Page 20

BAND OF SKULLS Sweet Sour

DIRTY THREE Toward The Low Sun

PIAS Recordings / Liberation

Drag City

When English rockers Band Of Skulls released their 2009 debut record Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, they “had no idea that anyone would come to our shows” according to vocalist and guitarist Russell Marsden but, the Southampton three-piece’s tune I Know What I Am made Single Of The Week on iTunes, Friends made the cut on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack and they went on to tour extensively and support Muse in 2010. Now, Sweet Sour, their sophomore record arrives – and it is just that: a mixture of soothing vocal harmonies by Marsden and bassist/vocalist Emma Richardson and sludgy guitar riffs. It’s definitely got the Band Of Skulls ‘signature sound’ but it’s a little more down-tempo than Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Lullabies Lay My Head Down and Hometowns seem out of place with hit The Devil Takes Care Of His Own and grandiosely upbeat rock’n’roll burner You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On. Wanderluster is a future smash hit in the making – chaotic drums with Marden’s distant vocals echoing through the catchy melody. If you loved Band Of Skulls for Death By Diamonds And Pearls and Blood then you might find this a little underwhelming but, if you loved them for Honest and Bomb then this might just be the right amount of sweet and sour that you need.

Iconic Australian three piece Dirty Three’s follow up to 2005’s Cinder is wonderful - if you love the sound of unfinished, monotonous noise. This is not a very pleasant sampling to be listening to and the first track Furnace Skies might put you in mind of several teenagers attempting to play instruments in hopes of starting a band – not only is it just plain woeful but it feels like it goes on forever. The slightly folksy track Moon On The Land might be tolerable if you’re high and lying in a hammock trying to put yourself to sleep, but otherwise it’s not so fun. Ashen Snow sounds like it should be used as a background track for the reflective scene of some indie movie as it seems to be the only tune that showcases any sense or thought for composition. The rest of the tracks have this sense that all of the instrumentals have been ordered in a similar fashion to a five year old banging down on his or her plastic Fisher & Paykel keyboard. In other words a shit fit of nonsensical sounds and no lyrics for reprieve. Whilst you are listening you might enjoy the album artwork; which may remind you of a Mambo sketch. And yes this is worth mentioning more so than the rest of the tracks.

_HAYLEY MIDDLETON _ANNABEL MACLEAN

VARIOUS Straight To You

LAMB OF GOD Resolution

ABC Music

Epic / Roadrunner Records

There are few artists who have maintained a career that is bold, sweeping and durable enough to be placed into their national pantheon. Nick Cave has earned the right to be considered an Australian treasure throughout his illustrious, almost 40-year career as a musician, actor and writer. It was only a matter of time then, before his legacy was to be celebrated by the legions of musicians he has so powerfully influenced. Unfortunately, Triple J’s attempt to honour the king with this live album (recorded during their tribute show last November) ultimately emerges as an erratic project, its highlights spread too thinly to do much good. On Straight To You, some of the nation’s most admired artists including (Paul Kelly, Adalita and Dan Sultan) dutifully bring their best; however, they have yet to answer the question of why one should listen to their versions instead of the originals. These songs are timeless, but the covers mostly are paint-by-numbers recreations. However, a couple of tracks bring a new energy: Sparkadia frontman Alex Burnett’s version of Boys Next Door’s Shivers is full of inspiration and vigour, and local rock goddess Abbe May’s rendition of Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl) reminds that this song is better than you remember it to be. But, more than anything, what these tracks do is make one want to listen to the originals.

I love my metal to be brutally heavy, angry and violent, yet I also like to be surprised, even caught off guard with new elements in any band’s writing. Lamb Of God’s seventh album, Resolution, delivers on the heavy and angry approach in standout songs such as Desolation, Ghost Walking and Insurrection but unfortunately lacks any element of surprise. The only exception this is King Me, which shifts between clean guitars with spoken word lyrics and a heavy machine gun-like verse with angelic backing vocals. Another area Resolution really delivers is in the mixing and recording, the sound of the album, the space and clarity between each instrument is flawless. Unfortunately, the creativity in the album cover and inner is lacking and there is nothing to explore. In an age of downloading, I like when a band delivers more (the limited edition version with a live CD is “UK only” WTF!). That being said, Lamb Of God faithful fans will likely mosh their necks stiff to the heaviness that is Resolution, as it hits hard from start to finish. Resolution is a solid album where Lamb of God do what they do best throughout each song, delivering heavy riffage, brutal drumming and death growls evil enough to kill people.

_JENNIFER PETERSON-WARD

_CONAN TROUTMAN

SMRTS smRts Have Friends And Visit Them At Night Heartless Robot

If the old adage “everyone in rock just rips each other off” is to be believed then the true test of artistry is moving past simply “ripping off” those influences and recombining what you’ve learned into such an idiosyncratic package that it becomes distinctively yours. With smRts Have Friends And Visit Them At Night, supremely talented local outfit smRts come very close to doing just this. Moving past the most obvious of their garage-rock influences, Predrag Delibasic leads his band into bold new territory, mixing those very influences into a nearly unrecognisable pastiche of hypnotically pop-centric songwriting. A record in the truest sense of the word (it’s only available on vinyl), this endlessly creative and surprisingly fluid set of tunes dispels any notion of opportunism by sticking to what the group does best: crafting clever, ramshackle, occasionally soaring songs, without bowing to esoteric noodling for the sake of experimentation. Where smRts really create a distinction between themselves and their contemporaries is through the unpredictably imaginative arrangements, bolstered by Delibasic’s truly enigmatic melodic sense. For example, on the the twisting surf-rock-esque King Wave Rising, the balance of apparent naïve melodic sentimentality is undercut by the presence of decidedly ominous tunefulness. These songs are blanketed in a magnetic charisma, and contain a vigor and effortlessness that is insanely, immediately likable, and ingenious in how much it achieves.

REAL MONSTERS No Cross. No Crown. Independent

It’s difficult to dislike Real Monsters. These Perth dudes have just handed out their debut EP No Cross. No Crown. And it’s, well… It’s something. First tune off the bat, Hey Baby (Wanna Kill All Humans) kicks off the tone of the EP with a mish-mash of sounds: an audio clip, some keyboard electronica, a couple ripper riffs, video game sounds, and growling. Oh God, the growling. It’s difficult to tell if there are words in there, but if there are, someone needs to hit up enunciation lessons. The weird indecipherable smash-up of sounds in the first half of Cognito Ergo Sum are plain terrifying: whisper growls, kids talking, recitations of Arnie Schwarzenegger and William Penn quotes - this reviewer is going to have nightmares for weeks. Again, though The Way She Moves Through The Air is just a bunch of different sounds that we can only assume Real Monsters thought sounded cool, there are some sweet riffs in there that could have been turned into so much more. But again, the growling. But WAIT. Is that some singing? Wait, a duet? Not bad. Confusing, yet redeeming – sort of like playing advanced metal Guitar Hero with Mario Kart on in the background. One can only imagine that these dudes are best served up live in a dirty, sweaty, headbashing pit.

_CHLOE PAPAS

_JENNIFER PETERSON-WARD 20

X-Press – First on the street, Wednesdays

X-Press Magazine #1306  

Wednesday 22nd February, 2012