POL ARIS UNLEASHED
LOUIS THEROUX TALKS ADDICTION AND HOPE HOLLYWOOD'S PROBLEMS GO BEYOND JUST HARVEY WEINSTEIN AL SO INSIDE: WE EZE R , JULIE N BAKE R , M ARK Y R A MONE , BULLY, HOLLY THROSBY, BE E MOVIE AND MUCH MORE!
in this issue what you’ll find inside…
Back To Business
Polaris are the most exciting hardcore act in Australia
22-24 Julien Baker on her heartbreaking new record
Halt And Catch Fire
28-30 Hollywood Is Burning
Too Many Zooz
18-19 Sounds Like…
Is It Time To Break Up With Morrissey?
Out & About
Drawn Out, Horoscope
“The first time I ever went to Australia, as far away as I could possible be from home, there were people talking to me about the record.” (22-24)
“Halt was significantly angrier and rougher and less contemplative than any of its contemporaries.”
37-38 Gig guide
the frontline With Brandon John, Nathan Jolly and Joseph Earp ISSUE 728: Wednesday November 1, 2017 PRINT & DIGITAL EDITOR: Joseph Earp firstname.lastname@example.org NEWS DIRECTOR: Nathan Jolly SUB EDITOR: Belinda Quinn NEWS: Nathan Jolly, Tyler Jenke, Brandon John ART DIRECTOR: Sarah Bryant PHOTOGRAPHER: Ashley Mar
WEDDING BELLS The City of Sydney has passed a motion that will allow same-sex couples to get married for free in a number of the city’s most prized parks and facilities, if same-sex marriage is legalised. The offer will hold for 100 days after the law is passed (Turnbull has stated he will aim to legislate before Thursday December 7) which will hopefully mean the city will be flooded with
ADVERTISING: Josh Burrows - 0411 025 674 email@example.com PUBLISHER: Seventh Street Media CEO, SEVENTH STREET MEDIA: Luke Girgis - luke.girgis@seventhstreet. media MANAGING EDITOR: Poppy Reid firstname.lastname@example.org THE GODFATHER: BnJ GIG GUIDE COORDINATOR: Kenneth Liong - email@example.com REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS: Arca Bayburt, Lars Brandle, Tanja Brinks Toubro, Alex Chetverikov, Max Jacobson, Emily Gibb, Emily Meller, Adam Norris, Holly Pereira, Daniel Prior, Natalie Rogers, Erin Rooney, Anna Rose, Spencer Scott, Natalie Salvo, Aaron Streatfeild, Augustus Welby, Zanda Wilson, David James Young Please send mail NOT ACCOUNTS direct to this NEW address Level 2, 9-13 Bibby St, Chiswick NSW 2046 EDITORIAL POLICY: The views and opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher, editors or staff of the BRAG. ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE: Carrie Huang - firstname.lastname@example.org (02) 9713 9269 Level 2, 9-13 Bibby St, Chiswick NSW 2046 DEADLINES: Editorial: Friday 12pm (no extensions) Ad bookings: Friday 5pm (no extensions) Finished art: No later than 2pm Monday Ad cancellations: Friday 4pm Deadlines are strictly adhered to. Published by Seventh Street Media Pty Ltd All content copyrighted to Seventh Street Media 2017 DISTRIBUTION: Wanna get the BRAG? Email email@example.com PRINTED BY SPOTPRESS: spotpress.com.au 24 – 26 Lilian Fowler Place, Marrickville NSW 2204 follow us:
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TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT Austin City Limits has broken outta Texas and galloped across the globe to launch in Sydney as Sydney City Limits, a massive new music festival in Centennial Park. The lineup is massive too: Beck, Justice, The Libertines, Phoenix, Grace Jones, Car Seat Headrest, The Avalanches, Thundercat, Vance Joy, Dune Rats and so many more are all on the 30-strong bill. Oh, and it’s all ages, and fully licensed. The festival will be brought to Australia by the Secret Sounds team who are behind Splendour and Falls – so they know what they are doing. “Welcome to the inaugural Sydney City Limits!!” says Secret Sounds’ Jessica Ducrou in a press release announcing the festival. “As a Sydney-sider I’m super excited to bring this new event to town. Direct from Austin, Texas and the flagship Austin City Limits, sister event Sydney City Limits looks forward to presenting some of the most awesome international and Australian acts around. Offering up the best in show, it’s very much going to be a celebration of Sydney itself: the food, local artists and the community that makes it such a great place to live and visit.” It’s happening at Centennial Park on Saturday February 24.
rainbow ceremonies this summer. Clover Moore – Mayor and major arse-kicker – announced the plan on Facebook, saying: “It’s far from a given we’ll get a YES vote for marriage equality – so please make sure you post your yes before Friday this week. If the answer is a yes, we will offer free rental of halls and parks to same-sex couples who want to get married in the 100 days following amendments to the Marriage Act becoming law. We’re making this gesture in the spirit of celebration and welcoming same-sex couples to this institution, to which they have been denied access so long — we are simply doing what we can to rebalance the scales. And the day after the amendments become law – we will also work with the Sydney Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to hold a mass same-sex wedding extravaganza in Sydney Town Hall.”
FUCK DONALD TRUMP Recently, Russian protest punks Pussy Riot stormed Trump Tower in NYC dressed in their trademark balaclavas and ran to an upper floor, where they hung a massive ‘Free Sentsov’ banner from the window. Trump Tower is open to the public, so they didn’t do anything illegal, but the fuss caused the entire building to be shut down for half an hour, while staff addressed the issue. The ‘Sentsov’ in question is Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who is currently serving a 20-year terrorism charge in a Russian prison. “We remember when we were imprisoned, we received news about hundreds of activists around the world putting on balaclavas and going to the streets to support us”, the group posted on Facebook. “That was the moment we understood we are not alone. But we should not forget that even though we’ve come to the other side of the fence, there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind bars waiting for your support. We received a lot of letters, smiles, and noise from you.”
A TALE OF THREE CITIES The Greater Sydney Commission has unveiled their plan for a three-city metropolis, which will see NSW Parliament moved to Parramatta to better mirror and represent population growth and destiny. These plans are hoped to be fully realised by 2025. “What could be more logical than having our government right in the heart of the city where most of the population is based?” asked Greater Sydney Commission chief commissioner Lucy Turnbull of the ambitious
ON YER BIKE Ofo are the world’s largest bike sharing company, with ten million bicycles currently cluttering up 18 countries. The Chinese company have launched in Sydney, introducing hundreds more yellow bikes to our city streets – even though that colour is already taken by the similarly-named oBike. 200 bikes have hit the CBD streets, with a further 200 dropped in the Waverley Council area, and 200 more headed to the Inner West. There are currently over 4,000 bikes in Sydney and 60,000 people have so far downloaded either the Reddy Go or the oBike app onto their phones. Where Ofo will differ from its rivals is that it is attempting to introduce “preferred parking” zones in each area, with CCTV installed to monitor any destruction of the bikes. The bike uses a “geofence” to warn riders who try to leave the vehicles outside one of these zones – although I can’t imagine that the same people tossing bikes into rivers and planting them up trees will suddenly heed a beep on their phone. “There have been some challenges faced by other operators, but we are taking our time to do this right,” says Ofo Australia’s head of strategy, Scott Walker. “Bike share in Sydney has a really good future.” The bikes will cost $1 for half an hour.
new plans. The three cities will be Eastern City — the CBD, plus a region stretching from Macquarie Park to Kogarah — Central City (the Greater Parramatta area), and Western City, which will incorporate Camden, Campbell, Liverpool Penrith, and two new hubs to be developed around the new Western City Airport. thebrag.com
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Back To Business Music Industry News powered by The Industry Observer
With Poppy Reid and Nathan Jolly
THEY LOST THEMSELVES
INDIE EXCELLENCE A new report commissioned by the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) found independent labels generated more than $6 billion in 2016, up 6.9% from the prior year, and accounted for a 38.4% share of the global recorded music market, up slightly on 2015. The WINTEL 2017 report is the second of its kind and was compiled by British analyst Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research using data from 660 respondents, from labels and distributors in 26 countries. What
FACE UP TO THE FACTS Just when artists thought it couldn’t get any harder (re: costly) to reach their audience on social media, Facebook‘s new update is set to change the game again. In another update to its algorithm – the one that changes more often than Taylor Swift’s music direction – Facebook says it is “testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages.” Essentially, the social giant is removing content from any
Sure, Eminem has his hands full right now taking shots at politicians on his home soil, but that doesn’t mean that the NZ National party was going to be let off the hook for its blatant bite of one of his biggest hits. After the party used a dodgy copy of the Oscar-winning 2002 track ‘Lose Yourself’ in a 2014 campaign, a judge ruled in favour of Eminem’s publisher Eight Mile Style, ABC reports, awarding $NZ 600,000 (AU $535,000) with interest for the “strikingly similar” facsimile. Filed back in 2014 after the party’s election campaign ran the offending ad almost 200 times, the case was finally heard in May of this year, and the ruling today didn’t come as much surprise considering the substantial similarities between the two tracks – down to the title of the offending copy, which was even named ‘Eminem Esque’. The ruling was based on the testimony of ‘expert musicologists’ who delivered their verdicts on the similarities – and intentional differences – between the tracks, including the absence of a beat drop in the copy, and deliberately altered piano melodies. “The ear tells you ‘Eminem Esque’ sounds the same and the listener is left thinking one has come from the other,” Justice Cull added. Maybe next time they should cough up and invest in Eminem’s music instead – which is actually about to be a possibility, incidentally, with a new company trading shares in the royalties of his music like stocks. sets this apart from other studies is that its fi ndings are based on rights ownership rather than distribution, which forms the basis of the IFPI’s annual statistics feast, the Global Music Report (which replaced the Recording Industry In Numbers). According to WIN, around $1.2 billion of independent label revenue was distributed by majors or majorowned distributors in 2016, which WIN says should be attributed to the independent sector and “distorts the true picture of market value.”
Business Page from its main feed – that’s artists, brands, and even media like us. The kicker? Artists’ posts will exist in a new feed called the “Explore Feed”, meant for discovery. It’s aptly named too, a expedition into the hidden depths of the sidebar on desktop will take you there, or if you’re on mobile, it’s in the “Explore” tab on the iOS app. While Facebook has been testing the update in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, it’s adamant it won’t be rolling the update out globally yet.
GOTTA HAVE FAITH (EVEN NOW)
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Spotify photo courtesy Sorosh Tavakoli/Flickr
Recently, Channel Nine aired a very good George Michael documentary which, as is often the case after an artist’s death, was part fawning fan letter, part music biography, and part critical reappraisal of his catalogue, taking into consideration his place in the ’80s pop pantheon, his crossover to “black” radio in the U.S., and the undeniable difficulties of parlaying a
faddish teen boy band into a global solo career spanning decades. As is also often the case after one of these things airs, George Michael’s discography has flooded the iTunes charts, with the artist landing a number of albums in the past weekend’s ARIA charts. Currently, there are ten solo George Michael albums in the Top 100 charts, plus two Wham! records (albeit variations of the same record). He is occupying five spots in the top ten, and seven in the top 20.
free stuff head to: thebrag.com/freeshit
Polaris Do you love Polaris? We love Polaris. That’s why we’ve slapped them on the front cover of our magazine this week, and why we can’t stop listening to their brand new record, the anthemic and punky The Mortal Coil. From their incredible technical skill, to their confessional, heartfelt lyrics, we reckon they are one of the most important hardcore acts in Australia right now. But, here’s the million dollar question: do you want to see every single Sydney Polaris gig for the next 12 months? Of course you bloody do. And you can, by entering our competition this fortnight. Just take a snap of yourself with this copy of the BRAG, upload it to your Instagram, tag @TheBragMag, pop the hashtag #TheBragMag in the caption, and we’ll get in touch if you’ve won!
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Polaris’ Jake Steinhauser tells Genevieve Gao his band is more mature, prepared, and organised than ever
hen bassist Jake Steinhauser and drummer Daniel Furnari of Polaris bonded in high school over a love of heavy music, they had no idea that they’d be playing a European metalcore festival with their bandmates some five short years later. Indeed, although Polaris are set to head overseas this year to play the Never Say Die! Tour with an array of metal heavyweights, including Deez Nuts and Chelsea Grin, they still haven’t really wrapped their heads around their career to date, and they are, as one might expect, more than a little nervous. “We don’t really know what we’re expecting, but it’s something that we’ve been looking forward to for years now,” Steinhauser explains. “We’re anxious and wondering what it’ll be like living with other bands – but we’re equally excited to get to know them and make some friends with people we wouldn’t have otherwise. A few of those bands we respect quite a bit, so it’s exciting.” Steinhauser is unusually well equipped to deal with the rigors that come with hitting the road, and he doesn’t shudder when phrases like ‘tour van’ and ‘six shows in seven days’ get mentioned – yet. “I think my mum and dad really tried to instil the love of travel in me. It doesn’t come naturally for everybody, but it does for a lot of people. “From a young age, I saw music as a potential means for travelling to places that I wouldn’t be able to normally. Even though a tour like this will be about hopping between cities very quickly, it’s all very exciting being around so many places in a continent that I’ve spent very little time in. I guess it’s a shame that we won’t be able to do a bit of sightseeing – but travelling around with the band is its own special thing.” Steinhauser isn’t alone on that front either – his bandmates feel exactly the same way. “I’m just really excited to hear everyone’s accents, and soak up as much culture as I possibly can. Ryan [Siew, guitar] was actually saying the other day, ‘I’m really interested to see what they’ve got on different Macca’s menus.’ So we’ll probably be eating out as much as we can on the time schedule we have,” Steinhauser laughs. The Sydney quintet have slowly but steadily been kicking goals over the last few years, winning over fans with their DIY mindset – they independently released 2013’s Dichotomy EP, and have a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to the bullshit inherent in the music industry. Having laid the foundation for their signature sound – one that combines brutal breakdowns, introspective lyrics and melodic undertones – the group really began to strike a balance last year with their second EP, The Guilt & The Grief, which was acclaimed by critics, and won them a shedload of new admirers. Releasing the EP on vinyl in March also inspired the band to build up their own collections. Pulling the top records off his shelf at home, Steinhauser reflects on “listening endlessly” to Northlane’s Node and Foals’ fourth album, What Went Down, before pausing on one particular album. “Rüfüs’ 2013 album Atlas was a huge one for me. I fucking love it. I’d spent a lot of time in Cronulla that year, and was stoked that these three dudes were coming out of there and writing this really chilled out, fun-drenched music.
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wasn’t going to work. We were worried that we were going to get shut down because we were making too much noise and flying the guys over was also a huge stress.
Indeed, it was largely guitarist Rick Schneider’s influence as the band’s “predominant heavy music listener” that drove them to inject further aggression into their debut release The Mortal Coil. However, the time they spent gearing up to record was stressful for the band, and they deliberated whether or not to put Mortal Coil together overseas, before eventually choosing to instead fly out American producers Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland to oversee the process.
“We were filming music videos for the last two days, and there were lots of little road bumps where we had to think on the fly. We didn’t anticipate them, probably because we didn’t have enough foresight in the beginning … We knew it was going to be expensive to go overseas and work with the guys, and it wasn’t going to be much cheaper to bring them over here to work with us in the studio. So we were really pulling straws when we thought about hiring a place, because we weren’t sure it was going to work. But we’re very lucky that it did.”
The group also took a sizeable risk in creating a makeshift studio out of a holiday house in Mollymook. “We probably get ourselves into situations a bit haphazardly. Doing this was really stressful, because we didn’t know what was and
While being tucked away on the South Coast for three weeks allowed the group to focus on recording, the combined work and home environment also became a little stifling. “It did get a bit full-on and hard to relax in the thebrag.com
Polaris photo by Seakyu
“We probably get ourselves into situations a bit haphazardly.”
“I actually never got into my parents’ musical taste.” Steinhauser laughs. “My mum was very much into things like Kasey Chambers, which never really struck a chord with me. I was more into punk music.”
POLARIS Finding The Remedy
“From a young age, I saw music as a potential means for travelling to places that I wouldn’t be able to normally.” evenings. We’d go for walks and stuff to try and get a breath of fresh air. It was a love-hate relationship with that house. It was a hard pack up, but once it was gone and we’d reset everything up in the rooms that we’d used to track, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go home’,” Steinhauser chuckles. Not that you can sense any of that hesitancy on Mortal Coil. The record is astoundingly self-assured, with tracks like ‘The Remedy’ showing off the full force of the rising group’s impressive range. “That song actually came about very last minute in the recording process, lyrics-wise. I remember Dan [Furnari, thebrag.com
drummer] was writing the lyrics the night before, and it was something that he really wanted to write about, because I think there were a few things that we were apologetic to each other for. That was a song that we all connect back to, and it was another cathartic thing for Dan, putting all those thoughts to paper. “During the writing and even after the recording process, we’d been dropping the ball with emails and getting things that had been scheduled done on time. I think that was something where we kept trying to tell ourselves, ‘Oh we’ll get better at that’. But then when things got a bit hard, we ended up lapsing again.”
A stabilising force for the group has been their ten month strong relationship with Resist Records, one of the labels that they aspired to work with growing up. “Signing with a label, you almost think that everything’s going to change about your band from the ground up,” Steinhauser says. “But we’re the same five dudes, except we’ve just got another guy with his head screwed on – who’s been in the game for a while and knows what he’s doing – to give us advice.” What: The Mortal Coil is out Friday November 3 on Resist Records BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 9
“If I had never received my acknowledgement, I would probably to this day be ranting and raving.” and I’m fulfilling the task of having to restate myself so many times. Also, I end up saying things about myself over and over again – and I start not believing them. I read articles and think, ‘No that’s not the case; that’s a soundbite.’ So yeah, for lack of a better way of putting it: I don’t like interviews.” Pink has always had an iron-cast sense of aesthetics. That’s obvious in his music videos – technicolour curios like the clip for ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’, the single off his last record Pom Pom – and in his dress sense, which cartwheels between the dadaist and absurd and the genuinely trendy. A quick tour through his new album’s tracklist, and it seems like Pink hasn’t let his eye fog up yet: Dedicated is full of songs about bubble-gum and narcissists and witches and Santa. Oh, and Bobby Jameson of course, the record’s devotee, who was an obscure Californian singer-songwriter who never quite made it. “What I see in him is a kernel of the angst I grew up with and felt at a time before I arguably made it,” Pink says. He is drawn to Jameson’s honesty; to his crystalline, poppy songwriting; and, perhaps most importantly, to his ability to crawl back from the dead. “[Jameson] came out of nowhere back in 2007 after a long hiatus. Before that, people thought he was dead. I didn’t know about him then. I only found his blog a year ago, and I read it as though it were, like, the elixir of life, man. The way he wrote was no bullshit, telling you as it is, without any fanciful artifice … and the way he dealt with disenchantment resonated with me.”
Ariel Pink: Perpetually Provocative Ariel Pink doesn’t like interviews, he explains to Jack Cameron Stanton
“The whole album was a product of my relationship with my 8-track,” Pink says. “It’s a homecoming; it’s me reigniting the flame of my youth. There aren’t any studios anymore that are worthy of the price tag. They’re way too expensive.
His voice trails out, the crackle on the phoneline a kind of sonic ellipsis. To be honest, all this is probably to be expected: Pink has gone on the record more than once on the subject of his dislike of being interviewed. In response, some interviewers have resorted to name-calling: they’ve variously called him an “indie provocateur”, a “hermetic weirdo” and a “controversial savant”. But when asked why he hates interviews so much, his response seems to dust-bust these conflated labels. Pink is, after all, nothing if not to the point. “It’s not that I don’t like talking about myself,” Pink says. “It’s that the interview is a very frustrating experience, because people tend to ask the same questions
“I wanted to know I had an effect. I wanted to make fireworks in the form of a record.” 10 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
It’s hard to see that kind of uncertainty and fear in Pink these days. He seems safe; supremely confident. He has, after all, carved himself a nice little niche, settling into a hollow entirely of his own making, where he churn out his bizarre, oozing records without having to worry about intrusion. But he once was, if not the wide-eyed innocent frequently seen with suitcase in hand during the opening act of music biopics, then a man unused to the industry. “I thought there was never going to be an audience for me. There was little chance of anything I did having a market … If I had never received my acknowledgement, I would probably to this day be ranting and raving, like Bobby Jameson was in 2007. Bobby was a guy waiting for his first car to pull up.” Where: Oxford Art Factory When: Monday November 27 And: Dedicated To Bobby Jameson out now through Mexican Summer thebrag.com
Ariel Pink photo by Eliot Lee Hazel
hatting to Ariel Pink is a little like listening to his music: it’s tangential, borderline disorientating, but still inflected by some kind of lopsided and yet inevitable sense of conclusion. Indeed, with his halting, scrambled lines of thought, and the long pauses between question and response, there is a direct parallel between the man himself and his new record, Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, an album that feels in many ways like a return to his lo-fi, cassette-based early days.
Not that Dedicated is some glorified art project, or a creaking exercise in nostalgia. As an album, Dedicated features all the kinetic and effervescent grooves we’ve come to expect from Pink – though there are still some singsong glimmers here and there of his tirades against the modern music industry. After all, now pushing 40, Pink confesses he “isn’t a spring chicken anymore”; a sentiment expressed in the way songs wobble like geriatrics between moods.
The standard sound you can get in your house is as clean as it gets, so there’s no reason for me to go to an analogue studio to record a rock band.”
And for good reason. After all, if one wanted to, it wouldn’t be hard to draw connections between Jameson, a fallen angel of the Californian music scene, and Pink’s own growing disillusionment with an industry vanishing beneath his feet. In more ways than one, the story of Jameson forced Pink to contemplate the story of his own musical origins. “I got my first acknowledgement at age 26. Before then, it was me against the world. Nobody paid attention, nobody acknowledged me; not even my family. It was just me fixating on a juvenile and adolescent fantasy. All I needed were a couple of reviews in Uncut Magazine: a sign that I existed. I wanted to know I had an effect. I wanted to make fireworks in the form of a record.”
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“Gender dynamics are on my mind all the time.” Inspired by bands like The Breeders and Silkworm’s analogue approach to recording, Bognanno chose to engineer and mix both of Bully’s records herself at Electrical Audio, after being drawn to the quality of its analogue equipment and tape machines. “[Analogue] doesn’t present us with those options that can be kind of a distraction sometimes. It helps me to make commitments; to just kind of get things done and move on from it. It also pushes us to play really well and make sure that everybody’s giving 100 per cent in every performance, rather than replying on a computer after the fact.” Some listeners have already become convinced that Losing is about a crumbling romantic relationship, but Bognanno explains she had no intention of constructing the LP around any one particular story arc. “This record was the same as the last, in that every song is really about it’s own thing and different situation,” explains Bognanno. “I think that it’s perceived as sort of a breakup record, because it seems like it’s about a certain person in every song, but it’s not entirely. They’re all about different subject matter. Overall, there was no goal in mind or message I wanted to craft throughout the whole record as I was writing it.”
“I try and keep writing every day, just to keep those muscles moving, even though I know that they won’t all be keepers.”
Bully: More Than A Breakup Record Alicia Bognanno tells Belinda Quinn Australia is one of her favourite places on earth
ashville’s Bully are modern day pioneers when it comes to intertwining emotional sincerity and a searing garage punk sound. Led by Minnesotan born and raised native Alicia Bognanno, the band are defi ned by their lead singer’s signature scream, a sheer force of grit that propels frank lyrics over the top of her seafoam guitar’s fuzzed and distorted chords.
While their debut Feels Like was a coming-of-age record made of tight, nervy punk tracks like ‘Milkman’, ‘I 12 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
“I mean, [music is] a really good creative outlet – and it’s therapeutic,” Bognanno explains. “I really like playing live every night and I like creating something that other people can connect with.
Remember’ and ‘Brainfreeze’, their latest 12-track LP Losing takes its time. “Structurally I think the songwriting has a little bit more space. It’s not so much a couple of chords and a few minutes of real quick punk, and then it’s over.” The cool-and-collected 27-year-old Bognanno carefully weaves her identity and her craft, giving listeners the chance to hear her uncensored opinions on mental illness, American politics, sexuality and gender dynamics. Oh, and she certainly doesn’t shy away from the odd song about dud weed and homebody behaviour.
thought she’s stuck out on by writing and confronting it. “I think [Losing] sounds a little bit more mature than Feels Like,” explains Bognanno. “I mean, between the two records we had about two years of us just playing together every night, getting used to each other creatively. I think that helped us a lot,” she says of working with guitarist Clayton Parker, bassist Reece Lazarus and drummer Stewart Copeland (no, not the one from the Police). “There’s also more background vocals, there’s more harmonies… It’s a little bit happier.”
“We have a bunch of shows coming up and hopefully we’ll be on the road for the next year and a half, and then we’ll just be back in the studio, doing the same thing for the third record,” she says.
“I try and keep writing every day, just to keep those muscles moving, even though I know that they won’t all be keepers,” she says. Clearly, that practise has paid off: Losing expands on Feels Like’s nod to wired minds on ‘Running’, and songs like ‘Spiral’ are full of hurricane swirls of emotion, but there’s an added confidence to Bognanno’s lyricism; she takes control of whatever
Bognanno has a Bachelors of Science in audio engineering and was mentored by Steve Albini — the infamously grouchy engineer behind Nirvana’s In Utero — at his studio Electrical Audio in Chicago. There she proved to be one of their most promising interns, with Albini telling NME, “If everybody in the studio worked as hard as Alicia, then everybody’s records would be Number One hits.”
Will we get a visit anytime soon? “Going to Australia last year was definitely a highlight for us. It was really beautiful. None of us had ever been there before. I’m not sure when we’ll come back, but we definitely plan on it.”
As to what the third record might bring up for Bognanno, the singer claims to be unsure. “I mean, everything I’m writing about now I’m sure I’ll be sick of by the time I’m writing [the third record].” She laughs. “So it’s hard to say.”
What: Losing is out now on Sub Pop Records
Bully photo by Alysse Gafkjen
Since the release of their 2015 debut Feels Like, the now four-piece have toured relentlessly, playing major festivals such as Pitchfork Music Festival and Lollapalooza, not to mention visiting our shores for Victoria’s Meredith Music Festival. And now? “We’ve just been practicing a bunch and getting ready for the release of the record,” says Bognanno. “I feel really good about it.”
One theme that ties Feels Like to Losing is the examination of gender dynamics. While ‘Too Tough’ looks at the disparity of emotional labour in relationships (“You’re just too tough to talk it out and talk about it / You’re tryna wear me down”), ‘Seeing It’ navigates gendered violence, ending with a chaotic instrumental that appears to mimic the distress that comes part and parcel with living in a society still unsafe for women. “Gender dynamics are on my mind all the time. Yeah, definitely.
On the eve of what is likely to be Holly Throsby’s last tour for a while, she opens up to Samantha Jonscher about making music and the same-sex marriage survey
t’s not so much that Holly Throsby is many artists at once – it’s more that she is changeable in what kind of artist she wants to be. The Sydneyborn musician divides her time neatly between making solo records; touring; performing as one third of Seeker, Lover, Keeper; making children’s music; and writing novels. But whatever else she might be at any given time, there is always one thing that remains constant in Throsby’s life: reading. Ever well-prepared, Throsby has already picked out the bookshop where she will take up a day job, if she for any reason needs to someday.
“I always read a lot and if I’m writing, I read even more,” Throsby says. “It’s not the same with music – I switch off music when I’m in novel world.” And, make no mistake, this is how Throsby imagines her creative process: there is the world of the novel, and there is the world of music. Never the twain shall meet. “I can’t do music and writing at once. I can’t can sit down, write a thousand words and then practice guitar that afternoon – I’m not built that way. It’s one or the other. I feel like I need to be in one world or the other to give something the attention it needs.
Holly Throsby: Work, Work, Work
“I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities that I should have taken, in a career sense.” “They are just very different processes,” she continues. “With songs, no-one requires much of a song. If it speaks to you emotionally, you might not even know the lyrics. Songs are a moment, like: ‘Here is a small part of a thought I had among 1000 thoughts.’ Putting a novel together is much more like assembling all of those 1000 thoughts into a giant jigsaw puzzle.” Admittedly, given she is about halfway through the first draft of her follow-up to debut novel Goodwood and is in the midst of a solo tour, these split worlds are becoming harder and harder to manage. “It’s been painful to put my draft aside and come back to music, but I figure, after this tour, I’ll be finishing the book. I’m hoping that it will be released in the later end of next year, and that all in all will take me away from music for quite a while.” Not that Throsby has been locked up under self-imposed house arrest recently, toiling away on the book – she has granted herself the occasional break. Back in September for instance, she played Unity in Sydney, a night of music in support of a YES vote for marriage equality. And on this issue, Throsby’s thoughts have not changed since she penned an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2013. “Arguments for same sex marriage have remained unchanged,” she says. “Arguments against though, they have morphed into all kinds of other things. They have made this debate about safe schools, gender fluidity, trans issues…” Throsby’s solo tour sees the musician take to the stage alone in front of small-
town crowds in places as far flung as Bulli, Newcastle and Cronulla. The idea, she says, was to make the shows intimate – to make them feel more like a gathering than a gig. “It will be quite nice, I think. I just really love small-towns and smalltown life. As a family, me and my partner and my daughter all have this ongoing fantasy about moving away from the city to a small-town.” After all, regional New South Wales doesn’t just feature in her upcoming tour – it is the setting for her two novels, and a locale she spends a lot of her time thinking about. “I treat that world quite lovingly. There is a tradition in Australian fiction that sees the landscape of smaller towns as being kind of menacing, or full violence. Goodwood is full of violence, but the tone of it is quite loving.” Evidently, Throsby truly knows the world that inspired her novel. Not only does Goodwood smile down on the lives of those in small-towns (though, as she says, it does feature a pinch or two of murder), Throsby has a real ear for the voices, characters and narratives that define them. But really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Throsby has recorded a number of her albums in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands and on its South Coast, and she says that her family loves most to holiday in Australia’s “smaller places.” Perhaps small-town life will be the setting for yet another chapter in Throsby’s artistic life. “I imagine myself, old and gray,
“Songs are a moment, like: ‘Here is a small part of a thought I had among 1000 thoughts.’” thebrag.com
“Arguments for same sex marriage have remained unchanged. Arguments against though, they have morphed into all kinds of other things.” doing continuing education courses in the summer holidays – in a small-town of course – and meeting in the town hall with like-minded residents. “I’ve always been a bit like this. I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities that I should have taken, in a career sense. I always need to do what I feel like I want to do. Like, I feel like I should do another children’s album. People send me adorable letters about it, and the shows went really well – but I can’t do that until I’m really ready to do a children’s album. I think I will be ready eventually, though.” Indeed, Throsby’s wonderfully whimsical See! started as a joke that eventually became a reality. In that way, it is just another feeling that Throsby followed through on to its completion; another whim chased down by an artist who has made her career based on leaving no stone unturned. Where: The Basement When: Friday November 3 BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 13
The Clouds: Inclement Weather Jodi Phillis talks Meg Crawford through her band’s recent and longawaited resurgence
n the indie pop front, Australia had it pretty good in the ’90s, what with the success of bands like the Hummingbirds, the Falling Joys, the Earthmen, Ratcat and, of course, The Clouds. And while the criminally underrated Clouds have always had a solid cult following, these days they’re finally gathering the widespread support that they deserved way back when. Just look at their last six months: the core bandmembers, Jodi Phillis (guitar and vocals) and Trish Young (bass and vocals), guest programmed Rage; Double J had them playing host as artists in residence; both featured at this year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival; Blondie pegged the band to support their recent national tour; and Melbourne-based guitar goddess Jen Cloher nominated them as essential listening via her ‘100 Songs By Australian Women That You Have To Hear’ playlist.
“There are no venues, and what venues there are are full of pokies. The whole landscape of live music has changed.”
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A lot of the recent buzz comes off the back of their EP Zaffre, released in February. In conversation over the phone from Sydney, where she is on the ground fulfilling press obligations ahead of her band’s upcoming tour, Phillis proves pragmatic about the attention coming The Cloud’s way. “I’m just glad that it’s happening,” she says. “Take what comes: that’s all you can do really. “I guess people are excited about the bands from their youth. I get that. It’s such a different world now, with so much electronic music. I don’t know where all the new bands are. I don’t know what kind of scene there is for that. I don’t even know if it even exists in any kind of major way.”
director and cameraman, so I didn’t grew up in an everyday household. I think I just recognised from a young age that that’s what I wanted to spend my time doing; making music and art.” And indeed she has. While The Clouds are bona fide Aussie veterans, Phillis is the only member to have made a crust from it full-time across the intervening years. “I’ve remained true to the band, no matter how challenging that it is – and it is challenging. Are you married?” Phillis asks. “Try being married to three people. That’s basically it.”
She thinks for a moment. “I mean, I can see why people are latching on to the real bands that they know and love, and I can see why it’s very easy for us older bands to go out and tour: it makes people feel young again. I don’t see much filling in that space. It’s just fickle. There are no venues, and what venues there are are full of pokies. The whole landscape of live music has changed, so with bands like us, we’re lucky to be in this position, because people need us. People need live music.”
The Clouds came to pass after Peter Oxley of Sydney’s seminal post-punk outfit The Sunnyboys introduced Phillis and Young at a barbie. It was a satisfying meeting of the minds from the very outset. “We didn’t know each other; we only had mutual friends,” Phillis recalls. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’re friends, let’s start a band.’ Peter knew I was wanting to start a band and was looking for a bass player. The first thing we did was get together in Trish’s house in Newtown. We sat down and played each other songs and impressed each other. It was easy. Musically, it’s always been a very easy relationship. We understand each other’s ideas very quickly, and we don’t have to explain much.”
As much as Phillis is a music maker, she is also a music lover, and art of all forms has consumed her for decades now. “It’s just who I am,” she explains. “You grow up and you gravitate towards a certain way of life and expressing yourself. I grew up in a pretty creative family. My mother was a singer and my dad was a
All of which goes a long way towards explaining how Phillis and Trish have managed to maintain such a healthy working relationship over the years. “We can’t help it,” Phillis says. “The brand of quirky pop music that The Clouds make is just really difficult to leave behind. Trish has continued to write those kinds
“What’s wrong with me? I just need to calm the fuck down.”
“I can see why it’s very easy for us older bands to go out and tour: it makes people feel young again.” of songs ever since The Clouds, so she has a huge back catalogue of songs just ready at any moment to become Clouds songs. I kind of have to dust off the cobwebs and go back into that world a bit. It’s just that creative spark that we can easily ignite in each other.” At any point, Phillis has a shedload of projects on the hop. In addition to her own music and her work playing in several bands, she’s been recording and producing for other bands, composing a kid’s book and putting together endless scores for screen and stage. Isn’t it all a bit knackering? “I’ve been wondering if I’m bipolar or something lately, to tell you the truth. What’s wrong with me? I just need to calm the fuck down. But, I can’t, so I just keep doing this. I think as a creative person it’s quite difficult to make a living out of your art, so you just have to go where the energy and the passion is and keep trying different stuff. I have thought I should calm down and just stick to one thing for a little while, but I can’t. I love a challenge.” Where: Factory Theatre When: Saturday November 4 – Sunday November 5
Weezer: Still Full Of Raditude Holly Pereira comes up against the mercurial (read: bored and easily irritated) Scott Shriner of Weezer
ou’ve got to hand it to Weezer: even after 25 years, the altrockers are continuing to subvert the general public’s perception of their music. While they have certainly been divisive throughout their career, at the heart of their songs lies an unashamedly pop sensibility, and it’s precisely this that has given the fourpiece their stunning vitality. Not that ‘vitality’ is the first word that comes to one’s mind when talking to the band’s bassist, Scott Shriner. Given he is talking to the BRAG while his band are preparing to release Pacifi c Daydream, their eleventh album, one would assume that Shriner would be bursting at the seams with excitement. But in actuality, when the call is fi nally connected after countless delays, Shriner sounds bored of the interview before it has even begun.
Talk turns first to the album’s worth of material that preceded Pacifi c Daydream; sonic drafts that never made the light of day. Shriner, for his part, is quick to interject with a snapped clarifi cation. “Nothing in Weezer is ever scrapped,” he says tersely. “We decided to go in a different
direction, and those songs will merely be set aside for now. After the song ‘Feels Like Summer’ did well in the States, we decided to record some more songs in that vein. We thought it sounded great, in that we didn’t think it really sounded like us. The material we’ve put aside will become The Black Album, and as the title suggests, it’s a little darker.” As for the sonic inspirations behind Pacifi c Daydream, Shriner keeps his answer simple. “I’m going to say somewhere between The Beach Boys and The Clash. What’s really neat about this record is the middle eight sections, which I think are super interesting. They’re some of the coolest bridges we’ve ever had on any album. They’re usually the part of every song that I get really happy about.” Perhaps some of Shriner’s frustration comes from feeling tired of being pigeonholed. As far as he is concerned, the band is far too often thought of in a particular way, with their back catalogue in general – and their celebrated album Pinkerton in particular – used as the yardstick by which their every creative whim is judged. For Shriner then, the change of pace in production styles between Pacifi c Daydream and their previous record The White Album was very much needed; not only on a creative level, but on a personal one too. “There are a lot more effects on Rivers’ [Cuomo, lead singer] vocals on this album. Butch [Walker, producer] isn’t so attached to what he thinks
“Nothing in Weezer is ever scrapped.” thebrag.com
Weezer should sound like, or how the first two albums sounded. He’s into taking Rivers’ songs and making new statements with them. “On The White Album, our producer Jake Sinclair was such a hardcore Weezer fan from way back, so he was just like, ‘Oh no, no: you can’t do that. It doesn’t sound like you guys. You can’t put all that reverb and all those effects on Rivers’ voice. It’s not Weezer.’” Walker’s method of recording the band also leaned heavily on modern technology, and he proved quickly to be a producer unafraid to dance along the very limits of the razor’s edge. “Butch works really fast. I think I probably spent a total of 12 hours recording my parts, including all the background vocals. We never played the songs together when we recorded the album either; it was all a very new way of working for us.” When asked specifically about the themes on the album, particularly the exploration of reality and dreams, Shriner is cagey and condescending. “Who says that? Are you guessing? I don’t mean to give you a hard time,” he laughs, sourly. “I think a lot of the stories on this album come from Rivers’ personal experiences that he’s been collecting and documenting for some time. I don’t really get that reference.” Thankfully, Shriner perks up a little when discussing the band’s upcoming tour, a trip around the country that is, as far as longterm Weezer fans are concerned, long-overdue. After all, the band didn’t play in Australia for 16 years between their first visit and 2013’s Blue Album and Pinkerton retrospective tour.
“If Dave Grohl asks you to do something, who’s going to say no?” But now they’re heading back with none other than the Foo Fighters in tow, which Shriner describes as an opportunity that proved impossible to pass up. “If Dave Grohl asks you to do something, who’s going to say no? He’s such a fun guy, and I love how genuine and heartfelt he is.” As for what the band will get up to in their spare time to remain levelheaded during their busy touring schedule, Shriner reveals the secret to Weezer’s sanity is golf. “Rivers and Pat [Wilson, drummer] have been golfi ng every day, and that seems to be helping the entire band out. If those two guys are getting along, then we’re doing great.” There are a lot of people out there who haven’t been exactly convinced by Weezer’s new music; who feel that they have morphed, slowly but distinctly over the years, into something a little too fl abby, and creatively dry. But while one might not be necessarily convinced by their newer material, it is certainly clear that they are only ever going to play by their own rules. And sure, that’s set to piss some people off – but in music, as in life, it’s better to be true to yourself than live in the shadow of the past. Where: ANZ Stadium When: Saturday January 27 With: Foo Fighters And: Pacifi c Daydream out now BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 15
Marky Ramone: Too Tough To Die Living legend Marky Ramone tells David James Young he has never felt more committed to his craft
rather morbid and depressing meme did the rounds a couple of years ago in which famous album covers from the ’60s and ’70s were turned into two-part GIFs – the first being the original cover, the second being the same cover but with the deceased members of the band edited out. Perhaps the single most heartbreaking of these was one based on the Ramones’ iconic self-titled album cover. Frame one: Johnny, Tommy, Joey, and Dee Dee Ramone, side by side up against a brick wall. Frame two: An empty street and a lonesome brick wall. Although all of the original members of the Ramones are now playing the great gig in the sky, several of the group’s distinguished alumni have done everything within their power to keep the legacy alive. The most prominent of these is one Marc Steven Bell – better known, of course, as Marky Ramone, a musician who drummed for the band across two tenures, between 1978 and 1983, and from 1987 to the band’s eventual dissolution in 1996. “We were all friends,” says Ramone of the early years he played in the band, replacing drummer and producer Tommy Ramone. “I was playing in a band called Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and we were labelmates with the Ramones. When Tommy and Johnny asked me to join the group, it was a really simple thing – it couldn’t have been easier. We had a rehearsal, and soon enough I was recording Road To Ruin with them, which Tommy was producing.” Ramone would go on to record another eight albums as part of the band, and play what he approximates to be some 1700 shows. And even after the group’s split some 21 years ago, Ramone has not rested for a second – his primary focus over the course of the 2010s has been Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig, a fiery live show featuring a revolving door of veteran musicans and Ramones devotees. Ramone is the literal driving force behind the band’s live shows, which are ostensibly a tribute to the legacy of his one-time bandmates. “I feel like the guys in the band all died too young to see the fruits of their labour,” says Ramone. “A lot of the kids that come to see us play now weren’t even born when the Ramones broke up. They sing along to all of the songs – they probably know them better than some of the older guys. They always come out to see us – we played in China on this tour and there were thousands of young people there. I was amazed – at one point, they were singing even louder than we were playing! “I feel like doing these shows is a real way to bridge the generation gap.
“A lot of the kids that come to see us play now weren’t even born when the Ramones broke up.” You’ve got the people that grew up with the band and have always come out, and you’ve got the younger crowd that never got to see the Ramones and love the band now. To see them all dancing and singing together, to have that integration... It’s really good to see that.” The premise of a Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig show is as easy as one, two, three – or, more fittingly in this instance, “ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR.” If there’s a song that’s widely considered a Ramones classic, you’re gonna hear it at the show – live, loud and in your face. Ramone himself is promising as close to a classic Ramones set as you’d get if his brothers were still on the frontline with him. “We’re doing something like 36 Ramones songs. We’ve been playing all over the world, and it’s the best it’s ever sounded. I’ve had the same guys for the last two years, and we couldn’t get any tighter. We’re straight into every song with a ‘one-two-three-four’. There’s no stops. The guys all know that they have to keep up with me, and they all do their jobs really well. Everywhere we’ve played has had really nice things to say about it.” At 65, Ramone has certainly reached an age where it wouldn’t be all that out of the ordinary for him to reduce touring and keep his commitments to a minimum – especially after dedicating over 45 years to the cause. In classic punk spirit, however, the Brooklyn-born drummer is adamant about maintaining his regime; ensuring that he is still able to play at the same speed and with the same precision that he did when the Ramones were in their prime. “I wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t confident that I could still play exactly the same,” he says. “I’ve never had a problem keeping up the energy factor – I don’t smoke anymore, I stopped drinking over 30 years ago and I never did hard drugs. My exercise is going to my studio and playing drums for two hours straight, four times a week. That’s when I’m not touring, of course – when I am, I’m playing drums every night. I know our set and the songs off by heart. I don’t even need a guitarist or a bass player there.” The songs you’re going to hear, too, have been scientifically tested – at least, as scientifically as punk gets. “I have videotapes from 400 Ramones shows that I played,” says Marky. “I pick my sets by going through each of those shows and seeing what songs always got the best reactions. I want that momentum through our whole show.” Where: Manning Bar When: Thursday November 23
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“I feel like the guys in the band all died too young to see the fruits of their labour.”
Too Many Zooz: Breaking Barriers Ahead of their Australian tour, Alex Chetverikov examines the power of Too Many Zooz, and how their time playing the New York subway shaped them
estled as they are within the beating hearts of our cities, urban performers are a natural and integral element of the industrial microcosm. On any given day, and indeed on many, they play for their daily bread. For them, it’s part of an ever-changing experiment; an open (and sometimes one-sided) dialogue with society, set up in a space to share. It is, in its essence, a paid rehearsal. Nonetheless, no one is pretending busking is not damn hard work, and it does demand a particular resilience. If the pay-off is weak, it’s often a matter of picking up and relocating. But competition for coveted spots can be fierce, and there are no guarantees. Unlike more distinctly organised music spaces, the city is, after all, the most public and unpredictable platform for performance.
And there’s perhaps no greater example of busking’s storied history than that of the New York City Subway. While its relationship with authority has often been tenuous, an ease in policing, coupled with a rise in technology and the wider possibility of promotion, makes it an
attractive venue for the budding and veteran performer alike. And it’s to this sprawling, bustling transport network that hundreds of musicians and artists have made their daily pilgrimage. Their seeds of expression flow freely throughout the extensive subway arteries at all hours, spreading and pollinating a diversity of sound and culture amongst the swathes of commuters. Here, in the hallways and mezzanines of Grand Central Station, Union Station, and dozens more, performance permits aren’t required. MTA (the Metro Transportation Authority), the subway network’s governing body, even offers 350 coveted subway contracts through its Music Under New York program (MUNY). You’d scarcely find a busier or more transient environment for sharing public art, with the whole system ferrying over 5 million passengers on an average weekday. There’s a beautiful, essential dualism to it all, too, what with the buskers intimately performing in subway confines to countless New Yorkers.
It’s not exactly anything goes though. Beat cops are ultimately awkward arbiters of what constitutes art and busking. Amplification too is limited. For the three-piece Too Many Zooz, however, it’s hardly required. One of NYC Subway’s brightest and biggest recent success stories, Too Many Zooz have played together publicly every day for two years, testing, experimenting and refining their natural interplay. Where some might have folded to the temptations of a more polished sound, Too Many Zooz let the primal elements seep through in their brass-bandmeets-EDM-beats blend. Raucous bursts of Matt Doe’s trumpet punctuate the theatrics of Leo Pellegrino’s sax, whose playful baritone shrieks and gurgles – and these are but a few of the sonic inflections in the musician’s bag of tricks. They let the metaphorical animals out of the cages, and break down the imagined barrier between busker and commuter. Within their punchy, exciting and involving energy are clear Cuban, Caribbean and Arabic influences,
“Too Many Zooz let the primal elements seep through in their brass-band-meets-EDM-beats blend.” thebrag.com
“Too Many Zooz have played together publicly every day for two years, testing, experimenting and refining their natural interplay.” with the underlying restraint of house music’s rhythms keeping the beat. So it’s to little surprise that they quickly built a strong following with fellow performers and commuters, before technology took them from the train platform to the global one. A 2014 Twitter shoutout from perennial favourite Questlove was followed by a viral viewing of a Union Station performance. And they weren’t the only ones taking notice, with the trio tapped for guest spots on Beyonce’s Lemonade album being the highlight. And, with the 2016 release of album Subway Gawdz, lead single ‘Bedford’, their ode to Bedford Ave Station, and frequent returns to their beloved subway, the trio haven’t stopped returning to their underground roots, hitting up a subway that, as recent figures from overseeing body MUNY would attest, is blossoming with an as yet unseen popularity. Where: Oxford Art Factory When: Thursday November 23 BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 17
Sounds Like… NEW ALBUM AND SINGLE RELE A SES WITH JOSEPH E ARP
People are the worst. A few weeks ago, I was at a bar, and this dude ragged on me for liking the new Lorde record, Melodrama. You can imagine what he was like – drank craft beer, had a polka dot shirt open to about his navel, liked to lean back a little in his chair while he spoke. He was one of those sensitive nice guys who perpetually seems to be in the process of getting broken up with, and who scoff at you when you deign not to engage in conversations about the cinematic back catalogue of Stanley Kubrick, or why Camus’ The Stranger is better than whatever art you have had the misfortune of mentioning in their company.
Anyway, this dude was very publicly shitting on Lorde – calling her overblown, and saccharine, and all of those words that sub-par Lester Bangs types use to make themselves feel good. And everyone around the table was nodding in that lobotomised, careful way you nod when you don’t want the conversation to spin out any longer than it has to. So we listened, and we listened, and we listened, and when he had run out of weasel words to spit, this dude moved on – literally in the same breath – to champion the work Carly Rae Jepsen
Tegan & Sara
of Belle and Sebastian. I fucking shit you not. You wanna talk about overblown and saccharine? Talk about Belle and Sebastian, those peddlers of the perfunctory that write songs about as nutritious and fulfilling as the old, lintsplattered cough lolly wrappers you find in your coat pocket. Not that ole mate polka dot shirt, sucking down on his pint of Mountain Goat, would have ever thought to equate the two. And that’s ’cause, although we might like to think we are getting more egalitarian in our tastes, the division between high and low culture is entrenched as ever. Just look at the reception afforded to ‘Gorgeous’, Taylor Swift’s new single, out now. Those very same people who talk about Carly Rae Jepsen as though the sun
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“You can’t love Carly Rae Jepsen and hate Taylor Swift.” thebrag.com
The Defender BY ERIN ROONEY In The Defender, the BRAG’s writers pick out a pop culture artefact they feel has been hard done by. This issue, Erin Rooney backs too often derided YA author John Green.
“Losing is a record that uses its influences to envelop its listener – to relax and to charm them.”
radiates from a third eye hidden just behind her bangs were the first to shit on Swift, and on ‘Gorgeous’. And like, don’t get me wrong – I am one of those people who talk about CRJ as though the sun radiates out of her third eye. I love her. I love her the most. But you can’t love her and hate Swift. They are two sides of the same coin. They are, for all intents and purposes, the same artist – they make rich, textural bangers about middling love and loss, and they carefully combine the endearingly sentimental and the intelligent.
Bully photo by Alysse Gafkjen
Only thing is, CRJ had the luck of releasing a record that sold poorly, whereas T-Swift happens to be one of the most popular musical artists in the Western world. So, as a result, it’s cool to like the former, but horrendously uncool to like the latter. Cultural battle lines have separated a pair of musicians who have spent much of their respective careers twinning one another. Need more proof? Look at the jubilant praise already being heaped upon The Con X: Covers, out now. The thing’s a front-to-back cover of The Con, Tegan And Sara’s 2007 masterpiece, but whereas the cultural glitterati sniffed at that album and called it adolescent and self-involved, and maybe even a little embarrassing, those same folks have fallen head over heels for the new souped-up version. Maybe that’s because this time around, critically certified heavyweights like Ryan Adams and Pvris have gotten on board. Or maybe that’s because enough time has passed, and what once was deemed a dud by the parade of bores we for whatever reason have decided to trust, has now become a beauty. Nostalgia is one hell of a drug. And on nostalgia, actually. It casts its pall heavily over two recently released records
– Bully’s Losing and John Maus’ Screen Memories, both out now. The former pays homage to the Albini-produced alt-rockers of the ’90s, mixing the frantic riffs of Big Black with the warm slacktivism of Dinosaur Jr, while the latter is indebted to early electronica, and the bristling paranoia of music of the mid ’70s. They succeed in different ways, and to different extents. Losing is a record that uses its influences to envelop its listener – to relax and to charm them. Thematically it might tackle everything from the fraying of a relationship to the pervasive influence of the patriarchy, but lead singer Alicia Bognanno knows how to balance the grating with the gracious. Her voice is, as ever, the star: there are times where her melodic howl feels like the only thing in the world; like it has definitively stripped everything else away. Although, when placed against Bully’s debut, Feels Like, Losing is a bit of a disappointment – the mixing is a little flatter; the songs less punchy. It wouldn’t be fair to say its all filler, but there are times when the record feels particularly slapdash: ‘Not The Way’ is a waste, and even the occasionally excellent ‘Kills To Be Resistant’ loses sight of itself.
oung adult author John Green has just released his fifth solo novel, Turtles All The Way Down, and folks, this avid (adult) reader can barely contain her excitement. To fill in the uninitiated, John Green has attained enormous commercial and critical success for his novels over the years, with The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns both becoming major films. His nuanced, empathetic writing has attracted an almost obsessive audience – an obsession that has only been fueled by his work on YouTube as one half of the Vlogbrothers.
for the ride (quite literally, given there’s a road trip in almost every one of his novels). He may follow a formula, but he does so while ever so slightly subverting the norm, twisting the YA genre from the inside out.
“I’M TIRED OF CRITICS DEVALUING AUTHORS THAT WRITE FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS.”
And yet, amongst all these successes, Green has also garnered himself an extraordinary number of vocal haters – sourpusses who have criticised his work for being ‘whimsical’ and cringily formulaic. His characters have been called ‘pretentious’, and even ‘too witty’ to be believable, while some readers have found his female characters too ‘manic pixie dream girlesque’ for their tastes. But for every criticism, there is something to celebrate about the author in response. First off the bat, Green is clearly extremely well read, and it shines through in his writing. Not only is his prose sophisticated, but he has also long proved unafraid to integrate it with complex concepts – namely mathematical theorems in the case of his excellent An Abundance of Katherines. Yep, Green has some considerable skill when it comes to taking you along
Oh, and that’s not even to touch on Green’s power to evoke genuine emotion – if you claim to have not shed a tear during The Fault In Our Stars, then you’re either lying or a sociopath.
And yet perhaps most importantly of all, Green knows his audience. His writing works so well amongst teenagers because he treats his readers like intellectual equals: his characters are caught up in their own worlds and prove occasionally profoundly egotistical… But come on, don’t you remember being a teenager? His characters are fl awed, but relatable, and they grow. Even if we downright hate them (I couldn’t stand Q from Paper Towns), we can’t help but care, and want them to win – and that’s the sign of a genius storyteller. I’m tired of critics devaluing author s that write for children and teenagers. There’s merit enough in educating a generation with thought-provoking stories that teach you to embrace your quirks. Besides, well written YA novels are entertaining as hell at any age.
“GREEN IS CLEARLY EXTREMELY WELL READ, SOMETHING THAT SHINES THROUGH IN HIS WRITING.”
So I will be reading Turtles All The Way Down, thank you very much. And I won’t have the haters ruin that for me. John Green
By contrast, ‘relaxing’ and ‘charming’ are the last ways one would describe Screen Memories. It is a delirious, hysterical thing – one long fever dream, full of songs about nuclear war, and the apocalypse, and death. It is excellent. Listen to it now, before the world ends.
Album Of The Fortnight: Screen Memories will change you.
Dud Of The Fortnight: Dickheads in bars who think they’re original for shitting on pop music.
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20 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
21:10:17 :: Hordern Pavilion :: Driver Ave Moore Park 9921 5333
21:10:17 :: Hordern Pavilion :: Driver Ave Moore Park 9921 5333
What weâ€™ve been out to see this fortnight. See full galleries at thebrag.com/snaps
s n a p s
20:10:17 :: The Factory Theatre :: 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville 9550 3666
13:10:17 :: Qudos Bank Arena :: Edwin Flack Ave & Olympic Blvd, Sydney Olympic Park 8765 4321
13:10:17 :: Qudos Bank Arena :: Edwin Flack Ave & Olympic Blvd, Sydney Olympic Park 8765 4321
21:10:17 :: Hordern Pavilion :: Driver Ave Moore Park 9921 5333
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Julien Baker And The Petrifying Beauty Of The World BY ALLISON GALLAGHER n 2014, a little-known artist named Julien Baker quietly uploaded a self-released EP to Bandcamp with few expectations. The nine songs on the release paired sparse guitar arrangements and Baker’s intimate vocals with introspective lyrics that explored depression, mortality, addiction and faith, showing off a candor that it was impossible not to feel affected by. Within a matter of months, it was picked up by 6131, who released it the following year as Baker’s debut solo album, Sprained Ankle, and catapulted Baker instantly into the limelight. Reflecting on what the past two years have looked like, Baker articulates both an amazement and profound gratitude for the things she’s been able to experience as a result of the record’s success. “When I put out Sprained Ankle I had no aspirations for it – I never imagined I’d be able to go to Europe to tour twice on that record. I never thought I’d be able to tour outside the US. It’s been crazy.” Perhaps unsurprisingly then, as Baker explains it, the past two years have marked a fairly dramatic shift as far as her day-to-day life is concerned. “It’s been a lot of getting used to perpetual transience, because it’s involved so much travel”, she explains. “Touring used to be something that, first of all, I booked for myself. A tour would consist of me emailing DIY promoters in whatever town and asking, ‘Can I please play your basement, or co-op, or mom’s living room?’ “These days, it’s been interesting trying to be present with people while being gone a lot. I think it’s given me a lot of perspective on people in general – and that’s been a good education in being mindful of others and situating myself and my position within the world. I’ve been really grateful for that”. Baker acknowledges that what has largely sustained her throughout these touring cycles is interactions with her fans; encounters with those for whom the lyrics on Sprained Ankle have served as nothing less than a lifeline. “Seeing the record resonate with people is what fuels and motivates me to continue to play. That’s what seems like the most meaningful and precious thing about getting to do what I do. The first time I ever went to Australia, for instance, on the opposite hemisphere from where I live, as far away as I could possibly be from home, there were people talking to me about the record.” Ultimately, those moments are as important for Baker as they are for fans. “I want it to be less about making myself the ‘icon’ of that interaction and making it an equation where I am a piece of something else; like a conduit for a larger, more important event.” 22 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
That “larger, more important event” Baker speaks of is music’s capacity to serve as a catalyst for human communication, as well as a way of empowering people to enact real change in their lives. And as anyone who has seen her play live will attest, Baker’s performances are often a ringing testament to that selfsame nature of shared vulnerability – not to mention the resilience it can engender. “There’s nothing like performing a song that is comprised of memories from the most painful parts of my life and then having the great fortune of those things somehow being transmuted into great memories that I can expel from myself and see reflected in a crowd. “When I perform at a show, it’s different than me just making art that heals me and doing it as a solitary process in a studio. That provides a different kind of relief, but I think what really ends up being so powerful about
that honesty once I’ve gotten it out into the world and spoken it is to see it resonate with people. I’m an artist that doesn’t have an explicit political agenda in my lyrics. It’s very idiocentric in a way, but hopefully honesty and vulnerability can be just as powerful in creating a space that empowers people to withstand and resist or work against the things they find to be unacceptable in the world.”
ater this month, almost two years after the official release of Sprained Ankle, Baker will release its follow-up, Turn Out The Lights. In a lot of ways, the album is a continuation of the confessional, delicately woven storytelling that Baker first displayed back in 2014. But, that said, there’s a natural maturity throughout too, one that sees Baker both offer meditations on the duality of thebrag.com
Julien Baker photo by Nolan Knight
“I feel like all these evils were already present in the world and masked by a sort of pseudocivility, but now they’re allowed to flourish, because we have someone empowering hatred.”
human experience, and explore the beautiful and complex ways that we navigate throughout the world. An expanded instrumental range textures the album’s songwriting, with organs and strings providing additional layers to the song’s bare bones. “It was challenging, but in a good way”, says Baker of writing the record. “I wanted to allow myself the room to explore possibilities of adding things, not shying away from them for the fear of how I was going to pull it off live. It’s been hard. One of the songs I have to play piano and guitar at the same time and it’s scary, and a lot going on, but it’s fun, and it’s a challenge.
Lyrically, Turn Out The Lights demonstrates significant personal growth for Baker, the album reflecting on the experiences of those around her rather than necessarily looking inward. Although Baker explains that writing songs is still predominantly a coping mechanism for difficult or painful events in her life, and that while the record focuses more on how others’ stories can provide perspective on her own issues, it’s still largely autobiographical in nature. “When I wrote these songs, they began as pieces and fragments throughout a year and a half of touring. I would just listen to them and let them simmer and try to refine
“When I think about a great song, I think of one that, stripped of all its extras, could just stand as a poem and a melody and be intact. But I also think embellishment and things like organs and strings can provide a lot of
interesting dynamics, and I wanted to try and do that without overproducing it. I always love to work with the adage that less is more, and figure out how little and subtle you can get in order to still create dramatic variance within a song.”
“The first time I ever went to Australia, as far away as I could possibly be from home, there were people talking to me about the record.” BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 23
“If I know there are people listening this time, I want to say something worth saying; that I stand behind.”
them. I wanted to reflect the same honesty about hurt and trauma and internal struggle that was on Sprained Ankle, but be a little more self-aware about how to confront those things. “With Sprained Ankle, people would ask me, ‘Do you regret writing songs on that record?’ – and no, I don’t. They were an accurate representation of where I was, and they have a documentary function, and it’s worth it to validate and acknowledge that those emotions exist. But they did seem a little bit self-involved and idiocentric. There seemed to be no self-awareness or consideration of how my internal processing worked, or affected other people around me, or the subconscious implications of it.”
Baker starts firing off the questions. “‘Why do I think this way? What else could I think? How could I gain some perspective on these thoughts, or use empathy to relate it to another person?’ I wanted to be a lot more intentional in the phrasing of how I deal with all those things on this record. If I know there are people listening this time, I want to say something worth saying; that I stand behind. I want to make the admission that things are pretty bleak, but have enough tact to include reasonable hopefulness in a not trite way.”
hen writing Turn Out The Lights, Baker had to consider something that hadn’t really crossed her mind while writing her debut – namely, that people were definitely going to be listening to the lyrics; and intently too. “Sometimes I would write something and think, ‘I’m eventually going to have to sing this in front of a crowd, or talk about it in an interview,’ and that scares me,” she says. And yet the moments Baker fretted over quickly proved to be the ones that she felt most convinced she had to include on the record. “The things that are painful and ugly are the things most pertinent to talk about. It’s easy to talk about things that are easy, but it heals us and does actual work within us to come to terms with the parts of ourselves that are difficult and we find ugly. I think when I show those things to other people I find that they’re not in fact so ugly.”
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“If I’m now expecting people to pay however much it is for a record or show, I want them to feel like I am communicating serious gratitude and awareness that the only reason I get to live my passion as a job is that a listenership has invested in my music. I want to make art, in some sense,
That desire to be part of a larger community rather than a solitary figure feels consistent with how Baker carries herself throughout the world at large. For instance, when I ask how she perceives the greater international community and her place in it, compared to the pre-Trump era in which Sprained Ankle was released, Baker takes some time before answering. “The world is a petrifying and beautiful place right now. When I consider my daily frustrations and despair at the state of things, it always comes back around to me having to make myself smaller in the equation; having to not make it all about me and my feelings. “I mean, I was devastated [by the election] because of the idea I had that there’s a limit to the corruption and potential for bad in the world to have its way. But I’m aware that the other party’s candidate [Hillary Clinton] was equally as corrupt and controlled by personal interest. The only thing about Trump is, unfortunately, his outspoken attitude about these things has given people license to be overt when they used to be covert.” Baker pauses for a moment; takes breath. “I feel like all these evils were already present in the world and masked by a sort of pseudo-civility, but now they’re allowed to flourish, because we have someone empowering and validating hatred. I saw one of my friends, who is a person of colour, talking on Twitter about how they heard a white person say, ‘At least this is a chance for us to display hope and resilience as the political left’ and he [Baker’s friend] was like, ‘I’ve been living my identity as a black man for 30 years and you have no idea what it’s like. People were still racist when Obama was president, people were still racist when George W. Bush was president.’” For Baker, what feels like the most effective form of resistance is allowing her own ego to get as small as it can, to consider the lived experience of others, and to try – to always try – to elevate their voices as much as possible. “The record’s just about me and my life – but I can reallocate the resources of the platform I’m on to help those people. I think being vocal about that is what’s most important.”
Julien Baker photo by Nolan Knight
“It heals us, and does actual work within us, to come to terms with the parts of ourselves that are difficult and we find ugly.”
The awareness of that guaranteed listenership granted Baker the opportunity to consider the lyrics in a new way; to push and test her skills. “I wanted to craft the poetry of the songs a little more, and I had a lot more time to reflect on their organization. I think they come across as a less immediate type of lyricism. I didn’t want it to seem artificial, but I just had way more time to think through and reflect on the songs, and I was aware they were definitely going to get released, so I think I wanted to make something that showed growth and time and effort.
for other people as well as myself, because it’s ultimately not just about me.”
What: Turn Out The Lights is out now though Matador Records/Remote Control
arts in focus FEATURE
Louis Theroux: The Other Side Of Despair [TELEVISION] World class documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux tells Allison Gallagher making his new film, Heroin Town, had an eerie sense of inevitability about it
fter almost 20 years spent documenting some of the most culturally taboo practices and communities in the Western world, filmmaker Louis Theroux continues to create work that, at its most effective, pairs compelling narratives with raw, deeply human vulnerability. Such is the case with his upcoming film Heroin Town, one of three he recently shot in the United States, all of them linked by an emphasis on dysfunctional situations and communities. The film shines a light on the country’s devastating heroin problem – one prompted by the rampant overprescription of, and subsequent crackdown on, legal painkillers. Focusing on the city of Huntington in West Virginia, Theroux follows the day-to-day lives of several residents who have been gripped by the epidemic, in a place where one in ten babies is born dependent on opiates. Like most of Theroux’s work, an unashamed desire to create something that provokes a sense of human connection and empathy lies at the film’s centre. “I’ve found the most powerful programs I’ve been involved in have been ones where I haven’t driven the story too much”, says Theroux over the phone from the States. “I’ve allowed the people I’m with to take
ownership of their own stories and the process.” Surrendering the role of storyteller to those whose lives Theroux documents not only helps the audience connect better to them, he says, but also creates a level of drama. After all, when he commits to being the passenger rather than the driver, he is forced to surrender some control; to let things happen that his instincts might have otherwise convinced him to shut down. For instance, one of Heroin Town’s first sequences sees Theroux asked to tag along as a woman and her seemingly manipulative boyfriend go to score heroin, the situation very much not something Theroux planned for that day. “It was just sort of a case of, ‘Let’s go with what happens’, even though it felt as though it could potentially be a bit dangerous or unsettling. There’s an enormous power in being able to be invited into [those situations] by people”. While filming, Theroux was surprised at just how closely the situation aligned with the available data. “Very often when you do a story, you’re given a certain version of events. You read the research and a pattern is there and theories are advanced as to why such a phenomenon exists. It’s rare
that you go on location and find it confirmed so universally. In Huntington, the story was every bit as awful as it had been described – actually, if anything it was worse.” Indeed, perhaps the most devastating thing about Heroin Town is how eerily inevitable it all feels – the tragedy comes from the way the characters and their life stories fit an almost cookie-cutter causality. “Almost to a one, they had either been prescribed opiates legally by a doctor for a condition or an injury, or a friend or family member had and they’d been exposed that way. I can’t think of a single person I spoke to who came to heroin because they were curious about it without a preceding legal opiate addiction. There’s no ambiguity to what was behind that epidemic.” It’s a difficult negotiation, Theroux says, navigating the space between letting contributors drive the onscreen narrative while also recognizing he regularly works with distressingly vulnerable demographics. “When you’re on location, there’s a sense you need certain phenomenon to take place in order to film it and bring the news about it. At the same time, you’re dealing with sometimes very upsetting real life problems. As with so many things in life, there are multiple motivations and different feelings jostling together when
“In Huntington, the story was every bit as awful as it had been described – actually, if anything it was worse.” you’re involved in something like this. It’s an odd experience. I also feel as though I’m a guest: I don’t want to be obviously judgemental.” Theroux’s signature style of frank observation is an undercurrent to the film, and he speaks to his subjects with a candor that oscillates between terribly awkward and deeply empathetic. “If a camera hadn’t been there I’m not sure I’d have said what I said. It’s a need to have my thoughts recorded in a way that viewers can experience them – because of my journalistic role, I feel like it’s important to say it out loud.” Theroux is currently living in America again, working in the country at a time when the overarching social and political climate is marked largely by uncertainty – the country going through “something of a convulsion”, as Theroux describes it, thanks to the Trump presidency. “For his supporters, there’s a feeling of excitement; that quasi-
revolutionary fervour. For those who aren’t fans, though, it’s a frightening time. There’s an apocalyptic feeling that we’ve got a real loose cannon in the White House, someone who is perhaps racist, is perhaps unstable, and who could change the world in a kind of frightening way. It feels as though it’s very much up in the air and no one’s quite sure where we’ll get to in the next year or two. I think the really scary possibility is that he could be re-elected.” If nothing else, that uncertainty means there’s rarely been a more important time in recent history to document and capture the distressing or uncomfortable. For all that uneasy darkness that Theroux’s filmmaking is so often situated in, he points out that, “You find lightness and humour in the most unlikely places. These films are, in their way, life-affirming.” What: Heroin Town is hitting select Australian cinemas on Friday November 17
“You find lightness and humour in the most unlikely places.” thebrag.com
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arts in focus
Bee Movie: Its Rise, Fall And Unlikely Resurgence [FILM] How did Bee Movie become a wildly popular internet inside joke? David James Young investigates
n the world of meme culture, it’s hard to predict what cinematic and televisual cultural relics are going to end up getting noticed, revived or remixed beyond all recognition. The reality is there is no rhyme or reason to it – there’s a myriad of moving parts that drive an online fascination point, and the product itself often becomes inextricably linked to the ironyladen macros and copypastas that it spawns. There is perhaps no greater recent example of this than Bee Movie – released ten years ago on November 2, 2007, but perhaps far better known for having spent most of 2016 infiltrating YouTube, Tumblr and various other online avenues. Even if you never saw the film during its initial cinematic run, you probably became intimately familiar with it by the end of last year, exposed to a variety of
seemingly-endless inquiries into whether you happen to be a fan of jazz music or not. For whatever reason, this minor artefact of the 2000s has found a second life through shameless shitposting and absurdist humour. So, how exactly did this CGI curiousity generate buzz in its second life? In order to answer that, consider the context in which Bee Movie came to be initially. One of the most peculiar family films to be released this century, the flick saw comedy veteran Jerry Seinfeld writing the script and voicing the protagonist, Barry B. Benson. The plot centres on Benson, a fresh college graduate who becomes immediately disenfranchised upon entering the quote-unquote real world. He finds out that once a bee chooses its role in the hive, that’s the role
“How exactly did this CGI curiousity generate buzz in its second life?”
it will take for life. Naturally, he’s not satisfied – and chaos ensues. That’s not just a comedy trope by the way – the film changes its narrative direction a good three or four times in its short run time. At first, it seems to follow an underdog/’proving-the-old-guardwrong’ concept, not dissimilar to previous insect-based animations like Antz or A Bug’s Life. But once Benson enters the human realm, it pivots to something like Over The Hedge, becoming a film about a tiny creature taking on the world in a micro/macro contrast. It also tries for a romantic comedy – the less said of this angle the better – as well as a legal comedy, a la Liar Liar or The Castle. By attempting to pollinate so many different flowers, Bee Movie is convoluted and conflicting. It quickly loses appeal for kids and for adults, inexplicably isolating both. The question, then, is why Bee Movie was revived in such a way that made it unforgettable when it was, in reality, a mere blip on the cultural radar. The short answer – as with a lot of things on the internet – is irony. Copying and pasting the entire script of the movie, putting its characters on a pedestal, actively encouraging Seinfeld himself via Twitter to pen a sequel... It’s less a running gag and more a complete marathon. A bigger-picture take on its induction into meme culture, however, could honestly just be that we are all still utterly incredulous that the movie even exists in the first place. Think about it: if you were not already aware that Jerry Seinfeld’s first foray into film writing was an animated family movie that co-starred Renee
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“Anyone who can watch Zellweger’s character flirt with an anthropomorphic bee without immediately feeling queasy needs to be brought into the station for questioning.” Zellweger, Patrick Warburton and Chris Rock, would you believe it? What would drive him to do such a thing? His full-scale involvement in the film is indicative of it being a passion project – but did he really believe so strongly in it? What was the endgame? Even at the time it came out, Bee Movie raised many more questions than it did answers. Indeed, it was a BuzzFeed article with the title “For Everyone Who Still Can’t Believe Bee Movie Is Real” that properly brought wider attention to the growing online fascination. It collected a series of Tumblr posts, in which users expressed shock, confusion and frustration over various aspects of the movie. And it’s entirely justified, too – anyone who can watch Zellweger’s character flirt with an anthropomorphic bee without immediately feeling queasy needs to be brought into the station for questioning. To that end, one would do well to consider Bee Movie’s rejuvenation and rediscovery in the same way one would consider, say, The Room. No-one is sharing stories about the film on account of its creative flair and resolute plot points. It’s a mess – a pre-
recession indulgence from a multimillionaire in the midst of a mid-life crisis a decade removed from the curtain call of his signature platform. Bee Movie memes, in their own peculiar manner, find a way to clean up parts of that mess and present it in a surrealist, postmodern fashion. At this stage, there’s only one way to properly watch Bee Movie: the Youtube video that helped to revitalise a cornerstone of internet humour, “Bee Movie But Every Time They Say Bee It Gets Faster.” Eventually distorting beyond the point of comprehension, the video races along, at one point becoming so fast that the audio literally cannot match the video and hits a pitch inaudible to the human ear. Why is this the superior version? It’s far funnier; it’s mercifully short; it tears through the trite, confusing ending. Why aren’t more films getting this radical treatment? It’s unclear if Seinfeld himself has any clue about the madness that has surrounded his film, but whether he knows it or not, Bee Movie has transmogrified into a cult classic – entirely in spite of itself.
arts in focus FEATURE
Halt And Catch Fire: The Greatest Show You’ve Never Seen [TELEVISION] Ella Donald argues that the recently completed Halt And Catch Fire is a genuine masterpiece
“Over time, Halt only became smaller and smaller – more and more intimate – emerging in its final form as a disarmingly [TELEVISION] Ella Donald argues that the recently completed Halt And Catch Fire is a genuine masterpiece tender family drama.”
alt And Catch Fire never got to stand on its own two feet. “Halt And Catch Fire tries to reverse engineer Mad Men” read the AV Club’s May 2014 review of the show, and the comparison continued to dog the series throughout its first season, with reviewers finding plenty of similarities between Halt’s Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) and Mad Men’s Don Draper. And sure, on face value, there are some things that twin the two. When Halt begins, it’s 1983, and IBM has just released its flagship personal computer, a boon for the industry. But as with any first models, there’s a flaw in the design, and a door that provides a way for all those hungry to take make their dreams come true is suddenly blown wide open. Enter MacMillan, who storms into Cardiff Electric, a family-owned electronics business staffed by employees who started packing radios into boxes as teenagers. A wolf in the hen house, he’s a former IBM employee looking to usher the company into the new era. He’s just recruited Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), the scrappiest but most ingenious (and only female) coder from a college class, and now he’s going to find the most disgruntled genius on the sales floor Gordon, (Scoot
McNairy) to make computer history with him. Together, the three plan to reverse-engineer IBM’s technology, ironing out the flaws and bringing in their own ideas to make something truly revolutionary.
characters feel as familiar as family or friends. And over time, Halt only became smaller and smaller – more and more intimate – emerging in its final form as a disarmingly tender family drama.
As the AV Club’s early bit of muckracking proves, the reverse engineering plotline was the butt of many jokes from critics, as the naysayers rushed to claim the show was just trying to remix existing parts into something ultimately less effective.
This is a privilege rarely afforded to shows: usually, they either become so popular that they have to succumb to the demands of an overbearing fanbase, or so unwatched that their chance at a real future is snatched away from them. Halt, despite dismal viewership and no real critical momentum until the third season, somehow defied all the odds, feeling like an outlier in a landscape that sees shows fizzle too often.
And sure, while the first season of the show is indeed the weakest by far, proving disappointing largely for its disconcerting affection for its skeezy male antiheroes, even in those early days there was something subversive and charismatic about Halt. Nonetheless, the most satisfying part of watching the show was tracking the confident growth and genesis from those unsatisfying early days to the masterpiece it became over its four year run. Halt spent years staking out fresh territory for itself, the drama series telling not only a story of success and failure, but, just as importantly, the success in failure. Halt’s heroes might be imperfect people, but its through their imperfections and frustrations that the show became its most human: for better or worse, these
Certainly in its earlier days, when it focused much more heavily on the frustration of broken dreams, Halt was significantly angrier and rougher and less contemplative than any of its contemporaries. Even then it had a voice of its own, and despite the frustrating self-destructiveness of its central characters, there were always miraculously visible signs of it writing itself to a brighter future. In the first three episodes, it’s clear that aside from Cameron, the most interesting character is Donna (Kerry Bishé), who is stuck behind a desk at a rival company and in an unsatisfying marriage to Gordon – she is always the
“Usually, TV shows either become so popular that they have to succumb to the demands of an overbearing fanbase, or so unwatched that their chance at a real future is snatched away from them.” one left to pick up the pieces after another one of his harebrained schemes. She has a PhD in magnetic storage, but the only way she’s using it is to repair the toy her daughters break inbetween chopping the vegetables for that night’s dinner. But by episode four, when Donna is brought into hold everything for Gordon yet again, there is a hint of a gradually shifting focus in the air – this is clearly the last time she’s going to clean up after everyone else. And in that way, what was once heading towards being another show about dissatisfied male geniuses realising their dreams quickly became a show about women and work. The following three seasons focus on what Donna and Cameron create together and apart over the next 12 years, and how they fight for
“Halt was significantly angrier and rougher and less contemplative than any of its contemporaries.” thebrag.com
their place in an industry they are continually locked out of. At the same time, Halt’s main characters eventually discover two things: one, that the industry is gradually losing its human, hands-on origins and becoming a world of long lunches spent talking about things that will never materialise; and two, that it’s impossible to put a human into a box. Indeed, in one of the final episodes of season three, a letter is read over the closing minutes. “If only we can learn to take care of each other, then this awesome new connection won’t isolate us. It won’t leave us in the end so totally alone,” it says. By this point, the show’s beginnings have never looked so far away, but regardless, the moment does recall something in the very first episode. “Computers aren’t the thing,” Joe says. “They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.”
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FEATURE * Content warning: this article contains discussion of sexual assault.
HOLLYWOOD IS BURNING: How The American Film Industry Is Failing Its Creatives, Its Audiences And Itself By David Molloy nyone with any number of female friends, colleagues or family members would be aware that social media is currently awash with claims of #MeToo – a hashtag adopted by those who at some point (or, indeed, many points) have been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted. A truth not often spoken has emerged into the light: that the women of the western world are subjected, almost every day, to a culture that depicts and values them as prey. While the decades-long rise of feminism has been essential to highlighting and combating this, it’s the revelation of producer Harvey Weinstein’s terrifying catalogue of abuses that has made the conversation unavoidable – and not just within the film industry. However, it’s far from the only dilemma that the old model faces, as box office returns continue to plummet and marquee studio blockbusters are howled into infamy. The dinosaurs are going extinct, and it looks like they are taking their entire world with them. Although those two points might seem unrelated, it is without question that the Weinstein scandal is indicative of the old Hollywood model’s most toxic byproduct – a masculinist power structure that chews up and spits out women, first objectifying them for the gratification of audiences and then sexually degrading them. The predatory producer has long been a quiet truism of Hollywood, as synonymous with blockbuster cinema as it is with the porn industry. And the long overdue outing of toxic figures of male power may be the linchpin that finally helps to dismantle an entire subsection of the creative and fiscal economy that has grown fat, self-congratulatory, and morally bankrupt.
The abuse of women is not the only Hollywood problem leading the conversation. Earlier this year, as Damien Chazelle’s La La Land swept awards nominations, it became the poster child for cultural appropriation and lack of representation. Its tale of two young lovers torn between their star-spangled careers and their relationship bore two unsightly stains – its treatment of race and its treatment of gender. What swathes of people celebrated about the movie was simultaneously indicative of its core issues. It harkened back to a “simpler time”, the often cited Golden Age Of Hollywood when men were men, women were women, and fi lms were whimsical and grand. But in doing so, it brought its values screaming into the modern age. La La Land was ultimately bested (in the most humiliating fashion) by Moonlightt – a story of gay people of colour crafted by and starring predominantly black Americans – but rather than celebrating this achievement, Hollywood and its press lauded the generosity of spirit displayed by the gracious defeated. Host Jimmy Kimmel said on the night, “I think they should get to keep it. Why can’t we give out a bunch of awards?” The gesture would have fi t, as the entire grotesque spectacle exists by the hand of the industry and for the industry. No one pats Hollywood on the back more than Hollywood does.
“NO ONE PATS HOLLYWOOD ON THE BACK
MORE THAN HOLLYWOOD DOES.”
Now, Hollywood is burning, yet the glamourous purveyors of the old ways continue their song and dance, applauding themselves as the flames rise higher.
Here’s Looking At You, Kid “If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around... this is where they’re made.” – GEORGES MÉLIÈS, HUGO
After all, imagine the coup de grâce that could have been, had 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis of Beasts Of The Southern Wild beaten Jennifer Lawrence to the Best Actress gong in 2012; had Silver Linings Playbook k not carried the day. Coincidentally, Playbook’s director David O. Russell is another white male creative known to be physically, mentally and verbally abusive to women on his sets. He remains a Hollywood institution because he works within the system – and because there are so many just like him.
“PERHAPS THE MASTURBATORY NATURE OF HOLLYWOOD’S SELF-REFLECTION WOULD BE LESS DEPRESSING WERE IT NOT SO BLATANTLY
28 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
STILL CELEBRATING AND EMPLOYING CRIMINALS.”
Main image courtesy kaveldun.com
One writer from The Guardian compared Weinstein to Roman emperor Caligula, a notorious “madman” who likewise “instilled fear in his retinue”. But a more fitting comparison may be that of Nero, successor to Caligula’s successor – a Bacchanalian nightmare who engaged in Clockwork Orange-esque cruelties, and was immortalised by the myth of his playing of the fiddle as the seat of his empire burned.
Putting diverse and original storytelling behind self-aggrandisement is a longstanding tradition in both awards distribution and production modelling. Movies about movies or Hollywood win big – La La Land, Birdman, Hugo, Argo, and The Artistt among them – and a great deal of Best Picture winners are biopics about straight white men. The notion that movies with female protagonists or people of colour are a tough sell to a global audience is only now beginning to shift, and you better believe the Oscars are rarely the first to champion a pressing issue; they are, at best, two decades behind.
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Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea
“THE OLD WAYS HAVE TO DIE Harvey Weinstein
Here There Be Monsters “If you dance with the devil, the devil don’t change. The devil changes you.” – MAX CALIFORNIA, 8MM Perhaps the masturbatory nature of Hollywood’s self-refl ection would be less depressing were it still not so blatantly celebrating and employing criminals – men who have spent their entire careers accumulating enough wealth, power and influence to make people overlook their crimes and suspect their victims guilty of deceit. Weinstein’s abhorrent behaviour is merely the tip of the iceberg. To whit, three current members of the Academy are alleged of multiple substantiated acts of sexual assault, domestic violence or rape – Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and Mel Gibson. The often-nominated and awarded Woody Allen stands accused of raping and molesting his at the time 7-year-old daughter, and continues to release a fi lm a year. He shares this with Bryan Singer, the X-Men director allegedly embroiled in a string of incidents involving the rape of adolescent boys. These men are referred to as outliers, lone wolves, but lest we forget in 2016, Elijah Wood spoke to the Sunday Times of the paedophilia problem as endemic within the industry.
In a panel interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Judd Apatow noted that in regards to sexual assault in the industry, “There’s a culture of paying off people … They set up a power dynamic that is very difficult for people to figure out what to do about, and that’s why it lasts for decades, because it’s a perfect system.”
Seth Rogen said of Weinstein that people would make excuses for him: “He’s old school and stuff like that, and there is kind of like a wink and an acceptance of that kind of behaviour.” And producer Amy Pascal said, “I don’t think that he’s an outlier and I think that’s probably why a lot of people haven’t spoken out… people really believed that they’d get hurt.” It’s worth noting that, perhaps as one might have unfortunately grown to expect, Pascal was the only female present on the panel. This culture of defending and empowering the abusive to do as they please is coming to light in all its gruesome dimensions – but while we continue to celebrate Jared Leto’s ‘commitment’ to frightening his female co-star in Suicide Squad, or champion Casey Affleck for his ‘brilliance’ knowing full well he traumatized his employees on I’m Still Here, nothing will truly change.
Show Me The Money “I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘OK, I’ll be part of this world.’” – E D TOM B E LL , NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN Fortunately, through this illumination of Hollywood’s dark side and the cracking of its mirror, the shine is starting to rub off. Stories that have long been suppressed are coming to light and survivors of assault and abuse are finally – fi nally – beginning to have their day. But simply acknowledging the issues the industry faces is far from enough to make them change anything. The old ways have to die before the new can prosper, and thanks to a dogged adherence to tradition, that slow demise has already begun.
Then there’s the pervasive culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse. Women have feared (with good reason) for their careers and their physical wellbeing after speaking up about their traumatic experiences. Some who’ve spoken up, like Rose McGowan, have found themselves silenced or victimised further. Their male colleagues have either shared the fear of retribution, failed to see the true nature of the accused, or quietly abided by abuses of power.
This sickening is being communicated in the only language Hollywood considers universal: money. Audiences now have access to platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Letterboxd that both the public and the production studios have access to, and audiences listen – which directly impacts box office. When punters grow tired of whitewashing, poor efforts at adapting bestsellers, and trailers that spoil the major moments of an upcoming release,
they don’t just tell their friends; they tell everyone. (Likewise, those dissastisfied with studio goings-on have a tendency to leak the deets.) The gap between critic and audience has also narrowed thanks to sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and their consensus on film quality is shifting in kind – which again directly impacts box office. And film is now more accessible than ever thanks to streaming services like Netflix, who are funding their own productions. Take The Mummy, for example, Universal’s ill-fated attempt to launch their Dark Universe franchise as a rival to Warner Brother’s comic book moneymaker. The Tom Cruise-helmed dribble not only landed a paltry 16 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but is looking to cost the studio US$95 million in global box office. Why? Because it was hated by audience and critics alike. Because an inexperienced, disposable director was placed at the helm. Because studio meddling and Cruise’s own controlling behaviour led to a tonally confused mess of a film. Because the film’s traditionalist structure, reflecting the best-seller model espoused by Blake Snyder in Save The Cat!, has become so clichéd that any punter can predict a Blockbuster’s every dramatic beat just moments after the film has begun. Because the budget was not spent on script development, but on extended special effects sequences. And because the studio never cared about the story they were telling; just the units sold. So why, when there are much more damaging stories being unearthed about the excesses of America’s industry, is it important to talk about the failure of The Mummy? Simply put, money talks. The studio’s gamble resulted in a catastrophic loss that is the cinemagoer’s victory. Men like Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have never had to change, because their benefactors have never demanded it of them. On the contrary, they’ve been complicit in their misdeeds. But as the criminal deeds of these men are brought to light, the cracks in their mode of production are also beginning to show. For too long, Hollywood has coasted on former glories, never having to strive for its self-appointed accolades, indulging in nostalgia at the expense of new stories and storytellers. This machine is broken, and must be repaired, if not replaced; and it’s vital that cinemagoers remember the balance of power is in their hands. After all, we feed the machine with our attendance, our wordof-mouth advertising, our defence of problematic creatives. After this scandal, the Weinsteins of the world can no longer be allowed to hold the seats of power, and as the old models prove increasingly unprofitable, those who foot the bill will become less forgiving. There are those who believe that great men should be granted their vices, and it’s our job as discerning consumers to loudly proclaim them wrong. Only then will the new golden era of cinema rise - once the ashes of the old have cooled. ■
“THIS MACHINE IS BROKEN,
AND MUST BE REPAIRED IF NOT REPLACED.” 30 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
Harvey Weinstein photo courtesy Thomas Hawk/Flickr
And that’s not to mention the dizzying number of the industry’s highest earners who have also allegedly beaten, harassed or exerted their influence over women; the list includes Michael Fassbender, Johnny Depp, Lars Von Trier, Stanley Kubrick, Oliver Stone, James Cameron and both Ben and Casey Affleck. Were one to correlate the number of awards held by these men and the number of allegations against them, as Nick DeSantis of Forbes did for Weinstein, the results would be harrowing.
BEFORE THE NEW CAN PROSPER.”
game on Gaming news and reviews with Adam Guetti
New Releases With only a few months of the year left to go, video game publishers are throwing some of their biggest titles into the ring to capture your attention.
Case in point, the month gets off to an explosive start on Friday November 3 when Call of Duty WWII ditches its modern trappings for the European theatre. Find it on PS4, XBO and PC. Jumping ahead to Friday November 10, Need For Speed Payback races onto PS4 and XBO, with the game looking to be taking more than a few cues from the Fast And The Furious franchise with its revenge-centred campaign. A day later on Wednesday November 15, the whole family can join in on the action thanks to Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 (PS4, XBO, Switch, PC). It features an original story that picks up where the last game left off. Then things heat up when PS4, XBO and PC gamers enter a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars Battlefront II. This time there’s substantial space combat to enjoy, so pick yourself up a copy when it launches on Friday November 17. If Star Wars isn’t quite your speed, however, Friday November 17 also marks the day for both Pokémon Ultra Sun And Moon (3DS), as well as The Sims 4 (PS4, XBO). Wrapping up the month on Thursday November 30 is Lumo, offering up over 400 isometric puzzles to Switch owners looking for something new after Super Mario Odyssey.
reviewroundup By Adam Guetti
Review: Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Retro Video Game Market 2
Last year, Newtown’s 1989 Arcade Bar Kitchen drew in quite the crowd with its Retro Video Game Market, allowing old school gamers to sell an assortment of their wares. This year the event is back, taking place on Sunday November 19. Starting from 9am, Retro Video Game Market 2 once again promises all sorts of nostalgic goodies vying for your attention (and your wallet). However, the venue has stated that this year will be a smaller affair with “a few more exciting things going on.” What exactly that means has yet to be confirmed, but even if you leave empty-handed, 1989 has plenty going on, with a wide range of arcade machines, drinks and delicious brekkies. For updates on the Retro Market, be sure to check out 1989’s Facebook page.
Perturbator – Live in Concert
If you’re a fan of the Hotline Miami series, start paying attention, because one of the game’s musical collaborators is headed to our shores. Producing dark and retro-futuristic music with a strong ’80s vibe, James Kent (more commonly known as Perturbator) is the spearhead of a synthwave revival. Aside from helping produce the infectious tunes that turned Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2 into gigantic independent hits, his music has also appeared in the television show Limitless and cult favourite movie The Guest. With a fresh album, New Model, now out, Perturbator is stopping past Sydney for the first time on Wednesday November 22 at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre. For tickets and more information, head to factorytheatre. com.au.
Review: Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)
ran Turismo Sport is certainly an interesting proposition, with the controversial change to an online-centric environment bound to divide the racer’s legion of fans. Outside of a barebones Arcade mode, everything is handled online, meaning those without a strong connection can bow out now. Yet ultimately, Sport keeps up the series’ visual fidelity and impressive handling, though developer Polyphony is no longer in a 3 one-company race, and needs to recognise as much to keep things on track.
Review: The Evil Within 2 (PS4, XBO, PC)
t’s been a long time between drinks for Nintendo fans, but Metroid: Samus Returns brings everybody’s favourite bounty hunter back into the fray – and her return couldn’t be more welcome. Things might go back to basics, but that’s actually a positive, removing the filler that has dragged the series down for the last few years. Navigating the 4.5 expansive 2D map is a delight; it’s littered with secrets and packs a challenge that never feels unfair.
Review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PS4, XBO, PC)
he Evil Within was a mind-bending trip through confusion and terror that managed to impress, and its sequel definitely achieves more of the same. However, there is the lingering feeling that The Evil Within 2 is never really able to break new ground, relying on mechanics you’ve likely seen 3.5 before. That’s not to say the game isn’t good (or capable of scaring your pants off) – just that it had potential to be something truly great.
Review: FIFA 18 (PS4, XBO, PC)
f you’re looking for a gentle, politically correct romp, South Park: The Fractured But Whole is not your game. Irreverent, abusive and filled with swears, it is everything that a South Park fan will be craving. Thankfully the game mechanics are a treat as well, improving Stick of Truth’s combat to provide a more engaging experience. But once 4 again its biggest compliment is that the whole thing feels like one elongated episode – just keep it well away from kids.
ou have to hand it to EA: despite another tight annual deadline, FIFA 18 is an impressively polished product. As is par for the course with the series, this year’s iteration is more focused on refinement than game-changing developments, but they’re refinements that are both noticeable and welcomed. The Journey has also had some serious work done to its narrative, helping round out one of the best sports sims on the market.
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book club ■ Book
Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories are a timely reminder of the man’s unrivalled genius to know about Vonnegut. Not just his humour, though that, of course, is essential – the slapstick thread through everything he wrote and did. And not just his sense of the surreal either, although he is as important to the literary legacy of nonsense as Edward Lear. No. What, maybe most importantly of all, you can glean from that video Vonnegut’s unique understanding of structure. He was not a man who thought in terms of narrative devices, or character notes, or even necessarily moral lessons – he was a man who thought in terms of shapes.
What: Complete Stories is out now through Seven Stories Press
By Joseph Earp
here’s this video, and in it, Kurt Vonnegut stands in front of a white board and teaches his spellbound audience about the shape of the short story. It is funny in the way that all of Vonnegut’s public appearances were funny – his wit was as sharp as cheese wire, and he proved equally eager to take the piss of both himself and the maddening, war-hungry atomic world he found himself trudging through. He might have dressed like your fried, chain-smoking substitute history teacher, but he riffed like Richard Pryor. Anyway, you can watch that video and understand a lot of what you need
In that way, Kurt Vonnegut was more an architect than an author. While his contemporaries fumbled about with obvious post-modern tricks, he shaved the short story form down to its very basics, exposing the curved wire and riveted planks that make gripping fiction what it is. His work might, at first glance, seem as far removed from the minimalism of fellow master Raymond Carver as it is possible to get, but there is a reason the two men so admired each other. They were taking two paths to the same place – Carver by cutting his stories down till they had all the clean brutality of a bullet, and Vonnegut by using nonsense and humour to do exactly the same thing. That said, Vonnegut has never really received his dues as a short story writer the way Carver has. What do people talk about when they talk about Kurt Vonnegut? Slaughterhouse Five, usually, and his outspoken pacifism. What they don’t talk about is “Welcome To The Monkey House” and “The Lie” and “The River”, and the hundreds of other minimasterpieces Vonnegut penned over his lifetime. Hopefully a new hardback edition of his short fiction is set to change that.
Complete Stories, as its to-the-point title implies, is extraordinarily, mindbendingly comprehensive. Every single short story Vonnegut wrote is held within these pages, from the classics collected together in Bagombo Snuff Box to the pieces Vonnegut sold to magazines as a young man while still finding his voice as a writer. Interestingly, the determined sods behind the project, Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield, have decided to eschew the typical chronological format of short story collections, and have instead decided to order the work thematically. Collected Stories is chopped up into eight sections, each given an evocative, one-word label: “War”, “Future”, “Women”, et cetera. As a result, the book is less a look at a writer transforming from a novice into a master, and more a squiggly, gloriously muddled exploration of all the things that Vonnegut was obsessed by. That might be a little confusing for newcomers to his work – but then again, how many newcomers are going to fork out 60 bucks for a 900-something page long hardback? The benefits of Klinkowitz and Wakefield’s approach are twofold. First, fluctuations in quality are less noticeable – after all. there is the tendency when getting through a chronological collection of a writer’s work to speed through the 100 pages in order to get to the really accomplished stuff. You can’t do that with Complete Stories – as in Vonnegut’s Timequake, or even Slaughterhouse Five, the chronology is confused, and you can go from reading a story about Vonnegut’s experiences in the war to a heady dose of sci-fi, the two written decades apart. As a result, the occasional misfire – the vaguely racist and overly simplistic “All The King’s Horses” for example, a story
“The book is less a look at a writer transforming from a novice into a master, and more a squiggly, gloriously muddled exploration of all the things that Vonnegut was obsessed by.” about a prisoner of war who must play a brutal game of chess to save the lives of his fellow captives and family – feel less like stumbles on an upwards climb, and more like experiments that don’t quite pay off. In that way, Complete Stories doesn’t require that its reader suspend criticism for the first third or so; it encourages them to view even missteps as minor, if flawed, masterpieces. Secondly, the chaotic attitude to careers and chronology allows readers to see Vonnegut in an entirely new light. One might not have realised how genuinely charming the man could be when writing about love, but the “Romance” section, filled with such classics as “Girl Pool”, “Miss Snow You’re Fired” and “FUBAR” makes it clear he had the heart of a sentimentalist. Maybe that’s the other thing, actually – despite being staggeringly exhaustive, Collected Stories never pretends to capture the entirety of Vonnegut’s life. It is not the story of how his writing style evolved and adapted to the twin pressures of the nuclear arms race and post-modern pastiche. You could never capture Vonnegut even if you wanted to, so Collected Stories never tries. It is more an acid-trip through an art gallery than historical study – all blurred narratives, and structures and shapes suddenly thrown into sharp relief. It is a book to dedicate the rest of your life to.
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arts reviews ■ Film
Mindhunter By Joseph Earp
here are rules to detective shows, as iron cast as Biblical commandments: Cops Must Always Be Mismatched; Serial Killers Must Always Be Charming And Ingenious; Women Must Always Have A Stony Exterior That Masks A Tender Heart Of Gold. And at least on first glance, Mindhunter, the new Netflix Original series from executive producers David Fincher and Charlize Theron, hangs onto the conventions of the genre as though its life depends upon it.
of Edgar Allan Poe, and incorporates everything from the hard-boiled fiction of your regular Raymond Chandler type to the ultra-realism of The Wire. The second episode of Mindhunter even involves a direct reference to David Simon’s televisual masterpiece, as Holden and his partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany)find themselves banished to a dusty basement, for all intents and purposes the same no-man’s land that McNulty and his crew (sorta) entrapped the Bell crime clan from.
Mindhunter has all the cliches, from a rogue’s gallery of conniving, hyperintelligent shark-like killers, many of them based on real life murderers, to a socially maladjusted, brilliant lead, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff). And as for the show’s central relationship? Well, no points if you’ve already guessed – it’s based on an unfurling and unexpected friendship between two detectives who don’t initially get on! And get this: they actually disagree on the fundamental merits and values of policing!
Maybe if Mindhunter was airing on free-to-air television that might be the point that you switch off – the moment you finally decide that you have been here and done this so many times before. And in that way, Mindhunter is a show peculiarly suited for a binge watch: as dotted with references and homages and genre conventions as it is, by its third or so episode, Mindhunter falls into a groove entirely of its own, and becomes, surprisingly, one of the most original television shows of the year.
So yeah, Mindhunter is a link in a very long chain, one that reaches all the way back to the procedurals
What Mindhunter has to set it apart from its contemporaries is a focus on the scientific facts of the matter. Sure, its antagonists – the coolly
involving Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton), the blackeyed Jerry Brudos (Happy Anderson) – might be Lectertypes, skin-crawling arch villains capable of discussing the mutilation of women and what kind of pizza they like in the same breath. But they are not master criminals or cartoon characters; their sociopathy is explained; their unconventional desires carefully picked apart and rationalised. In fact, “rational” is the word of the day when it comes to Mindhunter. Just as Holden tries to make sense of murderous impulses by poking at them with cutting edge behavioural science and psychological techniques, so too is the show full of the eerie, surgical remove common of Hitchcock and Clouzot. Given this is a Fincher joint, that makes sense: the man has spent his career honing his skills when it comes to keeping his distance. Not that Fincher is the necessarily the star of the show – that mantle goes to Groff and McCallany. Somehow, against all odds, they manage to make pages and pages of jargonheaving dialogue fascinating, aiding the show in its
“Mindhunter is light on car chases and apartment corridor showdowns and heavy on lengthy monologues about the role that behavioural science can play as a foundation for good policing.”
“‘Rational’ is the word of the day when it comes to Mindhunter.”
unconventional approach to tension. After all, Mindhunter is light on car chases and apartment corridor showdowns and heavy on lengthy monologues about
the role that behavioural science can play as a foundation for good policing, and that it works at all is a testament to the skill of its two leads. They are the keys to the show’s originality; to the strange, juddering
heartbeat that turns what otherwise might have been one more procedural into something genuinely special.
Mindhunter is available on Netflix now.
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Has Morrissey’s truculent tongue bitten us once too many times? Ahead of the release of his new record, Low In High School, Andrew Lennon wonders how much more Mozza nonsense he can take s comfortable wrapped in his enigma as he is exposing his nipples, Steven Patrick Morrissey has always liked to play his cards close to his chest when explaining himself to the media, even as his outbursts seem tailor made to confuse and provoke. A willful contrarian and famed perception-baiter, you’d never be able to accuse the man of being dull: it’d be hard, after all, to find a more polarising individual to have ever danced whimsically into the popular consciousness. It is perhaps to be expected then that people either seem to love Morrissey unconditionally, or they fucking abhor him. And some of that, surely, is due to the fact that, though crippled by shyness, he has never been remotely shy when it comes to voicing an opinion. Even prior to his fabled Johnny Marrconjoined gateway to the limelight, he was busy pounding out opinionated screeds on his bedroom typewriter to mail to the lofty scions of the British music press, by turns praising the New York Dolls, and bemoaning just about everything else.
As if to puncture the deafening silence that followed this unsolicited assertion, he added, “You didn’t get it, did you? You obviously don’t read the news.” What the fuck Mozz? Such a horrendous statement, particularly dropped in tandem with a distinctly racist reaction to the recent London bombings, has again raised that age old question: is Morrissey a racist, vicious, fascist asshole? Like many of you I was introduced to The Smiths as a teenager, while I was awkwardly shuffling towards adulthood, gripped with the dawning realisation that the adults really didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. To a spotty insurrectionist like myself, Morrissey was a godsend. Uncomfortable in his own skin, unloved and unlovable but with a wicked wink to camera that seemed to say, nay scream, “you’re not alone”, he was wounded, he was brave, and he was hilarious. He raised a banner for the bookish and the bewildered, and along with Jonny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, crafted some of the most enduring and universal songs in musical history. It’s not for nothing that The Smiths have often been touted as “the most important band since The Beatles.”
And though his subsequent years of unfiltered solo material bear the qualities of a patchwork quilt, I still cannot bring myself to entirely dismiss him. His heft is too strong, his legacy too weighty, his voice too sublime. But boy oh boy, when he disappoints, he disappoints hard. Every time I dig out one of his records, I know that it’s partially some weird variation of Stockholm Syndrome guiding the platter towards the turntable. But then the music starts. When he compared the London Olympics to Nazi Germany, I had the music; when he thought Nigel Farage and Brexit were ‘wonderful’, I had the music. None of that excuses his behaviour. But maybe it goes some way to explaining why I can’t stop listening to him sing. It’s a struggle that has become increasingly common to those of us who once fell under his juju; a struggle that requires one to separate the Morrissey of our aching youth and the bloated nationalist he seems to have become. He has had his bouts with controversy before – ‘Bengali In Platforms’ a song off his solo debut Viva Hate, raised eyebrows with the line “shelve your Western plans
and understand that life is hard enough when you belong here”. Draping himself in the Union Jack at Glastonbury didn’t exactly help matters, and though at the time the throng rallied to his cause and vehemently denied that this was anything other than Mozza being pilloried by the press, it remained impossible not to doubt him. Like another elder statesman of the disaffected, John Lydon, it seems that Mozza is incontrovertibly morphing into a caricature as he bemoans the loss of the England of his youth – an England where, lest we forget, belligerent ghouls ran Manchester schools, children were murdered on the moors and the solution to Margaret Thatcher was the guillotine. It’s truly puzzling and more than a little saddening. But again though, as I write this, the joyful refrain to ‘Sweet And Tender Hooligan’ spins about my head: “Look into those ‘mother me’ eyes ... He’ll never, never do it again.” At least not until the next time. We always become the things we hate. I’ll probably buy the new album. What: Low In High School out through BMG on Friday November 17
These days he is just as comfortable holding court and delivering bileinflected indictments of the monarchy, animal agriculture, and increasingly, some pretty suspect political observations. “All of the rumours keeping me grounded / I never said they were completely unfounded,” he famously crooned on his quintessential solo track ‘Speedway’, and those two lines – part confessional mea culpa, part antagonistic jab, part cry for mercy – sum up the man’s public persona and fragile alliance with the press.
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Illustration by Sarah Bryant
Move forward to the present day and his infectiously catchy new single ‘Spent The Day In Bed’ implores his friends categorically to “stop watching the news”. Perhaps it’s one rule for Morrissey and another for all his friends though, given that during a recent BBC Live showcase, he continued his much publicised pirouette towards the reactionary with some baffling banter, espousing the fact that he was “very surprised the other day to see [far-right candidate] Anne Marie Waters become the head of UKIP,” before sniping, “Oh no, sorry she didn’t – the voting was rigged. Sorry, I forgot.” thebrag.com
out & about Queer(ish) matters with Arca Bayburt
She’s Got The (Queer) Look
was talking to a friend the other day about her hair and what she could do to change it up for the summer. We talked about maybe cutting it shorter or colouring it, and that’s when she said that she’d always had a desire to go super short – maybe even shave all of her hair off. I was a fan of the idea, so I said, “Why not? Your hair will grow back and you can finally put that curiosity about your freakish skull shape to rest.” She replied with the usual canned responses that women are trained to deploy whenever their most precious talisman of codified femininity is threatened:
A reply to this statement should say:
“UNDERSTAND THAT AN IMPLICIT BIAS DOESN’T EXCUSE YOU FROM EXPRESSING MALFORMED HOMOPHOBIC SENTENCES LIKE AN IDIOT SCATTERGUN.”
1. “I’m worried that I’ll look ugly and have a weird shaped head.” Fair enough. I understand that: it’s a universal fear. Our appearances are important to us all, so it makes sense that we’d be wary of making changes to what we’re used to – especially if that change might leave us with less social currency than before. There’s a reason we all have nightmares about our teeth crumbling out. Then came her second concern:
2. “What if I’m mistaken for a boy?!” This is absurd. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s infamous shut down of ornery talk show host, Joe Pyne (Pyne had a wooden leg). The exchange went something like this: Pyne: “So I guess your long hair makes you a woman.” Zappa: “So I guess your wooden leg makes you a table.” And yet it was her next response that surprised me most. Not, mind you, because it was unexpected – in fact I’ve heard this so many times before that I no longer have the strength to even roll my eyes at it. But it bewildered me in the way that you might feel a dumb surprise at suddenly discovering a knife stuck between your ribs after hugging a friend:
Hairdressing courtesy Ndemi/Flickr
Reining in my immediate desire to throw up all over her in protest, I asked her to consider that sentence carefully. I believe she regretted what she said, although that doesn’t negate what I know for sure to be a deeply rooted homophobia, flavoured lightly with sexism and internalised misogyny. We can break this heinous utterance down into its barest parts, spread its guts over the table and get to work examining it. I want to show you exactly how miasmic it is.
B) The idea that you might be seen as gay because of your haircut speaks more about how you categorise homosexuals than anything else. It means you think a shaved head is a guaranteed signifier of gayness.
C) You would never be comfortable admitting that you don’t want to be seen as a homosexual woman (specifically a masculine presenting one) because you equate that with being unattractive and being ultimately undesirable to men and society at large. D) Putting down and stigmatising an entire group of people to solicit social favour is useless. Understand that an implicit bias doesn’t excuse you from expressing malformed homophobic sentences like an idiot scattergun. You need to think about what you’re saying: examine your views, examine your fears. If you’re afraid to look like a lesbian (or, more accurately, to look like what you have decided a lesbian looks like) it means that you think the worst thing you could possibly be mistaken for is a gay person, which means that you think that being a gay person is the worst. Well-intentioned homophobic statements from people who’d pale at accusations of bigotry are infuriating because those beliefs are difficult to uproot. The frustrating thing about implicit biases is that they’re subterranean in nature: they rise slowly through a person’s mental strata and they manifest so subtly that they are only recognised by those whom they hurt. The person saying them usually doesn’t realise; that gives us all the more reason to hold them accountable.
“WELL-INTENTIONED HOMOPHOBIC STATEMENTS FROM PEOPLE WHO’D PALE AT ACCUSATIONS OF BIGOTRY ARE INFURIATING BECAUSE THOSE BELIEFS ARE DIFFICULT TO UPROOT.”
3. “I’m afraid of looking, y’know, like a dyke.”
A) If you’re heterosexual and you truly believe that being gay is not bad or undesirable, then you would never have this thought cross your mind. It wouldn’t be a big deal to you to be read as gay.
It isn’t acceptable to say things like: “Wow, gay guys are normally so hyper and flamboyant, but you’re so chill and I really like that about you.”
What’s most hilarious to me is that these sorts of things are usually said with an accompanying sense of self-satisfaction from the mouthpiece. These people usually think they’re making astute observations, when really, they’re farting forcefully, lengthily, and proudly calling it speech. These supposedly harmless statements are micro-aggressions, and I’ve got enough micro-aggression in my life directed towards me and others like me that it’s laborious to have to deal with these flea bites – but the person who said this hair stuff to me is a good friend, and hundreds of flea bites have nasty results. When I schooled my friend that day, I know that she understood it all, intellectually. I’m certain it will take far more time and reprogramming for her to understand it in her heart; and I’ll believe that when I see her with a shaved head.
BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 35
Drawn Out 1. Draw your band:
We love Crepes. Their debut album Channel Four is a collection of finely crafted indie pop hits; a record that alternates between flashes of warmth and experimentation and unfettered rock’n’roll. So, we reached out to the band with a few questions, and got them to draw their answers. Here’s what they sent us back.
2. Draw the cover of your album, Channel Four:
3. Draw your dream rider:
4. Draw your favourite musician of all time:
5. Draw your dream audience:
Bragorscope Mystic Nathan & Mystic Poppy with
Your partner will discover something dark and troubling about you this month, and never love you in the same way again.
ARIES: Prepare to get rammed... with opportunity and good vibes!
SAGITTARIUS: You don’t believe in star signs! What are you doing reading this nonsense?
Katy Perry 33, Willow Smith 16, Lorde 21, Keith Urban 50, Delta Goodrem 33, Frank Ocean 30, Weird Al Yankovich 58, Anthony Keidis 55, Guy Sebastian 36, Bjork 52
The second solo record from US rapper Macklemore is uneven in places but overall a fine contribution to hip hop. 3 stars.
TAURUS: A new love is on the horizon. Don’t tell your partner.
CAPRICORN: You left the iron on. If you leave now you can still save some of your stuff.
VIRGO: Who are you kidding? No one actually believes you’re a Virgo.
AQUARIUS: This month you will finally stop being annoyed your star sign isn’t the fish symbol, even though Aquarius sounds like it should have the fish symbol.
LEO: Everybody is looking at you, but not for the reasons you think.
LIBRA: Your embarrassment about being associated with a sanitary pad will lead to a bloody murder.
PISCES: This month will feel just like the ocean your sign swims in: unpredictable and salty.
36 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
Lorde illustration by Sarah Bryant
You’ve got it.
g g guide gig g
send your listings to : firstname.lastname@example.org
PICK OF THE THE ISSUE
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17
The Domain, Sydney CBD.
Midnight Oil 7pm. $81.50. WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 1 Jimi Jackson Leadbelly, Newtown. 6pm. $30.
Midnight Oil photo by Oliver Eclipse / Melvins photo by Chris Casella
Pete Tong Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney. 7pm. $173.
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 2 Chris Jagger Leadbelly, Newtown. 7pm. $23.50. Merewether Fats Blues Jam Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm. Free. Paper Lions Waywards, Newtown. 8pm. $15.30. RVG thebrag.com
Oxford Art Factory Gallery, Darlinghurst. 8pm. $18.20. Tonight Alive Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst. 7:30pm. $49.95.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 3 Mama Kin Spender Leadbelly, Newtown. 7pm. $25. The Nukes Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm. $15.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 4 Bros Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Olympic Park.
8pm. $96.80. Claude Hay Leadbelly, Newtown. 6pm. $19.90. Mick Hart Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm. $5. The Moudly Lovers The Lass O’Gowrie Hotel, Wickham. 8:30pm. Free. No Illuminati The Newsagency, Annandale. 7pm. $30. This That – feat: Alison Wonderland, The Preatures, Winston Surfshirt, Zeds Dead Wickham Park, Wickham. 12pm. $127.25.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 5 Acoustic Sessions The Botanist, Kirribilli. 2pm. Free. Black Bird Hum Hotel Steyne, Manly. 4pm. Free. Chris Jagger Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm. $20. Claude Hay The Beaches, Thirroul. 5pm. Free. Sunday Social The Argyle, The Rocks. 9pm. Free.
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 7 Khalid Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park. 8pm. $71.30.
Stevie Nicks And The Pretenders ICC Sydney Theatre, Darling Harbour. 7pm. $101.75.
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 8 The Harry Heart Chrysalis Rad Bar, Wollongong. 8pm. $8. Khalid Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park. 8pm. $71.30. Ollie Brown Leadbelly, Newtown. 6pm. $12. Stevie Nicks And The Pretenders ICC Sydney Theatre, Darling Harbour. 7pm. $101.75.
Factory Theatre, Marrickville. Thursday November 9. 7:30pm. $66.90. I saw Melvins last time they were in town, and they were so loud my ears rang for no joke two weeks afterwards. And I was wearing earplugs. Make sure you do too when you catch ‘em at the Factory.
BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17 :: 37
g g guide gig g send your listings to : email@example.com
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 9 The Deadvikings Blitzkrieg Old Manly Boatshed, Manly. 8pm. Free. The Harry Heart Chrysalis Rad Bar, Wollongong. 8pm. $8. Mark Vincent State Theatre, Sydney. 8pm. $75. Melvins Factory Theatre, Marrickville. 7:30pm. $66.90. Willie And The Bandits Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm. $12. William Crighton Leadbelly, Newtown. 7pm. $25.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 10 Floyd Vincent And The Temple Dogs Grand Junction, Maitland. 8:30pm. Free. Supersuckers Factory Theatre, Marrickville. 8pm. $42.
Tinpan Orange Hudson Ballroom, Sydney CBD. 7:30pm. $19.90.
For our full gig and club listings, head to thebrag.com/gig-guide. Winston Surfshirt
Winston Surfshirt Metro Theatre, Sydney CBD. 8pm. $28.35.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 11 A.D.K.O.B. Brighton Up Bar, Darlinghurst. 8pm. $15. The Audreys Leadbelly, Newtown. 6pm. $30.30. The Deadvikings Sydney Blitzkrieg The Townie, Newtown. 10pm. Free. Handkerchief Thief Hibernian House, Surry Hills. 7:30pm. $10. Midnight Oil The Domain, Sydney CBD. 7pm. $81.50. Ocean Colour Scheme Metro Theatre, Sydney CBD. 8pm. $87.10. Tenors United Bryan Brown Theatre, Sydney CBD. 8pm. $35.
Metro Theatre, Sydney CBD. Friday November 10. 8pm. $28.35. Good on those Winston Surfshirt boys. The young Manly-based musicians have been on the up and up over the last few years, and their new songs reflect a keen sense of emotional intelligence. They deserve the Metro. Uptown Kings Cross Hotel, Potts Point. 9pm. $10.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 12
Acoustic Sessions The Botanist Kirribili, Kirribili. 2pm. Free. The Audreys
Leadbelly, Newtown. 6pm. $30. Geoff Achison Stag And Hunter, Newcastle. 7pm.
$15. The Harry Heart Chrysalis El Sol Mexican, Cronulla. 8pm. Free.
Joe And Dandrew Marrickville Bowling Club, Marrickville. 7pm. $34.70.
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 14 Estere Leadbelly, Newtown. 7pm. $20.
Stevie Nicks, The Pretenders
ICC Sydney Theatre, Darling Harbour. Tuesday November 7. 7pm. $101.75. Two giants for the price of one! Nicks is bound to play ‘Landslide’ (bet it’ll be the encore) and the Pretenders are bound to play ‘Message Of Love’, so you’ll get to hear two of the best pop songs ever written over the course of a single concert.
Have a gig or club listing for The BRAG?
Oxford Art Factory Gallery, Darlinghurst. Thursday November 2. 8pm. $18.20. Combining the bristle of post-punk with the danceable grooves of LCD Soundsytem, RVG write brilliant, anthemic tracks that are bound to getcha moving. Check ’em out in the ever dependable confines of the OAF Gallery.
You can now submit your gig and club listings. Head to thebrag.com/gig-guide.
38 :: BRAG :: 728 :: 01:11:17
The Mortal Coil is out through Resist Records on Friday November 3.
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Published on Oct 31, 2017
http://thebrag.com/ SYDNEY’S FREE STREET PRESS Hitting the streets fortnightly, with the best music, comedy, food and gigs. This issue: • P...