bad seeds - The I-94 Bar
I have actually lost count of the number of times I’ve played this. I keep doing it. In the car, on the computer and around the house. Bloody hell it’s good.
Ever find yourself in the situation where you’re presented with a band with an unpromising name, an enigmatic if not daft cd title which, upon listening, you are so transported and delighted with that you play the item over and over in amazed disbelief, discovering as you go, humming and singing around the room, that the band have been in existence for quite some time and have five more LPs to their name and you paw miserably at your spartan wallet, realising that the next pay packet will have to do..?
Yes, Black Moose is one of those albums. Like listening to a smart blend of Lovecraft, R.E. Howard and the darkest American blues and country while reading Grimm to a terrified child. It’s as real as reality, and as tangible as imagination.
Hugo Race makes a point
Adelaide's Wheatsheaf Hotel (aka the Wheaty) is one of those modernised, forgotten pubs with pricey but excellent wines and beers. Local families bring their kids and they run amuck.
There is a beer garden, but few people smoke (which I can’t understand). Coffee and hot chocolates are available at the bar. There are no pokies and no ATM (you withdraw at the bar). They have exhibitions of art, photography, hairdressing and whisky tasting.
The back room (where bands play) is essentially a newish tin shed with a ceiling, lights, formica tables and period chairs, and everyone squashes in somehow.
Multi-instrumentalist and hypnotic crooner, Hugo Race, returns home to Australia in June and July, fresh from an intense wave of European solo headline concerts in support of his latest EP "Ophans".
The five-city tour will include dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania.
Race delivers a unique take on experimental blues, folk and dark-edge, dragging inspiration from artists the likes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground and Wilco.
His EP is credcited to Hugo Race Fatalists, the collaboration between Race and Italian instrumental gurus, Sacri Cuori , and is said to create "ground-breaking, intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock".
Lax Charisma photo
Alexa Clayton-Jones and I went out to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last night at Sydney's voluminous and brand new International Convention Centre.
It blows my mind that for a few weeks in 1984, I played in the Bad Seeds, and I’m remembering bouncing around Europe in an old GMC wagon and some of the more colourful venues we played.
For an Australian, Jack Saint comes across as Warsaw's own version of Tex "The Everyman" Perkins crossed with Sir Nicholas Cave. If that means he's destined to star in a country and western stage show and become a conjoined twin to Warren Ellis, so be it, but it's a meeting of the musical minds that we're talking about.
Jack Saint sure sounds like took advantage of the lifting of the Iron Curtain to sip deep at the well of St Nick and his Seeds and (more relevantly) the Beasts of Bourbon. "Girl What You Looking For?" sounds like it could have fallen off "Sour Mash", the 1988 Beasts record where Tex and the boys got all bent out of shape over Captain Beefheart.
"Girl...?" changes direction four times over its course with Wolf's repeated jagged guitar figure the familiar reference point. Jack Saint (the singer) intones/preaches like Jeffrey Lee Pierce. The band's cover of The Gun Club's "Stranger In Our Town" is a dead giveaway of another influence.
Guess who's coming to dinner? Kid Congo Powers (right) and the Pink Monkey Birds.
Kid Congo Powers’ musical career is a lens through which can be seen some of the most intense and evocative music of the last 40 years.
Born Brian Tristan in the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente, Kid Congo Powers famously met Jeffrey Lee Pierce in the line at a Pere Ubu concert. Pierce was the president of the LA chapter of the Blondie Fan Club; Powers was the president of local chapter of The Ramones Fan Club. Pierce recruited Powers to join his fledgling band, Creeping Ritual, later to become The Gun Club.
In 1980 Powers joined psychobilly band The Cramps, who’d recently moved to LA from New York (it was Cramps lead singer Lux Interior who bestowed Brian Tristan with the moniker Kid Congo Powers).
From the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.
“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.
I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.
We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.
And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.
First time I laid my tired eyes on the impactful, dark, visually striking, elemental art work of Hieronymous Bogs, I knew he had come to some of the same conclusions about life and death as I had.
Like a candle flickering in the dark, his prophetic folkart, found object assemblages, and iconic religious alters are invested with a compassion and humility one seldom sees, nowadays. His multimedia sculptures and paintings are filled with visceral, primordial, intimate terror and sadness, gratitude and grace, and his music has that same kind of rawness and naked vulnerability, beat poet bravery, and Cohen like melancholy.
If you see him in his big hat, hitch-hiking on the side of the lonesome highway, with a crow on his shoulder and bluebirds nesting in his beard, pick him up, and he will humbly regale you with vividly spun, purplish tales of poignant observations and quiet awakenings.
Dig it: “The Spirit” is a five star album and Hugo Race and the True Spirit will be touring it through Europe, from West to East, from October 2015 onwards. There will be a second record from the recording sessions (not featured here): “False Idols” will appear in October. When you get the vinyl of “True Spirit” there’s a CD included; hell, that’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned.
Brace yourselves, Europeans. Buy tickets - and Hugo’s back catalogue. You’re in for a treat. No gig will be the same: “Each time we play one of our songs the interpretation changes because of the sound - the sound is always morphing, it’s always coming through us and we’re changing all the time and open to the fact that we’re channeling music as much as we’re playing it. Performance blurs those lines…”, Hugo explains.
Longtime Bad Seeds pianist Conway Savage has passed away, aged 58. Close friends confirmed his passing on Facebook.
The Melbourne-based former Feral Dinosaurs and Happy Orphans member joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1990 and had been a fixture until last year’s US tour when illness forced him to step down. Savage was operated on for brain cancer and is understood to have been in care recently.
He guested on many albums by the likes of ex-GoBetween Robert Forster, Kim Salmon, Dave Graney, former Triffids member David McComb and Spencer P. Jones.
Savage has a string of solo releases and collaborations to his credit. His most recent EP was 2010’s “Pussy’s Bow”.
Carbie Warbie photo
So why is a free downloadable single such a significant item?
Because it’s not just a cheaper snapshot into an artist’s work. It can be an Instagram into an imaginary, lush and extraordinary world. The single worships the song itself, transforms it from one more song in a sequence (as with a CD or LP) and one more song in a set, and draws the song into greater, more concentrated focus.
Which means, when you hear something labelled a single, if it’s an old single, like from before the 1990s, you really do have to imagine the new owner playing the song over and over.