We could sit here all day and discuss the ethos behind the entire ‘punk’ mantra; in the end inspecting the spiraling consequences of the mainstream upsurge that ultimately peaked in 1994. Three years after the breakout year, dubbed by many as “the year punk broke” (1991), the resurgence of the punk subculture back into the mainstream scope was in significant contrast to the 70’s and early 80’s – there was now widespread acceptance.
Some high touted scripture penned by punk rock historians? Aging musicians lamenting on what has become? Actually, just part of a feature I wrote a little while ago pointing the significant corollary of a subculture’s rise into its supposed “higher tiers.” Yes, its very self-indulgent, but I’m not one for simply regurgitating something done before, although that could very well crystallize as the one defining impression left by this Milemarker-cum-Challenger trio. Not to say this is some transmutation of Milemarker; although it does consist of both Al Burian and Dave Laney of said band, Challenger is, plainly stated, an update of what Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen and the Dead Milkmen did in their heyday. And when most of today’s so-called flag bearers all look like Johnny Depp’s lost third cousin desperately trying to imitate Conor Oberst, a bit of Bob Mould and Mike Watt is undeniably refreshing. However, it is important to state that in this century, you really only get one real chance at making a lasting impression, and with all their straightforward, no-nonsense rock pastiche, machinegun drumming and heavily fuzzed out guitars, Challenger do little but skip to vague reminiscence and the unavoidable “back in the day this meant something” chain of thought.
Blame it on MTV, blame it on the genre’s current state, blame it on the commercial goldmine it has become, but Give the People What They Want in Lethal Doses lacks the venom to pull the desensitized masses away from the tripe and garbage of music television. The components of Give the People… resonate with certain competence; “Input the Output” would fit a home on a Minor Threat set list while “Crushed City” does well to case the aggressive vocals in similar musical aptitude. Yet as the fist-over-fist hamming struts with reckless abandon, it does so with very little distinction. It is all good and well that Challenger harkens back to more, how do we say? Challenging days, but they too often crave more musical tones – at times making them sound a lot like Screw 32 – diluting the aggression and forcefulness. A problem? Indeed, the bands that pummel, kick and stab with great results are extremely hard to find (save a few), Challenger on the other hand, are readily available thanks to many favorable circumstances.
It leads to this point’s finality. In mainstream acceptance, the thought that nothing is shocking anymore has completely drained much of the initial value of interest. It is unfortunate too because a lot of listeners could use a good kick in the head, but there just isn’t enough here to grab you by the throat. Give the People What They Want In Lethal Doses just isn’t dangerous enough. Fostered to great health some time ago by Fear, Youth of Today and the aforementioned bands, Challenger is an example of all the right ideals done with little effect at all the right times.
(Jade Tree Records)
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.