Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interview: Yves Klein Blue for Tom Magazine

Interview and Review.
For Tom Magazine.

You can’t tell from listening to it, but Yves Klein Blue front man Michael Tomlinson completed their debut record, Ragged and Ecstatic, from the toilet of a pokey flat in downtown Los Angeles. Tomlinson, who hid in the toilet with an acoustic guitar at 2am so he wouldn’t wake anyone else, says he is "often surprised by the material I can come up with while sitting on the toilet."

The band followed producer Kevin Augunas, and found themselves isolated in a 2-room flat, ten minutes from Fairfax Studios, where they spent three months recording. "We would have gone anywhere that Kevin was, we were really attracted to what he’d done with other groups, like Cold War Kids," Tomlinson says of their time in LA. "There was nothing for us to do there but focus on the songs, there were no distractions. Because of that, it turned into something much more than I ever thought it would."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feature: 'Grace around the world' for Tom Magazine

For Tom Magazine.
Grace Around The World

Jeff Buckley’s tragic death at the untimely age of thirty-one, back in 1997, left thousands of fans devastated. None more so, however, than Jeff’s self-proclaimed biggest fan, Mary Guibert, his mother. As this year marks the 15th anniversary of Buckley’s esteemed Grace, we chat with the woman who has dedicated the last twelve years of her life to preserving Jeff’s legacy. Guibert is the executive producer of a CD/DVD of Buckley’s Grace, performed live at venues across the globe, which has just hit shelves. Grace Around the World may be Guibert’s latest pet project, but she’s been responsible for every post-humus Buckley release, from the incomplete record, Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk, to the documentary of his life to be released next year.

"We knew from the very beginning that some of the footage existed, but they were stones without relation," Guibert says of her son’s concert footage. "But as folks started cleaning out their closets, going through boxes and saying ‘Do I really need this cassette anymore?’, footage started to show up of performances and interviews, and we knew we could make a cohesive programme."

Guibert says that Grace Around the World is mainly for previous Buckley fans, but she won’t rule out the possibility of the release drawing in new listeners. "It’s not going to be selling millions of copies like a new release would, however, it’s a special occasion and I don’t think you ever outgrow Jeff," Guibert says. "The guys who discovered him when they were 17 and are now in their twenties still listen to Jeff, the guys that discovered him in ‘94 in their thirties have turned their teenage kids on to him now. If anything his fan base has grown over the last twelve years."

Review: 'Journal for Plague Lovers' by Manic Street Preachers for Tom Magazine

For Tom Magazine.
Journal for Plague Lovers (Sony)

Welsh rockers, Manic Street Preachers are back with a fantastic ninth studio release, built from material left behind by lyricist and rhythm guitarist, Richey Edwards, mere weeks before his 1995 disappearance. Edwards was officially declared dead in 2008, and this record, using his brilliant, often heavy and morose lyrics, is a stunning tribute to his genius. Journal for Plague Lovers is at times witty and retro-tinged, as well as wonderfully despairing. During certain tracks it is discernable that the group have taken Edwards lyrics and attempted to fit music around them, and occasionally the lyrics feel squashed and ill fitting. Aside from that one complaint, the record is touching and clever.

‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’ is a witty, comical track that asks all the big questions of life - some too rude to mention here. This Brit-pop infused rock track impresses, as the intelligence of Edward’s lyricism is discovered, "Mummy, what’s a Sex Pistol?" Another standout track is the almost disturbing, ‘Virginia State Epileptic Colony’, an over-the-top, ballsy comment on the crudeness of mental health systems. The track is heavier, with darkly brilliant lyrics and no-holds-barred rock.

The album ends with what can be perceived (although, it is just speculation) to be a suicide note from Edwards. The lyrics to ‘William’s Last Words’, which are hauntingly gorgeous, certainly read like one, and some members of the band haven’t ruled this out. The track is steady, quiet and heart-breakingly beautiful. The album is work a listen, if not just for this one gem, that will linger with you long after the record ends.

(By Anna Angel)

Review: 'Inshalla' by Eskimo Joe for Tom Magazine

For Tom Magazine.
Inshalla (Warner Music)

Eskimo Joe saw international success with their third release, Black Fingernails, Red Wine, but how does their highly anticipated follow-up, Inshalla, compare? This time around the band have enlisted the help of Brit, Gil Norton to produce this record in Byron Bay. The Perth band dabble with louder and softer tunes, but never stray too far from their winning, signature style. Why would they? The record consists of some strong moments, peppered with blander, filler tracks. Overall, it’s sure to placate Eskimo Joe fans, and cement their growing popularity in the international market.

The record opens with lead single, ‘Foreign Land’, an appealing, catchy rock tune with oddly infectious infusions of folk music. ‘Losing Friends Over Love’ is a perfectly radio-friendly, wonderfully upbeat rock track, ‘How did everything go wrong/ we all just try to carry on’. ‘The Sound of Your Heart’ and ‘Please Elise’ are examples of the gentle, yet upbeat rock ballads that make up Inshalla, fusing desperate croons with crowd-pleasing choruses.
(Anna Angel)

Review: 'Million Dollar Sex Party' by X & Hell for Tom Magazine

For Tom Magazine.
Million Dollar Sex Party (Solid State/Illusive)

Melbourne-based rap duo X & Hell try their hand at infusing their style with dance, soul and pop influences. The result is some fun and varied tracks, that never feels overly repetitive. X & Hell’s sound is complimented nicely by the addition of synth, and classic pop beats. This is not, despite the friendly sound, an album headed for tweenage iPods and over-play on generic radio stations. If the lyrics are listened to, you’ll find yourself nodding your head along to tunes littered with intense profanities, with some pretty questionable subject matters; classic sex, drugs and...rap. Despite the occasional cringe at overt sexual innuendo, or homophobic reference, it’s still easy listening.

The title track is a furious upbeat collaboration with Paris Wells. X & Hell explore the general shitness of life as a starving, would-be rap artist, demanding that one day they get their deserved fame, or as they like to call it, ‘I want my million dollar sex party!’ Another standout track is the lovechild of cheesy synth and classic rap, ‘My Fkn Hat’. The song makes for hilarious listening, telling the tale of a man with a bald patch who refuses to take off his hat in public. If that alone doesn’t draw you in, the chorus of, ‘no, I won’t take my motherfuckin’ hat off,’ is a killer.
(Anna Angel)

Review: 'RE: Generations' by Nat King Cole for Tom Magazine

For Tom Magazine.
Tribute Album: RE: Generations (Capitol/EMI)

A bevy of contemporary musicians try their hand at remixing tracks from jazz giant Nat King Cole’s catalogue, on this ambitious compilation, RE: Generations. The idea behind this record is genius’ take some of the world’s hottest contemporary acts, like Cut Chemist and TV on the Radio, and let them run loose with a musical legend. The only downfall of this record, is that in trying to mix Cole’s sound with as many genres as possible, from reggae, to techno, it’s hit and miss as to what works (and a lot of it does) and what really, really, doesn’t. Re: Generations is a wonderful testament to Cole’s prolific work, and the influence modern music can find in him.

Some of the tracks, which take on a Latin, or jazzy feel, still capture the basic spirit and tone of Cole’s sound, with subtle, fun differences. Cole’s daughter, Natalie Cole, does a wonderful job on ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’, their voices work beautifully together, and the upbeat jazz tunes complete the picture. Some of the collaborating artists push genre boundaries with a number of winning tracks, and some bizarre mash-ups. Cut Chemist’s effort, ‘Day In Day Out’, fuses techno (complete with record scratches and breakdowns) with Cole’s smooth vocals. Unfortunately, either something is missing, or there’s too much going on, as the track ends up feeling hectic, and just a little odd. ‘Walkin’ My Baby Back Home’, featuring hip hop group, The Roots, maintains an old-school feel, despite rap breakdowns, as they manage to meet Cole with modern hip hop. Another standout track is ‘Hit That Jive Jack’, produced by Souldiggaz, and featuring Izza Kizza. Cole’s recognisable vocals melt into contemporary, upbeat hip hop/dance: blend until smooth, and add a pinch of kick-ass rhythm.

(Anna Angel)