Category Archives: Music

Chris Cornell – 20/07/1964 – 18/05/2017

Update: I wrote this before I heard the circumstances of Chris’s death and considered altering it to make it feel a little more sensitive, however I think that depression is often not faced head on and, although my eulogy below doesn’t specifically talk about Cornell’s mental illness, I am going to leave it as I wrote it and let you find your own meanings in his words!


When I was a teenager I taught myself to sing by turning my stereo up loud and joining in. This is how I got to know Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell so well.

That was the 90s, around 25 years ago. Today I don’t sing so much but I still listen to many of the bands I picked up through my teenage years – Soundgarden included. Their most recent album, a bit of a surprise when it was announced because they hadn’t released anything for 16 years, was King Animal. There was nothing particularly surprising about it, it was still very definitely Soundgarden, but with more experience and insight into the workings of the modern world.

My favourite track from the album is Black Saturday, an incredible journey through old age and euthanasia, a subject which has been on my mind since Terry Pratchett covered it so eloquently in his documentary Choosing to Die. Sadly now, though, this is something that Chris Cornell will never have to consider.

Promise something,
Kill me right away if I start to get slow
And don’t remember
How to separate the worm from the apple
Don’t wait ’til tomorrow,
Kill me right away if I start to listen
To the voices
Telling all the mouths what they need to swallow

The thing I always found impressive about his lyrics was the way he managed to take everyday phrases and twist them round to make them mean something completely different, or nonsensical. For instance, in Superunknown he faced psychological issues head on.

If you don’t want to be seen
Well you don’t have to hide
And if you don’t want to believe
Well you don’t have to try

Which resonated with 17 year old me in a way I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

Now, as a forty-something year old man, I still listen to Soundgarden for their incredible guitar riffs, clever use of words, unusual time signatures and rip-roaring solos, but after today the songs will take on a new meaning for me and fire off memories of another talented life cut short and sorely missed.

Apologies if this isn’t the most coherent eulogy, but because the songs are so closely intertwined with my persona I find it difficult to untangle my feelings and thoughts.

I’ll leave you with a song of my own, one I’ve talked about before and the one, I think, in which I came closest to equaling Chris Cornell’s use of language.

Open

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
How can I show you,
That my love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We cannot take it back now,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
Now more than ever,
My love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We’re going to be together,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
I can take your world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

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Music Review – The Love Junkies – I Had A Party Once

I liked this song!

As always, original is here.

 


 

 

I had a Party Once should have a warning on it to ensure that agoraphobic morose teenagers don’t inadvertently listen to it and start self-harming.

The rough and ready guitars drive the song along like a bulldozer, smashing anything that gets in the way and demolishing any chances you might have had of actually enjoying your next soiree. It feels a bit like The Love Junkies once had a bad experience at a social gathering and want to make sure everyone else gets to share the hurt.

Like the bastard child of Weezer and Lesley Gore, this single holds your attention through the medium of grabbing you by the throat and beating your head off the nearest pointy rock. If you don’t listen to the words it sounds fairly cheerful in a minor key, dropped beat kind of way. But tuning in to any particular line will bring words like “funeral”, “masochistic”, “alcoholic”, “lonely” into focus and make you wish you hadn’t concentrated as hard.

Mitch McDonald seems to be really enjoying himself, in an extroverted introvert kind of way and you just hope that he isn’t drawing on his own experiences when he puts pen to paper.

So, in conclusion, this song is amazing!!!

The only thing lacking, in my opinion, is a really rip-roaring solo which could happily be plugged in before the middle eight gets going, but even so I Had a Party Once is a stonking three minutes and twenty six seconds of math rock which I would take great pleasure in turning up loud the next time I throw a party of my own.

 


 


Music Review – The Desert Sea – Elevator

My first ever rock concert was at the tender age of 16. Me and my best friend were, at the time, big (but not in stature) fans of the fundamental heavy metal band – Iron Maiden. As I recall it was very loud and Bruce Dickinson accidentally got himself stuck on top of the massive amplifier stack and had some trouble getting down again.

Now, 26 years later and my tastes have moved on somewhat, I still occasionally fire up some Living Colour or Megadeth, but Maiden – although talented – just don’t really seem to have moved on very far in the 41 years since they formed, so for me at least they just don’t really do it anymore.

The above goes some way to explaining why I chose to do this review, I couldn’t believe that anybody could be so fixated on 80s heavy metal that they try to reproduce it, down to the last screeching guitar solo hammering-off-and-on.

 


 

Starting off like they fell over a Japanese Voyeurs track then remembered they really like Iron Maiden – The Desert Sea’s latest single, Elevator is Proper Metal in the greatest eighties; not certain I should be taking this seriously?; is that Robert Plant?; I thought The Darkness weren’t playing anymore?; sense.

Hailing from Sydney, this hasn’t stopped the band gathering inspiration from every single Heavy Metal icon from the beginning of time to the present day. Their influences are listed as QOTSA, The Raconteurs and Soundgarden which, to a degree, I can agree with because all three of these heavyweights’ influences come from the heyday of long haired guitar screeching chug rock and blues.

Don’t get me wrong, this sounds fresh and interesting but is also reminiscent of so many other bands that it’s hard to identify where the originality takes over from the genuflection to days gone by.

This is the kind of track I could imagine lots of (very) young people jumping about to in a rock club while the more mature metal-heads look on, bemused, from the side lines nursing their bottles of Hahn Super Dry and mumbling about Led Zeppelin.

The solo sounds very much like Dave Murray was pointed at a guitar and told to “just do what you do”. The rest of the song doesn’t deviate too far from the basic heavy metal archetypes of twiddly guitars and throaty choruses.

That said, if you like Metal you shouldn’t be disappointed. Rock on!

 


 


Music Review – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I have to admit to being a big fan of Bob Mould, so when his new album was streamed online in March earlier this year I decided that Semplesize could do with letting its readers know exactly why Bob Mould is a rock god!

Original is here.

 


 

After forty years in the music business you might think Bob Mould would have run out of ideas, but no! Patch the Sky is his thirteenth solo album, twenty-sixth if you consider his Hüsker Dü and Sugar efforts, and although you know what you are getting (power-pop and screeching guitar solos) it is still as emotionally and musically volatile as any of his other work.

With such a large back catalogue and so many influences and styles, he effortlessly segues between hardcore punk and pop tinged dance, then screaming like a space shuttle punches through rock music clouds into the vacuum of easy listening space. I think I lost my metaphor somewhere along the way there…

In the grand scheme of things, Patch the Sky is just another Bob Mould album –Mould has influenced just about every rock band since 1979, names such as The Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day, Ryan Adams, No Age, the Foo Fighters and others too innumerable to mention cite him as a major part of their decision to make music – so “just another Bob Mould album” is an event worthy of more than an unobtrusive press release and a few underground murmurings from hardcore fans.

Standout tracks on the first listen are Daddy’s Favourite – distortion and angst, Black Confetti – wonderful offbeat drums define the song, and Monument – speaking directly to your psyche, closes the album on an introspective note.

I’ll be buying this, I would strongly recommend you do too!

 


 


Music Review – Daniel Johns – Preach

The first line was removed from this review when it was published because, apparently, they thought that Mr Johns might not like the mention of the band that made him into an international superstar. I have put it back in here because I don’t think it in any way affects the article and, if anything, makes it flow a little better.

Personally, I was a big fan of Frogstomp, although I never really got into their other stuff, but when I saw the track up for review I decided I’d have a listen and see what I thought. Read on to find out.

As always, original is here.

 


 

This is not Silverchair, okay? Right, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s get on with this.

The release of Aerial Love in February hailed the first new music from Daniel Johns in eight years, it was greeted with confusion and indifference from his existing fans and hardly grazed the atmosphere of Music World. Perhaps he should have considered putting Preach out first.

The second track from the Aerial Love EP is a stronger by a long way. Starting with an atmospheric piano, shortly joined by a synthesised drumline and Johns’ voice, reaching for a falsetto range he can barely maintain. It doesn’t seem to matter though, he sounds confident and comfortable in himself and is obviously enjoying it immensely.

The multi-layered harmonic vocals, sounding more like a team of choirboys than a 35 year old man who used to be the growling feline front man of Australia’s angriest grunge band, suit the track perfectly. The verses are stripped down, ethereal and thoughtful, with little in the way of backing, the chorus ramps it up a bit with a louder drum track and the left hand coming into play on the piano, bringing in the lower registers, to give it some body.

As Daniel blasts out the almost inevitable line “now I sing to my own beat” you find yourself thinking that isn’t such a bad thing. Sure, it sounds ever so slightly like Justin Timberlake, or even the crazily guitarless album Scream by Chris Cornell. In fact almost anything that had some Timbaland involvement.

But it just goes to prove that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in the case of Preach I think Daniel Johns has proved that the leopard’s paint job has finished drying and he’s now ready to hunt a whole new species of ungulate.


Gig Review – Swervedriver – Amplifier Bar

Initially I was shocked when I walked into the Amplifier and it was smaller than a postage stamp. For a band of Swervedriver’s calibre I expected at least big enough to swing a couple of cats in. Intimate just about covers it!

Although Dream Rimmy are probably too young to have heard of either Throwing Muses or Ride they sound exactly like Kristen Hirsch singing over the latter’s musical chops. A highly entertaining bunch of chaps and chapesses. A tight rythmn section, three guitars with unerrimg synchronicity and an awesome synthesizerist (um…), make them ones to watch out for.

Childsaint’s influences tend more towards The Breeders, Slowdive and PJ Harvey, but the sum of these alt-rockers turns out to be more than their constituent parts. With choruses being belted out by all four of the women making up this outfit, all they need is a bit of recognition and they will have young girls the world over aspiring to be like them.

Swervedriver, however, are a law unto themselves. Beginning the set with latest album opener Autodidact they start as they mean to go on. Unstoppable guitars hammering your senses into submission, then doing it again and again until you’re begging them to slow down.

For Seeking Heat came next, with ear pummeling guitars and more energy than you could shake a drumstick at. The set continues mixing old with new, Never Lose That Feeling gets a big reaction from the crowd and the drums feel like they are trying to rearrange your internal organs, then Setting Sun calms things down a bit until they intensify towards the end where a hammer on your head would have much the same impact.

Rave Down is pretty much as you’d expect, only more so, followed by a bass heavy These Times. Then it’s back to the new album with For A Day Like Tomorrow, which has a big rock chorus and a stupendously long outro, setting the tone for the rest of the concert.

Sunset is almost album perfect and MM Abduction is slow but perfectly formed. Lone Star could also have come straight from I Wasn’t Born To Lose You and The Birds also has a stretched but exciting finish.

Then we get to the song everyone expects in a Swervedriver set: Son Of Mustang Ford – only this version is verging on heavy metal and no worse off for that. To complete the first part of the set I Wonder? builds to a crescendo and begs the question, are they wonder-ing how long they can make one song last. Not that there was anything wrong with that, it gave a nice chance for all four of the group to showcase their musical talents.

After a short break they came back on for an encore, picking Everso as the first song and continuing from where they left off. For real fans they then played a version of Last Train To Satansville which sounded more like the less well known B-side Satansville Revisited.

The final hurrah was Duel and the crescendoing continued to rise up until a barrage of feedback, pick slides, wah-wahs and pedal driven excess called the whole thing to a close.

Now it’s  finished and my ears are gently humming to themselves, I feel a little sad that it’s over and the 17 year old version of me who first heard of Swervedriver has gone back to sleep again. However the much older and wiser me, living in the here and now, has a new night out to put at the top of my list of all time best gigs and is pleased that his favourite band have matured in the 25 odd years I have been following them.

 

The Setlist

Autodidact –
For Seeking Heat
Never Lose That Feeling
Setting Sun
Rave Down
These Times
For A Day Like Tomorrow
Sunset
MM Abduction
Lone Star
The Birds
Son Of Mustang Ford
I Wonder?

Encore

Everso
Last Train To Satansville
Duel

 


Music Review – Jamie XX – Gosh

Unusually I’m including the actual music video for this review because it seems to have gone walkabout on the original site, and the video is what the review was mainly about.

When I’m going to do a review, I tend to whizz through the tracks offered by Semplesize, have a quick listen then pick my favourite song. This one was different! The first time I watched it I hardly even registered the music. Read on to find out why.

Original is here.


 

I fell across the Video for Jamie XX’s new song, Gosh, because I found a story about it on a random Astrophysics ‘blog the other day (I’m a writer, that’s the kind of thing we do!). Now, Jamie XX has never been on my horizon, if you’ll excuse the pun, but this video made me sit up and stare.

As well as a word-smith I am also a bit of a geek, and so the idea behind Gosh really appealed to me. The video starts off with a pale red dot in the centre of the screen which, over the course of the first minute, gets infinitesimally larger. Then suddenly something hoves into view, spinning mechanically and, if you hadn’t realised before, it now becomes apparent that the circle in front of you is the planet Mars, in all its interstellar glory.

For the next minute and a half you are treated to slowly panning images of the planet’s surface, then, if you’re observant, you notice that something is not as it should be. An aerial shot of the red dusty exterior isn’t completely static as you’d expect. Four small dots are skimming across the terrain like they’re attempting a land speed record, which they might be when you come to think about it, throwing up huge plumes of the crimson dust that is, as I write, being sampled by the Curiosity rover!

Some lights start to show up on the vistas around the three minute mark then some, for want of a better word, space stations show up, hovering like stellar hubcaps in the solar radiation above the atmosphere. More lights show up on the rocky face of the world, followed by a closer shot showing structures of a very habitable nature, which can only be man-made.

The crescendo of the story starts at three minutes fifty, when you get your first glimpse of more Earth-y colours, a ragged brown line, strongly delineated against the ruddy, rocky landscape dips into view and spotted across it is greenery. Trees, lakes and eventually clouds glide past. Finally the perspective jumps back to the planet as a whole and you can see that it is absolutely what you would expect from a life bearing rock, thrashing its way through space at nearly 87,000 miles per hour, in the outer part of Sol’s Goldilocks zone.

The music, which I have rather absentmindedly ignored up to this point, is actually a beautiful accompaniment to the visuals, giving the impression that Jamie XX came up with the concept for the video before he actually wrote the song.

When you get down to it the basic concept behind most music is the sharing of experiences and feelings. With this video Jamie XX has drawn me into his world, shown me a small part of what keeps his mind ticking over in the wee small hours, and drawn in a fan who would not otherwise have given the track a second thought.

Very impressed.