SUNDAY EDITORIAL: The Music Industry and The Idea of Success

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I find the notion of the “Music Industry” to be an incredibly laughable thing. So much importance is placed on displaying the correct behaviour in order to succeed within it and regardless of your genre the rules largely remain the same across the board. The high level model of “make the money now” is not an exclusive mission statement and is the same ethos adopted by many of the upper market independent labels popping up everywhere. The next money machine attached to the “industry” is the promotional companies who although are not record labels as such carry the same spirit of a label in terms of shaping your band so that it can successfully make someone else money. A lot of these promotion companies are the new business model for what used to be referred to as A&R and although there is still a focus on A&R from a major label level, a lot of the big money makers attach themselves to these smaller independent promotion companies in order to help weed out who will make the money and essentially who can successfully be pushed and marketed on the more mainstream level. It’s the perfect synergy of the small label Indies mixing with the major label fat cats and at every step of the process the focus is on marketing, brand awareness, image, empty calorie pop songs, censorship and a strict inside the box business model.

All in all it is a risk free agenda and through this process the bands and musicians are taken on a journey that essentially corrupts and fills them full of doubt as to why they wanted to play music in the first place. Some people are more geared and comfortable with playing within this risk free money making environment. It does allow for certain comforts to be given to you and it also opens up a pressure all of its own for the bands and artists that exist within it. Are you a bad person if you exist within and believe in this business model? No. Are you wrong for assuming that this is the only way to market and distribute music? Yes.

The music industry has so many different layers to it, and depending on your moral compass is not limited to the above business model. The evil aspects of making a profit are no longer exclusive to the major labels; it is a functioning machine across all levels of the industry. The shelter of remaining independent is not as simple as it used to be. There is the same level of “Motley Crue” hunger for money and success now functioning within the independent scenes. The business of art is now a very serious enterprise for the Indies and as a result a lot of mediocre and empty calories have ended up being the face of independent music.

The spirit of being adventurous in the music has been replaced by a new thirst and knowledge of business and making money. This has almost caused an “underground” in the “underground” to the point where the underground independent music scenes now also have many different layers and levels of structure. Ultimately it has been split into the groups of independent musicians who have a business strategy and the independent musicians who make forward thinking music and whose business strategy is to create, work hard, play shows, live rough and to avoid control being taken away from their experimental nature.

The other development within these music scenes is a new kind of younger musician who has taken the time to not only write songs but also do a music business degree. This may be a smart move at such a young age but when you have a whole scene of young musicians with this philosophy only so many of them will break through and the rest will spend their twenties in a state of bitterness or desperation. I have no personal dilemma with anyone having an interest in the business of art and taking the time to get educated in successful methods of conducting good business in general but there is the textbook blueprint and then there is the trial by error approach.

I have a lot of time, respect and love for all of the amazing people who work behind the scenes in the music industry and I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m in anyway bitter about the industry, I just believe that there are certain pages of the textbook not being taught to young musicians and at the end of the day the issue that needs to be addressed is the idea of what being “successful” really means.

To give a bit of context to the way I feel about the music industry circa 2012, I’m going to quote my hero, in both business and music, Mr Ian McKaye who responded in the following way when he was asked if there were other ways that he knew or had thought of to fight the whole status quo of the music industry, with the following being his answer:

“I’m not interested in fighting them. I’m interested in doing my work despite them.”

This is 100 per cent how I personally feel and I think it’s the kind of positive flip side I’d like to inspire in a lot of musicians who have been soured by their experience with the music industry because success is a multi-layered and beautiful concept that is not limited to how much money you earn and all the other fickle qualities of the current more popular business model adopted in the music industry.

To paint you a picture of this I’m going to lean on Ian’s band Fugazi as the classic example of how you can live outside the current ideals of the music industry.

Fugazi are an American band who came out of the DC hardcore music scene of the 1980’s and formed in 1987. They are noted for their DIY ethical stance, manner of business practices and have toured the world, produced six studio albums, a film and a comprehensive live series which has gained the band critical acclaim and success across the world.

After releasing some EP’s and the classic “13 Songs” compilation (a collection of the early EPs) and touring from 87 through to 89 the band released their debut album “Repeater” on April 19th 1990 through Ian’s label Dischord Records (I’ll touch on Dischord Records later in this topic) and although it did not impact any kind of chart or become a commercial success it did launch the band into the public eye quite significantly.

Through 1990 and 1991 they toured heavily behind “Repeater” playing a total of 250 concerts between March 1990 and June 1991 and routinely selling out 1000 plus capacity venues all over the world. By the summer of 1991 “Repeater” had sold more than 300, 000 copies which was an extreme achievement for a band whose own in-house label relied on minimal promotion. Major labels of course attempted to court the band but they made the decision to stay with their own Dischord label and refused all offers because the band was distributing their albums well enough. “Repeater” has sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and around 2 million worldwide.

Before I continue to discuss the amazing success the band had let me take a detour into describing some the business practices of Fugazi so that you can understand how the above mentioned figures were achieved. A lot of what I’m about to type is from information I’ve researched and in the spirt of accuracy a lot of it has been quoted word for word so that I can illustrate to you the point I’m discussing.

Fugazi worked out their DIY aesthetic by trial and error. The group’s decisions were partly motivated by pragmatic considerations that were essentially a punk rock version of simple living: for example, selling merchandise on tour would require a full-time merchandise salesperson that would require lodging, food, and other costs, so Fugazi decided to simplify their touring by not selling merchandise.

The band was also motivated by moral and ethical considerations: for example, Fugazi’s members regarded pricey admission for rock concerts as tantamount to price gouging a performer’s most loyal fans. Fugazi’s inexpensive target goal of $5 admission was spawned during a conversation on an early tour when the band’s members were debating the lowest profitable admission price.

In later years and at many venues, particularly on the east and west coasts of the U.S., Fugazi was unable to get ticket prices below about $10–$15 total. However, it never saw the $5 rule as inviolable, instead aiming to charge a price that was both affordable and profitable. Unlike some similar, independent rock contemporaries, Fugazi’s performances and tours were always profitable, due to the group’s popularity, low business overhead costs, and MacKaye’s keen sense of audience response in given regions.

Fugazi’s early tours earned it a strong word-of-mouth reputation, both for its powerful performances, and also for the band’s eagerness to play in unusual venues. The group sought out alternatives to traditional rock clubs partly to relieve the boredom of touring, but also hoping to show fans that there are other options to traditional ways of doing things.

In terms of their label Dischord Records, here is a bit of a history lesson. The label was founded in 1980 by Ian McKaye and Jeff Nelson and is based in Washington D.C. and specialises in the independent punk music of the D.C. area. The label is most notable for employing the do-it-yourself ethic, producing all of its albums by itself and selling them at discount prices without finance from major distributors.

Dischord Records believed in selling the physical products (CDs, Vinyl and Cassettes) at a lower price which essentially was what these physical mediums were worth minus the music industry mark up. So for instance all of the CDs were sold for ten dollars and came with a disclaimer on the back of each CD for you not to pay over the $10.00 price. The reason this disclaimer was there, and if you attempt to buy any of the Fugazi CD’s from JB’s and even your trusty local independent store Rocking Horse, was so that you were aware of the mark up. If you brought it direct from the band or a record store who applied a minimal mark up, that money went directly to the band but if you brought it for its marked up price in a record store, usually between $20.00 to $30.00, there was a total of $10.00 (at a price of $20.00), $15.00 (at a price of $25.00) or $20.00 (at a price of $30.00) that is not going to the band. ‘

Where does this money go? The retailer whose job is too simply stock it, who shouldn’t be denied a profit but also shouldn’t be allowed to blatantly access such a high profit and have such a significant mark up. So in essence if you consider the million copies of “Repeater” sold in America alone and if for arguments sake all of these copies were sold through a chain store who had a mark up from $10.00 to $30.00 on the cd then the band would essentially make ten million dollars and then the chain store would make twenty million dollars for essentially stocking an album on the shelves. If the album was attached to a major or even an indie label then the mark up and other costs would all be distributed between the various pieces of the pie that can include managers, publicists, producers and a list of other people who essentially aren’t the musician or band who made the music. The band would essentially get the $10.00 left over from every sale, if that, distributed between them. Although my accuracy in this situation may not include some information about how album distribution works, in terms of mark ups and fees and who gets what, it’s quite clear that Fugazi ran quite a successful business to make the kind of money they did and by keeping their product at a reasonable almost wholesale price and making a profit that goes back into feeding their own record label and touring pursuits.

That is why through all the chaos of financial crisis and the download era, Dischord Records is still a functioning and thriving enterprise. It’s a disappointment that their success and business model was not adopted by the major labels and music industry as a whole. It is an exercise in erasing ego and greed and although Dischord may have influenced countless of other independent labels throughout the world, the greed and ego of major label business structures have unfortunately polluted these other independent labels and the way they do business, but enough about that lets get back to Fugazi and their amazing career.

For Fugazi’s second album “Steady Diet of Nothing,” which was released in July 1991, the band had pre-orders, six months prior to its release, in excess of 160,000. For their third album “In on the Kill Taker” which was released in June 1993, the rise of alternative rock allowed for this album to breakthrough to a lot more people. It was the band’s first album to reach the Billboard charts and it sold 180,000 copies in its first week of release. This was again with no major label support or budget and an incredibly minimal amount of promotion. This was independent rock triumphing the way it was meant to.

The touring cycle for “In on the Kill Taker” saw the group selling out large auditoriums and arenas as well as seeing the band being offered more lucrative major label offers. During the bands sold-out 3-night stint at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom in September 1993, music mogul and Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün met with the band backstage in an attempt to sign them. Ertegün offered the band a “anything you want” contract including their own subsidiary label and more than $10 million just to sign with Atlantic. Fugazi declined the offer. This is the kind of major label dream that so many bands would dream of, but in the spirit of having complete control over everything, the band stuck with their successful way of doing business. Lollapalooza also asked the band to headline their festival in 1993 but the band declined as well.

The band went on to release three more incredible albums called “Red Medicine,” “End Hits” and “The Argument” and went on hiatus as of 2003. I wasn’t able to get the sales figures for all their albums but here is a breakdown of some of the figures for a few of their albums:

  • 13 Songs – Total current worldwide sales of over 3 million
  • Repeater – 1 million US and 2 Million worldwide
  • In On The Kill Taker – 180,000 first week sales and currently over 1 million copies sold worldwide
  • Red Medicine – 160,000 copies first week sales
  • The Argument – 174,000 copies first week sales

For an independent band to reach those kind of first week sales to me is just incredibly amazing. Some of the empty calorie indie bands marketed and flogged by JJJ would fail to reach those kinds of sales and they have promotion companies working for them.

Since their hiatus in 2003 each band member has gone on to tackle new projects and here is a brief history of each member both during Fugazi and post Fugazi:

Ian McKaye

Currently plays in a band called “The Evens” with drummer and vocalist Amy Farina The band pride themselves on playing in non-standard locations, such as community centres, bookshops, or other atypical spaces. The Evens released their self-titled album in early 2005, breaking a three-year silence by MacKaye. Their second album, “Get Evens“, was released in November 2006. “The Evens are currently mixing a new record, due out at the end of this year (or early 2013 at the latest). In February 2004, MacKaye produced the recording sessions for John Frusciante‘s solo album titled DC EP. After working with MacKaye, Frusciante states “Ian is one of the only living people who I really respect and look up to, so it was an honour and a pleasure as well as a great learning experience to hear his perspective.”

Throughout his music career MacKaye has engineered and produced releases by a number of bands primarily on his Dischord label including 7 Seconds, Antelope, Bikini Kill, Black Eyes, Lungfish, Nation of Ulysses, One Last Wish, Q and Not U, Rites of Spring, Rollins Band, and others. He also does a lot speaking dates at universities across America. Ian still co-owns and runs Dischord Records and today more than 150 titles have been released by Dischord. The label has become notorious for its success despite its tendency to stray away from major label tactics for attracting monetary gains.

Guy Picciotto

Picciotto has collaborated and performed with Mats Gustafsson, Vic Chesnutt, and members of the Ex among others. He has also produced numerous albums including, The Gossip‘s breakthrough record Standing in the Way of Control as well as Blonde Redhead‘s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (2000), Misery Is a Butterfly (2004) and The Blood Brothers final album, Young Machetes. Picciotto played on the Vic Chesnutt albums North Star Deserter (2007) and At the Cut (2009), and accompanied him on a 2009 Fall/Winter North American Tour. He co-produced the film Chain with Jem Cohen (who made the Fugazi film Instrument).

Joe Lally

Lally founded Tolotta Records (distributed through Dischord Records), which was active from 1994 until 2001, putting out notable releases by such artists as Dead Meadow, Spirit Caravan, Stinking Lizaveta & Orthrelm. In early 2002, Lally joined ex-Frodus members Shelby Cinca and Jason Hamacher on a project originally called The Black Sea, which would change its name to Decahedron and release an EP and an album before Lally left the band. He has also worked with John Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer as the group Ataxia, releasing two albums: Automatic Writing (2004) and AW II (2007). In 2006, Lally was playing solo shows on bass with slight laptop accompaniment in various college towns, which would lead up to Lally’s first solo album, There to Here, which was released in the fall of 2006. It features Jerry Busher, Ian MacKaye, Amy Farina, Guy Picciotto, Scott Weinrich and many other musicians from the DC music scene. In 2007, he toured the U.S. with the Philadelphia band Capillary Action and The Melvins and Europe and Japan with the Italian band Zu. His second solo album, Nothing Is Underrated, was released in November 2007. Lally released his 3rd album entitled Why Should I Get Used To It in April 2011.

Brendan Canty

Canty frequently composes soundtrack music, primarily for Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel documentaries. He also contributes to or helps produce other Washington D.C.-area recordings. During Fugazi’s post-2002 hiatus, Canty took part in a side project, Garland Of Hours, with vocalist/cellist/keyboardist Amy Domingues and drummer/percussionist Jerry Busher, both of whom have contributed to Fugazi recordings and performances. Their first self-titled album was released on the Arrest Records label founded by Busher and Canty’s younger brother James, formerly of Nation of Ulysses. Canty’s score for the Sundance Channel documentary series The Hill premiered on August 23, 2006. He continues to Score the National Geographic Channel’s “Hard Time”. In 2004, Canty and director Christoph Green co-founded the DVD label Trixie to release an ongoing series of music-related films entitled Burn to Shine. The series involves independent alternative music bands from a particular region showing up to perform one song live, without overdubs or corrections, in a house that is about to be demolished. The first volume was filmed in Canty’s home region of Washington, D.C., and features performances from Bob Mould, Weird War, Q and Not U, Ted Leo, French Toast, The Medications, fellow Fugazi member Ian MacKaye’s side project The Evens, and Garland Of Hours. A second volume, filmed in the Chicago area, was released in 2005, and a third filmed in Portland, Oregon came out August 20 of 2006. Three more volumes are currently in production featuring other cities. Using the same crew and filming style as on the Burn to Shine series, Canty and Green made a concert film of a Bob Mould show, entitled “Circle of Friends.” Canty not only produced this film but also plays drums during the show, which took place at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. Canty and Green also made Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest, a 2006 Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) tour film, and the Wilco tour film Ashes of American Flags, which was released in 2009 and toured festivals extensively, eventually being broadcast on the Sundance Channel in the US, and being released on DVD and iTunes. In late 2004 and early 2005, Canty contributed drum tracks to Bob Mould’s 2005 solo album, Body Of Song. Canty was also the drummer for many dates on the winter 2005/2006 tour in support of the album. Canty returns as the drummer for Bob Mould’s District Line, to be released February 2008. He produced Ted Leo and the Pharmacists‘s Living With the Living and The Tyranny of Distance albums. He also produced Benjy Ferree, The Thermals‘s The Body, The Blood, The Machine, and French Toast records, as well as mixing the self-titled debut album for The Aquarium. He recently directed long-time friend Eddie Vedder‘s new solo performance DVD release, Water on the Road.

So as you can now see, the music industry is not an exclusive business model and success can be defined in many different ways. The fact that Fugazi are also anti-drugs, drink, cigarettes and are also against the idea of self-destructive sex as a conquest (an idea started by Ian during Minor Threat and terribly taken out of context by those damn straight edge kids) also probably says a lot for the success of the band. That kind of “sex, drugs and rock n roll” lifestyle was not for Fugazi and the way they broke down that kind of lifestyle and rebelled against it is also a powerful lesson for any young musician because the only way to get good and remain good is to have a good musical discipline and to focus on your art. The sex, drugs and booze does not help evolve that and is not part of the package of being a musician.

The Fugazi legacy is one of many stories of how bands and artists have taken the power back and managed to forge a successful career outside of the redundant major and now independent record labels business structure. What makes Fugazi so special to me though is how they have managed to do this without the support of your typical mainstream and now independent forms of promotion and hype. To have sold the amount of albums that they have and to do this by avoiding the path of mainstream and modern rock radio is truly an achievement.

I’m not 100 per cent plugged in to the curriculum of a music business degree but I’m fairly certain that like most mainstream education, some truths, like the Fugazi story, are left out of the manual. I’m not sure how many BigSound music type conferences share the story of Fugazi but I’ve never seen Ian McKaye on the line-up and he’s more of a successful businessman than most players in the music scene. I suspect that Ian has no interest in having a conference to discuss the business of art and instead focuses on getting the job done.

Big Love xo

By: Dan Newton

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TRIBUTE: Chrissy Amphlett (25/10/1959 – 21/04/2013)

Some Words for Chrissy Amphlett

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I’d consider myself a pretty casual fan of Divinyls, but felt shocked and quite emotional at news of Chrissy Amphlett’s passing.  On reflection, perhaps it’s because she always seemed to me to be indestructible.  Even after being diagnosed with MS and Breast Cancer in the last few years she oozed attitude, defiance and complete conviction that these horrible diseases would not claim her.

Chrissy Amphlett possessed possibly the greatest female rock voice Australia has ever produced.  In my opinion, only Suze DeMarchi is in the same league.  Chrissy’s voice was soulful, powerful, passionate and unique.  She came across as both tough and vulnerable, but never submissive, often in the space of the same song.  She continues to inspire generations of Aussie bands and musicians.  Other tributes will dissect the details of Chrissy’s life, of how she became the ‘original rock chick’ in the pub rock man’s world, but I really want to touch on why, even as a casual listener, Chrissy Amphlett’s music is important to me.

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The first Divinyls song I vividly remember hearing was ‘Human On The Inside’, one of their later day minor hits.  It was towards the end of Hit Machine 14.  The thing that stood out more than anything else was the uniqueness of her voice.  She sounded a little bit like Stevie Nicks, but without the country twang, and the vulnerability she displayed in that performance didn’t feel faked like almost everything else on that compilation.

 

It wasn’t until my teenage years that I realised a lot of other great songs in the back of my childhood subconscious also belonged to the same woman.  ‘Boys In Town’, ‘Science Fiction’, ‘Pleasure And Pain’, ‘Back To the Wall’ and of course ‘I Touch Myself’ have all been played so much on Australian radio that they’ve become ingrained on a whole generation, tattooed to our brains.  Divinyls are part of the soundtrack to my childhood throughout the 80’s and early 90’s.

The way Chrissy turned her desperate plea of ‘get me out of here’ into an angry demand by the end of ‘Boys In Town’ perfectly illustrates the control she had over her vocal performances:

 

The band tackled New Wave just as easily as Rock & Roll with ‘Science Fiction’:

 

‘Pleasure And Pain’ was reportedly about Chrissy’s sometimes turbulent personal relationship with Divinyls’ lead guitarist and co-writer Mark McEntee:

By the late 80’s Divinyls were a national icon, even performing at Expo 88:

 

The band also had that song on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack, a tune that was easily more memorable than the movie:

 

‘In My Life’ featured one of the most volatile and greatest endings to a song ever committed to tape.  By the end she sounds as raw as Jimmy Barnes, completely shredding her voice:

 

On hearing of Chrissy’s passing, I went home and played Divinyls’ 20-track Greatest Hits collection at full volume, letting tears well up in my eyes and a huge smile appear on my face.  This is really the best way I can think of to pay tribute to this woman of unique talent and defiant will.

Chrissy Amphlett, may your music and your memory live forever.

Divinyls

By: Clint Morrow

LIVE REVIEW: Black Sabbath – live at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre 25/04/13 (Dan Newton’s Review)

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On Thursday 25th April 2013 I had the pleasure of witnessing the pioneers of a genre that I love play one of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever witnessed. Black Sabbath proved to be everything I desired and more with a lot of my favourite songs being featured in the set including my two all-time favourite Sabbath songs “Into the Void” and “Children of the Grave” both of which come from my favourite Black Sabbath album “Master of Reality” – it was fucking glorious.

Witnessing the master of the riff Tony Iommi was other worldly and kept pushing me to maximum emotional overload during the course of the evening. Here was an individual who helped shape the sound of how I love to hear music. Without the forward thinking nature of Iommi we wouldn’t have had the heavy metal revolution of the past 40 years. I don’t care who or what wants to challenge me on that point, anything good about heavy metal began with the magic doom riffs of Iommi, 100 per cent truth.  A big part of what I love about the sound of a guitar is that deep doom laden riff that birthed through the Sabbath discography. A lot of my favourite heavy bands (both of the punk, metal and rock genres) are all disciples of the church of Iommi and if I study my music collection it becomes so insanely clear that without Iommi a lot of them wouldn’t have existed. I idolise Tony Iommi quite a bit and hearing those riffs and that fucking guitar tone of his ooze out of the speakers of the entertainment centre on Thursday was as I’ve mentioned other worldly and an insanely emotional experience.

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To focus solely on Iommi though is to take away from the power of Geezer Butler and his amazing emotional intensity on the bass guitar. I spent a good portion of the evening on Thursday night fixed on Geezer and his fiery rhythm skills which along with Bill Ward was the second most vital part of the Sabbath template. Although Mr Ward was not present the ever capable Tommy Clufetos handled the drums quite beautifully and completed that rhythm section with style and grace. I love watching a good rhythm section and Geezer showcased why he is one the most important bass players ever. No arguments there, his skills and bottom end are the sound that gives those Iommi riffs so much doom, depth and power. His sonic template can be heard all throughout the history of the riff, Geezer Butler is a god amongst men.

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This brings me to Ozzy Osbourne who proved once again that he is one of the world’s greatest frontmen and whose emotional wail gives a voice to the depth of the Sabbath sound. That voice is the definition of unique and when combined with his entertaining stage presence gives context to why he is such a celebrated legend of rock n roll and on Thursday night he delivered.  If he wasn’t putting his all into his vocal performance he was uttering “god bless you all” or “we love you all” to the audience. Ozzy is a human being who is truly in awe of the love we the audience show him and the band that launched his career.

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From the moment that the lights went down and that air raid siren sounded you knew you were in for something special and before you know it, there they are, BLACK FUCKING SABBATH!!!!!!!!!! and like a fucking bomb exploding the opening run of “War Pigs” erupts sending the audience into a fucking fit of excitement. I must admit I was overcome with an extreme wave of emotion spending the bulk of those first few minutes of “War Pigs” applauding and screaming out some very loud and emotional “FUCK YES’” – sometimes your emotions overtake your body in such life affirming moments and this was a prime example.

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I spent the bulk of “War Pigs” reminding myself that I was indeed looking at BLACK FUCKING SABBATH and trying ever so hard to control myself from becoming too overwhelmed with emotion. I tell you, I’m not a person who cries easily but hearing those riffs, those beautifully doomy riffs and seeing the pioneers of heavy metal directly in front of me sent more than a shiver up my spine it almost inspired tears, fuck it was an emotional eight minutes of my life. There was a moment towards the end of “War Pigs” you know the bit where the awesome outro run begins where I just started applauding once again and started screaming out “Thank You” very loudly. I identify heavily as a heavy metal fan before any other genre of music so I think the emotion of seeing BLACK FUCKING SABBATH took over and whether or not that thank you could be heard beyond the humans sitting around me didn’t matter, that was an energy I felt was vital to put out in the universe in that moment. I quite possibly may have had some moisture erupt from my eyes ever so briefly at that point, that is the power of the riff though – it will always reduce me to tears more than anything else in the musical world.

The rest of the night follows this pattern for not only me but the entire audience. Every classic riff and song is met with an intense applause and feverish show of audience participation. Whilst I don’t bang my head or thrash my body around (I love a good seated venue to soak up the atmosphere of the show and I was happy just sitting still watching it all) I still felt every inch of it and rode the wave of emotion that came with it. If the opening bars of “War Pigs” inspired extreme emotional overload in me then hearing the opening riff of “Black Sabbath” ring out caused me to descend into “shivered spine” heaven. That fucking riff, the riff that started it all was travelling into my ears via the magic hands of Iommi and fuck it was a glorious sea of blissed out doom. By the time the end riff gallops through the venue I’ve already reached my breaking point and just succumb to the emotion of it all, that fucking song and this fucking band mean the world to me and I just heard one of the most pioneering songs ever played live in front of me. Being “Emotionally overwhelmed” doesn’t quite sum up how I felt in that moment; it was a fucking beautiful experience that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

If my celebratory show of emotion had a beautiful crescendo it was during my favourite Black Sabbath song “Children of the Grave” – this song is the epitome of what is so fucking great about not only Sabbath but any metal band I love. There is an intense degree of archetype in this song and the way those riffs play out. In the live arena the song had all of the intensity and doomy impact that it has on record with that added “live show” pace. It really brought home the specialness of the whole evening and just proved once again how important Black Sabbath are to the history of music. The encore of course consists of the bands most well-known track “Paranoid” (with the teased intro of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” to lead us in). There couldn’t be a Black Sabbath show without hearing this classic track and it was a glorious rock n roll moment to witness. As the final notes ring out the audience are on their feet and once again the moment sweeps me up and I’m applauding and screaming a very loud “thank you” over and over again. Something about seeing the four musicians on stage link arms and bow just drills home even deeper how special the last two hours have been, we witnessed not only a reunion but quite possibly the last chance of seeing Black Sabbath play those songs in this lifetime. It was some important history and I was damn proud to be in attendance to witness every second of it.

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Heavy metal as a genre of music means quite a bit to me. As a genre of music it has saved my life, coloured my life and also inspired a lot of what I do with my life. This following quote from Henry Rollins sums up why heavy metal resonates with me so deeply:

“Well I’ve always liked heavy music because it was as angry and as passionate as I was. That’s why a lot of us like metal music and heavy music because your heart beats heavy, you have big feelings and big emotions so you take things hard. You win and lose at love and life and you need some kind of soundtrack that hits as hard as you’re hitting life and life is hitting you, hence 80,000 people at the Wacken festival every year, hence the success of all these metal bands and why metal and heavy music is never, ever going to die.

 It’s never going to be old, not to me at least and not to millions of other people because we live life in a very full contact way and so that aspect of my life hasn’t changed at all – things still hurt and you try your best and you fail, so you put on a High on Fire record and life gets better. I like music that’s not breaking walls down as well, you have to be eclectic and there’s lots of good music out there – Bob Dylan with an acoustic guitar also works.

 I’ve become more mature in the years just because I’m 51, not 20 and I’ve had a lot of laughs from the trek, seen a lot of people die and been to a lot of countries and seen a lot of ups and downs . That kind of exposure to the world, it broadens you – especially all the loss in life, the defeat. If you’re smart enough to learn from it, good lessons and it has made me a more humble person.”

I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

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Seeing Black Sabbath on Thursday 25th April 2013 proved to me that no genre in this world matters more to me than the healing power of heavy metal and that getting to hear the pioneers of the genre play those amazing songs they wrote all those years ago was emotionally overwhelming. The catch is they still sound relevant and fresh by today’s standards which highlight the brilliance and timeless quality of the Sabbath discography. Hearing and Seeing Iommi and Geezer play with the same fire and passion that they did in the 70’s and to have Ozzy lead in that beautiful way he leads, putting his all into his performance, was a beautiful thing to behold. All of them are masters of their chosen instrument.

It was indeed a beautiful night of music and a life affirming concert that made me want to chase the riff deeper and deeper into the next “however many” years I remain alive.

Heavy Metal always reminds me that there is good air to breathe and that life is a fucking amazing thing to navigate.

Black Sabbath Brisbane set list:

  1. War Pigs
  2. Into the Void
  3. Under the Sun
  4. Snowblind
  5. Electric Funeral
  6. Black Sabbath
  7. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  8. N.I.B.
  9. End of the Beginning (new song)
  10. Fairies Wear Boots
  11. Symptom of the Universe (Instrumental)
  12. Drum Solo
  13. Iron Man
  14. God Is Dead? (new song)
  15. Dirty Women
  16. Children of the Grave

Encore:

  1. Paranoid (“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” intro)

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By: Dan Newton

ALBUM REVIEW: “Above (deluxe edition) by Mad Season

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If you are a modern name dropping fan of grunge and are consistently going on about how we need a “grunge” re-birth and all that unnecessary trash and you don’t own “Above” by Mad Season then I really think it is time to disconnect from the computer, unplug your distortion pedal and stop studying ways to rip off the loud to soft alternative rock dynamic and buy this album. Basically if you were born in 1991 and draw on the Seattle superheroes for your classic rock strength, bite the fucking bullet and fork out your money and buy this album. Yes I repeated myself with two separate sentences but you see I felt you possibly weren’t listening the first time and quite possibly you took it personally and got offended on my second attempt so let me just say it one more time, buy this fucking album.

Why do you have to buy it?

Well beyond it being an essential rock n roll album it is also one of the finest examples of what was so special about that revolution that came from Seattle in the 1990’s.

So perhaps I better give a history lesson for those who aren’t aware who this band consists of.

The band Mad Season started in 1994 and contains members of three of the most popular Seattle bands of the time who were Layne Staley on vocals and occasional guitar (Alice In Chains), Mike McCready on guitar (Pearl Jam), Barrett Martin on drums (Screaming Trees) and was rounded out by John Baker Saunders on bass. McCready met Baker during a stint in Rehab and once they returned to Seattle they started a band with Barrett Martin. McCready brought in Layne to provide vocals and within a very short period of time the band had written a bunch of songs, played a show and made plans to record an album. The resulting album is their sole release and is called “Above” and is wonderful collection of sparse rock songs built on the blues tradition and soaked in the kind of post-recovery pain that was pulsating through at least three of the band members.

What sets Mad Season apart from the three bands attached to its most well-known members is that it sounds significantly different to their respective bands. I often felt that the Mad Season vehicle was a more pure outlet for Layne Staley and really showcases him at his most expressive and also at his most vulnerable lyrically and melodically. The album also features Mark Lanegan on two of the album cuts as a guest vocalist along with guest Saxophonist Skerik on album standout “Long Gone Day.”

The album got the deluxe re-release earlier in April this year and for the first time we get the full album re-mastered along with two extra discs, the first being the full audio for their Live at the Moore show and the third disc being a DVD with the Live at the Moore original VHS released version with the bonus cuts and also two separate live features including their New Year’s show at the now defunct Seattle club RKCNDY. The original album also has five bonus tracks attached to it which are three tracks leftover from the original album sessions with vocals and lyrics courtesy of Mark Lanegan. There is also a small instrumental intruelde from the same sessions and the bands cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Want To Be A Solider” which closes disc one out. All in all it is beyond satisfactory and an unbelievable addition to the true believers collection and the perfect starting point for those who are just discovering the band.

This brings me to the music on “Above” and the way it is communicated. This album is in my top eleven albums of all-time list that is how much this record means to me. I think of all of the music to come from Seattle from that revolutionary era this album sells what was so special about all of the musicians that participated in that scene. The amount of emotion dripping from this album is hard to describe because it is a bit of a benchmark for how to communicate yourself honestly via music. I own a lot of music and I don’t think I’ve ever heard loneliness or pain communicated through music in such a pure way. I know that other musicians do a good job of being honest and all that it but something about “Above” is just so different. It drowns in its pain but it also spreads its wings to help you escape to somewhere even more beautiful. It is that beauty from the darkness of it all that really resonates and I think this album is for a seasoned music listener. You have to have been around the block a few times in life to truly understand the purity and emotion of this record. I still learn something about myself every time I listen to it and it always leads me to both a state of reflection and also clarity. A lot of that has to do with the loneliness that oozes out of each members performance and especially the guitar performance of Mike McCready and vocals of Layne Staley. It is a beautiful swoon of damaged perfection and has the capacity to reduce me to tears.

I love this re-issue quite a bit and the new tracks with Lanegan on vocals are the perfect addition to an already strong set of songs. The live CD and DVD component both fills me with joy and also breaks my heart because it gives us a glimpse at a band that only got to communicate its pain at that one point in time. Layne looks so happy to be inside of those songs with those players and to know that years later he’d be gone is just, well fucking really sad.

I think at this point I will end this little review with a track that you should all listen to on your own in the dark, quite possibly on a Sunday evening. It sums up both the beauty and the isolation of life in one song. Few songs have the capacity to reduce me to tears so quickly but this song always does.

10 Cassette tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – www.facebook.com/madseason

ALBUM REVIEW: “House Of Gold and Bones part two” by Stone Sour

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I’ve followed Stone Sour since they released their debut Self-Titled album back in 2002 and through that eleven year journey I’ve both been satisfied and frustrated at a band whose identity I struggle to connect with. Being the massive fan of Slipknot and in particular Corey Taylor I always hoped that they would rise to the occasion and deliver something amazing. The band on paper has a brilliant potential to be an influential rock n roll band in the way that Alice In Chains are. Since the release of their debut album I’ve been both inspired and let down with each new twist and turn but I’ve always remained a fan because I love what the band does. When the band started talking about releasing a double album in two parts I was very interested to see the results. Casually I walked into “House Of Gold and Bones part one” and was pleasantly surprised and equally blown away. The band had finally gotten the perfect mix of what made them great. It was a very promising record that felt incomplete and with the release of “House Of Gold and Bones part two” we get that logical conclusion and it helps prove that as an overall piece of art the “House Of Gold and Bones” saga is the album that Stone Sour were born to make.

As a separate piece of art “House Of Gold and Bones part two” is a lot darker and way more epic in comparison to part one. It is this darkness and epicness of part two that helps give shape to the narrative on display throughout both albums. Apart from the artistry of it all the album is a great movement of modern rock n roll and I’d definitely label this as straight up heavy metal in that Anthrax tradition. Something about Stone Sour always reminds me of Anthrax and that is always a good thing. Anything that’s good about the whole notion of the Alternative Metal genre is on full display with this album and while some people may feel it doesn’t offer anything new if you dig deep enough you can hear the bands unique take on a well-established genre.

The star of this band will always be Corey Taylor and his incredibly dynamic range as a singer. He really is starting to show us that he is more than just the voice of rage with Slipknot and with Stone Sour he’s been given a platform to really showcase his more experimental nature and desires in terms of writing good solid rock n roll songs.

All in all you either love or hate this kind of music and regardless of your allegiance I don’t blame you for your answer. I love this album and finally feel comfortable with loving Stone Sour quite hardcore. My only criticism is that they had to release the masterpiece of “House Of Gold and Bones” in two separate parts because as two separate albums they are brilliant but as one piece of art they are simply spectacular. I highly recommend listening to the full “House Of Gold and Bones” movement (part one and part two) in one sitting because it is some truly amazing heavy metal.

8 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Official Website – http://www.stonesour.com
House of Gold and Bones Official Website – http://houseofgoldandbones.com/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/stonesour

ALBUM REVIEW: “Real to Reel” by Sound City

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First things first: this is essentially a Foo Fighters album by another name.

There is nothing wrong with this.

This record is also the soundtrack to one of the greatest music documentaries ever made.  If you’re yet to see the SoundCity movie it really is that good, and it’s essential viewing for any self-respecting recording musician.

Although unintended, the reason that SoundCity winds up sounding mostly like the Foo Fighters is that Dave Grohl has his own particular style of writing and producing music.  He’s brought Butch Vig on board, who of course produced Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ at SoundCity, and more recently Foo Fighters’ latest album ‘Wasting Light’.  The core backing band is made up mostly of Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear.  This all gives the album the familiar Foo’s stylistic sheen.

What stands Sound City apart from every other album Foo Fighters have made is that almost every song is a collaboration with guest musicians.  The list of guest stars is extensive and incredible.  Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Rick Springfield, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Lee Ving, Rick Nielsen and Krist Novoselic just to name a few.  The effect of having so many other performers is that sonically the record sounds like a slightly less cohesive Foo’s album.

The highlights of this record are easily the Stevie Nicks fronted ‘You Can’t Fix This’ (her voice breaks my heart), Slipknot crooner Corey Taylor’s ‘From Can To Can’t’, and that collaboration from Paul McCartney and the living members of Nirvana, ‘Cut Me Some Slack’.

The quality of the other compositions varies slightly, depending on which singers contribute lyrically.  While Lee Ving’s ‘Your Wife Is Calling’ is a blast of good fun, the lyrics are bordering on inane.  Take it at face value for what it is: a bunch of musicians in a room just having a good time.  If you approach the record this way then it’s an enjoyable ride.  Those expecting anything else will be sadly disappointed.

Now put everything I’ve just said aside, sit back and listen to Dave Grohl follow his muse and breathe fresh life into the old Neve 8028 recording console salvaged from SoundCity.

And if you haven’t seen the documentary yet, then do it.

7 magnetic tape reels out of 10

By: Clint Morrow

ALBUM REVIEW: “The Map Has Been Redrawn” by Amanda Merdzan

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Amanda Merdzan is going to be a future star of the Australian music scene. Mark my words this songstress has an amazing talent that will resonate deeply with anyone who is a fan of fantastic songwriting and emotional depth in their music. The proof of this lays in Amanda’s debut EP release titled “The Map Has Been Redrawn” which showcases five little heartbreakers designed to sink deep into your heart and leave its mark.

From start to finish “The Map Has Been Redrawn” is soaked in personal stories of love and the joy of both falling for it and escaping from it. There is a modern flare to the way these songs are executed but that modern frame exists only to communicate the old soul living inside of Amanda. There is a deep understanding of isolation in these songs with every moment crafted carefully to help give purpose to the muse that Amanda is serving. It’s very powerful stuff and begs for repeat plays over and over again.

Sometimes you love to have your world challenged by music and other times you just want the music to help give purpose to your own pain. Amanda’s music falls in to the latter category for sure and while it may not be dynamically weird or envelope pushing music stylistically, the music itself is carried and ignited by Amanda’s deep emotional world and that is what is put on full display with “The Map Has Been Redrawn.” This EP is a perfect glimpse of an artist who has just uttered her first musical communication and I feel after both personal and musical growth we’ll see Amanda combine her world class songwriting with some intense experimentation to birth a sound that is unique to her muse.

I can’t wait to see what comes next from Amanda Merdzan and I’ve got a feeling that she’ll do some very interesting things making beautiful future music that goes deeper and weirder.

8 cassette tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Official Website – http://www.amandamerdzan.com
Facebook – http://www.amandamerdzan.com

SINGLE OF THE WEEK: “Toothless Tiger” by Jen Cloher

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The Second single from Jen Cloher’s forthcoming record In Blood Memory is called “Toothless Tiger” and like the album’s first single “Mount Beauty” it showcases a new ache and a new degree of rock n roll enthusiasm. The beautiful dynamics of past releases are still framing these new songs but at the centre of them lingers a new kind of roar and a rock n roll gallop that gives new degrees of urgency to the emotional stories that Jen is a master of delivering. You’ll still swoon and be surrounded by all the delicious heartache bliss but not only will you sink and relax into these new songs you’ll also be given the chance to muse on the heartbreak and then run a million miles from it to some beautiful new landscapes.

So how would I describe “Toothless Tiger?”

Well, “Toothless Tiger” has the swagger and poetic cool of Patti Smith with hints of Neil Young and Keith Richards power chord swoons. It has a rock n roll glory with a focus on the lo-fi slacker dynamics a band like The Breeders were renowned for. All of these music journalist “comparison wankerisms” aside the song just flat out fucking rocks and highlights the genius of Jen Cloher and her honest songwriting doing further justice to her already well-established and flawless discography.

From the sounds of things In Blood Memory is shaping up to be one of the best albums of 2013 and will serve as another reminder of why Jen Cloher is one of Australia’s best songwriters ever.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

Useful Links:

Listen to “Toothless Tiger” right here:

https://soundcloud.com/#jencloher/toothless-tiger-in-blood-memory

Official Website – www.jencloher.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/JenCloherOfficial

Jen Cloher – In Blood Memory will be out on Friday 24 May 2013 via Milk! Records with distribution from Vitamin Records.

By: Dan Newton

SINGLE REVIEW: “My God Is The Sun” by Queens Of The Stone Age

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Fuck, how good is it to hear a new song from Queens of the Stone Age in 2013 and not just a new song but to know that a new album is just 33 days away from being released. It has been six years since the band released its amazing fifth album Era Vulgaris and with Homme busy doing cool musical things (like forming Them Crooked Vultures) and taking time to re-issue and celebrate the band’s first two releases (Self-Titled and Rated R) it is easy to see where the six years have gone.

The band’s first single from their forthcoming album …Like Clockwork is called “My God Is the Sun” and is proof of the rock n roll genius that pulsates through the Josh Homme legacy. This song just rocks so damn fucking hard and carries that year zero kind of flavour where we see the band wipe the canvas clean taking time to use familiar colours to paint us new rock n roll pictures. Like all good Queens of the Stone Age songs it delivers us those robotic rock riffs with a powerhouse rhythm section and enough weirdness in the dynamics to help separate them from all of the other rock n roll pretenders. It is an exciting glimpse on what is scheduled to come from …Like Clockwork and sets us up for an exciting album experience.

I can’t say a bad word about Queens of the Stone Age or anything that Josh Homme is a part of because he is not only a pioneer but a true rock n roll genius. Josh Homme is a true artist who always delivers us interesting and vital sounding music and when he does this via the Queens of the Stone Age vehicle the results are always life affirming and revolutionary.

10 Cassette Tapes Out of 10

Useful Links:

Listen to “My God Is the Sun” here

Official Website: http://www.qotsa.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/qotsa

“…Like Clockwork” by Queens of the Stone Age is available from 31st May 2013

By: Dan Newton

SINGLE REVIEW: “God Is Dead?” by Black Sabbath

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It is indeed a joyful turn of events to look at the release calendar in 2013 to see that a new album from Black Sabbath is scheduled to be released. Of course, those true believers amongst us know that Black Sabbath continued to release quite a rich and diverse range of albums post Ozzy Osbourne with their most recent album Forbidden being released in 1995 and featured Tony Iommi on Guitar, Tony Martin on Vocals, Neil Murray on Bass, Cozy Powell on Drums and Geoff Nicholls on keyboards and was produced by Body Count guitarist Ernie C. This was indeed a very different Black Sabbath to the one that people knew and love but the fact that this was the bands 18th album overall goes to show the dedication to the evolution of the band by Tony Iommi.

In 1997 the Ozzy Osbourne line-up re-united for the first time proper since Ozzy was fired in 1979 (this line-up had two one off reunions in 1985 and 1992 but 1997 saw them re-unite proper for a string of live shows). This reunion spawned a new live album released in October 1998 featuring a concert recorded at the Birmingham NEC and it also featured two brand new studio tracks called “Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul” which lead everyone to wonder if a new album was in the works.

For the years since this initial reunion the band has played under this line-up numerous times and there were always rumours of a brand new album being recorded. In 2001 the album sessions with Rick Rubin were brought to a halt by Ozzy Osbourne who had to return to his solo career. Since that point it has been reported and rumoured that this album would one day see the light of day. In April 2007 the band released a special compilation focussing on the Dio years of the band and Iommi re-united the Dio led line-up of Black Sabbath but due to legal issues had to tour the world and release a new album under the name Heaven and Hell. Although released under Heaven and Hell all the true believers will tell you that this is a legitimate Black Sabbath release and when you hear the album it is hard not to hear just how vital a record it is, absolutely brilliant stuff.

The idea of a new Ozzy Osbourne era Black Sabbath studio album still haunted the landscape and after being both the best and worst kept secret of the 00’s it was announced in November 2011 that Black Sabbath would be re-uniting its classic line-up to record a new album and tour the world. Some hurdles presented themselves along the way (Bill Ward not wanting to continue due to not seeing a signable contract and of course Iommi’s battle with cancer). Fast forward to the 13th January 2013 and the band announces that it will release its brand new Rick Rubin produced studio album “13” in June 2013 and that Brad Wilk (RATM and Audioslave) had handled the drum duties for the recording. It would be the bands 19th studio album under the Black Sabbath name and the band’s first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals since 1978’s Never Say Die chalking up a gap of 35 years between releases.

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The first single from the forthcoming album is titled “God Is Dead?” and was released on 18th April 2013 and is a wonderful taste of what is to come.

So how does “God Is Dead?” sound?

Exactly how Black Sabbath circa 2013 should sound, full of modern doom rock dynamics and a dedication to still being progressive. On the surface the song does indeed follow a certain template that we’ve come to know and love from Black Sabbath but this is not a feature that disappoints or causes the song to suffer. It still is full of life and jumps out at you with Ozzy’s progression as a singer on full display. His years of solo work clearly have influenced the melodic direction of the vocals and on occasion you can hear a nice blend of the Sabbath template with his solo work. All in all the star of this song is Iommi who piles on some truly brutal riffs and shows us he’s still able to present fresh slabs of doom through his guitar playing. A big tick of approval to Brad Wilk who pays tribute to the Bill Ward sound quite respectfully to the point where you’d think that Ward himself was playing that kit. Wilk’s playing locks in beautifully with Geezer’s bottom end which as always adds an extra degree of depth to Iommi’s riffs.

All in all this is a song for the fans and the true believers and is not about winning over new fans. It certainly has the potential to grab a new generation of fans but I suspect will only act as a bridge to the wonderful established discography on display by the band.  I love it quite a bit and can’t wait to hear this song in the context of a full album. I believe that it will be one of my favourite albums of 2013 and that fucking thrills me to no end.

10 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

Useful Links:

Listen to “God Is Dead?” here

Official Website: www.blacksabbath.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath

“13” by Black Sabbath is available from June 7th 2013

By: Dan Newton

SINGLE REVIEW: “Stone” by Alice In Chains

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The second single from the upcoming Alice In Chains album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the impressive “Stone” which once again proves the importance of this band circa 2013. After an impressive return with Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009 Alice In Chains are ready to deliver their second post Layne Staley album and judging from the artistry of “Stone” it is quite clear that the band has once again proven their ability to rise from the tragedy of losing their vital lead singer.

The brilliance of “Stone” lays in that fucking riff and what a glorious riff it is. It weaves in and out of the song and as always brings the doom and sludge we’ve come to expect and love from Alice In Chains. Add into this the wonderful new vocal dynamics of Jerry Cantrell and lead singer William DuVall that not only pay tribute to the past vocal layering of the band but help evolve it. Fans both old and new will rejoice in the new vocal power of Cantrell and DuVall. Over the course of 4 minutes and 38 seconds “Stone” unfolds another doom hymn with a killer chorus and legendary Cantrell solo bringing it all together. There is nothing flawed or damaged about this song, it is pure rock n roll filth and a beautiful reminder of the sonic language that Alice In Chains established in the 1990’s.

Rejoice in the knowledge that the masters of modern rock n roll once again deliver a track full of emotional riffs and vocals giving us but a glimpse of the power that is no doubt ready to explode from The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here and once again proving why this bands second chapter is just as if not more important than their first.

10 Cassette Tapes Out of 10

Useful Links:

Listen to “Stone” right here

Official Website: http://aliceinchains.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aliceinchains

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains is available from 24th May 2013

By: Dan Newton

FRIDAY EDITORIAL: Record Store Day

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Tomorrow sees the world celebrate “Record Store Day” which is a global movement to put a focus on the importance of buying physical artefacts from independent record stores. This is both a beautiful and ugly example of the modern world we live in. To focus on the latter for one second, it is ugly because much like the other celebrated isolation of days like “Valentine’s Day” it shows that a lot of us only have the capacity to commit to something once a year in that “novelty” kind of way and once it passes it is business as usual and the bad behaviour (in this case digital downloading) is favoured. That is a minor personal gripe that simply illustrates my consistent frustration with human beings and that bandwagon stench that they bathe in to try and give their personality brand some kind of respectable dimension. The real joy of “Record Store Day” for the true believers is the fact that we get to purchase a lot of amazing records from artists we love. Whether it is just another day of physical purchasing for you or a once a year sign of faith doesn’t really matter, the point is music is celebrated and the record store is supported.

I love buying records from the record store and life has reached a point where I actually budget each pay to ensure that I can buy some new CDs or Vinyl. Some fortnights I can spend well over $200 on physical product with a minimum of $100 always spent. Music for me is not some little hobby that I do for fun or to impress my peers or piss off my parents, it is a way of life that has been swirling inside my DNA since I brought my first cassette tape in 1991 (Bryan Adams “Waking Up The Neighbours). When I got turned on to Seattle via Pearl Jam in 1994 the art of purchasing music as a physical product and visiting my local record stores became a ritual that inspires more happiness than any human being could ever offer.

I feel pretty alienated from the world, I have a hard time connecting to most people and I’m consistently lead down blind alleys with various human beings the older I get. My alienation can be summarised by the sheer disappointment of being misunderstood by pretty much everyone I meet and although I always have the best intentions to navigate the diverse range of human opinion and connection I tend to become exhausted with the competitive nature of it all. My pain poker face is well rehearsed and I keep any of those aches for when I express myself with Galapogos. I let the world in let them get a glimpse and then build the wall, a wall that is vital to re-establishing my trust with planet earth.

It’s during these times of isolation inside that emotional wall that the Record Store and the ritual of purchasing music on CD and Vinyl become important. You see, when I get to just roam a Record Store with no agenda other than expanding my collection, my taste and my historical understanding of sound I am the happiest you’ll ever see me. There only a few human beings who have the capacity to participate in the journey with me (Dutney, Bohn and Zorzan) because a lot of the time it is a journey I like to undertake alone with no agenda of time or price. To just browse and take the risk or to find something you’ve needed to finalise a collection or a rare album that is either out of print or extremely hard to find in physical form. I just can’t get that buzz from looking at a computer screen and clicking on a download button allowing the transfer of data to my hard drive. There is no discovery or joy in that process at all. It is a very weak handshake and tends to be very insincere. I can’t hold that album in my hand, I can’t read the inlay card, I can’t study the artwork and I can’t display it with pride on my CD or Vinyl racks. The illegal download issue is too big to discuss right here right now but to deprive any artist payment by stealing their data from the internet is just plain wrong and only illustrates your lack of respect for music as an art form. If music is offered to you for free via the internet by the artist, take it, but if you acquire it for free just because you think it is your “right” then you seriously need to analyse your moral compass and understanding of theft and deviancy.

I don’t care how much I have to pay to hear music from any artist I chose to like. I love music so much that I’ll put that money in to buying that physical product. I’ve spent lots of money acquiring certain music collections through the years but for me the act of handing over money is not a concern because that music is so important to me that I need to own it and I refuse to resort to digital thievery in order to consume a piece of music. You can’t put a price on music and for me personally that means that whatever it is worth, I’ll pay it, because I know that it is an investment in that artist and music in general. I’d love to get into that whole “what is music worth” debate but that is something I will discuss in next week’s editorial, today is about favouring the physical artefact over the digital download.

Beyond being entertainment and an art form music is also a historical document that helps us trace our evolution as a species. A lot of significant cultural changes have been well documented in the timeline of music released by a range of different artists. That history has been allowed to live on through the physical artefact known as the CD and Vinyl medium. They don’t call it a “record” for nothing. That piece of vinyl (or cassette tape or CD) is a piece of history recorded and whether it only resonates with you or whether it resonates with millions of people doesn’t really matter, the point is it represents a piece of our culture. The technology provided by the advancement of computers and the internet should have allowed it to make it easier to catalogue and store this information not destroy the physical artefact known as the Record. Like every good idea though, it has a brilliant theory attached to it but once you introduce it to the diverse minds of the public it gets distorted and taken into a direction not originally intended. The IPOD should have provided you convenience not a reason to boycott buying Tapes, CDs or Vinyl.

Either way you consume music the fact that you are consuming music is a good thing and I’ll never discourage that. I guess I believe in a different kind of consumption to the modern world and prefer to pay whatever price is attached to it when I visit the record store. Music is something I plan to invest in for the rest of my life so it makes sense for me to pay for everything I consume regardless of its appeal to the modern world.

I guess I need to find a point to all of this. I think I’ll leave on this note – the joy of music is not limited to the physical or the digital. Whatever vehicle you choose to get you there is a positive thing but when you consider the idea of what an artist or what music is worth to you it makes sense to view the purchasing of music as an investment in art. If you choose digital (paid or unpaid) you only have to sit behind a computer screen or your smart phone or tablet visit a search engine and click download. It requires no effort and has more in common with the sloth and laziness than anything else. You speak to no one, don’t get to experience human connection and if you took a risk and it didn’t pay off, all you have to do is press delete. When you visit the record store you have to leave your house and get out of your surroundings. You get to go into a place where other people have gathered to consume new music. You get to connect with other humans and discuss music and you support the independent record store. I know which one I prefer and I think if the world really believed in equality it would see the value in combining the two mediums – digital for storage of data and the convenience of carrying your collection on a MP3 device, the physical a way to support art, artists, record stores and the future of music – so that we all get to contribute to the healthy advancement of music.

So Fuck Data, make record store day every day. You may think it’s modern and in the spirit of individuality to download (paid or unpaid) but when everyone else is doing it you have to ask yourself are you just part of societies herd being free to do what they tell you to do.

Don’t take that wrong (said Bill)

Big Love

Dan Newton xo

WE ALL WANT TO – Take The Lead

Tomorrow night one of the most imporant gigs of 2013 will be happening at the Judith Wright Centre. The amazing Brisbane band WE ALL WANT TO will be performing a very special show titled “Take The Lead” which will see the band play their highly acclaimed second album “Come Up Invisible” with a different singer on each song.

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WE ALL WANT TO was founded by one of Brisbane’s most celebrated artists, Tim Steward (the dude has his own star in the valley mall). Tim started his career with Screamfeeder in the very late 80’s and through the 90’s and 00’s they released a lot of important music for not only the Brisbane Alternative music scene but Australia’s alternative music scene. WE ALL WANT TO features some of our towns most celebrated and respected players including Skye Staniford, Dan McNulty, Darek Mudge and Mel Fraser who all have their unique musical personas scattered through the history of independent Brisbane rock n roll.

The real treat of this gig is the 17 singers who have been chosen to “take the lead” on each of the songs from “Come Up Invisible” tomorrow night.

I think it is important at this stage for me to list the full line-up:

  1. Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss) – an absolute Australian music legend, his band Bluebottle Kiss are one of the best guitar bands you’ll have the pleasure of hearing
  2. Charles Sale (Yves Klein Blue and Babaganouj) – a killer guitarist and slacker pop song writer
  3. Jeremy Neale (Too Many Bands to Name) – everyone knows Jeremy Neale
  4. Chris Dale (Halfway) – Halfway are a legendary alt country / folk band, beautiful stuff
  5.  Hannah Sheppard (Charlie Mayfair) – Hannah is a beautiful singer of immense talent, her voice soars with a wonderful swoony ache
  6. Alastair McCrae (Inland Sea) – Al is a really cool dude and his voice and folk styling’s with Inland Sea were divine
  7. Danny Widdicombe (The Wilson Pickers) – another absolute Australian music legend, whose solo albums and work with Wilson Pickers is vital to any serious music fans collection. A very important local musician
  8. Dom Miller (Rocketsmiths) – everyone knows Dom Miller
  9. Sue Ray – Sue is an amazing country singer and a stellar human being. Her voice and music is beyond beautiful
  10. McKisko – Her artistry is pure amazement
  11. Sabrina Lawrie (Tongue, Sabrina Lawrie and The Hunting Party, Little Vegas and The Fuzz Parade) – the original and the best rock n roll chick, she’s a legend and her music is so important to Brisbane. Her music roars with the spirit of Janis Joplin and the Poetry of Patti Smith.
  12. Ghostboy (Ghostboy with Golden Virtues) – a highly intelligent avant garde performer
  13. Chris Hetherington (The Slow Push) – a great performer, artist and human being. An intense lyrical wit radiates from the music Chris makes with The Slow Push.
  14. Ed Guglielmino – Everyone knows Ed
  15. Daz Gray (The Good Ship) – Lead Pirate for comedy folk band The Good Ship
  16. Seja (Sekiden and Regurgitator) – Seja is beyond legend, she is a Brisbane music institution and her work is amazing. A brilliant role model for young female musicians everywhere with her solo shiver synth pop music catering to all of your emotional needs
  17. Ross Hope (Disco Nap, Iron On) – Ross is such a gentlemen and a brilliant songwriter. He shared lead vocal and guitar duties with Kate Cooper in Iron On. Iron On was such a brilliant and important band for our town. Iron On was the important bridge from 90’s guitar freakouts to 00’s indie pop expression. The music he released under the “Disco Nap” moniker post Iron On remains some the most honest songwriting ever delivered in Brisbane.

So as you can see, this gig is both a celebration and a reflection on the great history of independent music in Australia (and in particular Brisbane) with the stars of the scene both past, present and future displaying a unity and commitment to community and a damn fine evening of music. This is a night that could only be put together by a pioneering mind like Tim Steward and it’s a tribute to his longevity as an artist to see such a diverse group of artists lining up to sing the songs of WE ALL WANT TO.

Not to change course but I think it is also worth repeating what I wrote in my review for “Come Up Invisible” earlier this year just so I can illustrate the joy of the music that WE ALL WANT TO make:

If I ever had to explain to an alien what indie pop is I’d give him a copy of “Come Up Invisible” by We All Want To. In fact I’d give him a copy of anything by We All Want To because they make such great pop music, but that is just the general surface stuff. If you go deeper into the sound of “Come Up Invisible” you’ll hear an array of different influences on display including folk, shoegaze, punk rock and even hints of post rock. All of that journalism wank aside, the thing that really makes “Come Up Invisible” a great album is the fact that underneath all of it there are a bunch of really well written songs, perfectly and intricately crafted yet executed so effortlessly. Each individual song has a beautiful pace and they rise and fall so amazingly always putting the emotion at the front and centre of the communication. The music sways from track to track with a thematic buzz and lyrically we see a lot of different stories being presented. In the tradition of Bob Dylan these songs are full of rhythmic almost beat poetry lyrical attacks that form quite a unique melodic structure although the whole Zimmerman reference point only really sums up the spirit of the lyrics and melodies on display here.

While in parts the music is playful and fun loving, there is quite a big serious side to “Come Up Invisible” and it is quite a reflective movement of music. It doesn’t weigh you down though and even when it gets intense it still has a bright pop skill resurrecting the light and playful nature that I discussed earlier. The standout track is by far the opening number “Ramp Up The Bleeding” which is just a freedom run of the purest kind. It is so glorious and is the perfect introduction to the sweet swoons that follow. Another highlight is without a doubt “Where Sleeping Ends” which is one the most revealing songs ever written by Tim Steward. I’ve spent most of my history in awe of his songwriting and this song is no exception, beautifully communicated and without being too clichéd it reminds me of everything I love about Brisbane. The centerpiece of the album though is the epic (and fuck I hate saying epic, but that is the only way to explain it) “Shine.” From the moment Skye opens her mouth to sing her song I’m in that vehicle with her, hanging on every single word and feeling my emotions rise and fall with the music. The final payoff at the end is the biggest and brightest ray of light I’d experienced in a long time, fuck it is glorious. It gave me the feeling that there is still good air to breathe in this world, and to be honest that is all I ever want music to do, make me feel beautiful.

These are only a few of the many highlights on display during the course of “Come Up Invisible” and I have to return to my previous sentiment that the album as a whole reminds me that there is good air to breathe. I know I’m repeating myself there, but fuck it, the damn phrase needs repeating when it comes to explaining how powerful the music of We All Want To is. I could sit here and write a bunch of music journalist wank or I could report the truth and the truth of the matter is “Come Up Invisible” is a flawless album from a band that is only just beginning. The collective histories of each member have made this album the masterpiece that it is. It’s not a case of doing yourself a favour it is my instruction that you absolutely must own a copy of this album and then buy a copy for your mother and then your father and then for every single person you know. I’m just planting seeds really but one thing I do know for sure is that “Come Up Invisible” by We All Want To is good for your health.”

If that doesn’t convince you about the special shine of tomorrow night’s show then you either have too much interest in protecting your very redundant “Personality Brand” from anything beautiful and honest or you are simply out of touch with the important history of Australian music. I don’t fear you, I just feel sorry for you and believe me when I say that everyone who leaves the show tomorrow night will feel changed and emotionally richer for having experienced such a unique and accurate display of how the soul of an artist is meant to be communicated through music.

God bless the fucking lot of them

By Dan Newton

When: Friday 19th April 2013
Where: Judith Wright Centre
How Much: $27.00

For Tickets Visit https://judithwrightcentre.com/event-buy/we_all_want_to_take_the_lead/

Running times:

Doors & Bar 7.00pm
Set 1: 8.00 – 8.45
Set 2: 9.00 – 9.50

Useful Links

We All Want To – http://www.weallwantto.com or http://www.facebook.com/weallwantto

Bluebottle Kiss – http://www.facebook.com/BluebottleKissOfficial

Yves Klein Blue – http://www.facebook.com/yveskleinblue

Babaganouj – http://www.facebook.com/thenouj

Jeremy Neale – http://www.jeremyneale.com

Halfway – http://www.plusonerecords.com.au/bands/halfway/

Charlie Mayfair – http://www.facebook.com/charliemayfair

Inland Sea – http://www.plusonerecords.com.au/bands/inland-sea/

Danny Widdicombe – http://www.facebook.com/thewilsonpickers

Dom Miller – http://www.facebook.com/dommillermusic/

Sue Ray – http://www.sueraymusic.com

McKisko – http://www.facebook.com/pages/McKisko/122529677767403?fref=ts

Sabrina Lawrie – http://sabrinalawrie.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/SabrinaLawrieMusicOfficial

Ghostboy – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ghostboy-with-Golden-Virtues/102086429740?fref=ts

The Slow Push – http://www.facebook.com/theslowpush

Ed Guglielmino – http://www.facebook.com/EdGug

The Good Ship – http://www.thegoodship.com.au

Seja – http://www.sejamusic.com

Iron On – http://www.plusonerecords.com.au/bands/past-artists/iron-on/

Disco Nap – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Disco-Nap/71998231154

 

FINALE: Dan, Thomas, Bec and Ariana select their favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs

We thought we’d end our Yeah Yeah Yeahs week with a selection of our favourite songs from the band. After a week of heavy content dedicated to the band we thought we’d keep it simple with Dan, Thomas, Bec and Ariana all choosing their two favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs. Instead of giving you paragraphs to explain why these songs are so great we thought we’d just let the music do the talking.

Thank you for reading all of our content this week and helping us celebrate the wonderful music of Yeah Yeah Yeahs – may they live for a million years:

Dan Newton’s choices:

Maps

Fancy

Thomas Oliver’s choices:

Date With The Night

Kiss Kiss

Bec Wolfers’ choices:

The Sweets

Slave

Ariana Pelser’s choices:

Y Control

Modern Romance

Big Love to you all

The Heavy and Weird team xo

REVIEW: “Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (by Thomas Oliver)

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Sacrilege You Say?

When I first listened to ‘It’s Blitz!’ I got a little worried with the possible ‘direction’ one of my favourite influences might be heading in. I loved the likes of Heads Will Roll, Dull Life and Shame & Fortune but the mellower synth driven electronic tracks like Zero, Soft Shock, Dragon Queen had me listening with a slightly raised eyebrow. I know artists must develop and progress their sound -otherwise we would all just end up listening to the same thing over and over again- but the reason why I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs so much is that they were a raw batshit-crazy trio from New York who injected a jolt of energy into the dull music scene at the time. My concern with ‘Mosquito’ was that I might end up listening to album akin to The Gossips ‘A Joyful Noise’…

Sacrilege is a powerful opener. Halfway through the song a gospel choir jumps out at you, snaps its fingers three times and put your ass in place. Possibly my favourite off the whole album, and it would make me rethink my personal top five Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs.

We are brought back down onto a midnight train platform for Subway. It makes me fall in love with Mr Zinner’s beautiful simplicity all over again. This is a ‘turn the lights off and disappear from the rest of the world’ kind of song. If you do get lost however, just play guessing games on what guitar effects he is using. Otherwise enjoy the ride and see where you end up.

Title track Mosquito is fun but a bit of a novelty. It has an uncannily familiar bass line, childish lyrics and squeaky sounds, similar with Area 52.

Under The Earth is that mix of old and new which we heard in ‘It’s Blitz!’ Spooky lyrics and a reggae style paned vocal delay intertwine giving it an atmospherically haunting feel.

It’s almost as if they tried to hide the odd bits in the middle of the album and hoped they wouldn’t cause too much trouble. Karen-O sounds as if she received a vocoder for Christmas and wrote These Paths the day she plugged it in.

Yes, Buried Alive has a rapper ‘feat.’on one of the verse, Dr Octagon to be exact (although I’m not certain what he has his doctorate in). It’s a very different approach for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound but it’s only one verse, I sure we can all get over it.

The album ends with three rather pretty songs. Always and Wedding Song fall into the mellow synth category from ‘It’s Blitz!’ where as Despairis more reminiscent of an early Yeah Yeah Yeahs style ballad from ‘Show Your Bones’.

A light must be shone on the two little hidden gems in the bonus tracks; a demo version of Subway (track 12) and acoustic version of Wedding Song (track 13). I personally like these more than the ones that made it onto the album. I find
outtake/extras very intimate and fulfil that voyeuristic desire we have of the ones we admire. Especially the acoustic version of Subway, it’s a beautiful ode to New York City, a first since the B-Side Yeah, New York.

‘Mosquito’ as an album is an eclectic mix of various styles, sounds and influences. I don’t think there is a definite ‘direction’ that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are heading in, except for one that incorporates diversity and a more produced sound. It is an attempt to both move forward into new ground whilst still retaining the majority of fans. A difficult task for any artist. There will always be the hardcore ‘fans ’who will say a band has sold out after their first album. But with that aside, I think ‘Mosquito’ will enlist a new onslaught of Yeah Yeah Yeahs devotees as well as maintaining those who love the band for what they are. And after all, isn’t that point? Making music for others and yourself to enjoy? Still, if you don’t like this album you can always just listen to ‘Fever To Tell’ on repeat.

Oh PS, the giant mosquito in the room? The album cover was designed by South Korean animator Beomsik Shimbe Shim, and yeah it’s ridiculous. It most likely reflects Karen-O’s taste in movies, but still it’s ridiculous. Not that Yeah Yeah Yeahs would care about that though.

By: Thomas Oliver

REVIEW: “Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (by Dan Newton)

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From the opening moments of their brand new album “Mosquito” Yeah Yeah Yeahs once again prove why they are one of the greatest living bands ever. After a career of delivering mind bending movements of rock n roll that paid tribute to all of the amazing disciplines of genres like art rock, punk rock, disco, electro, dance music, post-punk, pop music, dream pop and hip-hop the band have once again adopted their chameleon attitude and gone deeper to deliver a truly exquisite album.

An album like “Mosquito” has the capacity to do more than change and elevate your mood; it will take every inch of your soul and allow it the space to slip into pure swoony relaxation. You won’t know if you’re mourning for ex-lovers or if you’re rejoicing in the bliss of a satisfied mind. Each song allows you the time for reflection and escape but you also are given many specific points of soul soaked grooves to sway with the swagger and get lost in the rhythm of it all.

There is something delightfully cinematic about these songs and the way they are pieced together. By absolute definition you will swoon (to be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy, a state of ecstasy or rapture) for the sound on display here. The real excitement of “Mosquito” is the way it illustrates the bands history yet through simplicity and sonic weight loss it takes us right back to year zero. The music sounds free and wild once again even though a lot of the songs have a hushed whisper compared to a vicious punk roar. The delight of hearing Yeah Yeah Yeahs evolve into one of the most interesting pop bands in the history of music is deliciously rewarding.

This is another brave step into the future from Yeah Yeah Yeahs and once again establishes their skill for revolution whilst still allowing for a consistency to build within their discography. I rarely like to compare one bands legacy to another but I feel in this situation it is important. I truly believe that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the logical evolutionary step for the art rock / experimental pop music legacy that Sonic Youth established. A lot of bands have attempted to be that next step but after witnessing the beauty of “Mosquito” it is quite apparent that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the brand new leaders of forward thinking pop music.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs now have that beautiful luxury of being a genreless band, graduating to that unique school of artists whose band name alone signifies what kind of sound they erupt. With “Mosquito” Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken a graceful step back in order to demonstrate and execute a million creative leaps forward. The eleven tracks contained on this album have the excitement that a new best friend or potential romance will birth in you. You just want to hug every single one of these songs and dedicate all of your waking hours to hearing them again and again.  Only Yeah Yeah Yeahs are capable of making the darkness and the ache of life surround you with a shivery sunshine giving you space to grieve, dance and escape.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

REVIEW: “Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (by Bec Wolfers)

By Bec Wolfers

It’s been worth the wait: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have just dropped their latest LP, ‘Mosquito’, after three years of chilltime. Here’s a hint of the experimentation present on this album – Karen O has described ‘Mosquito’ as a “Yeah Yeah Yeahs-style soul record”. Although, on first listen, this might seem like a strange description, I definitely see what she means. The YYY are back in fine form, and here’s what I thought of ‘Mosquito’s eleven tracks.

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Sacrelige
I’m so excited about this song. It’s been in my head for days. Brimming with hooks AND substance, ‘Sacrelige’ is a real corker. The playful high guitar melody oscillates around the delicious falsetto chorus: ‘it’s sacrelige, sacrelige, sacrelige, you say’. Karen O’s signature distorted vocal effect is used on some of her best melodies to date here. What can I say, every vocal moment in this is a winner, from the high squawks of ‘hello’ and ‘in our bed’, to the verse melodies, the unforgettable chorus, and the insane gospel choir, complete with clapping. (The choir! What an inspired choice for a song with religious lyrical hintings). This song weirdly reminds me of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’; it’s probably the lyrics, choir and claps that do that. ‘Sacrelige’ has grooved its way into my heart, and will remain nestled there as one of my favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs tracks ever.

Subway
I adore this song! Having used actual sounds from the subway as a loop, this song is, as Karen O put it, an ode to New York. I love the creativity of actually using an iconic part of the city in a song about it. The lyrics are reflective, and as intimate as the restrained vocals. ‘It was metal on the mental/It was somethin’ in my heart/Got on the train and I took a seat/Thought why all these people all watching me?/Caught my reflection in the subway car/Thought look at you, whoever you are’. Hands up, if you have ever had these exact feelings riding a train car. There’s something about traveling alone on public transport that can really inspire self-reflection – maybe it’s because you’re surrounded by strangers, yet utterly alone. The song also hints at chasing a doomed love, which is about one of the loneliest things you can feel; ‘I lost you on the subway car/Got caught without my metro card/I waited and I waited for the express train/Wanna catch up to you , wherever you are/I waited and I waited…’. Sparse, ethereal and haunting synth & guitar melodies transport you right to that subway seat. This is a gem, one of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ finest.

Mosquito
I heard this for the first time during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set at Big Day Out this year. Of course, the outdoor festival sound wrecked it a little. I very much enjoyed this on record. It’s a really fun, punky song, with playful lyrics. The ‘I’ll suck your blood/suck your, suck your, suck your blood’ hook was a standout for me at Big Day Out, and remains this way on the recording. What a cool metaphor for a draining person; one who has a hold on you but ends up vampirically stealing your energy: ‘They can see but it can’t see them/They’re hiding underneath your bed/Crawling between your legs/Sticking it in your vein’. Similar in sound to the dance anthems on ‘It’s Blitz!’, this song is really well constructed dynamically, and makes me want to jump around exuberantly every time the chorus hits.

Under the Earth
‘Under the Earth’ sounded instantly familiar during my ‘Mosquito’ album listen, and I realized I’d actually heard it played at Big Day Out as well. Thanks for the album preview, Yeah Yeah Yeahs! The song’s main synth melody is a great reminder of how good this band is at crafting hooks. Every time the melody comes back in, it feels really well placed; you’re itching to hear it again. There’s a really lovely choir effect throughout the whole song…not a gospel choir like in ‘Sacrelige’, but it makes me see what Karen means about this being a ‘soul’ record. With reggae beats, a sireny synth, and tons of delay in the verses, this song is very experimental sonically. I dig it a lot. Karen’s signature vocal hooks sound reminiscent of old YYY songs, particularly the ‘Show Your Bones’ era. I love how the high synth follows the vocal melody of ‘down, down, under the earth goes another…’, and the falsetto ‘run away, run away‘ lyrics.

Slave
‘Slave’ is a great example of effective sound design. The song has a cool swing, and so many sounds in it can be summed up with the word ‘sweeping’. The phasy guitar effects are sweepy, the haunting vocal ‘aaaaah’s swirl epically, and noises that can only be described as ‘electronic birds’ flutter around your head (especially with headphones on). I love the melody of ‘You keep me, keep me your slave’. This song makes me feel haunted in the best way, and its spacious ending leaves me breathless.

These Paths
‘Drum and bass’, ‘lounge’ and ‘trance’ are genres I never thought I would associate with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But ‘These Paths’ is choc-full of those vibes. There is almost no hint of a traditional guitar-bass-drums band sound here. Everything has been shelved for its electro counterpart – synthy bass, tinkly keys instead of guitar, and what sounds like a manufactured loop, rather than live drums. That being said, I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing; I enjoyed this song a lot. There is a great deal of passion in the vocals and lyrics. ‘These paths will cross/Again, again/These pants come off/Against, against…’

Area 52
There are so many things going on in this album! This song is exuberant and full of manic energy. With a punky start, crazy, electro sweeps, and feedback galore, ‘Area 52’ is a great soundscape for a song with lyrics like ‘I wanna be an alien/Take me please, oh alien’. Karen’s distinctive ‘Noo Yawk’ accent is out in full force in this song, and the vocal distortion adds to the out-of-this-world industrialism of this track.

Buried Alive
This song is a very interesting one. The cool, prowling bassline’s depths, and the vocal delays, actually reminded me of being under ground before I noticed what the song was called ‘Buried Alive’! It makes me wonder how the song was crafted, perhaps Karen wrote the lyrics after the music was already together. The vocals in this song make me fall in love with Karen O even more. Her speak-singing of “I dreamt, dreamt, dreamt, dreamt, dreamt, dreamt…” is a delight. It’s not the first time she’s done vocals in this vein, but it’s something that is unique to her and the YYY.

I must say, I was incredibly surprised to hear Dr. Octagon rapping on this track…I confess, I didn’t even know who he was before hearing this song, so seeing the ‘feat. Dr Octagon’ didn’t ring a bell until I heard it. I didn’t know anything about his history and persona, so this review is purely about the rap in the context of this song, and how it came across to me on first listen. To be honest, the rap didn’t do a lot for me. It reminded me of 90s dance music (which I shamefully love, but mostly for its kitsch and nostalgic value). Dr Octagon’s rap seemed as dated, cheesy and devoid of substance as the 90s dance it reminded me of (Sorry, Dr. Oct).

Also; I’ll just repeat that, in case it didn’t adequately sink in. THERE IS RAPPING ON A YEAH YEAH YEAHS SONG. You must hear this.

With further research, I’ve found that Dr. Octagon is a character invented by New York rapper ‘Kool Keith’ Thornton, and is supposed to be an ‘extraterrestrial time traveling gynecologist and surgeon from the planet Jupiter‘. Dr. Octagon has a fascinating and detailed backstory. It makes sense that the YYY would use him; they’ve always been into art and experimentation, so kudos to them for trying new things. The description of Keith’s creation makes me like him more…but I’m still not sold on his rap. I really don’t want to be among the (probably numerous) jerks who will be dismissive of the rap, just because it’s there, and unexpected. But I just didn’t dig it; it seemed so weird to hear Karen O and then a rapper.

Always
‘Always’ is sometimes heart wrenching, but with a hopeful tone. The song strikes me as a frozen moment in time, as it’s both musically and lyrically quite repetitive. However, the constant subtle changes and growth keep it from becoming annoying. It’s a very soft song, probably one of the softest YYY have ever done. Canned Afrikaans drums and tinkling, glockenspiel-esque synths and pads dance around the reverby vocals. Karen O’s melodies are, on first listen, original and unexpected. I can picture myself floating down a tepid stream to this dreamy, delicious offering.

Despair
‘Despair’ begins with an unrelenting drum sample that wouldn’t be out of place on a Nine Inch Nails album, another mark of the experimentation the YYY have played with this time around. I’m a sucker for truth-filled lines like, ‘If it’s all in my head there’s nothing to fear’. This song is essentially a letter to the emotion of despair (which I think is a great idea) –  ‘you were there through my wasted days’. Despair and fear are wastes of time, we have to learn there’s ‘nothing to fear inside’. This song is a slow burner, gradually building momentum. When the dramatic toms come in, I swoon, as the song grows towards a glorious payoff.

Wedding Song
I love when bands finish an album on a quiet, introspective song. With the bass drum and dark, minimal piano pulsing like heartbeats, this song has a lot of space. Karen’s voice is coated in light reverb, with none of distortion featuring heavily on many YYY songs. Her crystal clear, emotive vocals shine in this track, describing the burning ache of love with poignant grace. The lyrics are some of the strongest on the album…my favourite lines are:

With your name on my lips
The ages fall to bits /
In flames I sleep soundly
With angels around me/

Some kind of violent bliss
Led me to love like this
One thousand deaths my dear
I’m dying without you here

So What Did I Think?
As you may have gathered, I’m pretty enthusiastic about this record. It’s different from all other Yeah Yeah Yeahs albums preceding it, but that’s to be expected from this experimental band. I love a group that continues to evolve, push the envelope, explore a thousand different genres, and play with sound. The great thing about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is that they don’t do this gratuitously, or in a way that is difficult for fans to access. They have a great way of managing to experiment without sacrificing damn good songs and songwriting.

There’s genuinely something for everyone in this collection of fast, slow, exuberant and introspective songs. The album has a great pace, delivering ups and downs with perfect intuition and timing.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ amazing spirit continues to grow. ‘Mosquito’ is an ecstatic journey; I suggest you take it now!

REVIEW: “Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (by Tyrone Blackman)

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If you are surprised that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on album number four, you’d be forgiven. Their sound, like that of many bands set loose upon the world in the early 2000s was more style over substance, and it was only a few singles that showed any real promise (Maps and Y Control). It isn’t that Fever To Tell (their debut album) was bad, it was simply indicative of a young generation of music listeners, who seemingly prioritise aesthetic over musical substance. Still, it was a good listen. Sadly, follow up Show Your Bones stalled, sounding like rehashed ideas and it simply didn’t go anywhere. 2007’s Is Is E.P took a stripped back approach and finally gave listeners some consistency. Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ third album, Its Blitz, seemed like a deliberate grab at mainstream success, full of dance beats, synths, and burying guitars deep in the mix. It had its moments of catchiness, but overall the result was forced and insincere.

And this brings us to album number four, titled Mosquito. It is a synthesis of all the elements found in previous releases, blending the pop sensibility of Its Blitz with the alt-rock edge of Fever To Tell, and if nothing else, this should be commended. The songs here sound much more mature, more grown up. Lead single “Sacrilege” builds to a nice conclusion, featuring a gospel choir. Guitarist Nick Zinner’s riffs are more prominent in the mix too, which adds to the charm. “Under Earth” features a distinct rootsy-rasta vibe, which gives a splash of flavour. Overall though, I am not convinced Yeah Yeah Yeahs really have anything to say. Sure, their music sounds nice at first, but I don’t find very much replay value in their canon to date. There seems to be a large influence on Mosquito by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, the post punk styling’s blended with roots and gospel sounds will likely be seen as an original and cutting edge idea to those unfamiliar with St Nick’s output.

If you enjoyed any of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s previous albums, there is definitely something on Mosquito that you will like. It sounds like a band full of confidence and ideas, but you’ll be hard pressed to find much staying power in any of the material.

6.5/10

By: Tyrone Blackman

REVIEW: “Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (by Ariana Pelser)

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For a band that started as a big part of the naughties’ Indie Garage scene, New York based trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have in 2013 birthed something much bigger, slicker, smoother and more diverse than anything their early fans might have expected in their latest album ‘Mosquito’. ‘Mosquito’ carries a lighter feel contrasted against increased instrumentation, making for a surprising change in direction.

With an opener like ‘Sacrilege”, bluntly introducing distorted vocal echoes underpinned by light drum and bass oriented beats, along with airy keys, large layers and larger gospel choir crescendos, the tone is set for the album. One can’t help wonder what sort of journey the band have been on since their last offering. The track stops short of a Phil Spector style wall of sound, but definitely carries a fixed, full, and premeditated instrumentation unlike any preceding Yeah Yeah Yeah’s record.

Clever tweaks such as real subway sounds sampled into the second track (aptly named Subway) cement the feeling we’ve opened a big new door in the first song and stepped onto a train that’s about to take us on a strange aural journey. The listener is again treated to a slick keyboard ensemble, building in rising layers over the haunting sound of a subway car clacking over old tracks. Frustratingly, just as ‘Subway’ hits a powerful emotional stride, the layers are stripped away and the train moves on to title track ‘Mosquito’. Mosquito recalls some of Karen O’s previous repetitious lyrical content, with lines such as “I’ll suck your blood” repeating against and over each other to great effect. Keeping with the album’s changed feel, there are no over-the-top power guitar and drum moments. Instead the keys prevail against the distortion, a sound that, while pleasing, doesn’t carry the same weight as early songs like “Black Tongue” or “Date With the Night”.

The middle of the record is a fun ride, as ongoing echoes, delay, further vocal layers and a percussive backdrop take the fore. ‘Under the Earth’ dabbles in marrying electronica with light distortion and tribal beats, while ‘Slave’ fills the space with an uncharacteristic ambience and bass chops (no previous lyrical puns intended) unlike the usual expectation of a typical Yeah Yeah Yeahs track. Stylistically, the ‘Sacrilege’ sound makes a brief return before another quasi-electronic track takes over in the form of ‘These Paths’. Although each middle track is pleasing, by this point multiple levels of delay and echo have begun to approach monotony.

One wonders if this wasn’t deliberate however, as ‘Area 52’ kicks in right after with more powerful guitar sounds and a more familiar industrial/space-age noisescape, recalling more closely the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound New York and the world have come to know and love.

Yet as swiftly as it appeared, the brief and welcome garage reprise of ‘Area 52’ is replaced by another injection of electronica. Karen O’s vocal ‘Buried Alive’ gets paired with 80’s style keyboard layers, a 90’s style rap by Dr. Octagon, and a ‘Tubular Bells’ reminiscent underlay, before modulating out into ‘Always’, dubbed by the band as something of a wedding song (ironic considering the title of the final track). Carrying with it some signature vocals and the now overly familiar echoes, ‘Always’ could well be a track from an Enigma album, if the use of oceanic tremolo-flooded guitar didn’t take the song in its own emotionally compelling direction.

Following on from electronica, ambience and echoes, penultimate track ‘Despair’ sees a marked change back a recognisably soft side of Yeah Yeah Yeahs history. Diminished keyboard accents remain present, but the dominant themes are powerful, minimalist notes and chord structures, driven by pulsing kicks and gunshot snare hits, while sweet but soaring vocals carry the song to new heights. ‘Despair’ ignites the end of the album in the same way ‘Sacrilege’ does at the beginning, except this time it’s in preparation for the what has to be the album’s standout track, the most emotional, touching piece on the record; ‘Wedding Song’.

‘Despair’ and ‘Wedding Song’ see out ‘Mosquito’ in true Yeah Yeah Yeahs style, very much in the same way ‘Maps’ and ‘Y Control’ saw out 2003’s ‘Fever to Tell.’

Overall, ‘Mosquito’ is a mixed bag of vocal crescendos, touching emotional moments, driving beats and electric wizardry. It’s an enjoyable listen. Nick Zinner’s famously wild guitar is mostly missing, and if present could have assisted in minimising what can only be described as a saturation of delay, echo and keyboard; yet given the meandering feel of the record as a whole and an obvious if momentary foray into the world of ambient electronica, a mild over-use of such techniques and more understated guitar might be expected. While Karen O multi-tracking vocals and a shiny Butch Vig style production do nothing to cover a mid-section somewhat devoid of single material, the album begins and ends extremely well, leaving the listener with a number of memorable tracks and hope that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still have a lot of life in them yet.

My rating: 8 mosquito’s out of 10.

By: Ariana Pelser

‘Sacrelige’ by Yeah Yeah Yeahs – A Video Review Conversation

Sacrelige (Mosquito)

Sacrelige Single Art (Mosquito)

By Ariana Pelser & Bec Wolfers

In celebration of Heavy and Weird’s ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ tribute week, Ariana and Bec decided to have a joint review conversation about the video for ‘Sacrelige’ – the first single from the new YYY record, ‘Mosquito’.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Watch the video below.

Bec: Hello Ariana! So what did you think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new video for ‘Sacrelige’?

Ariana: Hi Bec. Why, thank you for asking. I have to say that I am a definite fan of the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs video for the song ‘Sacrilege’. It was a rather intense video which struck an emotional chord.

How about you?

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Bec: I’m in agreement – it was a really confronting and artistic video. Unsettling and mysterious, it left me with more questions than answers – which I often find is the mark of good art.

What did you feel were some of the themes present in the video?

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Ariana: Well, as you said above, ‘it left me with more questions than it did answers’. I had to view the video a few times in order to make sense of it all.
It touched on quite a few thematic concepts, however the most prevalent for me would have to be the religious theme (ie, the priests and the various religious symbols scattered throughout the video) along with the exploration into the dark and sinister side of human nature.

Speaking of the dark and sinister side of human nature, there seems to be some intense imagery focused around this motif. How did it affect you and what are your thoughts on the subject?

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Bec: Thanks for the interesting question, Ari. I found the imagery very expressive…yet open to interpretation. It all left me with a disturbed feeling, but I also felt satisfied with its artistry and depth – I didn’t feel the creepiness and intensity of it was gratuitous. It felt like it was making an important statement. We begin with the protagonist (model Lily Cole’s character) being burned at the stake, which is a jarring image. I find it very difficult to separate myself emotionally from things I watch (which is, I guess, why I don’t enjoy horror movies). To me, the thought of being burned to death is one of the most horrible things in the world. The look of shock and terror on Lily’s character’s face, combined with the jeers and smirks of the townspeople, is the kind of moment that leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach.

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There is clearly a lot of blame in this scene – Lily is the scapegoat for the townspeople’s collective shame. Nothing like mass hysteria to turn a group of people into monsters. The religious imagery also brings up further meditations on shame, blame and redemption. This video asks “what is ‘sacrilege’? What are people capable of when they want to defend the concept of sanctity?”. This video shows the hypocrisy of people fighting for ‘morality’ – ironically, in persecuting a woman for sleeping around, the townspeople wind up committing murder – which is kind of a far worse crime, no? Does the bible not say “judge not, lest ye be judged”, and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? The townspeople are far from without sin; we see them all in sexual trysts with Lily’s character throughout the video. All in all, the video (and song) both strangely struck me as darker cousins of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”. Something about the lyrical content, gospel harmonies and clapping (in the song), and sexual imagery and fire (in the video).

Although, after the second watching, I picked up on the fact that events were happening backwards, I find myself still in some debate and confusion over the video’s story. What were your thoughts on the plot and how events unfolded, Ari?

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Ariana: It’s certainly a very intriguing video and unfolds more like a feature film than a regular music video. I felt like I was witnessing the story of an intricately woven crime thriller set in both modern and ancient times. The narrative is initially difficult to grasp as the video plays out in a rather stunted and inconsistent way. In the opening scene we see a group of silhouetted figures in a dark and isolated field walking towards the camera while a fire rages in the background. We see a young lady sitting over a masked man in the centre of this ring of fire with tears rolling down her cheeks. Fast forward to the final scene of the video and we see a beautiful and serene looking bride adorned in a delicate white lace wedding dress walking through a set of church doors (made evident by the large cross painted on them). The plot doesn’t seem to make much sense at all until you figure out that the story actually unfolds in reverse. Once you come to this realisation all the pieces fall into place. I think it’s a highly effective film technique and in a way portrays the sordid tale of the main character’s (Lily Cole) decline from what can be considered to be ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ into the animalistic realms of desire, lust and sexual promiscuity – displayed through the various erotic sexual encounters she has throughout the video.
Overall, what’s your star power rating out of 10 Bec Wolfers?

Bec: Ari, I felt this was a really well done video – it asks some interesting questions, it looks great cinematically, it has a unique creative slant, and it evokes an emotional reaction from the viewer. ‘Sacrelige’ gets an 8 out of 10 star power rating from me. I’m strict with my star power 🙂
What would you give it?

Ariana: You certainly don’t give away that star power easily Ms. Wolfers 🙂
Both visually gripping and emotionally chilling, I think that the team from Megaforce have done a brilliant job with this video. With this said, I give ‘Sacrilege’ a pure and wholesome 8.5 star power out of 10.

Fashion, Eggs, Intestines and Gold Lions: Reading the Aesthetic of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

By Bec Wolfers

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are many things: pop, punk, rock, electronic, experimental, soft, hard. But at the core of this band is one thing: art.

I can be perfectly content with a band even if all they offer is amazing music. But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs share an additional body of work with the world. This band, and especially lead singer Karen O, have never shied away from fully expressing themselves visually as well as musically.

I finally got to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform this year at Big Day Out, and boy, did they not disappoint. Even from a distance, singer Karen O had a magnetic presence, brandishing her lifesaver-roll mic cord like a whip, and hamming it up onstage.

There is always a great deal of colour and interesting symbolism at play throughout the Yeah Yeah Yeahs art, whether it be: album covers, promotional photos, live performances or music videos. All of this accompanying imagery not only makes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ works a pleasure to consume, it also adds to the richness and mythology of their band’s story.

The Album Covers

Album art has always been an exciting part of buying a record for me. You can tell so much about a musician’s personality and intention with their choice of album cover – is it humorous, playful, sarcastic, earnest, mysterious, simple, complex, homemade or refined?

The cover for ‘Fever to Tell’, the band’s first LP release, complements the music really well. A raw collage design, it’s boisterous and colourful, speaks of the urban jungle of New York City, and there are a ton of things going on – just like in the music of this body of work.

‘Show Your Bones’, and the single cover for ‘Gold Lion’, show the aesthetic being pared down to a ‘bare bones’ (see what I did there?), simpler look, but  still quite raw and organic – again, similar in feel to the album, with its heavy use of acoustic guitar.

‘It’s Blitz’ has a more stylized and stark aesthetic, and the clean white background and electric-yellow egg yolk hint at a brighter feel. The action shot of a breaking egg is a simple, yet brilliantly effective image – and fittingly, this was the first album where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs really ‘broke their own mold’. The YYY brought in heavily prominent electronic sounds for the first time on ‘It’s Blitz’.

The artwork for ‘Mosquito’ and ‘Sacrelige’ are the most synthetic and basically most computer-generated looking of all of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s covers. This sits really well with the album’s sound; there is a lot of use of drum samples, and some of the songs are bordering on trance. But the imagery for ‘Mosquito’ is still as creative, colourful, playful and experimental as the music.

The Promo Shots

Promotional images show a lot about how a band chooses to present themselves. A photo in a magazine or on a website, for a budding fan who hasn’t seen them perform live, is often the first window into what a band may be like.

I love the fact that, even in their photoshoots, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show a great deal of creativity and personality. From being wrapped in toilet paper, to wearing fake lips or attaching pegs to Brian’s glasses, there is never a dull promo shot for this band.

The Costumes

Karen, live and in videos, acts as the band’s shaman, channeling the music through her aesthetic and her passion-filled performance. It’s been suggested that clothes make the man, and Karen O’s fashion choices have certainly helped the band garner a lot of attention. Karen O has always dressed in a perfectly wacky balance – not ridiculous to the point of someone like Bjork, but always with a twist, always relating to the music, and never boring. At one of her first YYY gigs in New York, Karen O was reported to have worn nipple pasties onstage and doused herself with olive oil before performing. A Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig is more like performance art than a straight band show. The crazy outfits and stage props (like Karen’s signature lollipop microphone cable) help turn live Yeah Yeah Yeahs shows into real multi-sensory experiences.

Karen O’s fantastic bubble-sleeved, plastic wrapped dress in the video for ‘Heads Will Roll’ was what cemented her as a fashion icon in my mind. Karen met her longtime stylist and friend, Christian Joy, by happening into a boutique Christian worked in, in East Village, New York. Loving the deconstructed prom dresses Christian had designed, Karen asked her if she would make one for her. Their partnership grew from there. Christian is responsible for one of Karen’s most memorable onstage getups – the skeleton suit (image three, above), complete with detachable intestines that Karen could pull out during a performance.

Karen is the Lady Gaga of the alt world. Like legends such as Michael Jackson and David Bowie, Karen’s look enhances the Yeah Yeah  Yeah’s music, and has helped transformed her into a bona fide rockstar and icon.

The Videos

I’ll let the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ music videos speak for themselves. Each one of them has something special about it, whether it’s playing with the fourth wall (in ‘Maps’; acknowledging the fact that they’re making a music video), showcasing out-of-control children (Y Control), delivering delicious visual feasts (in ‘Gold Lion and ‘Heads Will Roll’), or telling a sad, unsettling story (‘Sacrelige’). The colours, outfits and locations of YYY clips always feel very symbolic and carefully chosen.

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Gold Lion

Heads Will Roll

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The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have created the magic of their own colourful world in their aesthetic, and it’s as multi-layered, creative, vibrant and luscious as their music. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future, and can’t wait to see the rest of the videos for this album’s single releases – I have a hunch the video for ‘Mosquito’ could be a lot of fun!