Triple J recently finished their countdown of the Hottest 100 Australian Albums as voted by their listeners, so I thought I’d write a bit about my own (ten) votes. Coming up with this list made me realise just how much of the music I listen to is from theUSA and UK, but we sure make some decent sounds here too. To kick things off I’ll start right in my home town of Perth …
Have you ever had a friend that was a little unhinged? I bet they were pretty entertaining. Except that occasionally you’d catch a glimpse through the wacky façade and realise they were suffering. You’d feel sorry for them and perhaps try to help. Or maybe you’d distance yourself from them as you realise just how emotionally exhausting being a true friend to them would be.
Well, that’s what this album reminds me of, and it’s not just because the music suffers from split-personality disorder (the band are masters of juxtaposing sweet pop melodies against bone-crushingly heavy riffs).
As the first few tracks cruise by its clear these boys are going to show you a great time. They even remind you that they know how to party way better than you (“No one showed you how to party properly, did they?”). So you’d better just listen up and join in. Sure, it was a bit weird when one of them started screaming at you (“Help me! Help me! Help me!”), but that’s just their way of welcoming you, right? Except then things get a little weird. On Forget All these Fuckss the party ends up on the wrong side of a drug bust, then one of your hosts threatens to cut of someone’s legs (The Legs), and soon enough these fun maniacs are revealed to be dangerous, even murderous ones (Undisciplined).
In real life, now would be the time to get out of there. Maybe join the witness protection programme and move to Canada. But because you’re listening from the safety of your own home (or car or whatever) it only draws you in further. Plus you can’t help but feel for these characters, especially on the more tender moments like Nothing Can Touch Me Now and Bullets, which sound like the pleas of a madman trying to convince a loved one that he’s not a threat to anyone (or perhaps just trying to convince himself).
THE HIT SONG: Bullets
MY FAVOURITE: Bish Bosh II: The Bosh Bosh (which strangely, is also the title of one of their albums)
I had the privilege of seeing Snowman play their first ever show (their first show under that moniker anyway) and I was instantly hooked. Until that point my only exposure to relatively unknown Perthbands had been the handful that had played at my high school, and they’d all seemed pretty rubbish. Snowman however, were really good. And weird. And incredibly energetic. And … weird. It suddenly occurred to me that not all local bands were a waste of time after all.
During the next three years I attended their shows regularly and waited eagerly for their debut album. When the release date was announced I knew exactly what songs should be on it. But I was in for a surprise. Throwing the disc on, I was greeted with a brief sample of an opera singer followed by lush strings and a softly crooning voice – far from the hyperactive rock’n’roll that was the bands’ bread and butter. As I listened to the rest I also found that many of my live favourites had been omitted in favour of new material.
However it didn’t take long for me to realise that this was as brilliant an album as I could have hoped. The Black Tide, the aforementioned opening track, is a dreamy ballad of a party animal finally stopping and questioning his lifestyle (“If you’ve wasted precious time on women and wine, and the drugs have left you blind”). It makes the rest of the album seem like a flashback from that point, most notably album highlight You Are A Casino, which throws the listener headlong into the fast times that the protagonist is now lamenting (“Drink to get drunk. Drunk as a skunk!”). The dark moods and horror themes that follow serve as madness and hallucinations as the drugs catch up with our story teller, until the penultimate track, Wormwood, where his mind falls apart in a crescendo of rhythmic screams. It’s then that we again hear The Black Tide through the bedlam, suggesting that the story has come full circle.
Of course, this is just my interpretation of an album that was probably never meant to have an overarching concept, and it’s the music that counts. Luckily the only part that lets the whole down in this respect is the closing track, The Curse, which contains some of the beauty and mood of the opening track but it’s far too long and drudging.
THE HIT SONG: You Are A Casino
MY FAVOURITE: You Are A Casino followed by Blood Money
Well, I only got around to two of ten albums this week. I think I will give myself a bit of freedom with this blog, so if something takes my interest in the next week, part 2 of the list may be deferred for another week. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what you think of my choices and give your own.