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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Cat Empire – Cinema

Back in the day they used to call this “good top 40.” Australian sensations the Cat Empire have a very 80s sound, but with values that go back another 20 years. With their anthemic songwriting, catchy chord changes, and high energy, unaffected vocals, they’re huge down under, now in the process of extending their fan base outside the Tropic of Capricorn. Interestingly, their lead instrument is Ollie McGill’s electric piano, incisive and bluesy like Rod Argent during his time with the Zombies. Frontman/percussionist Felix Riebl projects with a hoarse insistence that vividly evokes Peter Gabriel on his first solo albums. Drummer Will Hull-Brown gives the songs a big-room drama while the band’s turntablist Jamshid Khadiwala adds the occasional sample or scratch for a bit of a hip-hop/trip-hop tinge.

The album’s catchy opening track Waiting swings along with Zombies-esque electric piano. Trumpeter Harry Angus brings the hip-hop-inflected Falling up at the end with a big crescendo. The indomitable Feelings Gone sounds like Men at Work if that band had come out in the late 90s: “I think that I’m gonna wake up on your lawn,” announces Riebl, unperturbed. The best song on the album is the slinky, uneasy Only Light, building from a rousing gospel organ intro to a big roaring chorus. The next cut, All Hell pounds along, dark and Beatlesque, with an expansive and absolutely delicious organ solo. 

The Heart Is a Cannibal is the most overtly 80s of all the cuts here. Another standout track, Call Me Home is bouncy, ska-tinged and apprehensive: “Call me home, is there anybody there at all?” Riebl asks. On My Way follows that, reggae-tinged, with a blithe dixieland solo from Angus. Ballads don’t seem to be the band’s strong suit, but that’s not the point of the Cat Empire anyway. They sound like they’d be a lot of fun live (their most recent album, a live recording, went platinum in Australia). The Cat Empire play the Music Hall of Williamsburg on July 31 at 9.

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July 1, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/29/10

Only thirty more days til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1! Tuesday’s song is #30:

The Church – For a Moment We’re Strangers

Opening with a blast of guitar fury uncommonly intense even for this band, it’s the most disquietingly accurate portrait of a one-night stand ever set to music:

In the empty place the souls strip bare
Of skins and heart
And they come apart
In your icy hands
I forget my role
As I stare into your soul

A title track of sorts from the iconic Australian art-rock band’s 1981 debut album.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/16/10

Every day, for about the next six weeks anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #43:

The Church – Already Yesterday

As his bass carries the melody soaring over Peter Koppes’ airy guitar, frontman Steve Kilbey casually narrates a chilling post-apocalyptic scenario. Live, he’s been known to change the lyrics: “Please don’t feel those locks and chains, please don’t listen to the lizard part of your brain…” From the Heyday album, 1986.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/14/10

Boston was fun but it’s good to be home. Regardless of where we might be, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #45:

Radio Birdman – Death by the Gun

The original 1978 studio version of this punked-out country murder ballad with one of the greatest guitar solos of all time doesn’t appear to exist in digital form anywhere – although there are live versions, most of them very dodgy, floating around the web (like this one by RB guitarist Chris Masuak’s band the Hitmen). The Horehounds also had the good sense to cover it

June 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/23/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #67:

The Church – Grind

Lushly jangly, clanging art-rock masterpiece, the concluding cut on the underrated 1990 Gold Afternoon Fix album, an exhausted, embittered view of a band disintegrating. Fortunately, twenty years later, the psychedelic Australian crew remain as vital as ever. The link above is a live cut from 1992

May 23, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/6/10

Working feverishly on getting the May-June concert calendar  here up to snuff – have you noticed what a kick-ass summer we New Yorkers have to look forward to? Other stuff coming soon, in the meantime, the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #84:

The Church – The Disillusionist

Centerpiece of the iconic 1992 Priest = Aura album, it’s a macabrely metaphorical examination of the charismatic appeal of fascism, surreal Kinks-style vaudeville rock through the misty, reverb-spotted prism of dreampop. “They say that he’s famous from the waist down, but the top half of his body is a corpse.”

May 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/12/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #108:

Midnight Oil – Mountains of Burma

The haunting, apocalyptic centerpiece to the Australian art-rockers’ possibly career-best 1990 Blue Sky Mining album is an epic touching on topics as diverse yet interconnected as genocide, womens’ rights and global deforestation, all in six-plus crescendoing, funereal minutes.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/7/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #113:

The Saints – Grain of Sand

One of the great janglerock hits of alltime, and also the most evocative song about cocaine ever written. It doesn’t exactly romanticize the drug. From All Fools’ Day, 1989, the group’s high point as a jangle band.

April 6, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Kilbey’s Solo Albums Now Available As a Box Set

For fans who can’t get enough of legendary Australian rockers the Church, virtually all of frontman Steve Kilbey’s recordings as a solo artist are now available as an 8-cd box set from Second Motion Records. The label warns that this is a limited edition and copies are going fast. The set includes remastered digipack copies of Unearthed and Earthed, The Slow Crack, the massive triple album Remindlessness, the Narcosis ep, Dabble and Artifacts and Freaky Conclusions (the latter of which have never been officially released in the US). The only thing missing is Kilbey’s latest and best solo album, Painkiller, from last year, also available from Second Motion.

As a dedicated bandleader, Kilbey saves his best material for the band. But there are treasures everywhere throughout this collection: janglerock, piano miniatures, his trademark “space-rock,” neo T Rex folk/psych ballads, hypnotic soundscapes and at least an album’s worth of A-list songs that for one reason or another never made it into the Church catalog. Essential listening for fans of the band and a rewarding listen for those with the money and the inclination. Orders received before May 18, 2010 will also receive a bonus digital-only album of rare, previously unreleased demos.

Now it’s time for the Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes box sets!

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/10/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #141:

Midnight Oil – Put Down That Weapon

The great Australian art-rockers at their most concisely epic, from Diesel and Dust, 1988, Jim Moginie’s ominous organ anchoring the anthem. “And it happens to be an emergency.”

March 10, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment