies didn't have anywhere to go. Someone probably should have said something, but really, no one seemed to know what to say.

But you know what? I'm still angry, and now that a couple of hours have passed, I know what I want to say. I'm pissed that there are still taxis, buses and delivery trucks on Swanston Street. I'm pissed that the state government put the kybosh on the Copenhagen-style bike lanes along St Kilda Road. And I'm pissed that nearly every single news story on the incident makes mention of cyclists being fuckups in some way - either with the Hell Ride debacle or the pedestrian being knocked over by a cyclist last year. But most of all I'm pissed that almost every day, on the way to or from work, riding out to coffee, or just visiting my friends, my life is put into danger by some motorist who is not looking, not listening or just not paying attention.

The problem now is figuring out what to do. I fully support the aims of Critical Mass, but find their rallies and rides excruciatingly annoying. The Amy Gillett Foundation have the best of intentions, but really, running ads that ask cyclists and motorists to respect each other is about as effective as those 'Look Bike' stickers from the eighties. And I'm a member of Bicycle Victoria, but I kinda feel the same way about them as I do my family - I want to be a part of them, but don't wanna hang out all the time, because we really don't have all that much in common. I'm into direct action, on a very personal level, but can't really figure out who to take action against. It's not like freeing animals or placing yourself in front of a bulldozer. Societal change - which is what is obviously needed here - is way more complicated than that, and takes way longer. But what do we do until that change occurs? Sit back and let more cyclists die? That's simply not good enough.

I don't know what, but I know that something has to be done. And that we have to do it.

The story is on the ABC news right now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Black Sheep.

Ok, so I know that just yesterday I said I wasn't going to put up any hilarious YouTube clips, as the job is obviously being done a lot better by other folks. But last night I went around to my friend Casey's place to watch Rage for a bit. We were talking and only really half paying attention until this clip came on. I held her hand, squeezed it tight, and told her that as no one would ever believe that this song actually exists, we had to treasure the moment as a special one between the two of us.

The Murals On West Broadway Finally Fade.

Tash last night suggested that I'm about six months behind on the hot new YouTube clips, and that every video I post the Is Not Magazine folks have already played at YouTube Tuesday. While I find this difficult to believe (I'm pretty sure that the young literati hipsters down at Loop Bar on Tuesday nights aren't down with late-period Propagandhi - more fool them), it did slightly annoy me. No more funny clips for you, jerks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All Your Empty Houses.

I love Melbourne - really, I do - and it's quite difficult for me to remember that there was a time when I lived somewhere else. Where I felt like I knew which streets fell where, how to find the decent vegetarian treats, who was who and what was what. It's weird, now, for me to see a kid with a Ballast patch, for example, and to remember a time when I'd go see them play all the time. Or, for some reason, when I'm driving up on Sydney Rd, way up near Pentridge, north of Bell, and for some reason it reminds me of driving up on St Laurent, way up in Mile End, north of the 40. Sharing your time between two cities is in a lot of ways harder than travelling all over the place - it's almost like living two separate lives. I guess I'm susceptible to this way of thinking because Sarah K came to visit from Montreal a month or so ago, and all the memories are sitting awkward. I'm also not entirely sure what any of this has to do with this blog. I mean, I guess that all of this writing is ostensibly about Melbourne and the awesome things about it, but surely it's a bit strange to filter these awesome things through the lens of geographical location. And yet I seperate them in my mind, dividing them into Melbourne bands and Montreal bands. Hmmm. Anyways. I miss Montreal, sometimes, you know? Even though I can barely even imagine leaving Melbourne for anything more than a weekend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

All So Close To Breaking.

Everyone seems to be blogging at the moment, which makes me not want to do it, but well, when something strikes you so profoundly you can't help but start tap tap tapping at those keys. Seeing Jamie Hay play solo at the Arthouse last night was one of those moments.

It'd been a while. Fear Like Us seem to be on indefinite hiatus, and A Death In The Family seem to tour overseas more than they play here. So I guess I may have forgotten how awesome it is to see Jamie on stage. He sings with such earnest passion, such good nature, all the while attacking his guitar like he's still in Conation. Whom he covered last night. Along with Waxwing, Rumbleseat and Fear Like Us. I've written at length before about his ability to structure songs, but don't think I've mentioned the man's ability to select the perfect cover. Indeed, I think the first time I spoke to him was about a cover - the song 'Gamble', which appears on a Propagandhi record but is actually a Lowest Of The Low song. That our relationship has continued beyond my first obnoxious approach is testamount to his amiable personality. And when you're a solo performer, your personality is really all you got. There weren't many folks at the Arthouse last night, but I'm almost certain that everyone there was three quarters in love with Jamie by the end of his set. I know I was.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Like A Dog That's Been Beat Too Much.

I often wonder where the preoccupation people have with Metal comes from, especially in the context of its irony-driven resurgence. Irony, as exhibited by the hipsters at Section 8, tends to be motivated mostly by nostalgia. When you’re ten years old, you wear totally dorky clothes. Then, when you’re in your teenage years and desperate to fit in, you strive to wear the trendiest (and I use that term very precisely) clothes you can find and/or afford. But then, when you hit your mid twenties, you look back on the clothes you wore when you were ten with a fondness that eventually becomes a fashion statement. You’re proud of your dorky jumper, because, lets face it, you liked yourself a lot more when you were ten, and are pretty keen to get that kind of self-love back into your life.

Actually, that leads me to another observation. We only really start to view our preteen years through this rosy glow once we’re out in the workforce. I guess it’s only after drudging our way to work at 9am every weekday morning for three or four years that the appeal of laying around listening to Ride The Lightning over and over again like we did when we were twelve really becomes apparent. Before those three or four years I guess we just thought we were bored. Which, you know, we were.

This ironic / hilarious appreciation of Metal bothers me for another reason, however. It’s essentially dishonest. When you’re twelve and listening to Metallica’s black album for the first time you’re not thinking about how ridiculous the lyrics or the homoerotic poses are. No, when you’re walking around listening to Unforgiven on your crappy walkman for the fifteenth time in a row, you’re not down with that kind of analysis in the slightest. No, there’s no irony here, just empathy. At this point, you’re just stoked that there is someone else in the world who seems to get it. Who seems to be as fucked up as you, as bummed out as you, as keen to yell and scream at the world as you are. When you’re a teenager the thing you’re craving more than anything is the impression that you’re not in this all on your own – a true cliché – and if you can’t find that camaraderie in your immediate surroundings, well, you’re going to look for it anywhere you can find it. Metal, with its community of fucked up folks, offers only open arms. And when you’re a teenager, you don’t ever consider this sense of belonging ridiculous or hilarious.

I remember reading a while back about that movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, and about how Metalheads across the world felt kinda like this – that Metal offered them a community they otherwise lacked. I quite enjoyed that notion, because it’s similar to punk, which I actually grew up with. I like the idea that I can travel halfway across the world and have a passionate conversation with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as me about the first couple of Dead Kennedys records, and fuck, if kids can do the same about which Iron Maiden lineup was the best, well, that can only be a good thing. We have so many things around us that separate us, keep us apart, that anything that brings us together should be considered first and foremost a good thing. Even Metal.

Before I began this diatribe about Metal I thought I’d just scrawl “Fuck Metal, punk’s not dead!” on the back of an old phone bill and scan it into the blog. But this week has been a pretty fucked up week, and I dunno, I guess being obnoxious isn’t holding the same appeal right now. I’m depending on my own music to get me through, and figure it doesn’t really matter what music you run to for shelter. I’m not usually this understanding. But I guess you already know that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Is America Willing To Maintain Order, No Matter What The Cost?

Ice Cube's Amerikkka's Most Wanted is an amazing album, a bona fide hip hop classic, full of intricate wordplay (from an impressive cast of rappers) and raging beats from the bomb squad, but still, the bit I love the most is right at the start, at the end of his electric chair skit, when he says, "Yeah, yeah, I got some last words. Fuck all y'all." That "Fuck all y'all" gets me every time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When You're Living Your Life, That's The Price You Pay.

Some bad news. Rick Pilmore, former lead singer of Stawell's only ever grind band, HAW, just passed away. The classifieds in the Stawell Times News are all from his football friends, and don't really acknowledge that in the last few years of highschool he moved away from them a bit and started getting into punk. Sure, that also meant he started smoking a lot of pot, but that's not really the point. He was changing, and even in his death we should acknowledge that. I'm no great believer in any kind of afterlife, but fuck, Rick Pilmore, wherever you are now, I hope they're playing Minor Threat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If I Were President.

As my thumbs will apparently tell you, I'm really freaking good at both coming up with plans and figuring out how to implement them, but not so great at putting them into action. Knowing this about myself at the beginning of this year I declared 2008 "The Year of the Follow Through". And I have been following through on a bunch of different things - learning some more French, beginning Tai Chi, eating less sugar. But I've been particularly slack when it comes to something I used to do a lot as a teenager: organizing events. My lack of follow through in this regard is closely linked to tendency to dream big - without even having organized a single bike race I was talking about pulling together an entire festival, for example. I don't really know how to deal with this (or even exactly what I'm trying to say), but I've started by putting on this. I know it has little to nothing to do with music, but that doesn't really matter all that much. You should come along anyways. It will be a totally good time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Algebraic.



A Former Talk Show Host.

Paul Simon's Graceland in a nutshell: cheesy as all fuck, racially insensitive and, well, often insufferably 80s (anyone who disagrees should revisit the Call Me Al filmclip, starring Chevy Chase), but at the same time insidiously infectious. Listening to it immediately after listening to The Promise Ring's Nothing Feels Good, which I've written about previously here, I realised that somehow Graceland has, despite shifting its influences to an entirely different nation with each song, achieved a constant tone, that elusive quality that seperates the great albums from the perfect. How Paul Simon has managed this has little to nothing to do with the world music 101 qualities of the record, but more to do with the sense of melancholy that has permeated all of his best work. He's one of those artists for whom unhappiness is beneficial, which sucks for him but works out pretty well for the rest of us.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two Years Ago, A Friend Of Mine

I stayed in Boston with my friend Emilie Soisson for about three weeks. Emilie was really into hip hop, but only owned two records: A Tribe Called Quest Low End Theory and The Roots Things Fall Apart. Her copy of Low End Theory was scratched beyond repair, so I pretty much just listened to The Roots. I'd wake up in the morning, long after Emilie and her housemates had gone to work, hide my bedding behind the couch, then put The Roots on. This was my first real entrance into the world of hip hop. I wonder, now that I finally own both records, what would have happened if The Roots had've been scratched and all I had to listen to was Tribe. I think I would have put it on, decided that hip hop hadn't really done much since US3 threw down some rhymes to Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, and given up altogether. This isn't to say it's a bad record - quite the contrary is true - but it certainly speaks for a very particular time and place. But Things Fall Apart, in all its Grammy-winning glory, took me by the hand and showed me that hip hop has potential. While the tone is the same all the way through (a rarity on hip hop records, including later efforts by The Roots, plagued as they tend to be by multiple producers and special guest stars), the songs are constantly shifting, hard to pin down. They - like the best country music - show a clear line between the past, the present and the future. So much about the record reminded me of the jazz I'd been obsessed with at the time, and I was hooked.

I'm still learning. Punk, having been with me since I was fourteen or fifteen, comes easily. My friends are, for the most part, other punks, and so I'm constantly being put on to this or that band or zine or website. Hip hop I've had to search out for myself, grasping at whatever straws pop culture offers, reading liner notes for shout-outs to similar bands, researching bands mentioned in offhand comments at dinner parties. It's strange to be interested in something so different, to see a strand come from a long way away and eventually be intertwined into my own history, until Ice Cube is the soundtrack to my anger and Lauryn Hill is the voice that sings me to sleep.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Do You Have The Time.

I bought a big pile of new records from JB Hi-Fi the other day, and consequently have a lot to write about, but don't really have much time (or my own computer) at present. So my commentary, for the time being, is limited to this: Green Day's Dookie fucking rules it so hard it hurts like teen angst. Except these days, instead of listening to it while I sit in my bedroom writing in my journal by candlelight, I listen to it while I sit on our new dining room table, eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking a glass of sweet so natural, periodically jumping up to skank and two-step around the living room.

Monday, July 28, 2008

From One Lover To Another

These last few weeks have been a time of great upheaval, if not for me personally, then definitely for pretty much everyone I know. It seems every second person I speak to has just been sacked, dumped, hospitalized, evicted, or all of the above. Some blame the moon, some blame the season, some blame just plain old dumb luck and coincidence. I don't blame anything at all. There's no real point in searching for a reason. With the weather the way it is, it's bound to rain shit in my particular neighbourhood sooner or later. What I'm struggling with is the language of sympathy. Words - usually my favoured means of communication - tend to fall jarringly short at times like this, leaving me feeling self-consciously useless. The best I can do is nod my head, offer hugs and hot chocolate, and suggest a Roberta Flack record that really helped last time the shitstorm came down on me. I hope, friends, that this is enough.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Black Water.

Despite the fact that no one else seems to, I listen to The Constantines a lot. And it struck me on the way to work the other day that their albums, in terms of quality, pretty much follow the same order as the Indiana Jones movies. The order, should you die wondering, goes 1 - 3 - 2 - 4. The Constantines could switch one and four, depending on mood. This is not to say that any of them are bad records - or bad movies - but rather that similar problems plague both sequels and consequent records. Evolution, changing circumstances, age... Harrison Ford and Bry Webb really need to get together and chat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We Can Rely On Each Other.

Leith arrived home from Europe last night and brought with him a whole swag of records, including a belated birthday present for me: The Constantines and Feist 7". Their cover of Islands In The Stream is pretty much the cutest thing I've heard on a little record since The Promise Ring's Best Looking Boys.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You're The Best... Around

Holy shit, the Love Me You're Famous blog is up. Get there, get on board.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'll Take My Last Ten Bucks Just As Far As It Will Go.

When I was a kid, growing up in Stawell, a bunch of friends and I used to put on shows. In the beginning my participation in the organizing of these shows was pretty minimal, but as the older kids left, younger kids stepped up. Bands would come up from Melbourne, play the show, and usually drive the three hours back to the city. We'd organize a hall, perhaps run a bus from Ararat, convince the local community health centre to give us some money for a PA. I'm not quite sure why we thought it was important. I guess we'd seen Nirvana and Hole filmclips and somehow got the impression that there was something more out there, that we could begin to create our own community - or at least our own sense of community - by bringing to the countryside bands that gave voice to the way we were feeling. And, for the most part, these bands did. And we pretty much behaved in the way the kids in those filmclips behaved, stagediving, moshing, crashing into each other. Sometimes I feel like that was pretty much all there was to it. I certainly don't ever recall ever thinking to myself, "Wow, things are pretty shit up here in Stawell, what with the rednecks and the lack of decent quality existential angst, but at least there are people in Melbourne who know how I feel. Things are ok after all." But I guess I must've internalized it, somehow. There are, even for me now, times when I'll be considering some new concept, and I can tell I'm viewing it through the lens I've been unable to remove since the age of 14, a lens that was shaped by hundreds of shitty shows and conversations about records and poorly photocopied zines. Maybe stagediving and moshing and crashing into each other is enough at that age. Maybe that's all you need. Maybe that's the kind of elementary dumbness that community is based on, and every show and conversation and zine just builds on that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

If You're Hurting, So Am I.

When it comes to winter projects, this is surely the best. My friend Nat is collecting love letters written to Daniel Larusso from Karate Kid 1-3. Not to the actor, to the character. If you're interested in participating, leave your email in the comments. I'll be in touch.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Roots! Rock! Reggae!

I'm going to be a little controversial tonight. When you're in a band and playing shows, I guess your number one aim is to share your art with a bunch of people. If you just wanted to create cool stuff you'd keep it in the bedroom. If you're out and about then your intentions are different, and that's ok. Now, surely you want to share your art with as many people as possible - without compromising it, of course (this isn't a major label / indie label rant. It's not 1995 any more, kids). And, if possible, you'd like to be able to make a living off your music, so you could concentrate completely on making kick ass art. Which is also fair enough. But I'm not sure if it's possible to do this as an indie rock or punk band living in Australia. Hell, as I mentioned before, I know a guy who was in both the Triffids and the Blackeyed Susans, and he still works a day job. Because we're such a small market, it's pretty much impossible to live off your music in Australia. And because we're such a small market, you could tour your ass off year round and still only play to a small bunch of people. So, if your aims are to reach a lot of people and to maybe one day live off your music, then perhaps staying in Australia isn't the right thing to do. Perhaps you should move to the US, see what life is like in a bigger pond, and maybe become the biggest fish you can be.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe this is where the Diamond Sea are at. I mean, in saying this, I don't want to define success for them. I'm writing with the aforementioned assumptions in mind, and they may not apply. But their first record is about to come out, and word on the street (from me) has it that it's unbelievable. Their songs are well-written and constructed, their live shows are engaging and, well, they're tight. I know they've got a bunch of other stuff going on in their lives, and that maybe the band isn't their number one priority, but if they're serious about taking the band as far as they can then they should probably be trying to get someone to release that record in the States, then go over there and tour the hell out of it. They're an amazing band, and at times when I'm watching them I feel like Melbourne - and maybe even Australia - is just a little too small for them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

13 Hours On A Bus

Writing from a cafe, due to no internet at home. This post is likely to be short, due to caffeine-induced jitteriness and low battery life. There are still a few key things I wanted to mention.

The first is that I've been getting my kids to write projects on radicals from the sixties. They have to do some context work first, and one of the questions is, "What kind of music did people listen to in this period?"

One of my kids took umbrage at this. "What do you mean?" He demanded. "They listened to all kinds of music. You know, blues, rock, jazz..."
"Yeah, that's a really good point, but what was popular music like back then?"
"What do you mean? Lots of music was popular back then!"
Eventually I just told him to look up what was number one on the charts for longest. But later that night it struck me. He's never known a world without youtube, myspace and itunes. He's never had to depend on the radio and latenight rage for his information. He therefore has no concept of popular music. And that's a weird notion for me - almost postmodern subculture theory come to life. We no longer have a popular music culture to define ourselves either through or against. The anarchist in me loves this idea, but fuck, it's going to be difficult for a fifteen year old kid to figure out what to rebel against.

The second thing - and it strikes me now that all three of these pressing concerns are at the very least tenuously thematically linked - is that my headphones broke the other day, forcing me to use the crappy free pair that TJ got from work. The strange thing about listening to crappy sound systems is that once you get over the initial kneejerk reaction ("Ugh! This sounds like ass!"), the new sounds highlight some things and de-emphasize others - a different pair of headphones essentially redefine your music. I find myself listening to bands I'd long neglected (world inferno friendship society, anyone?), just because they come off totally killer when the sound is bad.

The third thing is that the music teacher at my highschool was just inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Turns out he was in the Triffids. When I asked him about it he told me it was weird being recognized for a band he started in highschool with some mates back in Perth (especially given his other band - the Blackeyed Susans - played with Johnny Cash). There's a movie being made about them too. The tenuous link between this post and the other two is that it seems like Phil is being defined differently by the public than he would define himself, and I guess will have to, for his own sanity, find somewhere comfortable between the two.

Yep.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Your Anecdotes.

I'm too tired to write a full post, but I want to mention two bands that fucking slayed all comers at the oh deago show last night: Useless Children, straight outta Melbourne and ripping it old school; and Grenadiers, of Adelaide, whose downstroke rock echoes and builds on the Hot Snakes. Jesse from the latter flicked me a copy of their demo cd, and I'm going to listen to it right now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Settle The Score.

Them And Us.

So, Leith's auntie or cousin or something calls him up the other day and says "Hey, I was going to give you this cd a while ago. These guys gave it to me when I lived in the states. It's loud music. You should like it."

Leith is hesitant, thinking it would be some nu-metal band or something. But when she eventually hands it over he has a closer look, then sees Al Burian's name on it. Apparently this relative lived in Chapel Hill when all those kids did, and knew Al personally.

So Leith calls me up and tells me he has a cd of Al's pre-milemarker band. I get a little excited.
"Is it fucking hellbender?"
"Uh, yeah, that's right."
"You fucking cunt!"

All of the hellbender cds have, of course, been out of print for some time. Some may disagree, but I'd put the US ebay price of that cd somewhere around 75 bucks.

We listened to it tonight. It's pretty good.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Less I See, The Closer I Feel.

The Diamond Sea, Quebec, Majorca, My Disco and Ampere at Brunswick Arts Space, 24-05-08.

Tash and I had been hanging out all day, drinking coffee and entertaining a revolving cast of drop-ins and swing-bys. A pretty pleasant way to spend the afternoon, but kinda tiring. So when I made it home at around 4.30 I figured that it was time for a disco nap (you know, the nap you have so you won't get tired later in the evening). Bad idea.

When I woke it was around 6, and I was groggy as all hell. Biked up to Brunswick to find pretty much no-one there. Didn't really feel like making polite conversation, so wandered off to Tiba's to find some food. Called my ma on the phone. Sat and ate by myself, listening to Public Enemy on the ipod. Grumpy.

I wandered back to the show as the Diamond Sea were setting up, though at first I barely recognised them, due to an influx of new and amazing hairstyles. While I was disappointed to hear that Alicia didn't actually use a bowl to acquire hers, no one could even dare suggest that it's not a totally awesome 'do. Perhaps the new style has emboldened her, because she's doing a lot more backup vocals these days, and it totally, totally works for them. To be encouraged.

While they were playing I realised my feet were going numb. Fucking concrete floor. It would be a problem I would encounter all night. Should have worn two pairs of socks. And perhaps two pairs of pants. And a beanie.

Quebec were up next and were plagued by PA problems. For the most of their set I stood outside and talked to Riva about the Bill Henson fiasco, which was extremely pleasant. Don't be knocking pleasant in my company - it's highly underrated. I think I went searching for a coffee at this point, eventually finding one - strong, black and sweet - at some Greek cake shop which was playing the football. The Bombers were down by nine. Things are ok.

Majorca played and seemed emboldened by the presence of the American band. Tara holds the mic like it's an ice-cream cone and barrels backwards into the crowd. The new songs have a punkier edge and come off really well. I'm standing next to Zac and he's stoked on them. They play their Portraits of Past cover and everyone goes nuts. After their set I see the bassplayer from Ampere nodding approval at their guitarist, obviously impressed. Bet you didn't see that, did you, TJ.

My Disco start setting up and the place is suddenly crowded. I find it strange that this My Disco era - when they're perhaps the least sonically accessible they've ever been, all minimal and funk-tinged and obviously more influenced by French and German electronica than the Triple J rock they get lumped in with - is their most popular. Strange or not, it's true, and the kids get right into it, bouncing around with difficulty as the changing time signatures throw them out. Ben Andrews seems to be listening more to the rest of the band today, and there is less guitar wankery between songs. It's one of the best shows I've seen from them lately.

I had thought the crowd would thin out once the Disco had finished, but I was wrong - aside from Budge, who was apparently trying to catch Grover's set at the After Dark. They pushed forwards for Ampere, word about their impressive sets obviously spreading. And tonight they really ripped it apart, hurling themselves into things with reckless and often punishing abandon. Stephen crowdsurfs in the first song and gets poked in the eye for his trouble. I see TJ floating above the crowd at one point, reward for all the work and anxiety she put into this tour. The 'pit' is full of kids, and for once I'm not mildly irritated, but kinda stoked. The guitarist is doing guitarjumps and swinging his SG like it's a hammer, belting railway spikes into hardwood. They finish up but are convinced to play two more. As much as I'm totally stoked on it, I kinda want them to finish, as my feet are freezing and I too am keen to catch Grover's set. But some things are just not to be.

I meet up with Tash again later and we wander in to Meyer's Place. I'm still a little grumpy, but the night has mellowed me. We sit at the bar and I drink coffee. She talks to me about physics and I listen and try to understand. Leith texts from a wedding and tells us he's not going to make it. At around two we head back into the cold and go our separate ways. An early night.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rats On Your Tail.

It also struck me, in my exile from the blogosphere, that I was being altogether too posi of late. So, in the interests of fair and balanced blogging, let me explain exactly why I thought Pathetic Human sucked: because they're a fashion-centric intelligence-deprived hipster band who will break up and be forgotten the day after the resident drug dealer in their lineup gets run out of town for facilitating an overdose. There.

Down By The Schoolyard.

And we're back. I go see a lot of bands, for a variety of different reasons. When I'm feeling angry and self-righteous, I go see punk rock bands. When I'm feeling cerebral and esoteric, I go see noise bands. But when I'm feeling fun, I go see I Heart Hiroshima. Ahh, if only they lived in Melbourne. What's so great about Brisbane anyway?

It's also a shame that IHH always play with such fucking terrible bands. On Saturday night it was Rocket Science, who for some reason have such a legion of taste-challenged fans that the show was sold out. In order to see IHH I was reduced to doing something which I fucking hate doing: asking for a door spot. Don't get me wrong, I love to get in for free, but asking for it feels dirty and wrong. After my pride was sufficiently swallowed and door spot wrangled I skipped straight up the front. A quick exhortation from Susie to "make it 8/10" and they lauch into things.

It's immediately apparent that they have exceeded Susie's expectations. They are playing so well that even they notice, claiming that the version of one song was "the best they ever played". Now, in my forced absence I dwelt long on this blog and its purpose, and couldn't really think of anything. But I did notice that lately I've been avoiding actually describing bands. So here's my attempt at explaining why IHH were rocking it so goddamn hard last night.

A lot of their songs are mid-paced, allowing for optimum head-nodding. Lyrics are mystical, but with an undercurrent of melancholy that makes them seem, you know, meaningful. The guitar interplay builds pressure which is eventually released (indeed, the restraint shown by IHH is an underrated quality) in fully fledged rocking out. They have different amps and different guitar sounds - indeed, one guitar sounds so springy that I'm almost convinced he has broken rubber bands instead of springs, whereas the other guitar is sharp and more traditional. The two - and, on Saturday, sometimes three - voices creates a nice juxtaposition. Their natural focal point sits up high above the drums, cracking jokes, posing out and generally being hilarious and naturally good at life. There's very little pretension here - it's a stripped down sound, with space being as important as notes (like the poets say). That's what they're like. Poppy, angular and sharp. Yep.

So, after IHH finish I split, and eventually end up dancing to Etta James at Gimme Shelter. Which was nice.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't.

Interesting and important debate going on here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Broken Hearts Want Broken Necks.

No posts for a while, on account of typing with one hand being fucking annoying.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monster Trucks.

Sometime in 2002 I accompanied my friends to a piano bar in Boston. It was right near Fenway Park, which I thought was pretty cool, but overall I was pretty skeptical about the evening. Little was I to know that the three or four hours I spent there would leave an indelible impression on me in the form of "Homegirl, Ya Wicked Awesome", an ode to the girls of South Boston (aka 'Southie', for those of you who haven't seen Good Will Hunting). It's the catchiest fucking song ever, but other than that night with Jake Ivory, I haven't heard it since. Until now. Apologies for the footage in this link, but the song comes through strong. Go look at facebook while it's playing. The campfire tales surrounding the origins of the song are nicely coalesced here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Become Good Friends

A few random ideas while watching Neighbors:

When Didge tackles Riley in the opening credits, it is clearly a push in the back. If an umpire came out, blew their whistle and stopped the show from starting, it would rule.

Neighbors, like life in general, needs way more pop culture references. Their mining of the movie Ghost World was truly plagiaristic brilliance, and should be repeated (for those who missed it, when Skye was introduced she was a blatant rip-off of the Enid character. Wacky hair, a taste for Bollywood, and even following creepy old guys around. A few months later, however, Boyd approached Skye and accused her of copping all of her moves from Ghost World. Imagine plagiarising a movie, then detailing to everyone exactly which parts you shamelessly bit! The chutzpah of those writers is unbelievable).

It strikes me that the real lives of Neighbors actors is often more interesting than their characters; Doctor Karl is president of the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (the actors union), Susan is an out and proud lesbian, Joe Scully was a coke addict. Where possible, these real life dramas should overlap with Neighbors storylines.

Ads during Neighbors should be screened for age appropriateness. I don't need to see that teflon pots ad with the old lady's fully sick tribal tattoo while I'm indulging in my early-evening soap. That's not making me want to buy pots. That's mocking me.

And, whenever there is a TV playing in the background, it should be playing old episodes of Neighbors. This would be especially awesome if Paul was filmed watching TV and the barely-audible background audio featured him.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Where It Belongs.

Holy shit! Conation are going to finally release their final EP! I don't want to be the one starting rumors or anything, but surely this means they'll play some shows...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I'm Going To Tell God.

Last Saturday night, as the previous post mentions, I went to ShitTown. For those out of the loop, it's a fucking shitty fucking hipster bar in a stairwell next to St Jerome's in the city. At one point in the evening I found myself bemoaning the location with my friend Tash. "It's like some bar from Sex and the City that those women just had to be at the opening of." I whined. "Yes," she replied, "but full of eighteen year olds that you can't hit on because they used to be your students." Although technically, according to the letter of the law, I can hit on them, I took her point. Which isn't my point. My point is that the perfect antidote to a night in a place that features significantly in "what's hot" lists everywhere is Collapsed Toilet Vietnam.

They were playing Horse Bazaar on Wednesday night, and were alleged to be starting at 9.40. I didn't know this until 9.30, and was comfortably on the couch watching House when TJ worded me up. So I roared down St Kilda Rd, skidded into oncoming traffic on Little Lon, and made my way into the venue. CTV were just setting up. It kinda looked like all hell was breaking loose. There was gaffer tape plastered everywhere, connecting drums and amps and mic stands and - midway through the set - members of the band to the audience. There seemed to be stuff everywhere. They'd brought along their own PA, which add to the clutter, but which made perfect sense as soon as they started. When you're as deliberately loud and obnoxious as CTV, it pays to bring your own PA. I was surprised to see some other dude standing up there next to Petie Hyde, with some bamboo sticks and a metal bar. But when they started playing he joined in, whacking the sticks against the bar, then pressing the bar against his neck and screaming, the added bass and percussion pushing in and out of the wall of noise. CTV are the band I want appear out of nowhere when I'm at some shitty wedding or presentation night, to scare off everyone but the true believers. A band made up of fucking awesome musicians - whose collected ears for abrasive sound production are some of the finest around - making music that mums, trendy scenesters, authority figures and TV soundtrack scouts would fucking hate. Their sets are a little longer now, and some of the new songs are a little slower, but fuck me if they're not the best fucking band in town.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

One Step Together.

I remember, having just bought the Operation Ivy cd at the age of 15, looking through the accompanying catalogue from Lookout Records. One of the records - perhaps it was The Mr T Experience, perhaps it was The Riverdales - featured two guys in front of a drummer, wielding their guitars like hammers and adopting such severe powerstances that I thought initially they may have been ironic. They were in some kind of warehouse, concrete floored with wires and cables everywhere. At one point at the Majorca show last night Jimmy and Scott struck the exact same poses, in exactly the same kind of room. They weren't great last night - the sound was terrible, and consequently they were a little out of time - but I was so stoked with them for taking me back to that moment, when punk was still opening my eyes and something new was blowing my mind on a regular basis, that it didn't matter. I was supposed to go to the show at Pony afterwards, but I didn't. Instead I went to ShitTown.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ought To Have Been Praying.

Two quotes to discuss today, both probably mangled and taken out of context. The first comes from Lester Bangs, who apparently once said, "We will never love anyone the way we loved Elvis". And the second comes from Andy Warhol, who, before he died, said something along the lines of, "I used to believe that in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. But I've changed my mind. Now I believe that in the future everyone will be famous to fifteen people."

I wish that only fourteen other people and I loved Elvis.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rally Round The Family.

Rage Against The Machine's political analysis falls significantly short on a number of fronts. Their ongoing relationship with Sony proves that they are yet to check out the Godspeed You Black Emporer LP with that diagram on the back that shows the incestuous interrelationship between a bunch of major record labels and a bunch of major weapons manufacturers. And the description of one of their recent Festival Hall shows as a "shirts-off cock forest" shows they still have a way to go on gender (someone should get in their ears about a safer spaces policy). But fuck, when a ghetto kid from the Richmond flats comes up to me at school and wants to talk about the Zapatistas, I know who to send my thank you letters to.

Monday, March 17, 2008

And So I Ran To The Rock.

I was actually sick over the last week (you know, as opposed to faking it to get time off work), and so wasn't able to write reviews of any of the bands I saw. In order to catch up, I will now attempt to give 25 word or less summations of each.

Dynamo - Dangerously close to a wedding band. Dramatically unattractive lead singer. A horn section that looks like they think they're in another room. Destructively bad.

Jay Reatard - Didn't spit on anyone.

The Dirtbombs - Seriously fucking ruled it. Old guys rocking out. When they started into 'Ain't No Sunshine' I could've died. But instead I danced.

The Diamond Sea - Keep getting better. Best band in Melbourne? Certainly up there.

Flesh vs Venom - First three songs were as good as I've ever seen them. Post-technical difficulties they seem grumpy. The new songs sound good.

And, come to think of it, that's about it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Almost Feels Ok.

Ok, so I've just walked in the door and flicked on the TV, and managed to catch the end of Wedding Crashers. Which, as we all probably know, features the Weakerthans singing Aside. I know this pisses a lot of people off, and really, I agree with them. In terms of values it's totally fucked. But when I'm watching something that already has totally fucked values, that's kinda a moot point. So, moral issues aside, I've gotta say, when I hear music I love on TV or in movies, I'm always totally stoked. That's right, like a surfer stoked. It's not because I feel some kind of validation when some Hollywood exec shines their light on my subculture, but rather that I just fucking love to unexpectedly hear songs I'm totally into. I haven't listened to radio in years (other than the infamous Montreal classic rock station CHUMFM, which seemed to be playing Tom Cochrane's Life is a Highway every time I got into the car), I don't watch Rage or any cable equivalent, and - this is true - I have never been to an alternative nightclub, such as Bang or Switch or Goo. So when I hear some song I'm totally obsessed with - you know, without putting it on myself - it pretty much makes my day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Don't Think Twice.

And another thing. Absoluten Calfentrail at the Tote last night was fucking unbelievable. And I don't mean unbelievable like EMF meant it, I mean like it was difficult to believe. Two painfully loud blasts at the beginning of the set scared most people out of the room and into the beer garden, where apparently earplugs were still necessary. The volume didn't let up for the whole set. I stayed, of course, totally fucking mesmerized, finally convinced that for music to be intense, it doesn't have to be fast. As I think I've stated before, I'm not really down with the noise scene, due to its predisposition to pretension, but differentiates Grover from the vast hoards of knob-twiddlers is his almost total lack of self-awareness. There's no comforting ironic distance here, no knowing winks to the audience. He stands in front of a table of pedals and mixers and other electronic toys, creating on the run, thuds and blasts and noise generated from somewhere, rocking back and forth, staring at the table, at the ceiling, at the microphone. At the end of the set, when he screams and throws over the table, you know he means it.

I'd Wait For You.

I might have written this before. I've certainly thought it before, and will probably think it again. Ninetynine's The Process makes me feel - to paraphrase Lauryn Hill - like my shit is complex. The layers of sound, coupled with the ambiguity in Laura's voice, gives the impression that there's a lot more going on than I understand. Which is probably a good thing. It still feels like it has been made by people who have a greater grasp of the whole mess than I do, and for that reason it never comes off as patronizing. It comforting, you know, to hear that someone out there has something of an idea about how things work.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm An Aeroplane.

My friend Leith, along with a couple of other excellent dudes, runs Sabbatical records, so occasionally I get hooked up with noise/experimental/ambient cds before everyone else. Such is the case with the new Pikelet EP Pre-Flight Jitters, which landed in my lap before French class on Thursday night, but which isn't being launched til tonight. I'm quite happy about the two extra days listening time. The record is quite a departure from Evelyn's earlier works - quite considerably darker, in fact. I'm enjoying the difference - while I do enjoy her last record, it's pretty heavy on the cute, and it's a rare mood when I feel cute-friendly. This EP, however, seems like a percussion-driven Ennio Morricone, thick with thumps and thwacks that I can't quite identify (at one point it sounds like coconuts being clapped together - though perhaps that's due to my childhood overexposure to Monty Python), and with vocal sounds that are textual rather than, you know, based on words. And that's the kind of stuff I can lap up any time of day. The show is at Forepaw Gallery tonight at 8. You should get there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

They Make The Rocking World Go 'Round.

The two greatest things to ever happen in my entire teaching career have taken place at the school I currently teach at. The first was nearly two years ago now. My entire class (three students) ran out on me, but hit the play button on the stereo first. I was left all alone in the classroom listening to Living On A Prayer, which I've already written about at length. The second greatest ever moment took place today. A teacher was away and I was forced to take biology class. The kids walked in, glanced at me, and immediately realized there was going to be no learning biology today. "Brendan, I feel a little bit Freddie Mercury today," one said. I encouraged him to continue. He began to sing the first few lines of Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually another kid joined in. Then another kid. By the second "Mama!" even I had joined in. We sung the whole song, from the soft bit at the start, through the scaramouche bit in the middle, to the metal bit at the end, completely a capella.

And It's Alright.

You Can't Always Get What You Want is possibly the wrongest song in the history of modern music. Nearly all the great crimes of rock are there: a choir, strings, bongo drums (it fails to complete the clean sweep due to not being sung in falsetto and not having a saxophone solo). That it could even comes close to working would be a mystery, but the fact that it's kinda awesome? Well, that's a new religion all of its own. When the cheesy pop/experimental pap of the Beatles has long faded, the bizarre grandiosity of You Can't... will ensure the Stones live on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Joe Hill At The Mic.

Today is a strike day and I have once again been featured on the news butchering rock classics in the name of politically-themed entertainment. I want to assure everyone that I play absolutely no part in either selecting these songs or rewriting the lyrics to fit the occasion. I am, however, tired of having to deliver songs so old that Gold FM would be ashamed to have them on their playlist. If anyone could possibly suggest singalong compatible tunes whose lyrics lend themselves to the need for teachers to receive more pay, it would be great if you could suggest them here.

Gonna Make You Sweat.

Boy, was everyone excited when they saw kids doing the Melbourne Shuffle on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance - almost as excited as I get when Heath Ledger's character namechecks Bikini Kill in Ten Things I Hate About You. It's always a glorious day when our particular subculture gets its moment in the mainstream sun. I was a little disappointed, however, that the Shuffle was the only underground dance move to be highlighted, and as such have taken it upon myself to present just a few of the dance styles that SYTYCD forgot.

1) Two-Stepping, Hardcore Style

Now really, what the Australian version of SYTYCD sorely lacked was a bit of blood. And what better way to provide gallons of the red stuff than by letting a couple of hundred testosterone-amped twenty-two year-old musclemen loose to a Betrayed record. In no way should this be limited to two-stepping: kickboxing, pizza-twirling, stagedives and just plain smacking other people in the face are encouraged, if not mandatory. No doubt their mums will be there to mop up afterwards.



2) Skanking

Don't let the dorky exteriors of ska kids deter you - skanking will never really go out of fashion. Extra-special consideration will be given to those who can perfectly co-ordinate their guitar jumps. Matching outfits composed entirely out of checkered material will go down a treat with this crowd, as will driving their vespas on stage.



3) The Melbourne Head-Nod

When I was a younger lad I used to tear it up, and would always find time to mock those standing at the back with their arms folded, nodding their heads. Nowadays I'm stuck firmly in their number. It's difficult, however, to find a clip of a guy standing around nodding his head to melodic hardcore bands, and this is the best I could do. Substitute "move my desk" for "crash into me" and "paycheck" for "rare vinyl that I ordered" and it's pretty much spot on.

Why Can't You Be True?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Can't Be What You Were.

As Facebook will tell you, I've rediscovered Fugazi lately, after way too long a lay off. I'm especially into their much-maligned post-Instrument period. Say what you will about them mellowing, but there is no way in the world you will ever write a song as good as Cashout. Keep trying, though. Like Kurt Vonnegut says, what we respond to in art is the artist struggling against their limitations. And anyone struggling against their limitations to write Fugazi-esque songs has my utmost, unwavering, unequivocal support.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

ruining melbourne, one restaurant at a time !!!

so i found out late last year that there have been some rumours going round that i've ruined don don. how so? well, in terms of the vegan-ness of their vegetarian meals. now i have to say that i did not ruin don don!!!!!!!! i have never even been there and don't even know where it is ..... i hardly ever eat in the city.

okay, now i got that out of my system, i'd just like to say i'll be contributing here every so often with information on places around melbourne that appear to be vegan friendly but actually have death amongst their vegetables.

i do have a bit of a reputation for this as in the past i have found a number of places, where the meals aren't what they say they are. sometimes it is the wait staff's fault. sometimes people aren't sure exactly what to ask for. lying about allergies to certain foods always helps me get what i want.

i don't care if i ruin a place or what anyone thinks, it's for the animals. they have no choice in their suffering and imprisonment but with every single meal, we have a choice in where we eat. we have SOOOOO many vegan options in this fine city of ours that there is no room for excuses.

oh and i might occasionally post food photos too. i like them alot. i like food alot.

okay, here are a few places for now:

+ yoyogi: last time i was there, all we could eat was the agedashi tofu with no sauce, just the tofu. they put fish stock in the broth and also fish flakes (bonito) on top. the eggplant (dengaku) was okay as well. just miso paste on top.
unfortunately alot of miso soup has fish stock in it though.

+ alaysia: last time i was there, which was years ago, after inquiring, it was revealed that they put dairy in the sauces. ugghhh

+ food cube: close friends of mine told me that this place really doesn't know what's going on in regards to vegan food. they were given butter and other items on the plate were questionably not vegan.

that'll do for now. add some more if you know of them....

on a positive note, more people need to head to port melbourne and check out bowl of soul. they are all vegetarian and have lots of vegan options with vegan cheese !!!! also, lots of people already but just incase you didn't, the east brunswick club is now doing vegan meals too and there is a new italian vegetarian cafe opening today, on lygon street called vege2go. i haven't been there yet but have seen their menu online and they appear to have some vegan options !!!!

**disclaimer: i am not to be held accountable for any of these places but this is merely a guide to being more aware of what's really going on behind those kitchen doors..... things do change and different wait staff say different things. so just ask more questions !!! (for the animals.....)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Now Here's What I Want Y'all To Do.

Grandmaster Flash once said that the Furious Five would've sounded like The Roots, had they been able to afford instruments. And here they are, redefining hip hop.


I Wanna Be Your Dog.

Riding through the city I notice two distinct phenomena: one group of people, wandering east, mostly pale men in their late twenties, mostly wearing black. Another group of people, wandering southwest, a variety of ages and genders, identifiable by their green and gold apparel. Iron Maiden at Rod Laver, and the Socceroos at Telstra Dome. You can figure out which group attended which. I was impressed by the sheer separation of the two groups - they barely noticed each other, let alone acknowledged the others existence. Near the very end of my journey, however, I see a guy crossing Elizabeth St. He is wearing an Australia scarf and a Stooges shirt. I have no idea to which venue he is heading, and this makes me extremely happy.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

When Those Chickens Came Home To Roost.

Ok, so I didn't go to Brisbane for Live and Let DIY this weekend. Instead I stayed home listening to Propagandhi and reading Ward Churchill's Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America. Right now, as a consequence, I'm pretty much ready to hoist the black flag and start slitting throats. The book also contained a quote from The Last Poets, who, for some reason, I continue to overlook when it comes to record purchasing time. More fool me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

We Want Control Of Our Bodies

And another thing. I seem to be catching a lot of internet flak for suggesting that the movie Juno is anti-abortion propaganda. Let me explain my position here. Juno is the perfect comeback to the pro-choice argument that no abortion = teenage pregnancies. It suggests that not only is adoption an emotionally easy and socially preferable option, but that your bastard child will be scooped up by wealthy and wholesome parents who will love love love it forever, and you will get a slightly dorky but totally cute boyfriend out of the deal. There are so many dodgy class and race assumptions going on in the film, and it's perhaps no coincidence that they're the same class and race assumptions that rightwing christians and conservatives everywhere base their logic on. So, let me restate for posterity: Fuck You Juno. Any film executives interested in my pro-choice love story can reach me through the comments section.

Let's Bowl, Let's Bowl, Let's Rock And Roll.

Of all the terrible, terrible sequels I can think of - and at the moment, Blues Brothers 2000 and Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason in particular spring to mind - surely Grease 2 is the worst. Not even the fact that it gave the fledgling career of Michelle Pfeiffer its first nudge towards bug-eyed brilliance redeems it. It is such a terrible movie that watching it was referred to in the Drew Carey Show as an example of a truly pathetic way to waste one's time. The line was, I believe:

"Oh, because you're so busy sitting around watching Grease 2 in your underwear".

This is the kind of line that can have a chaos theory-esque effect on a sharehouse, and did, in fact, result in me and two of my housemates seeing a lot more of each other's skin than we had previously. But you should not let our immense and devastating loss of pride deter you. I urge you to instead share in our collective humiliation by going out right now to rent the movie and then, having done so, gather those you live with together and strip down to your bare essentials. Even if you don't enjoy the movie - and you won't - you may enjoy the experience. Maybe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Live In The Mud

I have tattoos, and as such am privy to a number of conversations about tattoos. Chief among these is the conversation about tattoos that "I'm going to get soon." Inevitably this means hearing about some special Chinese character, or Tibetan symbol, or persona from some obscure Greek mythology. I fear, however, that we are looking past our own rich resources, and in the process missing out on a lot of kicking rad tattoo ideas. The southern cross tattoos I keep seeing amongst the Cronulla riot / Big Day Out crowd display nothing more than a lack of imagination (well, and xenophobia, but I digress). So, when next you're passing your local house of permanent scarring, and feel the need to express your love for your homeland, I suggest the following ideas:

1. A Bunyip



Surely the Australian equivalent to a dragon, a sasquatch, or even the loch ness monster, the bunyip seems to have been overlooked as an intimidating presence. But get a load of this picture! That's some scary shit. Recommended for the biceps of skinny white dudes with an overabundance of Metallica t-shirts.

2. A Rainbow Serpent



Actually, I'm surprised I haven't seen a bunch of these already. Highly recommended for the Nimbin crowd, for whom stealing the spirituality of other cultures is second nature, the rainbow serpent surely has what it takes to be the new yin yang symbol. Appearing, very small, on the hip bones of some dreadlocked, thai-fisherman pants wearing, lotus-position flake-oid soon.

3. Drop Bears



This one speaks for itself. Illustrate the tales of horror you tell dopey german tourists with your own immortalized image. I recommend a full back piece for this one.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So They Called For Another Elephant

According to Grant, who has "insider" friends in Hollywood, Heath Ledger is not dead, but is actually involved in some publicity-provoked practical joke in order to increase interest in the forthcoming Dark Knight. In the movie he plays The Joker. A little cute, don't you think? This may well be the reason the massage therapist called fucking Mary-Kate Olson before she called the ambulance. Because I know if I wanted to spread some bullshit all over the world, I'd want an Olson twin on my team.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bike Rides And High Fives.

In these last few dying days of the school holidays I have taken a little bit of time out of my hectic socializing schedule to go out into the mountains and ride up and down hills. Half way up a particular brutal ascent I realized that I was enjoying the torture more than most punk rock shows that I go to. So here, for your reading pleasure, are a bunch of reasons why biking is better than shows.

1. The faux-environmentalist ethical overtones of biking are grounded in something close to reality (you know, using your bike to commute instead of a car...), as opposed to the faux-anarchist ethical overtones of punk.

2. Biking hurts, sure. But rarely as much as the busted nose I saw at the Mindsnare show last weekend. Biking also hurts your back, but with changeovers between sets at shows seeming to take longer than ever, standing up for an entire show hurts our poor, aging spines a lot more.

3. Biking actually increases your health, as opposed to shows, which decrease it. As evidence I offer my dramatically thickening thighs and my dramatically thinning hearing.

4. Sportswriting - even cycling writing - kicks all kind of ass over music writing. As well as reading BikeSnobNYC, you should also check out Dave Zirin's Edge of Sports column. There's a long and impressive history of sports being used as a vehicle for social justice. In addition to the writing kicking ass, sports movies also kick ass over music movies. Come on, which would you rather watch, the first Rocky or Almost Famous? That's what I thought.

5. When you're at a show, it's a disappointing inevitability that you will be almost surrounded by fuckwits. This sometimes occurs when biking, but when you're biking, if there are fuckwits around, you can just ride away from them. Simple as that. And, as an added bonus, when you're biking, no one deliberately crashes into you and, when you take umbrage, tells you that "it's punk rock, man..."

So, there it is. Time to get rid of all your black t-shirts and replace them with lycra. Trust me, you won't ever look back.