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Crowded House – Time On Earth

Crowded House’s Time On Earth is a very personal album about love and loss

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Crowded House evokes many fond memories for me, such as the first date with my then future wife, which included seeing their second Los Angeles performance at the Palace in 1987. I have long thought that they were one of the ten best bands post New Wave era; and that Neil Finn is one of the greatest singer/songwriters to ever grace a stage or recording studio. In their decade together as a band, they produced four remarkable albums that have played countless times on my turntable and CD player.

Sometimes good things are born out of tragic events. As a drummer who admired Paul Hester’s creative work, I was saddened and pissed off when I heard he had taken his own life in March of 2005. Though the band suffered the loss of his integral contributions, I am pleased that Nick Seymour and Finn decided to record a new album and are currently performing tour dates in Europe, Australia and North America.

Time On Earth begins with the melodic if not somber “Nobody Wants To,” a song about depression, the sadness of loss and the danger of ignoring the personal feelings that follow. Though the arrangement sounds a bit stark, it is immediately evident that Seymour’s thoughtful bass work and backing vocals are made tailor made for Finn’s darkly adult power pop. “She Called Up” offers a happy melody in spite of the fact that the lyrics are about receiving dreadful news. The song has an accessible Split Enz influence mixed with the satirical qualities that permeated Crowded House’s Woodface album. After hearing “Say That Again” a few times, I began to appreciate the lyrical quality and subtle beauty of the melody. As welcome as Seymour’s contributions are on this song, it is conversely obvious that the loss of Hester’s powerful drumming has left a deep vacuum in the sound of the reunited band. For my money, the percussion contributions of former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod and session players Rikki Gooch and Ethan Johns never rises above adequate.

Among several of the standout tracks that I have come to expect from the band, “Even a Child” is a moving deliberation about mortality that offers this interesting passage: “The stories left to write/ the ebb and flow of my life / to justify the end / I’ll do everything I can / and it’s a dangerous game / I heard you tell someone that you don’t care // But I don’t believe the message / and when you sing about love / What are you thinking of?

On this song, Finn crafts the quintessential A-B-C composition with a strong verse, chorus and exceptional bridge part. As a balladeer, Finn knows few peers and the outstanding “A Sigh” owns all the ethereal qualities that he has so often showcased during his prolific career. The disc closes with the haunting “People Are Like Suns,” a metaphor for the cycle of existence. The song combines a nearly perfect infusion of melancholy tempered with the knowledge that everything earthly comes to an end.

Brought together first as friends attempting to understand the suicide of their band mate and then as successful musical collaborators, Time On Earth is a very personal album about love and loss. Rather than hit you over the head, Finn skillfully wraps his message about life in nebulous lyrics that doesn’t insult the listener’s intelligence. With only a year of age separating us, I identify with the themes expressed on this record and in the spirit of that message; I offer this quote from Annie Hall: Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

(ATO Records)

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Calvin Clone – Machines [single]

Meshed together with the cyber sounds of machines throughout, it’s a weird but working combination

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Calvin Clone Machines

The year is 2040. The war between human vs machine is at the forefront. Is it too late for humans to take back the world from Artificial Intelligence? Are we already outrun by machines? Have no fear, Calvin Clone is here. “Machines” is the first of three singles released by Melbourne artist Calvin Clone. This first track allows listeners to see into the future through song. Setting it simply, according to Calvin Clone, our world is taken over by machines, and I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound too crazy to me.

Founder and creator of Calvin Clone, Jack Alexandrovics, “combines dance, pop, industrial and rock to create a vision of cyberpunk.” This single shows a great connection music can have between modern and classic interpretation. There is a fantastic guitar riff throughout the song and really stands out when played. Meshed together with the cyber sounds of machines throughout, it’s a weird but working combination.

Alexandrovics’s theatrical voice adds yet another element to the song. He explains that his music is “closer to a theatre production than a conventional gig”. The vocal element in “Machines” exposes an ability to move up and down the scales flawlessly.

It is really exciting to see artists thinking outside of the conventional box. Calvin Clone explores modern and futuristic ideas yet keeps the integrity of a smashing guitar riff and untouched voice. There will be two more singles released by the end of the year which will all be part of his EP Kinetics. Calvin Clone is ambitious with visuals and sonics, and wants the live audience to be fully engaged in all aspects of his live performance. “Machines” has been stuck in my head for days. It’s catchy and engaging and I can’t wait to hear what else may be coming our way. This is only the beginning.

(self-released)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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