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 SECOND ANNUAL SPOZ'S RANT AWARDS / PART ONE ADELAIDE MUSIC SCENE / January - December 2009
Yup it's THAT madenning time of year again, that "blissfully" mindnumbing purgatory around Christmas to New Year's: when next to every single one of our "favourite" music sites (and maybe even a few of the shit ones) abandon all pretense in providing us with any new original content, and instead provide us with all of these fucked up end of year "best-of" retrospectives. Why? because EVERYONE LOVES a "best-of" retrospective don't they!? OOOOH SHIT YEAH WE DO!! With the possible exception of every one of you nitwits out there rolling their eyes at me right now if it weren't for the fact that you're simultaneously too bored to care. YEAAAS!! I know, believe me I know! I FEEL YOUR PAIN!! I mean shit do we really need another lamearse "best-of" retrospective? Do we really need another half baked opinion on the year that was? Do we really need another overlong "awards ceremony" to encapsulate it all (and especially from someone as wilfully ill informed as me!?) FUUUCK NO!! WE WILL NOT GLORIFY HALF BAKED NOSTALGIA!! WE WILL NOT PUBLISH A "GREATEST HITS" COMPILATION SIMPLY FOR THE EXCESSIVE WEB HITS!! WE WILL NOT STOOP TO THIS ASSININE LEVEL OF SELF CONGRATULATING DEPRAVITY!! Which is why without a hint of irony (and especially after all the endless accolades and death threats we received from The First Annual Spoz's Rant Awards last year) we're back for more THIS YEAR with "The Second Annual Spoz's Rant Awards"! Yup this is part one of three epic installments. There is so much more yet to come in celebrating the very best and worst of the year that was in 2009. Join us if you dare!
EGOMANIACAL BASTARD OF THE YEAR WINNER: MATT BANHAM / NO THROUGH ROAD There's so many awesome reasons to part of a rock band. Probably a whole lot less than there used to be (what with Billy Corgan fucking it up for the rest of us) but if nothing else it's all about being part of something bigger than yourself. Think of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, U2 and Rage Against The Machine, think of the the head exploding grandeur that is Muse: it's all about being ten foot tall and bulletproof, on a live stage, fucking about in front of tens of thousands of people and making your shit heard, better yet it's about being worshipped like a god. And nowhere else is this insanity ever more pronounced than with a lead singer who runs with it to the most ludicrous of extremes. Yup even HERE in pissy 'ol Adelaide where next to nobody knows your name (only to forget you even existed six weeks after dumping your body in a barrel of acid) we've had more than our fair share of exploding egos. Sure most of them have been an utter embarassment, but it's all part of the mad appeal: halfway between laughing with them and AT THEM? they're the ones who inspire us to join the revolution! And throughout all the shining examples we were given this year (the smaller the pond? the bigger the fish!) three of them have arguably been the loudest. The retarding depravity of Josh Moore from The Touch (look no further than THIS video to get a mad dose of that), the hysterical shitstorm of Nick "Wolfgang" Marwe from The Shiny Brights (just like Duffy Duck on acid, only madder!) and above all one Matt Banham from No Through Road: who not only is Adelaide's loudest proudest arsehole in the best and worst ways possible, but he also has the shitcrazy stage presence, the peverse depth of character and the sly self depreciating humour to sell it like nothing short of a "do or die" religion. Like the ultimate antihero he lives and breathes his band like nothing short of a demon possession. To him it's everything. Thrashing, flailing, bug-eyed, howling and shrieking with his shirt and tie askew combo, he takes on every live gig like a hostage situation, and he doesn't let go until every one of us are caught in a Stockholm induced frenzy. No mean feat mind you when he's dealing with nothing but blank "poker faces" staring back at him from venue to venue (and sometimes even at his own album launch), but he played that crowd like none other this year. Matt Banham. For being like the drunkest loudest idiot let loose on a karaoke bar from hell, only ten times more deranged? we freaking salute you!
SHRINKING VIOLET OF THE YEAR WINNER: CARLY WHITTAKER / HUMBLE BEE For every egomaniacal bastard hell bent on world domination (and an accompanying record label more than happy to bankroll them, milk them dry and ply them full of drugs until they can cash in on all the post mortem box sets.. the dream of ANY "profitable popular music venture" since 1971, 1980, 1994 and 2009) there is always the "quiet achiever" who wants nothing of this silly fame and glory game and simply has a heartfelt story to tell. A heartfelt story they're SO embarassingly shy in "telling", they need nothing short of a full backing band (and the occassional psychiatric disclaimer) to let it all out. Sad I know! Call them chronically introverted, clunky, awkward, socially inept or fashionably inert, fuck it call them what you will, you STILL can't deny the wealth of haunting beauty these proverbial wallflowers have to offer us if only we can but dig them out of the dirt, prop them up on a shiny pedestal for the whole world to see, and then fuck them up for life with thousands upon thousands of screaming fans and exploding pyrotechnics. FUCK YEAAAH!! I mean sure, sometimes it can all turn out SO horribly wrong: lest we forget what happened to Rivers Cuomo between Weezer albums "Pinkerton" to "Raditude" (or worse still Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins) but these are merely "cautionary tales" at best diverting us from where true beauty resides: in human frailty made both achingly personal and universal to us all. In the Adelaide scene alone there were clearly far too many of these "meek mice" to which such lofty praise could be bestowed this year, the irony being? they were almost impossible to find! (especially if you're dealing with Rocket Bar's laughable approximation of "stage lighting"). But with THESE three individuals: no matter how well they tried to hide themselves, they were almost impossible to ignore. Take Dan Crannitch from Leader Cheetah (in all his world weariness) and Peter Spiker from Quiet Child (in all his nerdiness). Both proved undeniable masters in expressing all this heartfelt introversion and then some (the sound of Pete's voice alone was enough to make a grown man weep with joy!) but where the real magic was to be found this year was in the unassuming presence of one Carly Whittaker from Humble Bee. Looking for all the world like a humble librarian, a kindergarten teacher, a doting 1950's housewife, or a recent escapee from a Jesus Freak cult (no really, check out that last dress of hers: it totally has polka dots on it!) she wowed us all with the simple dumbfounding simplicity of her songwriting. I mean sure, next to every single one of those "songs" was either her bitching about an ex boyfriend or pining over an unrequited love; but the way she expressed them ever so sweetly and innocently? like a teeny tiny broken heart animated by Walt Disney, voiced by Angie Hart and shuffled in front of a teenie weenie microphone!? I swear you had to made of stone NOT to be moved by it. MADE OF STONE!! Carly Whittaker? no shit, having the love life of a crash test dummy never sounded so sweet!
AXE MURDERER OF THE YEAR WINNER: JOE RUSSO / KYTES OF OMAR It's not easy being a guitarist, I shit you not. Especially when you're wasting away in some fucked up "fashion band" with four or more members, jamming that same simple chord progression night after night (when you KNOW you could be doing so much more if ever they'd let you rip shit into a solo), and you're playing "second banana" to that OTHER talentless fuckwit hogging the limelight!? Yeaaah you know the one: that same preening jackass who gets all the favourable press, the glossy photo ops, the hero worship, and more opportunities for mindblowing monkey sex with "eye gougingly hot groupies" than they could possibly ever handle in one lifetime without shattering a pelvis or getting a hideous STD named after them? No really, they even put the combined exploits of Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger and Russell Brand to shame don't they!? (and that last fuckwit wasn't even IN a real band and he's STILL pulling strong!? FUUUCK OFF!!). Yup everyone remembers the lead singer, but do they ever spare a thought for the humble guitarist? OF COURSE THEY DON'T! All those poor miserable sods ever get are crater faced dweebs foaming over tabulature, effects pedals and custom builds (or worse still sloppy seconds from "you know who") and the occassional front page interview in a "technical magazine"!? pfft what a fucking joke! I mean let's face it, guitarists are the ones with the REAL TALENT aren't they!? They're the REAL REASON rock & roll was invented in the first place! Any idiot can sing vocals (and most of them don't even do that!), any moron can keep a beat or in time to a rhythm (or better yet just buy a fucking synth!). But to play the guitar takes serious talent, it takes YEAAARS of practice, you gotta be a fucking Jedi Knight to wield it in combat, and then and only then will you EVER gain the recognition you deserve!? NO SHIT!! Worse still with all these pissy indie disco, acoustic folk, pop and hiphop acts running riot right now!? we're witness to a dying art! Which is why we need to give credit to this shit before it's too late. Especially here in the Adelaide scene where we don't even need to know how to beatmatch a fucking turntable to score! And its with THESE three proud individuals, these representatives of the many, that we owe our debt of gratitude in 2009. For there can be no argument that both Craig Lewis from Booster (the tireless oldskool traditionalist) and Josh Van Looy from Lady Strangelove (the shitcrazy psychedelic assassin) were true adepts in their chosen field, pushing those frontiers ever further, excelling where few others dared to tread, they made it into an artform beyond reproach! But with the Adelaide scene declaring their talents all but obselete this year? it took one brave soul to take that fight BACK to the frontlines: Joe Russo from Kytes Of Omar. No shit, don't let his metrosexually ambiguous appearance fool you (in other words: his passing resemblance to George Michael) for he was a true acolyte of the Jedi Faith! He made that guitar his own. He didn't just accept defeat in the face of overwhelming odds, he didn't know the meaning! He simply leapt into that enemy territory, that "indie disco no man's land" again and again, he shredded that shit like no other, and he made us all proud! OH YES, HE MADE THAT SPASTIC TWIZZLE STICK COOL AGAIN!! I mean sure other guitarists may have been more technically proficient, but for being SO fearless in fighting that war against the impossible tide? Joe Russo we freaking salute you!
THE SPASTIC FLEA AWARD WINNER: TOM KRIEG / THE BATTERY KIDS As much as I've observed over the years (and I readily admit I've been drunk for most of them) there's a real secret to mastering the bass guitar and it's got absolutely nothing to do with any kind of technical proficiency or artistry. In fact it's got absolutely nothing to do with any kind of "playing" ability at all. No shit short of a FEW notable exceptions? nobody's paying ANY attention to your sound; what with the lead singer and the guitarist perpetually caught in that lame pissing contest over who's got the bigger ego. Simply find the darkest corner to hide in, pop and lock with the drummer, crank that rubberband groove over and over, drink all the band's beer rider (oh we ALL know it's you!) and you're home free duuude! I mean fuck, you know all of.. what? three pissy little bass chords!? And you still believe you're what? the next Les Claypool!? OH OF COURSE YOU DO!! But it's not your ability to PLAY a bass guitar that matters.. OOOH FUCK NO!! (especially if you're in a band that ISN'T a funk metal outfit). It's all about how batshit insane you can LOOK with it, it's all about the circus performance! And it's here that the true measure of ANY bass player can be found (especially as a gig photographer). From the token "hot female" with a four string (aaaah that cliche never gets old I swear!) to the spastic spider monkey with too much energy to spare, THIS is where it's truly at! And the Adelaide scene certaintly wasn't short of providing us with all these "over achievers" in abundance in 2009. From the needlessly violent pendulum swinging antics of Jett Hicks from Mayfield, or the exaggerated over reach of Jon Wignall from The Keepsakes (and the 20th Century Graduates), they especially never failed to amuse me (in the best and worst ways possible). But real true "winner" this year was Tom Krieg from The Battery Kids. No shit! He didn't just play that bass like it was a musical instrument, he gave us a full blown theatrical performance that would easily rival Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and the entire cast of The Muppet Show joining forces on an explosive acid trip. Constantly chasing his bass from one end of the stage to the other, flailing, thrashing, shrieking, flapping his arms about like a demented albatross attempting to achieve flight: it was damn near hypnotising to watch him work (as much as it made me want to attack him with a fire extinguisher to make it all stop). Tom Krieg. Yup I have no fucking clue what he's "on": whether it's Red Bull, meth amphetamines, angel dust, cocaine, speed, wasabi laced with gunpowder or whether he's actually on fire AND crawling with insects at the same time and we simply can't see it all!? either way.. what a freaking legend!
WHACKJOB OF THE YEAR WINNER: RYAN MANOLAKIS / LIKE LEAVES / COOKIE BAKER / BROTHERSISTER Yup it's happened AGAIN for a second year running: Ryan Manolakis is Spoz's Rant's "Whackjob Of The Year". I maan no shit, WHO DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING!? Just as we all know that he'll simply KEEP on winning this fucked up award for years to come, so much so we might as well just rename it to "The Award That Ryan Manolakis Keeps On Winning" and be done with it, because THAT'S how much it's obviously been rigged in his favour.. FUUUCK!! Still this isn't to say that he's without compare in the Adelaide scene, far from it. We were upto our oscillating earlobes in fuckoff awesome drummers in 2009, mark my words! Take our first nominee Renee Andrighetto of The Amcats for example. You can't deny the metronomic instinct she brings to a kit: her sly telepathy in pounding that "pacemaker" of hers? how she switches it up instinctually to match Shane McIntyre's unpredictable chord changes? like drumming is her first language and English is her second!? it's truly mesmerising shit! Or what about the booming presence of Sean Kemp: front and centre as both drummer and lead singer for Booster, like a pounding elephant stampede rendered in two sticks and a kick, a born entertainer in slapstick style and execution. No shit, he's been an Adelaide institution (emphasis on the mental) for well over a decade, almost two now! Yup that's two truly diabolical drummers in anyone's books, that's stiff competition! It's just that Ryan Manolakis has been playing in so many damn bands this year, and I mean he was freaking EVERYWHERE, that he was simply impossible to ignore (fuck maaan, he even filled in for Bing Goes To Monaco for their EP launch!). So in coverage alone? he's got this shit nailed! Of course some might say if only the infamous Tony Mitolo WASN'T simultaneously on tour (and thus off the "radar" for most of the year) with three wildly successful acts: The Swiss, Empire Of The Sun and Pnau this contest would be an absolute bloodbath. But even so, Ryan still has the articulate skill and the effortless artistry to back it all up. For one there's no such thing as simply "keeping a beat" with this freak. From the lightest of percussive fills to a fullblown psychotic meltdown: all of it is detailed in such an intricate array of itchy triggered accents it's like a five course auditory feast for the ages. Second he manages to achieve all the above without breaking out into a sweat. It's the trippiest shit to watch! It's like Neo clean Agent Smith's clock at the end of the first Matrix movie crossed with a meerkat. He's quite possibly a robot, Pinocchio's puppet with a kung-fu grip, or a human helicopter with a poker face stare.. either way he's an assassin at his craft. Ryan Manolakis. Yup let it be known, bring a lynch mob if need be, he's the one to beat in 2010!
THE EXPENDABLE BEZ AWARD WINNER: LARISSA PERRY / 20TH CENTURY GRADUATES Now I know what you're all thinking, but don't let the "accusatory" tone of this next category fool you, it's merely a sly nod and a knowing wink to your esteemed genius. No really! Think of it as a badge of honour, the dream of many, one that comes with all the "glory" and little or NONE of the "effort", and one that the rest of us are OH SO JEALOUS that you've been awarded with too (and I should know, as for a brief period back in 2007 I held this title as Wolf & Cub wildly expendable fifth member.. YEAAAS!!). Yup named in honour of the infamous Mark "Bez" Berry of The Happy Mondays: reknown for his freaky style of dancing, his use of the maracas and his high tolerance for hallucinogenic drugs (so much so that when a music journalist once asked him WHY he took so many drugs, he simply replied with "because it's my job"). It's an award given to the ultimate "life of the party" or team mascot in any given Adelaide band over the past year or so, who's actual contribution as a musician IN said band is all but a mystery (like say many members of Central Deli Band back in the day). Yup whether it be through one's mad proficiency with the bongos, the tambourine, the maracas, or the cowbell: you know you've REALLY cashed in on it, if you accidently wind up in a band that gets signed and you get to do it "professionally". As such we'd usually assume this shit would immediately go to Artyom Zinoviev from Fire! Santa Rosa Fire! in every year he's eligible: as he very much exemplifies all the enthusiasm, the energy and the insanity with little or none of the contribution that this award entails (which is why I always piss myself laughing everytime I hear the twinkling keyboards in "Animal Spirit Guide".. genius!!). But as much as he distinguished himself AGAIN this year (and how!), he was hardly the only contender. For how could we forget the equally dubious contribution that Luke McKay gave to the Femme Fatales as their "guitarist", only for his guitar to invariably malfunction in EVERY SINGLE GIG THEY PLAYED, leaving him to flail comically about on stage like a fish out of water. But all this pales in comparison to Larissa Perry from 20th Century Graduates. Oh yes, she sets new standards in "window dressing", she's an inspiration to us all! Not only in her ability to both sing backup vocals, play the xylophone, melodica and smash the shit out of that tambourine, but to do all the above not only with such giddy abandon (so much so she brightens up any room she performs in), but in such a way that she provides almost nothing to the sound. It's freaking brilliant! She's the ultimate team mascot, cheerleader and exploding burst of sunshine all rolled into one, she's utterly expendable in every way that she's utterly vital to their stage presence. No shit! Larissa Perry. We may have no fucking clue what it is exactly that you do up there, but trust me we're ever so grateful all the same!
THE SCENE STEALER AWARD WINNER: JULIET HUNTER / LIKE LEAVES Which brings us to THIS award, the flipside of the "expendable" coin: with the insanely talented musician who's (sometimes late) inclusion to your lineup makes for such a wild improvement to the sound, style and stage presence of your band it makes everyone wonder how in the hell you managed to survive without them (although we could easily argue the same about Larissa Perry if we weren't otherwise making fun of her). Of course there's SO many famous examples throughout history to illustrate this point. For instance where would The Beatles be without Ringo Starr? (yeaaah ok dumb example!). Or what about the Black Eyed Peas without Stacy Ann "Fergie" Ferguson!? (yeeeouch, even WORSE an example.. no really I swear they were an awesome band with Bridging The Gap until SHE came along and fucked everything up!). Or wait.. what about Faith No More be if Mike Patton hadn't replaced Chuck Mosley as lead? Or Underworld before Darren Emerson joined them in 1991!? Yup it's probably a rare example when it actually WORKS midway through an established career, but when it does? it's the best shit ever! And in 2009 there were no shortage of these unique additions bringing extra colour and vibrancy to the Adelaide scene (in no small part thanks to so many bands breaking up at the end of 2008). For instance how could we forget Clemi Wetherall's (albeit shortlived) inclusion to The Keepsakes? Sure it was a "blink and you'll miss it" affair when it happened, but thanks to her wild array of added guitar, tambourine, trumpet, melodica and backing vocals she truly brought that band's sound to life; so much so they almost sound like a festering bucket of shit without her (or if you know.. that's at ALL possible with Anthony Wignall's zen for genius songwriting *ahem*). Or what about Dan Cava's insane contribution to Your Motive For!? after six years he joined as if out of nowhere, thrashed that guitar with the maddest blues solos you'll ever damn near hear, and elevated that band to a whole new level; no shit it was genius! But when it truly comes to masterful additions in 2009, look no further than when Juliet Hunter (former bass player from Artax Mission) joined Like Leaves. I mean how in the hell did they EVER live without her? I mean seriously!? Although she joined them in November the year before, it was in THIS one that she truly made her impact felt. With a masterful mixture of haunting violin (both serene and distorted) and ethereal otherworldly singing voice (very much reminiscent of Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane) she took what was already a brilliant band to begin with and made them ever so much MORE face meltingly fuckoff sublime. I mean you only need look to when they debuted "Mercy Sound" at Leader Cheetah's album launch, or their song codenamed "Bazooka" they unleashed at their last gig for 2009 to gain a sense of what I'm getting at here. No really! Go listen to both of them now, take all the time (and all the illicit substances) you need, and I dare you NOT to be moved by it. Juliet Hunter. She may not be from this planet, galaxy, or even this dimension, but aren't we so glad she took the trip for us all!?
Yup and so there we have it. Part one of an utterly unnecessary "best-of" retrospective proving just how eye gougingly awesome the Adelaide scene was in 2009 (just as long as you edited out all the shit bits), with two more glorious installments yet to come. Which one of you nitwits will win next? who will be nominated? who will be glaringly omitted? WHO CARES!? Stay tuned and find out!