w/ Stolen Youth, Bad Day Down
02.23.07 @ The Palace, Melbourne, AUS
The last time I got to see NOFX was back in 1999, on a lazily lit evening at Slim’s on what would be a perfect San Francisco night. It was the crowning glory for this (former) angsty teen punk- the flesh and blood of the songs in person … even if they stood around on stage for a handsome 45 minutes before they actually played one. And while much of the landscape of punk music has changed since then, NOFX, like many of the old timers, haven’t changed all that much. Sure, they’ve tried their hand at crass political commentary that was neither effective, nor really any good for that matter. Then they tried to skew the religious right, which ended up being no fun (but that whole Underoath/Warped Tour debacle was pretty funny). And in all honesty, serious political/religious review coming from a band that once sang about a vagina, the glorification of Jerry Garcia’s death (they even got the date wrong!), and sex with fat people is hard to take. Nonetheless, no matter the year, there are a few things guaranteed at a NOFX show:
- People still throw shoes at them.
- People still spit on them (and they still hate it).
- Drunk or not, NOFX still put on one of the best live shows you’ll ever go to.
They key is, of course, the depth of the catalogue from where they can pull their material from: 10 full-length albums, the best longest song ever written, countless EPs, and more 7” records than you can throw at a hippy. It’s a cavalcade of quality material that on any given night will satiate everyone from the old fans to those who jumped on the Pump Up the Valuum bandwagon.
They’re also lazy- having not returned to Australia in some five or so years, tickets for their run through the country were sold quickly. A packed house was treated to some quality opening acts, the bill listed two but according to other concert goers there were in fact three. The first two were missed because public transport means getting to a venue that’s a 30-minute drive takes almost 2 hours. Adelaide’s Stolen Youth however, were on late enough for those casual attendees to get a good taste of their punchy punk/hardcore that is more out of the 80’s hardcore scene that anything recently. Their songs were fast, destructive, and concise- a good way for the crowd to warm up to the headliners.
Thankfully, when the Bay Area foursome made their way on-stage, they wasted little time and got straight into it (thank God). Opening curiously with their rendition of “Straight Edge,” they launched into what guitarist El Hefe described as a “shit sandwich that everyone is taking a bite of”—the song I’m sure, a lot of the crowd came to see, their 18-minute opus, “The Decline.” At this point, I was satisfied; no other alcoholic band in the world could pull off a technically difficult 18-minute song quite so perfectly. The rest of the set was peppered with the new (“Seeing Double at the Triple Rock”— one of the few highlights of Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing) and the old (“Soul Doubt,” the crowd favorite “Bob”) while engaging the crowd like no one else could. None of this rockstar bullshit either- at one point, Fat Mike, sufficiently fed up by someone in the crowd for throwing a shoe at him, threw the shoe back and asked the crowd to politely, “beat the shit out of him.” In-between raucous performances of favorites “Lori Meyers,” “Eat the Meek,” and of course, “Linoleum,” there was a bizarre wedding proposal by a girl invited on stage. And after the successful, wildly incoherent proposal, Fat Mike promptly berated her for having “poor stage presence.” Superb.While they are now in the their forties and sportin’ kids, the quality hour and a half set was more than what the crowd could have expected after a lengthy absence from these shores. NOFX may not write songs as well as they use to, but when they kick out those old jams, it’s not only strangely refreshing, it’s still something to behold.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.