Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Unless your idea of fun is a Hootie and the Blowfish dress-up party, I strongly suggest flushing two Sky Blue Sky tracks ('I Hate it Here' and 'Walken') down the toilet. It’s rare for me to have such an astringent reaction to two numbers, but seriously these songs make me violently ill and threaten to disrupt what is otherwise a fine collection of pearls, ten in total, perhaps Wilco’s prettiest set to date.

Since bringing outlaw country to late-80s suburbia (via Uncle Tupelo, a Wilco pre-cursor), Wilco has mastered many styles rooted in Americana: country, rock, pop, light stuff, dark stuff, classic jams, futuristic jams, and so on. They started out simple, but by their last effort, 2004’s A Ghost is Born, they were turning feral and goddamn if it wasn’t totally exciting. Sky Blue Sky is a stark contrast; its antithesis. They sound tamed and sober. They’ve gone from loud back to quiet, serving up a downbeat sound well-suited to bar closing time. Nice and smooth 70’s soft rock with the occasional dippy lyric. “You feel like singing a song you want other people to sing along/ then just sing what you feel and don’t let anyone say it’s wrong,” sings Tweedy, soporifically summing up the modus operandi. There’s only been a handful of Wilco lyrics that have meant something to me beyond the song and it was mainly stuff off Being There — a good manual for being back in your old neighbourhood and taking up smoking. Subsequent Jeff Tweedy-penned numbers I could appreciate for their cool imagery, but mostly I liked Jeff’s flow (the band has always been good). But when the lyrics lose their ambiguity, you start to notice it, and when it becomes too obvious, or lame (e.g. 'Hate it Here' and 'Walken'), you feel like you’ve been sodomised by one of the Blowfish at a backyard barbecue over a round of Rolling Rock.

The rest of Sky Blue Sky may require a few dates before she loosens up. Guitarist Nels Cline, expected to break all kinds of masturbation records here, shows admirable Tantric restraint. His guitar playing is wonderful and the anonymous sidemen apply pleasant piano, organ and lap steel effects to the cosy surrounds. Cut the crap and it’s a pretty sweet album. Sky Blue Sky has its moment, and it's mostly a mellow one, but a moment it is nevertheless and what else do we have these days, but moments.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Flywheel of Dads

What I got up to yesterday was kind of interesting. Though it began with a very uninteresting (yet significant) headache. Reporting ahead of schedule to a three o’ clock meeting at an Elwood cafe with a minor celebrity, I quickly scarfed down a vodka tonic to relieve swelling. She meanwhile turned up totally frazzled. We did the interview but she kept worrying about the mobile phone she had just lost on the beach (it was her only way of contacting a former Australian Idol contestant and apparently she needed to be in contact with this person constantly). Also her dog was outside tied to a pole and she kept fearing it would be kidnapped. Nevertheless she provided good value, was terribly cooperative and hardly the brassy tyrant I expected.

Italian restaurants with classic European post-war style are enjoyable eateries. I ordered four plates of fresh seafood for a satisfied party of twelve. My boss said one more plate would have been nice. Did you not have a tiger prawn? I asked. “No, he replied stoically. "I didn’t.”

We quaffed from a 2005 Cabernet Merlot called Annie’s Lane. It was good. I keep wanting to call it Annie’s Lennox (the actual winery might be called Lennox Farm, or I could be imaging the whole thing, I don’t know), seriously buy it if you can find it under $15. I pounded a long black, hailed a cab and caught Flywheel into their second song at The Tote. They have a new drummer now and his name is Greg. Greg has great taste in timepieces and his cool is boundless. The bassist’s wife was sweating his wool jacket hard after the show. He was feeling the love and I was giving it too. Flywheel seriously rocked like Guided by Voices. The whole time I was thinking how great it is to be friends with these guys. They put on one of my favourite shows of the year. There were actually girls screaming.

My Dad got a hole in one today, my Mother tells me. He was inches from a second hole in one on the next hole too. I am so proud of that guy. He’s the Flywheel of Dads.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

All a bit creepy

Not a lot going on here, murder in the streets, bullets of rain, harsh winds, foul moods. Not that I mind the weather, in fact I like it, it’s murder I don’t like and the sounds of my colleagues rattling their spoons inside empty yogurt containers, scraping for an agreeable finish to their ridiculous health snack or the smug, smacking sounds they make with their faces afterwards. I am unable to appreciate my new casual knitwear under circumstances such as these.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Braindead, or not

The trouble with finishing a book after a rager is that the brain cells you need to comprehend what you’re reading, many of which are shaky at the best of times, either have died or are waiting at the station to be transferred to the junkyard of after-party detritus. But you persist because you like to read. The novel (I was attempting to read) was Nabokov’s Transparent Things.

It’s a fairly straightforward effort by him, but nevertheless, brain matter does help. What I can recall is that an uncoordinated publishing assistant under mysterious circumstances beds a glamorous, impulsive, frigid femme fatale, and even though she likes him only for his brilliant mind, she subjects him to a series of physical tests accompanied by two beefcake Nordic twins and before you know it the odd couple marry and flit between NY (where they live) and Switzerland, where he applies pressure on an enigmatic novelist named R to finish his damn opus.

Brain dead or not, every sentence is like devouring emphatically fine foody prose replete with marvelous expressions and hilarious adjectives. Just don’t ask me to explain the title because I’ll make something up about pencil shavings and atoms.

Party the night before was rightly bitchin. I was showered with “unexpected” attention and unexpected gifts (two bike bells, OZ mix CDs, tablecloth, countless other goodies), felt very overwhelmed, ate kangaroo shish kebabs, De Campo burned a hole in Catherine’s tights, Matt made a bloody great Pavlova, I fumbled my way through an impromptu speech and tossed vegetables in the air, the shattered capsicum of which Matt used as a dummy to sing The Birthday Party’s Release the Bats (there really is no other way to tackle this).

Woke up, tad bleary, finished TT and contemplated my next choice. I had wanted to read Snugglepot and Cuddlepie next, but then I started on Philip Roth’s Anatomy Lesson (excellent, by the way; much better than The Ghostwriter and Zuckerman Unbound), so I may have to do S&C after this.

Snug and Cud is a beautifully illustrated childrens’ book (wicked banksia man pictured above) written by May Gibbs about a hundred years ago in Western Australia), a gift from Michael & Fiona (also from Western Australia) for becoming citizen of their country. Funnily enough M's mother H — who performed a supremely intoxicating piano recital on Sunday that we were present at — knew May Gibbs' niece and spoke to her on the phone on at least one occasion. She talked like “THI-I-I-S-S-S”. Apparently she had a very deep voice, not sure if Helen was talking about May or the niece. Anyway back to the recital — De Bussy was the subject and it reminded me a little of Gershwin and when I told H this, she busted out a few bars of Rhapsody in Blue. Just divine. Later an angel named Rodrick laid down some Fats Waller voodoo and it was GOOOD (deep mean voice). But then the coffee table shattered, luckily no one was hurt, we barbequed homemade sausage rolls, finished the champagne listening to Thin Lizzy and then scooted home (wasn’t far, we live on the same street as the hosts).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Australian Possum

A possum dropped by our house the other night, used our premises as a latrine, then beat it, presumably to a groovier happening. It was our first marsupial encounter at home and it reminded me how a visit with Greg Valentine might transpire in this day and age.

Initially tipped off by a small brown pellet which lay on the table where we normally put our drinks. Upon closer examination I found the shape and colour not dissimilar to possum shit. After that we discovered an isolated wet patch on the paved part of the courtyard. This was rather chilling data and De Campo and I both voiced our concern.

Just then we heard a loud crack and tumbling from a high branch in our plum tree the rude article made herself known. Flashing a devilish scowl, she climbed back up, reached a height of roughly three metres and proceeded to relieve herself in a torrential fashion, forcing me to jump back in horror, while De Campo ran inside visibly shaken. The big, brushtail equipped with the biggest ass I’ve ever seen, used the tall branch as a bridge to edge onto the roof. It disappeared over the roofline and even though I didn't see the creature again, I did hear a loud crash but was far too fearful to investigate.

In other news I have been an Australian citizen since last Thursday. More on this later. The blog is a fair bit behind at the moment. The possum encounter happened last Sunday fer goodness sakes.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

X, At Home With You

I love the fact that they were on the couch watching The Cosby Show.