Music, Publicity jobs

Adam Young – Elementary Carnival Blues

After over a decade in the wilderness, Adam Young returns to the public eye with an alarmingly good album.

Last seen in the 90s with grunge guitar bands the Daisygrinders and Big Heavy Stuff, here Young cut his teeth on distorted guitars and the soft/loud riffing excursions de jour. After the timely collapse of Nirvana, Silverchair and Enya put paid to that era, he was resigned to a decade and a half of mainstream employment, desultory gigging and the slow accumulation of new material.
But as a Canadian by birth he was unable to keep the demons of country music out of his head and in exile, Young embraced them. The songs that started to take root were steeped in alt-country impressionism as much as REM’s outlandish architecture and the fuzzy guitars that survived the demise of smacked out flanno coutre. Bush tours with hick, shouty singers such as Den Hanrahan furnished stories and hardened his resolve.
Sensing something spectral looming, Young engaged a team of crack musicians and producers to harness the poltergeists. The result is a hard-wired simulacrum of contemporary country rock. The cinematic pedal steel and electric guitars of Jason Walker provide the panoramas that bassist/producer Mike Rix saw as the only things big enough to house Young’s vision. With Jeff Mercer also contributing guitars and the likes of Corrina Steel and Emma Swift harmonizing on Young’s paeans, Rix had a broad palette to work with.
Thus we have a fine collection of songs whose velveteen textures only wanted the gloss finish of Kate Brianna’s charming pipes. Her duets with Young are a regular feature of live sets and burnish his pocket ouvre with authentic mid-West chic.
They thrive on gaunt, enigmatic lyrics. ‘Ghost Songs’ is a standout. Bouyed by a simple, irresistible melody, it dances over jaunty countrified licks, anchored to an aching refrain; “leave a light on for an old friend”. ‘Queen of the Plains’ and Breeza occupy the same haunted stratosphere, sparse haikus leaving plenty of room for a majestic vision to unfold between your ears. ‘Wolfe Island Blues’ echoes in the room long after the albums over.
Though they easily ride the current insatiable thirst for Americana, these songs would have found a home in late 80s alternative rock charts or as no-wave dirge anthems. They stand up to the dazzling production and work hard on Young’s increasingly frequent solo outings. Indeed his solo shows demonstrate why these songs, lithe and muscular, stand out in a hi-sheen recording. Quite simply, they’re terrific ballads. Springsteen himself would stand up on somebody’s coffee table and bellow something incomprehensible about ‘em.
Youngy is back from the wilderness and he’s had a shower.

On Stanley Records


A potted history of Mazstock

A potted history of Mazstock*

*may not be factually accurate


My recollections of the inaugural Mazstock are hazy at best. It was held at the fabulous Winsome Hotel in the heyday of Maz’s reign there, an impossibly debauched and gloriously fun era that would have made the Swinging Sixties, the Fabulous Thirties and the Nihilistic Nineties look like a tea party in Fred Nile’s drawing room.

That was some serious rock action. If Iggy Pop had burst in wielding his favourite stage prop he would have had to sit down for a minute to take it all in. Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away now, but touring bands did love to play the Winsome.

Maz always looked after them sumptuously. Her devotion to rock and roll has been a mainstay of music in Lismore for a long time, and without the Winsome flying the flag in those days there wasn’t much else around. Maz’s dedication to keeping music ablaze and relevant in the midst of her own furious political life has been a beacon for rockers on the East Coast.

Bands got paid to play, even if it was on a Tuesday night performing to the Slate-Fancier and whoever was tending the bar. They got put up in luxurious rooms, fed and watered in all kindsa ways. There were all kinds of fringe-dwellers to marvel at, as they interrupted proceedings with lunatic intensity to berate or assault the punters with an assortment of props from druidic staffs to occasional full nudity.

The PA was great and when occasionally some of Lismore’s rock fanciers did saunter in for a look there was always a full-tilt show on.

Not that they weren’t occasionally well attended. Dave Graney, The New Christs, Hey Rosetta (Canada), all had smashing crowds and the after parties were always wild, and long. When Mazstock became a thing in 2009, the Winsome was the perfect venue.

People flocked in from Bellingen, from Brisbane, from Broadbeach, anywhere that started with a B, even Nimbin. The front bar hadn’t been so crowded since Mick Elliott wearing his favourite Davy Crockett hat tried to marry all the bar staff in one night.

Black Ghost Party, The Tendons, Slug, Antibodies, Manifest and The Re-mains got that ball rolling.

There was the great Brut 66 from Bello, an old school rock and roll band that were as much about the Flamin’ Groovies as they were Television. Their set featured Pete Bufo’s psychedelic performance piece, whereby he crouched tuning his guitar for a good twenty minutes, whilst we sat silently, stunned by his insouciance. Till suddenly everyone burst out laughing and eventually, the band resumed as if nothing had happened.

That gig also starred Nimbin’s Antibodies, who are the only mob to have played every Mazstock since with their incendiary show, Ritchie out front whirling and yelping political firebombs.

Local outfits such as the invincible hard rock Claymores, Slug and Tesla Coil have also been longtime Mazstock stalwarts, while the mercurial Blurter rear their ugly heads now and then to keep things on the level.

That was the beginning of a beautiful partnership between Maz, Sideshow and the rock and roll community of the east Coast. They’ve established a hard won tradition of impeccable taste and rock majesty that’s reverberated across the shrinking cultural tapestry of this Tory-terrorised, art, music and literature-hating wilderness. In defiance of the socio-economic malaise, over the years a succession of superb bands have made their pilgrimage to Lismore to pay homage at the court of Mazstock.

2010 saw The New Christs and Celibate Rifles headline a frantic fixture, with the likes of Pineapples from the Dawn of Time, Blurter and Lennox Head’s immortal Boozehag keeping the engines at full throttle.

Later Mazstocks happened at Lismore’s Italo Club, where in 2011 in the big ballroom the likes of Kim Salmon ripped it up on the big stage, while on the smaller stage Screamin’ Stevie, draped in an Australian flag set about restoring our pride in the nation that brought us Abbott. Elsewhere Leadfinger, The New Christs and Six Ft Hick slugged it out with Slug and a horde of other great acts. Representing the roughneck bush-rockin element, Den Hanrahan and the Roadsiders put in a boisterous showing.

As an impresario, Sideshow has been without comparison in the Northern Rivers and it was here that he was really able to turn it on, with big PAs and stages and an audience that was slavering for rocking good times without stint.

Three stages and a multitude of bands is a broad palette to work with and Sidey, in his element, sleepless, occasionally feisty and never without a comeback, was born to rule in this environment. He also doubled down as bassplayer in the Re-mains on that occasion and pulled the job off with aplomb.

The Re-mains set got off to a roaring start with hula hoop dancers and Uncle Burnin’ Love the Banjo King vying for the spotlight. UBL had had drink taken and bemused by the bright lights and high fidelity PA, enacted a rage-filled turn before heaving his banjo across the stage. When his electric guitar also declined to satisfy his requirements, that too was ejected with great velocity and he stormed off to the bar.

Undeterred, the band dug into that big PA sound, and played what was for me one of our best shows ever.

That Mazstock saw the historic deployment of Hits, a devastatingly good rock band who have gone on to cult status after their relentless domination of Australia’s rock scene. With two undaunted women on guitars and a ferocious if diminutive frontman, they’ve gone on to conquer Europe and inevitably, the USA.

In 2012 Gravel Samwidge came down all the way from Townsville to christen the Lismore Uni Bar as part of a stellar bill also featuring a resurgent X and once again, the mighty Hits. Other highlights of that year were Substation and Thundergods of the Multiverse.

More recent Mazstocks have employed the Lismore Bowlo to devastating effect, with the overworked Sideshow bowing out for a couple of years while the entrepreneurial James Doyle flexed his fledgling promoters wings. With his own band Raygun Mortlock tying down a solid roster of local acts, 2013 saw the return of Leadfinger.

In 2014 Six Ft Hick, Substation, Hell Crab City and Sideshow’s own band Birdbrain held the fort, while Hits hung in despite the siren song of stardom screeching in their ears.

Then in 2015 Mazstock returned to the Italo Club with a roar, inducting Sydney’s bellicose Front End Loader into the Mazstock community. Ably assisted by punk rockers Dunhill Blues and the perverted maunderings of Blurter, among a huge cast, they helped keep the doldrums of Abbott’s brief regime at bay.

The 2016 event looks set to be a return to the mythical Mazstocks of yore, with 13 bands across two stages, back at the palatial Italo Club. Sideshow has come out of semi-retirement to oversee this daunting logistical feat while Maz is curating a dazzling lineup and and feverishly hunting for the perfect frock/catsuit in which to adjudicate proceedings like a great purring, whip-wielding dominatrix.

With a focus on women in rock, four great chick-rock outfits have answered the call. Lismore’s very own howling viragos, the Callachor sisters are fronting Spanx in their first Mazstock and with members of Antibodies and Bombed Alaskans backing them up, they’re bound for certain rock glory.

Brisbane is sending down two femme fronted outfits in the Dirty Liars and Marville, both raucous and racy ensembles by reputation.

Hot Sweets are fronted by the rambunctious Carrie Phyllis fresh from a support with Cherie Currie (voice of the Runaways) they’ll be in red hot form. The band boasts two members of Leadfinger who are also making the long drive up to play their fourth(?) Mazstock with their characteristically bittersweet rock and roll demeanour, located somewhere between Wilco, Big Star and the Ted Mulry Gang.

I’ve snagged three members of that brilliant outfit for my own Mick Daley’s Corporate Raiders, otherwise known as Leadfinger Lite, playing our first Mazstock.

Headliners this year are Bunt, another Brisbane mob with massive punk rock credentials, big in Japan, soon to be bigger in Lismore.

Forever Since Breakfast come back for their second bite at the cherry. This supergroup are prolific songwriters and combine years of rock experience with sizzling guitar chops. Also highly touted are Loose Pills, Sydney’s answer to Cheap Trick.

Maz is having conniptions as the big day approaches and there are not enough hours to spin vinyl while excoriating Tories and tyrannical landlords. But as the memories of bygone Mazstocks fade and new ones flare briefly, rock music will be the undisputed champ.

And in a world where Playstations and porn have become the weapons of choice for many of the front-line generations, it’s a great relief to see the formidable team of Maz and Sidey once more allying to revive the dormant beast of rock in its purest form. I for one am not planning any yoga or pilates anywhere before, say, at least 10am the following day.



Tiny Violins review

Tiny Violins review – by Craig Lawler

Mick Daley’s new album “Tiny Violins” is an astonishing piece of work: dark, wordy, beautiful and bleak.

Recorded with Producer/Musician Matt Walker and Engineer Rowan Matthews at Stovepipe Records in Melbourne it is a testament to the maturity of their collective talents. After 25 years of recording, Matt Walker is at the top of his game, his latest band Lost Ragas are a triumph and he paints here with a similar sonic palette.

The muscular clamour of Daley’s usual outfit, The Re-Mains, is replaced by fresh air and a caustic lyrical stride through the Australian dystopia of 2015.

The tracks:

There are times in a troubadour life where the road, the sky, and your poison thoughts are your only companion. Lonesome Side of Down is an ode to that. Matt Walker’s slide is the pressure drop and Suzannah Espie’s backing vocals the breeze across the flatlands signalling the front about to move through. Hear the distant crack of his heart lit by a diffuse green light.

Othello’s P76 is a mandolin and pump organ re-working of the Re-Mains best recording. Written with the Rodent in mind, this darkly comic broadside remains relevant, as fuck all has changed since Howard’s demise. “Nobody is innocent” is as true now as it was then, as are the words of the Moor: “The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief”

Tiny Violins, the FIFO lament is the title track and centrepiece of this set. Who weeps for the poor downtrodden vanity-ute-driving, high-vis-wearing rubes of Australia? Not Daley. He pulls out the lyrical epee and switches rough-house hosannas on their arse as out the door they go. They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man.

Praise be to the Rooster. This jaunty dirge recounts a slice of rural noir. An escape across the Bland, from one shithole to the next, pursued by reverb-drenched guitar on the edge of feedback, and the cops.

In Sweet Delirium is he just in love or is he Talking Carlos Castaneda Blues? This is a man I once saw spot a gold-top mushroom from the window of a speeding shitbox, pull up with the assistance of the handbrake, hop a barbed wire fence into a north-coast cow paddock, like some rastafarian roo, and return grinning within seconds, proffering a gobfull of goldtop enlightenment. I’d plump for the latter.

Miranda Devine’s Adventures on the Vanilla Frontier: I once jokingly described Daley as the Albury Dylan but this goes beyond any joking – it is an instant classic of the sub-Bob oeuvre. A fevered night-trip through the Abbott incursion. It uncannily apes an out-take from “Highway 61 Revisited” with Walker throwing his best Mike Bloomberg guitar shapes. This thrusting, head-loppingly-current dream diatribe could inspire Pete Seeger to once again pick up his axe and start cutting cables. A cracker.

Where do we go from here? Run Run Run. Leg it, it’s your only hope: “You better bet that bunyip aristocracy will hunt you down. Sometimes you better Run Run Run”. A fittingly Old Testament finish to proceedings.

Bootless and Unhorsed, Music

Gareth Liddiard interview, published in Reverb

Poolside at a Brisbane hotel in balmy spring sunshine is not, perhaps, where you’d expect to find Gareth Liddiard, the poet of existential wrath and melancholy. But encouraging daft stereotypes was never his forte, either, and the frontman of The Drones is having a welcome day off. Continue reading “Gareth Liddiard interview, published in Reverb”

Bootless and Unhorsed, Music

Review of 2012 Cold Chisel album, ‘No Plans’, published Reverb magazine, April 2012

Backstage at a Tamworth Country Music Festival show in 2005, Jimmy Barnes is shrieking like a cranky cockatoo. He grins apologetically and remarks, “It’s my warm-up routine,” before joining fellow vintage rockers Normie Rowe and Ross Wilson onstage.

That unmistakeable scream is the first thing that jumps out on Cold Chisel’s first album in 14 years, as Barnesy warms up on No Plans.

Spraying f-bombs over a blues jam circa Rising Sun, Barnes comes out swinging while the band flexes its honky-tonk.

Continue reading “Review of 2012 Cold Chisel album, ‘No Plans’, published Reverb magazine, April 2012”