Sunday, 14 August 2011

LOST ANIMAL “demo” Albert's Basement

The pleasure of observing actual careers emerge, grow and change is, to my mind just about the most satisfying thing about being a music fan. Watching a band take those stumbling first steps, seeing them fill with piss and vinegar and really work out what it is they're doing, mature, change, go in new directions, find things out about themselves and apply that to music – hell yeah.
One chap whose stabs at song I've dipped in and out of over some years is Geelong-bred Jarrod Quarrell who has grown over a lengthy period of time into one of the musicians I truly admire in Australia. There truly aren't all that many these days – I used to care about music a lot more than I do now, and I really need it to be great to make an impact. If you're not The Stabs or Batrider, you're going to have to do a lot to impress me at all, and you better not be Alex and The Ramps.
Or you could be Lost Animal.

It was funny, hearing of the demise of St Helen's. I'm not in Melbourne much and I want to make sure I see the right band when I do, so ending up at a some trendy muso party was going to be a risk, but off I went and was lucky enough to be at the debut gig of Beaches. They were pretty damn good but not that fantastic the night I saw them, but there's good stuff in that outfit. I think they've been over-cheered a bit by the Melbourne music Mafia, but that's scarcely their fault; it's just that things that are fine, but not that good, are getting lauded as being brilliant when they aren't but might be, as if potential is all one needs. This is bullshit, your band has to actually get there to worthy of all the shouting, and I worry that some acts will get too hyped and fuck themselves before time (I'm looking at YOU Woollen Kits. Don't listen to anyone, just write some more songs. Don't listen to me either, just keep doing exactly what you're doing and don't think you're shit hot just yet). Beaches are, nevertheless, a fine band who I wish a long career to (and maybe longer than some of the other bands they're in).

The same party night I saw Beaches though, I saw St Helens.

My lord, did I see St Helens.
Now, I was already a fan of The New Season, and indeed, an EP of theirs was my most played release of 2006. The song writing, the lyrics, the delivery – as good as it gets, really. One foot in classic rock, one the truth, The new Season could hit it. I had seen them a hundred years prior, in ancient Hobart days, with a line-up that really only played in Hobart, and liked fine then, but that CD in a cream sleeve was a revelation and a half – I loved it. When I heard of St Helen's I was interested, but seeing them confirmed it - Jarrod Quarrell is a force. I damn near wet myself with excitement and really could not understadn why so much attention was being paid to Beaches when there was this thing to get knocked down and mugged by, but my guess was that they'd be seen before and everyone was thrilled by the fresh thing, so I guess that's okay. You get a pass.

I eventually scored the album and it was all there – the vocals, the breathy masculinity haunts all of Quarrell's work – some music isn't gendered some is, and this is music by a dude, with dude's issues – it's not bogged down in maleness but there's no mistaking the air of sex and loss in the lyrical content. I mean, it ain't Hemingway, but there is a bit of Bukowski hanging around.It was fine stuff and the next thing i knew, that's all she wrote. No band. Done. Okay.

Which, finally leaves me with a demo cassette of songs released by Albert's Basement. Who sent me this and another pile of neat enough stuff that got shunted off to a box while I did an art project that involved travelliung the hinterlands of Tasmania in a truck then going to South East Asia to kind of recover from said proejct, that was hard for a lot of reasons. I'll tell you over a beer. A lot of beer.

This cassette is Jarrod Quarrell solo, under the name Lost Animal, and never has something been better named because this beautiful, surly music does indeed have a pulse and a bit of a defensive snarl, that doesn't want to let you in but just has to, carrying you along on smart, emotional hookd and the dissections of life as it really is I've come to expect from Quarrell.

I do expect the guy to be good these days, yeah. A proven track record is even less of a reason to relax and this is where Lost Animal really does it for me – there was nothing wrong at all with St Helen's. It was great, in fact. And I'm sure the Lost Animal material could have been done just fine in that combination, but that is not what it's about – they had to be this way to get them right, and so, Jarrod just moves on then and there, because it's not the band or my career, it's making the best music you can the right way.

And this crappy demo is just that – the best music made the right way.

I am fairly keen for an album, but I assure you, these songs hit the damn spot.
Get this, get an album, go see the guy. 
I have a feeling it'll be completely fantastic.

Monday, 23 May 2011

THE WIZAR'D Pathways Into Darkness (Barbarian Wrath)

Sometimes it's important that a band is from my home town or that I have some connection to them, and sometimes it's not. Increasingly I just don't have much time for the local Hobart scene, not that I dislike it by any means, it's just a bit hard to keep up with it all, especially when a night out costs so damn much. I pick the things I like to see and hope I gamble correctly. Shitty internet recordings and bad You Tube clips can confuse me far more than they can help, and sometimes I'd rather sit in the front bar of The Brisbane Hotel and talk to someone who isn't an idiot (although that is bloody hard).

Over the last while, something that did pop up on my radar as being pretty good locally has been The Wizar'd. Yes, there is a ridiculous apostrophe there. It's a clue. Most metal bands have a ridiculous umlaut. The Wizar'd aren't most metal bands, at least not Hobart metal Bands. In fact, to my jaded ears, they're probably the best one in town right now, having a good sense of the ridiculous nature of metal whilst being completely into it. Live, they're a hoot. Over the top costumes and pants around ankles in a glorious Carry-On tradition, mixed up with a venomous hatred of just about everyone else in Hobart makes for excellent entertainment. The sound is pretty traditional Doom, referencing all the touchstones – St. Vitus, The Obsessed, Pentagram, Witchfinder General and so on, with a good solid dollop of Evil Satanic Forces and Hatred in the lyrical department, but in an entirely 70s Uk Horror style. You get the feeling they watch more movies than they listen to metal records, which could only be a good thing in the end. There's a bit of punk attitude chucked in as well as a nod towards early glam rock – think the big riffs of T- Rex as opposed to the cartoon twattery of 80s Sunset Strip Lingerie Club shite (I am NEVER going to get that shit. Not even ironically. I could mount an argument that it's not even metal but I'll leave that one for now).
It's all skilfully blended, with the band's great strength being song writing and arrangement – none of them strike me as being particularly great players, but they have a good idea of what they want to sound like and do it very nicely thank you. Fine live band. Nice and hateful,  just the way it should be.  

The recording nearly does the live act justice, but not quite, and while it's a competent job, it's not the same. I've got a bit of trouble with the vast amount of echo on the vocals, which seems a bit overused and un-necessary – the snarling sneer inherent in the live delivery is a bit swamped and I miss it, I gotta say. The songs could have been thicker in sound overall but the clean aspect really brings out the solos which are for the most part pretty fun. What you do get is a good grasp of the song writing and whilst the influences are worn on the sleeve, I'd rather listen to this than a whole lot of Nu Punk, Nu metal or Nu anything. It's good angry music that makes me want to drink beer and tease goths, and that must be a good thing. If you live in Hobart, go see The Wizar'd next chance you get, simply because a good band is a good thing, and buy the album just to hear competent song writing, because it's bloody rare in any genre these days. Don't believe me? Nick off over here and there's a couple of mp3s, although given that it's Doom, and somewaht Bass-y,  they are a bit lame sonically, although you'll certainly get the idea and feel compelled to buy the album.