The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
THE LUCKSMITHS + HUMBLE BEE "FAREWELL TOUR" @ JIVE / Friday August 14th 2009
If there's one type of music that I've yet to find a true affinity for it's indie pop. It's just not me. All that carefree, innocent, happy go lucky, heart on your sleeve, summer fun frolicking shit? I just can't get my head around it! I mean I've dabble in it for sure, plenty of times I've tried, I've dipped my toes in it and dared myself to dive into that wide blue yonder but I always chicken out at the last minute. I understand it's a leap of faith and I just can't take that plunge, I just don't trust its good intentions! For I'm a cynical and sarcastic sort. I'm a sharp witted, film noir, anti-hero assassin, schooled in the ways of Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, David Duchovny and Bill Murray. I've been brought up on science, on science fiction, on observation and experimentation, I weight everything up with a "healthy level" of sceptism. I've studied art. I know how the image is manipulated, how subjectivity and objectivity is intertwined and indistinguishable. I'm aware of the power of propaganda. All that politics, religion, culture and history: they're all lies maaan, they all have their own fucked up agendas! Is the glass half full or empty? who cares!? let's order another round and drink till the sun comes up! I dress in black, I have a wicked sense of humour to match. I laugh all the time, I laugh out loud, because I KNOW full well the world is completely screwed and yet I'm still alive! BWAAAHAHAHAHA TAKE THAT YOU FUCKERS!! And when I consider all that chaos and carnage swirling about me like a black cloud in this hilarious dystopian sci-fi that we still call a "civilised society", it's hard to appreciate the finer qualities of a cute and clunky husband and wife duo singing "Na-na-na-na-na" with a five string acoustic. Pfft.. give me my Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, Radiohead or Interpol. Thrash it out loud! THEY'RE my fucking soundtrack. All this indie pop!? let's leave that to the deluded fools who still believe in Santa Claus and Walt Disney!
Still with all that being said, I DO occassionally wonder if I'm missing something here. Day by day the world may be getting darker, more disturbed, more depressingly fucked up as it inches ever closer to its mutually assured destruction and yet they're still out there singing and dancing and smashing their tambourines without a care in the world. Weird I know!? Maybe those wide eyed hippies really ARE more enlightened than I am? Maybe they're "knowingly" naive. Maybe they DO see the world like I do but they simply reject it outright for a world of their own. A world seen through the eyes of a child but with the mind of an adult that can truly appreciate it more, drinking that sweet life to the fullest knowing full well how fleeting it can be? Maybe!? I mean we can't be all that different when you think about it. I'm still insane enough to believe in this fucked up music scene, to live this insane lifestyle, to live this impossible dream. Clearly I can't be all THAT cynical, that sarcastic, that downright pessimistic, how could I not see it!? there's STILL hope duuudes! Every day awesome indie pop bands simply slip me by, bands whispered in hushed tones, bands of legend, bands like The Lucksmiths, but not tonight! We're gonna hunt them down, we're gonna hunt them with sniper scopes, pick them apart with pliers and we're gonna see what makes them tick.. OH YES! WE WILL DRINK THAT JOY IF IT DOWNRIGHT KILLS US!! WOOOHEHeHAhAHA!!
HUMBLE BEE (****) myspace :: According to the whimsical "creation myth" that surrounds them, our opening act simply came about by "happy accident". One lazy afternoon they simply threw some twee lyrics together, a tiny glockenspiel, a lightly strummed guitar, it was perfect from the get go and they've never looked back. Instant indie pop success story! A million homespun records sold! Wall to wall rapturous applause and accolades! Mothers and daughters fainting in the street! Such mindnumbing splendiferous wonder.. whoaaa shit! ENCORE! ENCORE!! Of course the truth of the matter is likely far more convoluted. I can picture it now: a lengthy and laboured process involving countless auditions, rehearsals, heated arguments, hysterical screaming, thrown furniture, knife fights, followed by a series of hastily dug gravesites where Carly Whittaker, lead singer and chief instigator (and part-time serial killer) buried all her other luckless collaborators before finally settling upon the infamous Ben Revi to complete the picture (he of far too many punchlines written at his expense by yours truly) where undoubtedly true genius was then born. Yup indie pop IS a grisly business, make no mistakes about it, few people ever realise just how much blood and toil goes into sounding THIS effortless; still its nice to believe in the dream isn't it? Humble Bee. Predominantly a lightly dappled folk duo between Carly Whittaker: librarian, blogger, zinester, photographer, collector, poet and singer (or at least according to their myspace) and Ben Revi (who obviously needs no introduction after all the hell I've put HIM through) they've carved out a cute-as-pie niche for themselves composing heartfelt songs about falling in and out of love that'll be sure to feature heavily in the next ipod commercial, episode of Grey's Anatomy or saccharin sweet romcom starring Katherine Heigl fretting over shoes. Yup in many ways you could compare them to a 21st century update of Frente!, Feist or maybe even French singer songwriter SoKo and as much as you may be gouging your eyes out screaming over all the pastel possibilities in twee folk and pop that involves, they actually DO compare quite favourably. Their compositions are effortlessly sparse, blissfully simply and emotionally forthright. Their debut album "When I Should Be Sleeping", recorded in various home studios throughout 2008 (and sold tonight for the princely sum of $5) is nothing short of an indie pop masterpiece. And tonight to really seal the deal, and in no less the "happy accident" form they've assembled an orchestra of sorts: featuring various members from their OTHER band Cheer Advisory Council (plus what appears to be a twelve year old girl playing the keys.. wuh!?) to kill us all with kindness. Overall it feels like less of a live gig and more like a witty conversation shared between band members and audience (helped no doubt by the lengthy between song banter that almost threatens to overtake the setlist) and yet it still sets the mood beautifully. In every way they're like Christmas Day and we're like the proverbial Grinch who's heart swells three times its tiny size in it's awestruck presence. Encore indeed!
THE LUCKSMITHS (*****) myspace :: And as for our headlining act? Living indie pop legends for the past seventeen years? Releasing eight albums, three mini-albums and three b-sides and rarities compilations? Each and every one of their songs ripe with such bountiful wealth and whimsy on the very minutia of the human condition, lauded around the world as true heroes of the Melbourne music scene? YEAAAS!! Well guess what? up until their final farewell tour tonight I knew absolutely NOTHING about them! Awesome huh!? I may possess a wealth of musical riches collected from well over nine hundred and eighty artists worldwide, over ten thousand songs, a veritable record library to rival any radio station and yet I'm STILL utterly ignorant of shit as near brilliant as this? I know, clearly I'm the last person who should ever be reviewing them. I should probably stop now before I completely embarass myself, but has this ever stopped me before? FUCK NO!! The Lucksmiths. As much as I can gather they're one of those "best kept secrets" that every subgenre and scene keeps close at hand like a secret handshake, the sort of band that gets whispered in hushed tones and bowed reverence, the sort of band somebody in the know only tells you about after you've paid your dues listening to all the other insufferable dredges that surround them. In fact if it weren't for indie pop afficionado Anthony Wignall (from The Keepsakes) recommending them to me in the first place I wouldn't even be here at their farewell gig tonight! (damn, better late than ever huh!?). The Lucksmiths. As much as I can gather they're a mix between The Shins, The Smiths and a little bit of They Might Be Giants; possessing a similarly ramshackle approach to songwriting as other blissfully shambolic American indie acts such as Modest Mouse and Tapes 'N Tapes. Every song here is a "happy accident", smashed out with itchy trigger aplomb in the space of two to three minutes. The instrumentation is loose, almost comically so. An upright drumkit smashed within an inch of its life by their lead singer Tali White. Sinewy guitar chords from Marty Donald on the left. Punch drunk bass rhythms from Marky Monnone on the right. Whilst "recent" addition Chris Crouch (joining the band in 2004) hides out in the back alternating between guitar, keys and melodica. The real charm here is how haphazardly yet naturally it all comes to together. It takes pride in all its rough hewn edges. There's something very human about them in that respect that instantly appeals. Quite like Humble Bee before them their extended two hour set tonight is a two way conversation, a collaboration, rather than a band simply screaming from a pulpit. It instantly puts you at ease in quite the same way as seeing your parents laughing drunk at a dinner party for the first time makes you instantly realise that not only are they NOT infallible but they're just like you. Although it's only the first time I've ever seen them (and ironically the last) it still feels like I've known them my entire life. Maybe that right there is why indie pop is so appealing, yet so often maligned. It may be deceptively simple and accessible, but it's also the most refreshingly honest. As long as we've got goofy shit like THIS to bring us all together? life really ain't all that bad!
Still as I've said before I'm the last person who should be reviewing this band. I mean what would I know, I'm just a tourist!? No, if you REALLY want to know what this band meant for SO many people, simply read it from the smiling faces around you. Like Carly Whittaker here for example: such simple joy, it really warms the heart doesn't it!? I mean sure she might simply be ecstatic because she's chopped up Ben Revi into teeny tiny meaty pieces, wrapping them up in individual freezer bags, stuffed him into one of the dumpsters behind Jive (triggering the alarms and all) and no one was EVER the wiser.. but it could just be the music too! no really, think about it!
Or what about these two? The one on the left you'll be sure to recognise everytime The Keepsakes or the 20th Century Graduates play a gig around Adelaide. But even if you didn't, there's a good chance you would've heard that iconic battle cry of hers tonight. You know? that exciteable shrill cacophony: quite like two cats fighting outside your bedroom window at 3AM crossfaded with that of a throttled chicken!? Yup, that's her alright! isn't she the best!? (hmmm I wonder if Carly's ever met her?). As for the other one, I'm pretty sure she blacked out ages ago and is simply being propped upright for a "photo opportunity" but hey at least she sure LOOKS happy to be here!
Obviously they weren't the only ones either. Jive was packed with the faithful from far and wide, all here to pay their last respects (fuck is that the same girl from the last photo? where IS that fire extinguisher when I need it!?). Every one of them with a story to share over just how much this band meant to them personally and how much they changed their lives for the better. Sure most of it was utterly unintellible and rife with expletives but still *sniff* it really touched me maaan!
And there we have it. Coming in at a little under two hours and covering a whole host of highlights throughout their illustrious career (of which I clearly knew nothing about) The Lucksmith's career had finally come to an close. That was it folks! Soak it up, breathe deep those rich musty fumes, that's history being made! And yet as much as they may've passed from this world into the world of endless sideprojects, spinoffs, reunion tours and best of compilations: something tells me they'll still live on indefinitely in the memory of all the people who were here this night. Just as I'll be sure to catch up on all their back catalogue in the following weeks and months and realise just how much of this live review amounted to little more than misinformed gibberish.. YEAAAS!!
12:31AM - Yup, it's been a strange feeling in Jive alright. The air thick with a bittersweet sorrow and yet also an overwhelming sense of joy and jubilation over a life well lived. Or in other words it was just like I'd stumbled into someone else's funeral (or more like an Irish wake), fallen arse backwards into the coffin, ate all the finger food and then made a pass at the widow (*sniff* so young, so soooon!!). Either way, it was about time I made my hasty exit. So without drawing any further attention to myself I slipped through the side doors, triggered all the exit sirens, almost tripped over the blood trail to the dumpsters (as a furry mass of alley cats and dogs feasted on what remained of my bad joke at Ben Revi's expense) and I quietly crept off into the night.
12:41AM - Feeling deeply enriched by all that I'd experienced, maybe a little bit moved, maybe a little bit "emotional" in its passing (oh wait I just farted.. never mind!), I felt compelled to fuck it all up by continuing to document what I did for the rest of the night. Because nothing quite screams "significance" and "importance" to the Adelaide music scene at large than a nonsensical sequence featuring me and my fuckup friends getting exceedingly more drunk at The Ed Castle.
1:23AM - Stumbling into the deepest, darkest, most depressingly dour room in all the pub (no not that wacky storeroom upstairs where they still keep that portrait of former state premiere Don Dunstan.. the other one) I managed to catch the tail end of Thunderclaw's set. Although I didn't recognise them initially as apparently they were performing a "once off" clownshit insane freak jam complete with vocals (yes.. vocals!). I know! I totally bet all but five of you out there have NO FREAKING CLUE what I'm on about either! (AH HAAA!! who's the ignorant one NOW huh!?). So instead of providing you with any circumstantial evidence proving that any of that shit EVER actually happened: I'll instead provide you with this photo of The Ed Castle's headlining act These Hands Could Separate The Sky. A photo that could otherwise be whimsically entitled: "how many dirge metallers does it take to change a lightbulb? fuck 'em, they can play in the dark!".. hiiilarity!
2:10AM - Still despite stumbling into The Ed Castle equivalent of that scene out of the third Lord Of The Rings movie where Frodo almost gets eaten by a giant spider and somehow crawling out of it alive again, I was still in a surprisingly chipper mood: as signified here by me standing by the bar wearing an entirely ridiculous straw hat. And no I don't have the foggiest clue where I got it from, who I got it from, or WHY I'm wearing it in the first place but shit damn do I look festive!
2:17AM - It was here that I stumbled upon the Strangelove DJs and accompanying entourage, quite like I always do on a Friday night whenever find myself in The Ed Castle and "accidently" pilfering as much of their beer rider as inhumanly possible (Ooops! I swear it's not me.. it's the OTHER guy who looks just like me!). And in all that time I've seen them in action, night after night, selecting and spinning, I always thought to myself: "no really? how fucking hard could it be!?". And so, taking matters into my own hands, I lunged at the DJ decks and simply took over. And no shit man I was cutting sick like no-one had ever cut sick before! I was so fully sick I was IN the hospital! YES!! TAKE THAT TRANSMISSION DJS! I TOTALLY OWN YOUR SHIT!! WOOOO!!
2:21AM - Little did I realise however, that not only were my headphones not "plugged in" but I was also facing in the wrong direction. And so after apologising profusely to the barstaff who's nipples I'd apparently been tweaking for the past four minutes, I slunk away from the DJ decks (with another beer pulled from Strangelove's rider *cough*) and let the professionals do their thing.
2:34AM - Yup, if ever you needed a demonstration of the Strangelove DJs at their finest then look no further than THIS shit! I mean sure Brendan ain't exactly the most adept selector, spinner, cross-fader, beat matcher, pitch matcher or scratcher. He doesn't know first thing about BPM, backspin or when to slip in that all important flanger or wah-wah but just look at him go beserk on that dancefloor! FUCK YEAAAH!! I don't know whether to call it a "spider monkey", "chicken dance" or "whoa fuck dude we're all gonna die!!" but either way you can't deny that shit spells quality!
2:49AM - Sometimes in the midst of all this hilarity as I watch Brendan climb the walls in accompanyment to the sixth consecutive Janes Addiction, Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin, Kyuss, Black Mountain whatever-the-fuck that either Azza or Josh are spinning (and I steal another beer from their rider): I almost plum forget that they used to be in a wildly popular live band called "Lady Strangelove". Yeaaah.. maybe you heard of them? they used to play a stack of shows, melt everyone's faces off, I wonder what happened with that!? Fuck it, either way they've clearly found their calling now: look at ALL their smiling faces! YEAAAS!! BEING A DJ IS THE BEST SHIT EVER!!
Which as we all know is simply my sarcastic way of saying that they've been busily recording for all this time (months? years!?), they've even added a fifth member Will Spartalis (formerly from Tokyo City Sex Shooters) and on October the 10th they'll finally be launching their second EP "Chinese Democracy" at The Ed Castle. Oh and I'm also told it'll come with a special "scratch and sniff" cover and if you lick it, well.. let's just say what Brendan is doing here would be considered a "mild reaction". Aaaah no shit I miss these freaks! How long has it been since I've seen them live? not since March!? FUCK!! No wonder half the scene went to shit this winter! (oh and the less I speak of Supermild closing early tonight the better.. seriously? 3:30AM!? what the hell duuudes!?).
I know I'm a cynical and sarcastic sort, it's my soundtrack, it's my sense of humour, but they're out there offering me an alternative. If I squint I can see them: mad extraterrestrials from a reality completely foreign and fantastical to my own yet still complimentary to it. They may live in land of sunshine, in a land of whimsy, in a land of bushy tailed freaks smashing their tambourines, playing their melodicas and singing in gang harmonies. I may laugh and think it's entirely too ridiculous. I may continue to persist with my post punk, film noir, femme-fatale, dystopian, downtempo triphop and whatever-the-fuck (especially in winter) and I may be discovering more awesome shit each day: Deerhunter, The Horrors and Bat For Lashes anyone!? YES!! but there's something so appealing in just saying "fuck it all" and choosing to be a goofy grinning optimist instead. Indie pop: it's all part of a balanced diet. For no night is ever complete without a day!