Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Neil Finn solo concert review...

Sweet news: I had my first article published in suite 101 yesterday.  Over time I hope to build up a revenue stream with it; supply more articles, make more money.  If it comes to making about a coffee's worth of coin per year I'll be happy enough.

Here is my article for suite 101, a review of Neil Finn's solo concert at the Seymour Centre in Sydney from a couple of weeks ago: click here

I'm not entirely happy with this article.  I feel it's too self-conscious, wooden even, constrained.  I'm hoping in time I'll learn to relax just like I do on this blog and be able to write a bit more casually.

I blew Neil an Italian-style opera-arrivederci kiss during the standing ovation.  Neil caught this and beamed in a flash as his eyes met mine momentarily.  I couldn't help but chuckle at this, to think that a year ago I wrote a decidedly salt'n'pepper article all to do with my mixed feelings about the man, why I loved him, why I hate him.  (link)  I haven't re-visited that article since, but I plan to re-read it after I finish this entry.  I do receive occasional comments for that entry, the last two of which were attempts to put the controversial bits back on me.  I've nothing to hide.  It was just an article.  What primarily interests me is how I've evolved so that I  seem to love all his work unconditionally now, whereby up to relatively recently I happened to find much of his work intensely annoying.

Take 'Love you till the day I die', for instance.  I used to detest that song; I found it to be a 3-minute quasi-funk vomit.  Well, I love it now.  And Neil being Neil, there's almost always a touch of genius in every song he creates.  The middle-eight section of 'Love you till the day I day' is a wonderfully inspired piece of music, great music.  Mozart would have given his praise to this.  Besides, this music dates very well, extremely well.

Needless to say I am a fan and have great respect for Neil Finn; the music and the man.  The solo concert was sublime, one of the most rewarding concerts I've ever attended.  And I'm glad I've evolved and grown enough to see the overriding good in the music and the man, and to have cast aside the negatives.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Songwriting Society: personal top 10 (2002)

Here's something I wrote eight years ago for the magazine.  It's a nice piece of writing so I'm uploading it here while I chisel my icy writersblock with a picksaw; on the brain is a Neil Finn concert review...but for now, a piece of, um, history!

   This report is based on my idea of a 'Top 10' song list for all those songs I've encountered in the Society over the past 4 years.  Since I'm going to pull back a little next year I thought it appropriate to draft my idea of a 'Top 10' song list covering my time in the Society up till now. The sort of thing 'Q' magazine publishes every 3 months.
   The list is subjective of course, and my opinion doesn't count for anything at all anyway.  What I will say though is that these songs represent excellent, and sometimes classic, examples of their respective genres, and as such, would be up there with any of the internationally renowned great albums.  While anyone who's been involved with the Society for a few years would be able to draft their own list, I'm sure the excellence of songwriting is unanimously agreed upon.  There are a lot of 'classic' songs out there.
   These 10 songs I all love and represent pretty much their impact on me as a listener, in order from 1-10 (it was quite difficult to decide on an order), rather than "likeability" as such.  The styles vary accordingly, 4 artists are male, 6 are female.  These songs may not necessarily be the artist's "best" song, but they do convey something universal and special to me.  I suppose it's a bit of a plug for those who made the list but really this exercise is meant to promote the Society and our Songwriting as a whole.  I could have easily have forged a Top 20 list and included 10 more artists but time and space disallow that.
   (Note: none of these songs are part of the current 2002 Top 10 Song Contest).

10. Christine
Writer: Vesna Malnar; performed by Ana Key and the Minority Group

'Christine' is a propulsive rock song that takes on the style of classic New Wave rock such as Siouxie and the Banshees and the very early Church.  The build up to each chorus is dramatic and powerful, yet subtle, and all is enhanced by the powerful drumming at just the right places.  The brilliant storyline and lyrics give the song an added depth and power.  The lyric "It's a movie show.." which ends each chorus becomes the rawly exciting fade out coda, lending to the song a sense of classic New Wave rock, which it is at its finest. 

9. Never Run Away
Writer: Ben Ackerman; performed by BeNNeTT, & Shadow

This is one of those rare, special love songs that truly convinces the listener that the singer (writer) is really in love.  The sheer commanding beauty of the melody, the fantastic chorus, and the unashamed lyrics are kept in balance by Ben's fervent - yet thoroughly natural - sense of nobility and an almost steely resolve.  Therefore, the song does nothing but convince the listener of the power of the singer's love, captured within the confine of a most commanding, striking and beautiful love song.  And one that all of us can relate to in our own experience. 

8. Control
Writer: Wendy Ford; performed by Wendy Ford & Whisker

A huge pop song with tremendous impact and power, 'Control' starts off with a relaxed groove reminiscent of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side' and builds up step by step with delightful musical and lyrical turns.  The evocative lyrics of "Glebe markets Saturday afternoon.." take a surreal turn of phrase that bursts forth into the magnificent chorus, in a minor key.  Structurally & lyrically excellent with one of the best choruses you'll hear anywhere, 'Control' radiates a life of its own with a commanding sense of the sheer arresting power of great pop music.

7. I Know
Writer: Gavin Fitzgerald; performed by Velvet Road

A fusion of the musical style of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the sandshoe rock'n'roll grit of early Cold Chisel, 'I Know' stands up as a Classic blues-rock corker.  The hint of  soul-influence in the music lends to the song a heady magnificence with just the right elements of power, verve and heart-driven passion.  You can virtually smell the leaded petrol emanating off this track, and hear the skidmarks of the Holden Sandman spinning off dusty roads.  No doubt this is a track a band like Cold Chisel would have taken savage delight in "pounding to the boards" during their formative years at the Largs Pier Hotel, Adelaide, in the mid 70's.

6. Stay With Me
Writer & performer: Daya'mayii

This beauteous gem vaguely carries with it the sound and feel of Carole King's Tapestry album, yet 'Stay With Me' eclipses King's influence in that it possesses a sensitivity and poignancy that is matched by only very few.  An intimate song of reachingness, Daya'mayii wears her soul on her sleeve ("Stay with me / I'm kind of troubled...I'm a lost soul / but I find my path if you stay with me...") and matches her words with a gentle, beautiful and piercingly sensitive musical backdrop.  As sensitive and beautiful a song quite likely, as Nick Drake's 'Saturday Sun'.

5. Love Sweet Love
Writer & performer: Christian Laki

A searing song that celebrates the joy of love, it happily reflects an overt Beatles influence from say, their Magical Mystery period of late '67.  It almost seems like a cross between 'All you need is love' and 'I am the Walrus', albeit with a clearer perspective and production.  Lyrically clever and warm, the song really takes off in the middle eight where it reaches stellar heights.  One of the best middle eights you'll ever hear, and the dramatic move from the middle eight into the baritone guitar solo is just brilliant.  With all respect to the rich and famous, Noel Gallagher still has a long way to go before he reaches this level.

4. The Donut Shop
Writer & performer: Sarah Binnie

One of the most original songs you'll ever hear, and one of the most arresting too.  This was based on a simple guitar turn that is most akin to a slightly warped blues but the story and vocal melodies that ebbed and flowed were spellboundingly amazing, the heart on the sleeve thing captured in a song that resonated immediately with a vulnerable, yet true emotional sincerity.  Sarah hasn't been in the Society for a while and I only recall this song vaguely but Christ it had an impact, on a lot of people.

3. Talk Quietly
Writers: Megan Albany, Marc Mittag; performed by Skinful

This is scintillating, delicious pop that mirrors early 80's Brit Soul-pop most epitomised by artists such as Tracey Thorn, Everything but the Girl, and the early Style Council.  Superbly produced, arranged and crafted, 'Talk Quietly' lauds the value of a quiet, special friend.  This definitely gives the song its subtle emotive power, and housed with its warm, vibrant melodies and lyrics and standout chorus, make it a truly wonderful and special pop song.  A song that arouses the best that music can bring out, sheer bubbly happiness and joy!

2. By the Holy Water
Writer: Pennie Lennon; performed by My Hearts Dezire

An extraordinary song.  Pennie's piano and yearning chorus take on so much feel it's incredible.  Pennie is a true tone poet and the musical modulations, twists and turns throughout the song emphasise and evoke feels, moods and colours of all dimensions, to me, I hear a purple Hermann Hessian existentiality wafting through.  A real trip, in other words.  And it all comes together into a most dramatic five minute song that quite easily matches the genius of all the classical masters bar none.  The striking melodies, an incredible harmonic structure which works powerfully and so emotively mixed with an equally incredible lyric make this song a definitive piece of Genius.  No wonder the Church's Steve Kilbey was keen to produce Pennie's album Journeys.  'By the Holy Water' appears on My Hearts Dezire's Live at Karmic Hit Ep which although relatively unproduced (compared to her other albums) is nonetheless arguably her finest album.

1. Begin
Writers: Chris Carrapetta, Simon Laham; performed by Chris Carrapetta, Dreaming Tree

Pennie gets pipped at the post by a lad's song.  Well, I'm a lad, and Chris Carrapetta & Simon Laham have penned what is probably the most classic urban-country 20-something love song ever written.  Not so much a love song as one of anticipation of love ("...don't you know it's with you that I wanna Begin...").  Fusing the styles of Neil Young with the more contemporary Ryan Adams and solo Tim Rogers (U am I) to create that urban-country sound, Chris & Simon have quite possibly eclipsed the lot of them (well, let's not get hysterical, maybe leave Neil Young out of this one...).  It's very contemporary, vibrant, very inner-west Sydney sounding, and seems to mirror or champion a lower middle-class perspective.  It fuses classic simplicity with yearning yet upbeat melodies and universal sentiments, and, a totally effable singalong chorus.  The opening lyrics reflect longing, ("...there is no greater joy in this world / than the touch of my sweet lowdown tattooed girl...").  The girl is vividly portrayed throughout the verses, ("...tattooed ballerina girl...lives her life in a perfect ballerina's twirl...burns her hair and she don't care...paints her face like a mime in a circus fair...her painted face her burnt brown hair / brings me back to her from anywhere.")  The choruses are absolutely classic sing-a-long material that will get every punter singing along in pubs all over the nation and which is why it will be in Triple J's Top 100 when Chris bothers promoting it!  The chorus simply reflects the tug of angst where the relationship is just beginning, or just sort of, ("Spent all night on your living room floor / thought I saw it in you but I wasn't quite sure / we did a lot of laughing and we almost cried / and I looked in your face and in your eyes I died...).  The crunch and musical/lyrical majesty of youthful boyish heroism closes the chorus ("...oh baby I just want you to let me i-i-in / don't you know it's with you that I wanna Begin..").  The song; where performed, always generates a tremendous audience response - and calls for repeat performances!
   'Begin' is not necessarily Chris Carrapetta's finest song per se ("I'm over it" says Chris about 'Begin') but it is one of those "classic" songs that will go a long way if pushed and promoted, sort of like what 'Khe Sahn' did for Cold Chisel.  I'd suggest to Chris to re-record the song in his singing key and to find a good, suitable producer.  The rest will be Australian Indie Rock history!  This is one of those special songs that could easily make Triple J's Top 100 and be Number One with it. 

In short, here's the order:
1.  Begin
2.  By the Holy Water
3.  Talk Quietly
4.  The Donut Shop
5.  Love Sweet Love
6.  Stay With Me
7.  I Know
8.  Control
9.  Never Run Away
10. Christine

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...