99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

If you ask me, or value my opinion at all, I’ll tell you that live theatre is going through one of the strongest resurgences of any art form. Yes, I can hear you telling me that vinyl has been *insert adverb here* successful since the hipsters emerged from their niche coffee holes, or that hard copies of books are wanted more and more by the day (because you can’t turn the pages of a tablet), but to me, that’s not as strong a resurgence.

What makes me believe (in my fairly limited yet highly opinionated manner) that live theatre is trying its hardest to be recognised as a legitimate and plentiful art form is purely down to the fact that it’s had to shake itself up. Books keep being books, even though we have kindle. Music keeps being music whether it’s digital or on vinyl. Theatre, however, seemed like it was falling into the trap of Shakespeare revival after Shakespeare butchery after Shakespeare musical. Indie films were taking all the glory of being a bit different and pushing the boundaries, but theatre, ESPECIALLY that of more alternative production houses has taken it one step further, and made it even better (here’s looking at you La Boîte)

You might have read the last thing I posted (yeah, sorry about that. Life gets int he way of things sometimes) and wondered if there was anything else Jake Connor Moss couldn’t make gratuitously real. Well, he did it to theatre as well.

Despite the name, “Is there Pussy in Heaven” is a one-man show that talks about far more than merely sex in the clouds, well, for the most part. Following a very similar trend to much of his published works, it delves into the oft taboo areas of mental health (yes guys, it does in fact exist), drugs, abuse, suicide and sex, and doesn’t hold back. The story loosely follows a main male protagonist dealing with life. No spoilers, theres a beautiful cohesive and ultimately revealing plot to the show.

As a one man show, you’d think it would be hard to define distinct characters, have a setting, a coherent plot, however Moss is just that good that nothing seemed out of place. First an foremost, the acting chops he showed were immense. He tackled various subtle and emotional characters and came out looking like Gary Oldman in each instance. He played obscenely exaggerated caricatures and made them fit without being cliched or over the top. Having written these characters and the related script himself, you’d expect him to know what he was doing, and he didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of both the costuming and the set design worked just as well to compliment the material. A hat, a few chairs, a pair of glasses and a desk was all he needed to set a scene that (bar a few references to Brisbane locales) could be inserted into virtually any western setting. Couple that with the lighting – all impressively manually worked – to prompt a scene change or change in P.O.V so succinct even Tarantino would have been impressed with the fluidity of the acting and the script, and you have a formula for solo success.

But really, the characters, the setting, the costumes and the lights were nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated piece of realism genius that was the script. I repeat a lot of what I mentioned in his Sooky Cunts book review,  that having an unapologetic and raw outlook to some usually untouchable ideas is just what we need. However the witty comedy, the make-you-cry monologues, the dirty jokes and the overarching story and plot twist were just so, so good that really, I can’t think of what more to say. The balance of comedy and drama was precise, giving you a hint of comic relief right when you needed it but not overshadowing the messages of what help really means. The anecdotes provides allow the audience to connect with a hard to grasp concept even if they can’t relate it to personal experience, and that’s something that doesn’t happen all too often. The way Moss embodies the words that he’s saying, whoever is saying them, whatever the situation, draws it back to the reality of the speech. The script has so coherently showed us that anyone can have issues. Anyone can be on the brink. Anyone can put on a mask. So don’t assume.

Yes, he’s done it again. Jake’s woo-d me with realism and freedom of expression just as I endeavour to freely express myself, no matter what. Not only that, but from both a critical and emotional opinion, works like this could very well change the dynamic and medium of modern theatre. I sincerely hope it does.

– AJ Lienert

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

Jake Connor Moss – Sooky Cunts Review

Let’s start off with a simple score, because those people who want to read this whole thing will, but some people want to see the opinion and leave. Quick and easy.

 

8.5/10. Or 4.25/5, because those smaller numbers look better.

 

I’ve put off reviewing my first book for a long while, not entirely sure why, but after reading sooky cunts by Jake Connor Moss I had to write it. Truth be told, until around a month ago I hadn’t the foggiest idea of who JCM even was. My partner and our best mate were talking about some book launch at Rocking Horse Records, and the term sooky cunts came up. I was completely lost. A couple of weeks passed, and Fawn ended up buying sooky cunts and one of his previous books trinder park, thus introducing me to this Brisbane independent artist.

 

I didn’t know what to expect, the name didn’t give an awful lot away, and the only thing I had to go by was the monochromatic cover art and a brief (however perfectly descript) blurb. What I finished reading in a matter of hours was perhaps the most uniquely and powerfully crafted novels I’ve read in years. The use of poems telling a fragmented story akin to a Tarentino film (both plot wise and language wise) is a masterclass in structure. It never takes you anywhere you don’t need to go, even the most seemingly inane poems end up providing an insight into the slowly decaying mind of one of the most purely realised human characters of any novel I’ve read. The coupling of abstract scribblings, sometimes poignantly eerie and other times exquisitely comical (everyone needs comic relief) is yet another tick in the creative genius box. There’s no romantic prose, there’s no overblown Tolkein imagery, and there’s no punches that aren’t thrown.

 

That’s the selling point of this work, the extreme realism. Connor Moss has no qualms with boldly and brashly tackling the most taboo subjects, and it’s refreshing. All too often do artists shy away from sex, drugs, rape, mental health, domestic abuse or violence, but in the world we live in these things do actually happen. Shock horror, I know. Look up from your tumblr once in awhile and realise the world actually does  exist, and you’re ignoring the bad things. Life is full of ups and downs, and sooky cunts puts in in a relatable pair of shoes. The narrator is the furthest thing from perfect, and that’s why I trust him so much. No one wants to heed words from Mr Darcy, because there is no real life Darcy (sorry Hugh).

 

However the novel isn’t perfect. For some readers it could provide triggers, or come across as grossly insensitive, but that is life sometimes. There’s also very little traditional structure, and as clever as it is, some of the characters get unneededly lost where some of them could have provided some more needed companionship to our antihero. It gets a bit muddled, and at times it’s even hard to know who the other names are, they seem like hastily added monikers given to avoid any more character description. This does work with the lonely, drugged themes of the poetic work, however it left me having to think more about who these names were rather than the profound themes of the poems.

 

Even so, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who has an artistic bone in their body. And a strong stomach. It’s not light, but it’s sure as hell a fantastic piece of expression.

 

Oh, and watch out for the final couple of pages. It’s remarkable.

 

-AJ Lienert

Jake Connor Moss – Sooky Cunts Review

When Good Bands Go Bad

Musicians live in one of the most cutthroat and competitive worlds one can possibly inhabit, yet there’s still an oversaturation of them; musicians and bands keep coming and coming. If there’s something to be said about musicians, is that they’re a clan, a family, a tribe. This nature makes them more valuable to each other than money or businessmen do, or ever will. Need a place to crash? Ask a musician friend, they’ve probably been there too. Need equipment for a gig? The band before or after will have no qualms about lending it to you. Need to try and make a break, start playing shows in bigger venues? Other musicians will be there for you, trying to do as much as they can. Unlike any other industry out there, the music industry is one of connections and giving instead of wheeling and dealing.

So that offers up the question, why do so many bands have unceremonious lineup changes through their history? Your favourite bands have probably had some sort of shift, just mention Northlane to any teenager nowadays and they’ll argue to the death about which frontman is better. Look at the storm that ensued when Queen toured with Adam Lambert instead of Freddie Mercury. Given, Mercury had been gone for a while and was replaced with another strapping young gay man with incredible vocals, so not all bad. But then you take a look at the big ones. The Clash, in 1982 they were on top of the world, the smash London Calling 3 years past and Rock the Casbah having just peaked in the U.S top 10, with the connected album Combat Rock going 2x Platinum. Topper Headon (Drums) had already been sacked prior to the alClash_21051980_12_800bums release due to a heroin addiction, but that’s not the worst of it. In 1983 founding members Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had had enough of each other, and Strummer promptly kicked Jones out of the band. Jones, who had convinced Strummer to give the punk band a shot, was no longer a member. Following this was the critical and commercial flop of Cut the Crap, thus cementing the end of ‘the only band that mattered’. From friends who shared the same views and love for music to the end of one of the greatest band ever, it doesn’t seem worth it, especially in the music industry. This is only one example, but Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers into blur and Oasis have had their careers all but ruined by needless chopping and changing of lineups. In a world where music should mean more to people than the money they make from it, why are there so many changes?

We need to take a step back. When music is one of the most powerful tools one has to produce something, express something and feel something, why do we not take into account friendship, mateship and our personal relationships with other musicians as much as we should. From a personal standpoint, music and friendship are two of the strongest forces in this world, so why throw one, or both for that matter for no reason. We’re a band of brother and sisters, not a group that fights it out and tries to compete with others for the sake of it. Come on muso’s, we’re better than that. At least some of us can be.

-AJH

When Good Bands Go Bad

Top 10 Multiple Melody Masterpieces (Well, a personal opinion)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top 10 Songs With Multiple Distinct Melodies

For something a little different, here’s an homage to those songs that get stuck in your head, then get stuck in your head for a second time due to their brilliant ability to craft multiple memorable melodies.

10. Paranoid Android – Radiohead

This is so low (along with the next 3 songs) due to the fact it’s technically in parts, which makes it slightly less impressive, but still an incredible melodic masterclass

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF8khJ7P4Wg

9. A Day In The Life – The Beatles

Another in the same boat is this wonderful Beatles track, with one of the most memorable bridges in music history

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-Q9D4dcYng

8. You and Me – Damon  Albarn ft. Brian Eno

There’ll be a theme of Damon in this list (purely because of personal bias) but this is another 2 part song, the second melody towards the end is as catchy as it is emotional

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7XdqfD9xSY

7. Sunset – Kate Bush

One you may not have heard, but this 6 minute long gem has a gorgeous up tempo melody change towards the end of the song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqBOJUeGJCk

6. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

Don’t believe me? Just listen. The verses have a hook, the pre-chorus has a hook, this whole song is hook after distinct hook. Pop gold.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0

5. With or Without You – U2

We all know and sing the title lyric time and again, but the repeated hook of “and you give yourself away” is perhaps even more catchy to those who know the tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmSdTa9kaiQ

4. Sweet Song – blur

A sad song by Damon about sacked guitarist Graham Coxon, and the verses have a beautiful melodic quality, but it jumps to a new level once we hit the conclusion of the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSq6P-WeFSg

3. The Lady Don’t Mind – Talking Heads

David Byrne has proven himself to be a musical genius, and this hodge-podge of sounds and noise is glorious, but the nerd in every music lover can do nothing but admire the 2 or 3 completely addictive vocal melodies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3WdLZGMeqA

2. Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz

Surprise, Damon again. This time it’s a well known song, with the rapped lyrics being melodic, the bass line and “feel good” are even more so, and the slower soft interlude is the icing on the cake. Perfection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8Qp38qT-xI

1. Girls on the Avenue – Richard Clapton

This was the inspiration for this list, it’s quite marvellous. From line to line in the chorus the melody changes, and the verse is just as catchy. A bit of a golden oldie but catchy as anything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kknV4BRq8yU

-AJ Lienert

Top 10 Multiple Melody Masterpieces (Well, a personal opinion)

The Big Day’s Out of Ideas

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The Big Day’s Out of Ideas

As long as I’ve been passionate about music, festivals of multiple genres and multiple sizes have been a figurative cornerstone of pleasing the masses. They’re in essence a great idea, a lineup of crowd pulling, live staple musicians performing for crowds of adoring fans. It’s a win-win, people get lots of music, big artists get packed crowds (usually of illegal sizes but lets not talk about that), and lesser known artists get the leftovers of the big crowds.

But there is a downside. Perhaps it’s just me being a bit butthurt about missing out on tickets to Splendour (because I’m a die hard blur fanboy), it seems that they’re clutching on straws right now. You’ve seen how boring and repetitive cycles of artists have brought the downfall of once loved festivals, a-la Big Day Out. For a while now,  perhaps since Soundwaves 2013 festival which included super heavyweights such as Metallica, Linkin Park, The Offspring and Blink-182, no festival has quite managed to reproduce this intense interest. The following years the headliners have only been partially as good, Soundgarden, System of a Down, Faith No More, not quite up to Metallica standards. And this shows, with the Perth and Adelaide shows being no more from 2014 and 2015 respectively. Although the Soundwave Touring company are expecting the 2016 festival to sell out in minutes, with nothing more than a couple of big name one offs and the same looped backing lineup, I don’t think it’s the tickets that will be the ones selling out.

It’s not only a problem here in Australia either, this years Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the USA featured Florence + The Machine as a headliner, and also included Ryan Adams. Florence actually played another festival the day before they played Coachella, and are also headliners for the Glastonbury Festival, and Splendour in the Grass over here along with Ryan Adams. Along with this, Tame Impala have been booked for about every rock or alternative festival in 2015, and bands on the Warped Tour and Soundwave lineup seem to be on a bi- or tri-yearly rotation. It’s beginning to become a little predictable. Yes they try and get some of the biggest headliners they can, but really (other than a few old buggers here and there) who’s going to go to a festival to see blur, Steel Panther or Paul McCartney at a major festival nowadays. If they would, then Soundwave and Big Day Out wouldn’t be capitulating as they are now

It’s become less about an enjoyable festival for the patrons and more about money. They try and pack the lineup with as many obvious ticket sellers as possible, leading to three years of interesting before a full circle to the same repeated strain of bands with a tweenie-bopper audience. Yes I’m looking at you “Hardcore/Metalcore” bands and Pop/Punk acts. To me, it just doesn’t provide any interest. I’d rather pay $100 to see a concert from one of the headline acts and go to a smaller more boutique festival to see some of the other acts. On the same hand, there’s not much point in paying some ridiculous $300 odd for a ticket to see a headliner who’s 200 metres in front of you, with thousands of people obscuring the view with a pot smoke haze and polluting your ears with off key screaming of the songs being performed. It’s become an overcrowded, music ruining and money laundering service that people seem to buy into year after year. Come on guys, make it better for us, 100 grand profit is the same amount if you spend $100 000 or $1 000 000, and I’d rather a more intimate, better run and less crowded festival rather than a money obsessed, predictable and sardine packed corporate event.

Oh, and of course because of these festivals down under, some of the headliners aren’t even playing their own shows in the closest cities. But that’s again just me being a butthurt blur fanboy because I missed out on Splendour tickets. Not too keen on going to Sydney just to see them, just play Brisbane already. But no one likes Brisbane anymore, the music just isn’t big enough, only Violent Soho, The Bee Gees, Powderfinger etc…

-AJ Lienert

The Big Day’s Out of Ideas

My Terracotta Heart – Finally a look into a fragile (blu)relationship

My Terracotta HeartWith the release of their first new album in 12 years all but a week from being released, we thought that the 3 official tracks that they leaked from the record would be it until the 27th of April. Oh how wrong we were.

I’m talking about Blur, the iconic British alternative rock band, who have just announced they’ll be revisiting Australia for the first time since 1997 as headliners for Splendour in the Grass, have released another official audio track for the song “My Terracotta Heart”, and well, it’s not too bad.

Following the release of the upbeat, pop hook filled “Go Out”, the typically whingey and much reviled “There Are Too Many Of Us” and the britpop infused “Lonesome Street”, the fourth and perhaps this time final official release before the drop date is, to quote Albarn “A breath of fresh air”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbvKJEHUXXw

With an opening drum beat which harkens back to the crunching and oriental and african inspired percussion used on their 2003 release Think Tank, it’s clear that the four piece has again evolved since their reformation. The smooth and mellow vocal tone that Damon uses is almost completely typical of him today, a very similar sound was used in his debut solo album Everyday Robots. However where the vocals are sound, the entrance of a gloriously and exquisitely arpeggiated guitar refrain from returning guitarist Coxon adds another level of melancholy to the track. Alex James continues to impress with his funk inspired bass work, showing that none of the unrecognised talent he has has been lost. The verses are very so-so, you could take almost any of Albarn’s work from the past decade and chop and change verses and stick it into this song. However one thing that differentiates the verses is the slightly syncopated electric piano and strings which while more than mildly discomforting show us that the experimental side of the band has continued to blossom.

Then we hit the chorus, and what a beautifully constructed chorus it is. A simple but gorgeously memorable melody, perfectly atmospheric guitar work and an inspired and perfectly fitted bass line lift the song to a level you probably weren’t expecting after the first 30 seconds. It only continues, with some perfectly poignant sound bites of sirens are inserted, typically socially anal like Damon. However unlike a lot of blur’s work, which is more socially conscious and directly relatable, “My Terracotta Heart” is a very personal song. This level of personal lyricism is something that is almost a new territory for the band, only a couple of times prior has a song ever seemed so directly related to one of the band members. Even when they wrote songs about themselves it never seemed very convincing, but the feeling behind everything in this track is another great sign that the four have experienced a lot since they broke up, and it’s all coming back.

And then there’s Coxon’s solo, or perhaps anti-solo, towards the end of the track. It’s hauntingly beautiful, almost just as they took it straight from what should have appeared on Think Tank, but maybe the wait was worth it. It seems the band is more in tune with each other, the perfectly crafted lyrics which are deeply touching, the calories rhythm section that seem to know precisely what each other is doing, and then the outdo, which is near perfect, but to me the continuing of the choir like harmonising and the slight arpeggiated guitar seems very gimmick-y and unnecessary.

It is funny though how a song that seems so dull and boring at first listen can get so easily stuck in your head like no-ones business, and I think that every one of the tracks I’ve listened to from The Magic Whip so far has been just like that. I listened to it and sighed a resounding “Meh”, until I wake up the next morning and the damned thing can’t leave my head. They’re perfectly crafted alternative rock tracks, and boy if the rest of the album is as ridiculously catchy after 18 hours as these 4 tracks are then lord help us all.

But that would be good, an interesting rock album would be nice once in a while (I’m looking at you Arctic Monkeys)

-AJLienert

My Terracotta Heart – Finally a look into a fragile (blu)relationship

2015 – Yay or Nay

2015: The Year of Big Returns

Strangers_to_Ourselves_cover

As far as comebacks go, I can’t think of many years in our recent history where Alternative Rock Music has had as much of a comeback as billed for 2015. This might be purely because that’s more my neck of the woods than say Hip-Hop or Europop, but that being said the calibre of returning artists releasing new music this year, or announcing comebacks, has been incredible.

Now starting off with some of the announcements of new records and releases, amongst the biggest names are by far and away Radiohead, Blur and Modest Mouse, with Gorillaz announcing a scheduled for 2016. Modest Mouse released their first album in 6 years earlier in the year, Strangers to Ourselves was the beginning of a year full of surprises. Then Blur suddenly announced they were releasing their first new record as a 4 piece band for 16 years on the 27th April, and The Magic Whip promises to be a alternative BritPop gem based on the 3 released songs from the album. Then of course the one and only Radiohead hinted that they’ve got an album in the works for later this year. Of course there’s no release date or title as far, but that’s just Radiohead isn’t it.

But perhaps even bigger, is the touring schedules of some of the biggest names of the 90’s alternative scene, together in concert, burying hatchets and combining talents. The two huge colabs that come to mind are The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson together, and Primus and Dinosaur Jr. For anyone who either grew up in the 90’s or is anti-hipster enough to listen to something that’s a bit out-of-the-loop then this pairing must be an absolute mouth watering sensation for you. I know my mouth is even thinking about it.

And even more so now with the recent announcement of the Splendour in The Grass lineup – more to follow a bit later – with blur returning, Johnny Marr of The Smiths Fame and Modest Mouse recency, and The Wombats returning to the country that loves them as one of their own. This might be (or definitely is) a case of one AJ being a nostalgic suck up to the great music of yesteryear, but we all have to be sometimes, don’t we?

Bring on the rest of what 2015 has to (re)offer.

-AJ Lienert

2015 – Yay or Nay