Tag Archives: Ben Connolly

Album Review | Augie March – ‘Havens Dumb’

Review by Ben Connolly
augieWithin seconds of the first chords of AWOL, the lead track off Augie March’s return opus Havens Dumb, one thing is abundantly clear: just how large the Augie March-sized hole in the Australian musical landscape had become.

In just five short years, the band’s ‘hiatus’ had all but slipped into that permanent mode many seem to become; save for an ambling solo album from frontman Glenn Richards, a few non-descript side-projects from other band members and a couple of choice late-night Facebook rants, the band had seemed to slip by the wayside.
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Live Review | Jeff Lang @ Thornbury Theatre, Victoria – July 5, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
jeff langThere are moments in almost every Jeff Lang gig which absolutely grab you in the guts. Often it’s while the “disturbed folk” progenitor is wrangling an impossible guitar lick to within an inch of its life; sometimes it’s when he’s fiercely locking into a groove with his long-term collaborator Danny McKenna and sailing on the precipice; others it’s when the starkly rich lyrics arrests you in your tracks.
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Live Review | Charles Bradley + Saskwatch @ Melbourne Zoo Twilight – March 7, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly

Charles BradleyWith a white sequined dinner jacket, and a ‘fro straight outta Brooklyn circa 1972, it was clear from the first strained note that Charles Bradley was every inch of his impressive mythology. The bio reads like a carefully scripted wrap-sheet: he was raised in a dirt-poor Brooklyn, from which he escaped only to spend decades drifting and working odd jobs, and spending serious time as a homeless grafter. On record, it’s heart-on-the-sleeve honesty of a man who knows no other. On stage it’s merely confirmation, as the performer pours every last ounce of feeling into the overwrought vocals and leaves nothing behind.
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Live Review | Placebo @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne – February 27, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
Photos by Annie Wilson
PlaceboIn the great lottery of the Sidewave venue scramble, Placebo must surely have pulled the short straw. Not that St Kilda’s Palais Theatre is generally anything to be disappointed with – its grungy dilapidation holds a special place in Melbourne’s rock vernacular. But when it comes to a furious set by one of the world’s best emotive post-punk purveyors, those torn leather seats are just woeful.

Seated gigs are sometimes just the pits, with often fickle gig-going punters varying between reckless abandon and a studied aloofness, meaning that on any given night you can find yourself jumping to your heart’s content surrounded by fellow revellers, or having to reign in your exuberance or suffer the fate of a thousand daggers shot your way.
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Live Review | Something For Kate + The Orbweavers @ Melbourne Zoo Twilights – February 21, 2014

Review by Ben Connolly
Something For Kate Melb ZooGig talkers are just the pits aren’t they? The bane of any true fans, their inanities strike at the most inopportune of moments, ruining a classic heart on the sleeve moment or a strained high-note, in spite of the daggers of ice being shot across the room, or even the indignant ‘shushing’ from those more forthright in their opinions. Things get a little swayed, however, when those interrupting the moments are three fully grown lions displaying their pleasure/displeasure in no uncertain terms.

And that’s exactly the bizarre set of circumstances thrown up at you when your Friday night gig is set in the heart of one of Melbourne’s most treasured inner-city reserves – the Royal Melbourne Zoo. Its Zoo Twilight series is now in full swing, hosting fellow Melbournites Something For Kate on its current swing around the country playing on specialist outdoor stages. Wedged in between the entrance and the lion’s den, the stage area is a beautiful vista of sunset-tinged greenery interspersed with picnic blankets and a solid smattering of baby capsules.
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Live Review: Big Day Out 2014 – Melbourne

Review by Ben Connolly
Pearl Jam - Photo Credit: Kane HibberdThere was already a significant amount of water flowing under the bridge by the time Flemington’s famous iron gates were flung open for this year’s Melbourne chapter of the Big Day Out. With ownership wrangling continuing into a second year, a buy-out by one of Australian music’s most polarising characters, a line-up to end all line-ups only to be tarnished late in the day by the pull out of Blur, and now speculation that the national festival will once again be curtailed by Perth’s inability to get its shit together as a cultural collective. In some ways, 11am on the Friday before the long weekend was a welcomed event, if only to end the continual news feed of the daily life of Australia’s biggest orgy of rock.
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Ball Park Music @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne | Live Review

Review by Ben Connolly
There’s a buzz in the air tonight – a full house and the Ball Park Music headlining debut album launch tour tends to give out a special vibe. And it’s been a long, well-worn track to get to this point: singles and free downloads leading to early Triple J recognition, signing to a supportive management company and releasing one of them most anticipated EPs of recent memory, seemingly tour after tour as the perpetual bridesmaids before finally knuckling down to carve out the first full-length offering.
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Only The Sea Slugs @ Yah Yahs, Fitzroy – October 27, 2011 | Live Review

Review by Ben Connolly

  Rock can be such a bitch of a game. One day you’re the toast of the town, an EP in the shops, a film clip on Rage and some choice words thrown your way from the national youth music broadcaster. Then you decide to cram all your gear into a van and tumble a thousand kilometres south only to be greeted by a mid-week pub, almost empty apart the other bands on the bill and a few uneager passers-by; shitty sound only adds to the drama. And that’s where it all goes pear-shaped for Sydney-siders Only The Sea Slugs with its recent gig at Melbourne’s Yah Yah’s.

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Colin Hay – “Gathering Mercury” – Album Review

Review by: Ben Connolly

There’s a warmth to Colin Hay’s vocals which instantly resonates. There’s no confusion as to what’s to be expected when an acoustic guitar and that Scottish-via-Sydney vocal kicks in. Like others of his ilk – namely Robert Forster, Paul Kelly and to a lessor extent The Church’s Steve Kilbey – his peculiar brand of Australian-ness swells the heart and instantly proves to be a soothing salve.

Suffering from an abundance of talent by a fairly lackadaisical approach to career direction, Hay’s name seems to have dropped out of the contemporary consciousness. Save for the odd appearance on an American sitcom (he seems to be the darling of the US medical satire Scrubs) and a recent legal stoush thanks to an opportunistic claim for copyright infringement, Hay has been relatively out of the public eye since the 1985 implosion of Men at Work.
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Duff McKagan’s Loaded – “The Taking” – Album Review

Review by: Ben Connolly
Musical legacies are fickle beasts. For the privileged few, early bravado can lead to a lifetime of open doors and opportunities; for most, thorough, their own massive shoes are rarely filled again, leaving a life of painfully striving either to attain the same heights, or failing to convince the world that there’s more to give. For those at the pinnacle, the ones whose exploits drew a definite line with which others would measure themselves, this is arguably even more acute: audiences are liable to bay for more brilliance, and are vocally deflated when their lofty expectations are not met (take, for example, the expectation of larger-than-myth Bob Dylan, whose audience is rudimentary brought down to earth every time his never-ending tour juggernaut rolls through town).
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Myles Mayo – Myles Mayo [Album Review]

Review by: Ben Connolly

Buy the CD here
  First albums can be tricky beasts to get right. For some they’re cringe-worthy telegraphs of earnest naivety best left uncovered, for others they signpost a highpoint never again attained. For most, however, they are a hotch-potch of eagerness and ideas, often with so much crammed into short hard-won studio time or crazy experiments trying to find their way around a myriad of home recording equipment.

Myles Mayo’s self-titled debut release falls into the latter “trying to cram everything in” category which, while certainly interesting and intriguing, often comes across as a curious iPod playlist at times, rather than a cohesive narrative.

Mayo is the front-man of Adelaide pop-rock band Special Patrol who’s found just enough internal artistic drive to branch out on his own.
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Femi Kuti – Africa For Africa [LP Review]

Review by: Ben Connolly

Buy the CD here
  I’ve always been fascinated by the anthropology of musical styles – the evolution of a distinctive style and sound based on many factors, but often described easiest by geographic boundaries. Take, for example, Memphis blues with its jug-band country feel, as opposed to the Detroit blues and it’s altogether grubby and gritty undertones. While both evolved from the same musical stirrings (and both served as underpinning styles of modern blues and rock n roll), their sounds are geographically distinct and unmistakable. You can hear the swamps and sandflies in Memphis blues, and you can almost sense the grease under the fingernails plucking the Detroit blues guitars.

Heck, there’s no musical style so underpinned by geography than slow, languid, feisty and hot reggae which, no matter where it’s played, evokes the Jamaican countryside to a tee.
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Cold War Kids “Mine Is Yours” – Album Review

Review: Ben Connolly

Buy Album @ iTunes
  The Kings of Leon really do have a lot to answer for, don’t they? There’s the re-introduction of initially swampy Dixie-styled rock, and the tight jeans, the lank hair and the homely Southern drawl, to name just a few. Perhaps more worryingly was the eagerness with which they helped to re-introduce some seriously lol-worthy Spinal Tap moments back into the world of rawk (just follow one of the brothers Followill’s twitter-feed to get an idea on how little grasp they have on reality), and by how much their adoring young fan-base seemed to lap it up. There was also the the warp-speed with which they jumped from being a curious, intriguing pseudo-experimental rock band into a firmly entrenched MOR behemoth of blandness and pyrotechnics.

The result of this, and the greatest crime of all it must be seen, must be the fact they’ve shown this warp-speed blandification as a legitimate career-path with similar like-minded wanna-be acts.

The latest of these is California’s Cold War Kids, whose third album Mine Is Yours has just landed and has signalled quite clearly that the quartet has its eyes firmly on being the next revelation of arena-style rock. From start to finish the album is big and boxy and packs a serious bottom-end punch, which highlights a clear delineation between it and its predecessors (2006’s debut Robbers & Cowards and 2008 follow up Loyalty to Loyalty). It’s no suprise that KoL’s knob twirler Jacquire King had a big hand in this production. For all the bombast and pomp, however, there’s something not quite fitting in the equation and by album’s end, it’s all a little limp and contrived.
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Gareth Liddiard “Strange Tourist” Album Review

Review: Ben Connolly

  It’s an almost shameful admission, but I just didn’t get into The Drones. I don’t know why; their mix of growling guitars, flat-tonal Australian vocals and aggressive, charged lyrics ticked all the boxes for qualities I generally seek out in bands to obsess over. I guess by the time I’d cottoned on to their charms, however, the boat had well and truly sailed and was now somewhat overburdened by eager fan-boys keen to wring the band’s name out for as much street cred as possible. Truth be told, the fan-boy’s fervour (and the self-assured scoff of the object of their adoration) scared me just a little. That said, The Drones’cover of Kevin Carmody’s River Of Tears at

the Cannot Buy My Soul gig remains one of my highlights of recent years (check the clip out on Youtube if you’ve never seen it).
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