Thursday, 30 September 2010

Strange Tourist

Gareth Liddiard must be possessed. If there isn’t a sudden screaming need of the collective unconscious to hear what Liddiard needs to play I’ll eat my hat. Brace for this music, or you will come undone. From the first hissed syllable there ain’t no shaking the spell.

Strange Tourist is the kind of album you will play for the rest of your life, every lived year adding poignancy, dropping you down further into the bones of each song. This album, like a point of light, will throw shadows against your walls.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Where there is livestock there is deadstock or Ted sees a bird on the way to looking at a cow

Dead Farms, Dead Leaves

Cling to the long
Branch of world.

Stars sway the tress
Whose roots
Tigthen on an atom.

The birds, beautiful-eyed, with soft cries,
The cattle of heaven

And vanish.

Ted Hughes

Yes yes I am starting with the easy ones but don't dismiss them just yet

A Kite is a Victim

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won't give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you've written,
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the
whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.

Leonard Cohen

SLAMMATOWN - What Jack? Quaoub Part Two

'It’s a cheap art. It doesn’t have to be the stage for profound mutterings. It can just be grunting and moaning, for dancing. It has room for that. I like trying to get something special out of something that doesn’t need it.'

I convinced Quaoub, less formally known as Jack Elias, to let me interview him in his home. This proved to be a giant mistake. Jack lives in an actual warehouse in the heart of the Inner West, he’s managed to make himself one of those homes that are both stylish and unkempt. The kind of home that sends me insane with instant jealousy. He even has one of those vintage record players that close up and turn into a tiny suitcase.

Jack has a coffee machine unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. To make coffee he has to pull down a long lever and stand there sort of hanging off it while the coffee drips out. While he was making me my first coffee his talk turned backwards and slightly bitter, he insisted this tainted the coffee saying, ‘this was made with hate and not love’. He threw the coffee down the sink and made me a new one, with love.

I asked him why he made music. He put down his coffee cup and stared straight at me, blowing cigarette smoke across the wide table in plumes as he answered.

“It’s a cheap art. It doesn’t have to be the stage for profound mutterings. It can just be grunting and moaning, for dancing. It has room for that. I like trying to get something special out of something that doesn’t need it.”

I wasn’t expecting an answer like that so I tried moving on to another question, hoping he’d do what most people do and look at the table or into their cup, maybe stare at their hands a little but I was hoping in vain. Jack answered his questions directly, straight at my face, without hesitation, until all the coffee and his directness had me feeling uneasy.

Jack insists that he has a poor memory but I think he’s lying, again he spoke without hesitation as he described the first moment music became his.

“I remember listening to an Auburn radio station at a bus stop, Auburn closes early, it is desolate at night. I grew up in Auburn and Bankstown, radio was the only access to cultures outside of mine. I was utterly shocked when I heard Nick Cave for the first time and I don’t say shocked lightly. It was quite an uncomfortable thing because it showed me what I didn’t know. It showed me I was culturally inadequate. I remember thinking I’ve not heard anything like this before. I remember thinking how scary this is, how scared I was, but I loved it.”

If you have a quick look at the photo of Jack on Quaoub’s Myspace page you’ll be looking at something that is Jack but doesn’t resemble him at all. Jack squirmed a little when I asked why he chose that photo of himself to plaster on his Myspace and Facebook pages.

“I am quite at odds with my own self-image. I deliberately pick images which I don’t immediately relate to. My self-awareness and my vanity chose to make sure I don’t look too good. My way of dealing with it is denying it, denying self-image.

I stayed for hours, longer than I thought was polite, I couldn’t help it. Talking with Jack is one of the good rewards for going to all that trouble of keeping yourself alive, day after day after day.

First published on RHUM...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Oy you lot! Get some Emily Dickinson up ya

Sure everybody is amazing posting all your 'song of the day's on Fspazbook. Songs are great, obviously, but why in the hell is no one doing Poem of The Day?  I will start you off, here is an old and out of copyright one, still good though.

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground. 

Emily Dickinson

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Arse about

First of all this. I'm tired, I'm drunk, but I did not fuck my shit up. For this may we be truly thankful. Secondly, there was talk at a party tonight, between musicians, of the reviews I have written about them. Some of them seemed mildly pleased, one of them was sort of quite pleased, Spencer bless his stupid heart, doesn't give a crap one way or the other which is good considering the amount of times I've typed his name but there was one man talking about the bad review I gave him two years ago.

He was sitting by the fire and shaking his head a little from side to side like a fast forward ship in the wind, telling a small circle how he'd been playing in bands for fifteen years and I am the only person who ever singled him out for some bad news. He said it with a fond sort of pride and patted me on the shoulder in an absent-minded manner.

I didn't know him when I wrote that review, not that it would have changed my words in any way. It was one sentence.

'The not-Simon guitarist has a habit of muddying up the sound, someone give that man a slide, some pedals and the instructions to not play the same thing as Simon at the same time.'

It would be stupid to say I have never thought about something I wrote being remembered by the person I wrote it about, because I have thought about it. I suppose I just didn't think that one sentence would make such an impact as to have become a story to tell at parties, which is a little stupid when I think about the number of sentences I remember that have been about me.

The most obvious sentences to remember are the ones uttered by men as they beat their retreat or run screaming into the night but there are none so memorable as this.

'You're just like Sarah Blasko, the only thing you are good for is fucking.'

There are several problems with that sentence as far I'm concerned. The man in question has never met Sarah Blasko, I have and I can assure you we are not at all similar. Now that that is out of the way, let's talk about the fucking. The man in question fucked like it was the 80's. I can assure you there are better decades to fuck like. The last and most crucial point might be the part where fucking is the only thing I am good for. As might be expected I have a tendency to disagree with the man on that matter.

But let's get back to the party. For a moment they were doing everything but thanking me for writing about them, that is just fucking stupid because it is the wrong way around. I mean that's really arse about. I'm the one silent in the corner with a notebook and a pen, I'm the one sitting still and solitary making no more noise than the good clacking of keys while they are standing bodily on broad pedestals taking thought out of language and turning it into sound. They're using their arms and legs and lungs to make something so indefinable that already, before I hit the middle, I know I'm going to need a lifetime to write about this.

This all might be making more sense if I wasn't drunk but at this point you'd need an army and seven helicopters with coffee-filled water canons to do anything about that problem. I'm trying to think of one moment to describe. One sentence to illuminate the meaning of music, but this is where Science wins with the battle with Art. Contrary to popular belief most writers are completely fucking useless when they are drunk. You need brain to be working on the same team as fingers to write anything in the same solar system as good. There's not going to be one sentence here that illuminates the meaning of music for me, not tonight. I'll be satisfied if I say this - we have words because we wanted to tell each other what was happening over there or when someone wasn't looking, to steer clear of tigers and say 'that snake over there bites'. We don't have a reason for music the same way we don't have a real reason for air.

Wait, no, that's a big stupid lie. I'm not at all satisfied with saying that. I'll probably think of something better but first  I'm either going brush my teeth, eat a licorice allsort or vomit.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Spencer lodges complaint number 42367262868275083270 but this time he might have a point

Spencer once said to me 'never trust a writer, they know how to make things sound just how you want to hear them'. I paused my milkshake drinking just long enough to stick my tongue out at him but then on Sunday he lodged a complaint and this time I think he might have a point.

Sunday afternoon, walking down Enmore Rd on the way to the Changing Lanes Festival, I told Spencer all about my Saturday night. Later that afternoon I relayed the same story to Abdullah and some of the Psychonannies over coffee. Spencer protested at the telling of the story, saying 'it's all in the telling, you wouldn't sound so good if you gave them the same version you gave me'.

Saturday night as told to Spencer:
DS: I had to go to my brother's girlfriend's birthday party at her parents' house. I didn't want to go because I was dead tired but I went, cause I like her.
S: How was it?
DS: Brother had some of that lemon stuff my crazy old relative makes then I got a lift home from a friend of the girlfriend's brother, which was nice.
S: Told you would end up having a good time.
DS: I hate Western Sydney but food was nice. I was starving. Free food is good but I hate trains. They are stupid. Do you think my hair looks stupid? [pauses to look at hair in reflection of shop window]
S: Not more stupid than normal. [rolls eyes] I had a $2.50 stick thing on a roll.
DS: Those are good. How was your gig last night?
S: All right I spose. What's this festival going to be like.
DS: Dunno. Don't want to go but the editor is kind of making me.

Saturday night as told to Abdullah and some of the Psychonannies:
DS: Last night I traveled West to a convict settlement and drank moonshine Limoncello at a party where most people were speaking French and sometimes Cajun.
PN's: You're always doing stuff like that.
DS: The food was amazing and I got a ride home from a 6'2'' racing car driver.
PN's:  Racing car driver!
DS: She was awesome and kind of beautiful. She's about six foot two and has long red hair that hangs to her waist. I got home in record time.
PN's: Is she single?
DS: Doubt it.
PN's: Are you going to Changing Lanes?
DS: Sure am, just picked up my media pass.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Changing Lanes In Newtown

Photograph by Ben Campbell

Got your hair slicked back or pushed forward? Got your tortoiseshell Ray Bans on? Good, now roll up the cuffs of your trousers cause it’s time to change lanes.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Now I'm fucked

Somebody put a mountain range inside my head. I should have fallen over when the geography moved underneath me but as usual I sat on the edge of the bed and pondered.


You might think Sufjan Stevens is getting his Radiohead and Bjork on in The Age of Adz but you’d be wrong about that. The Age of Adz sounds precisely like Stevens is standing on a tall pile of everything he has already recorded. The strong melody and phrasing, struck through with symphonic arrangements and joyful cacophony of horns, from albums like Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the Illinoise and Michigan are still here, they are just wrapped in a layer of beats, bleeps and squelches.

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Sunday, 19 September 2010

SLAMMATOWN - What Jack? Quaoub Part One

The song sounded like a lilting heart, a real one disgusting with blood and necessary rhythm but there was an unidentifiable lightness to it as well. The melody came in slow and agonisingly low. I couldn’t follow the rhythms, they were organic and structured like the invisible inside of yourself no one else can see.

I don't know what he was singing but everything stopped, the bells, the chatter, wind in the grass. Everything except the backlit clouds stopped a moment to hear his song. It was dark and I couldn’t even make out his silhouette. I know it sounds like I’m always sitting out in a park or a graveyard at night but if you’re a Newtown local you’ll know it’s one of the best places to be.

It was six months before I figured out who was singing in the dark that night. His name is Jack Elias but he performs under the name Quaoub. I’ve got more than one problem with this man but we’ll talk about that later. He conducts himself with a disturbing kind of grace but I don’t think that’s one of the problems. There is grace in his words, movements and most prominently in his songs.

It’s rare that I’m struck so profoundly by a song the first time I hear it. I like to listen to things on repeat until the slow soak of sound unravels inside my head and begins to make sense. This song didn’t need making sense of. This song, for all its lilt and rhythm, had the force of a hammer.

He came and lay down in the grass near where I was sitting. We talked about ritual and meaning and ancestral sorrow. This is where my first problem began. I dislike meeting people that I wish to talk with again, it leaves me feeling hollow, meaningless and dead as the buried we were resting six feet above.

Now that I know who Jack is I am shameless in my quest to hear him play as often as possible. On another night, in another park, I was planning to drunkenly demand to hear him play. Spencer, my good and sage friend, advised me against this. To my delight Jack graciously confiscated a guitar from a nearby man and played songs he hoped I might like. No demanding was necessary.

A girl, some admirer of Spencer’s, rattled a tambourine to accompany Jack and his guitar. Her failure to make any sense of his rhythm whatsoever was more endearing than annoying but it was testament to the complexities of the music. At the conclusion of his small performance Jack smiled at the tambourine girl and told her she done well. He was laughing but we all melted a little because he meant it. Jack’s easy warmth makes it easy for all of us, even me, to feel at home with our own awkwardness and inadequacies.

First published on RHUM...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

SLAMMATOWN - Girl Singers are no good

My friend Spencer is not so keen on what he calls 'girl singers'. I’ve been wondering about this for a while now, been wondering just what exactly is his problem? Now here's a little warning, this is all wild speculation.

I’ve got a theory that Spencer is less keen on 'girl singers' than 'boy singers' because he likes music to be yelling versions of his life back at him. He wants to be inside the song instead of just listening to it from the outside. But first here's a small amount of boring information.

Don't forget to read the rest of this by clicking on the link to RHUM!
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Better to befriend a Lemon than get bitter about his talent

Go read this post by Geoff Lemon because its so much better than what was in my head this evening. For those that are interested, this evening the contents of my head included wondering how to make a cake in the shape of myself, the amount of apples that Paul Simon might buy in one go and what is the most polite way to firmly refuse a man who has expressed a desire to wee either onto or inside of you.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Storage solutions will solve only the problem of storage

I have become confused by furniture. All of these years I have simply pushed around cupboards and drawers with all-day Tetris intent. It has never failed, not until three days after my most recent attempt. This time I have bruised all of my fingers and quite a high proportion of my toes, my record player described a perfect arc before landing upside down and in pieces. The very end of my bed has demonstrated why knots in wood become vulnerable points for anything and my typewriter will not come out of its case. There is one thing I have not moved but only because other people wear pajamas, this will make more sense in less than a minute.

It is quite difficult, I think, to enter into a whiskey-fueled state of rage and typing when I live somewhere called The Peach and when The Peach is populated by people who come home from working, cook food in the kitchen and wear pajamas in the most normal of ways. This is why the bottle of whiskey has not moved from where I placed it three weeks ago. I suspect most people would not like to enter into a whiskey-fueled state of rage and typing but by my calculations I make up only one 6,830,586,985th of most people, this is a startling figure, I should commence cloning operations at once. Statistics have never been my strong point but I feel certain if there was more than one of me it would be easier to throw pajamas to the wind and rage with whiskey and typewriters all through the night.

Friday, 3 September 2010

SLAMMATOWN: Don't worry he's not dead yet

I’ve been writing myself notes with a pen that plays the French National Anthem. This pen features flashing lights and has a miniature Eiffel Tower floating in glitter water. Ordinarily this is not the kind of pen I prefer but I’m making an exception because my Dad bought it for me in Paris. He also gave me pyjamas, a sleep mask and a miniature tube of toothpaste he got for free on the plane. My Dad is not very good with souvenirs but he does have his good points.

One of those good points is the element of surprise...

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