My Favourite Album Podcast – Hourly, Daily

hourly-daily-1

I recently sat down with my friend Jeremy for his wonderful podcast My Favourite Album. I chose to talk about ‘Hourly, Daily‘, the third record by You Am I. There’s a bit about how I discovered the record, but plenty of fun little facts about this album. I once submitted a proposal to write a 33 1/3 book about this album. Maybe I will write it one day regardless.

You can listen to it here

Or better still, read about the episode, or find it on iTunes.

Top 10 films of 2013

OK. I haven’t actually seen everything. Inside Llewyn Davis, The Grandmaster, Nebraska and a couple of others could probably be here if anyone in Australia would release it. Here’s the top 10 of the films I saw.

About Time
Richard Curtis

A beautiful film. Richard Curtis uses time travel like in ‘Midnight In Paris’ – it makes no sense, but it feels right. A man with the ability to time travel goes about his normal life, falls in love and does everything with extra time. Several scenes are as inventive as anything romantic comedy, with the number one for me the Maida Vale tube station scene. A year of a relationship plays out at the same tube stop, while Bellowhead plays How Long Will I Love You? (originally by the Waterboys). It will make you cry, and love life. An unexpected delight this year.

Before Midnight
Richard Linklater

I’ve followed Celine and Jesse for almost 20 years now, so I was as excited as anyone to see this. And it exceeded those expectations. We pick up 9 years later, we’ve moved into somewhere more, of course, older and more mature. The amazing, 14 minute single cut car scene shows that there is still filmmaking ambtions – it’s not just two people talking. But the talking – heartbreaking as ever – that really makes it a classic. The only perfect trilogy.

Up On Poppy Hill
Goro Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli’s films are some of the most universally acclaimed in all history of cinema. So another good one is kind of not a story anymore. But I found myself lost in the Umi’s world, as she tries to just get through her teenage concerns. Ghibli has tried to make a down to earth teenage story before (such as Ocean Waves), but they finally nailed it. Umi is such a great character, and not since ET has riding a bike seem so exciting on film.

The World’s End
Edgar Wright

A clever inversion of the classic Edgar Wright film: Nick Frost is the hero, Simon Pegg the weirdo. It’s another great sci fi film, where someone (Wright) has built the world from scratch. A world of British pubs, and with the usual mind bending easter eggs on rewatch.

Gravity
Alfonso Cuaron

I sometimes pick up my cats and swoosh them around, and saying ‘save me George Clooney!”. Anyway, the biggest technical achievement of 2013. Plus a hugely emotional watch.

The Look Of Love
Michael Winterbottom

A fantastic, sprawling biopic about the Mayor of Soho. The right mix of sleazy and heart, with Imogen Poots stealing the show.

American Hustle
David O’Russell

Like Argo, just hugely enjoyable. The cast is so good, the Oscars need to introduce a handicap system.

Alan Partidge: Alpha Papa
Declan Lowney

My favourite pure comedy of the year. And great soundtrack too.

Side Effects
Stephen Soderbergh

A brilliant puzzle of a film. Very Hitchcock. And a brilliant twist.

Trance
Danny Boyle

Similar to Side Effects in some ways, and not as good, but 7 million times more stylish. Oh Danny Boyle. What a nutter. And James McAvoy looks very dapper.

Jolly Coppers On Parade

This morning, the Police Association Of NSW issued a statement. The statement was in reaction to a story that has been picked up on the mainstream news. At the heart of it is a video of a young man involved in a scuffle with police.

There is a lot to be said, and probably will be said in the coming days, about the content of the video. I have my opinions, sure. But reading some of the press this morning, I feel more clearly disgusted at the Police Association’s statement.

Lets have a look at the statement from Scot Weber from the NSW Police Association.

The Police Association hasn’t seen the footage from the Mardi Gras yet, but in saying that, we need to go down the proper lines of investigation

We’ve seen time and time again where footage looks very adverse, such as we saw at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but then on proper investigation it was easy to highlight that the police officer’s actions were justified.

It is, frankly, an insult.

The Police Association hasn’t seen the footage from the Mardi Gras yet.

It is the most talked about video in Australia this morning. It’s on all the major news outlets. It directly concerns you and your employer.

When do you think you might get around to watching the video? Is the Internet down at the Police Association of NSW headquarters? How much time is allowed to lapse before you get around to watching it? I would think that’s the first thing you would do. How can you make a statement with such arrogant ignorance. To be proud of it.

Of course, it’s not that simple. He didn’t want to be questioned about the content of the video, and protected himself. It is the only thing that makes any sense. Which makes Weber a clear liar. Otherwise the NSW police can’t even type YouTube into their Google.

Or worse of all, they don’t even care to watch the video. Which leads us to this….

We’ve seen time and time again where footage looks very adverse … on proper investigation it was easy to highlight that the police officer’s actions were justified

This first of this two line statement was an awful lie. The second is truly scary. They’ve passed judgement.

Go back to sleep everyone. Shut up. Turn your computers off. Move along. Fuck off.

They haven’t seen the footage, but they know how it’s going to go. Well, Mr Weber, h about Rodney King? What, there’s no correlation between Rodney King and this? My bringing it up just poisons the conversation in one particular way? Yes.

How about those hidden cameras of corrupt NSW cops taking bribes from over a decade ago? Is that relevant?

It’s different cops, different situation, different case. You aren’t even entertaining the thought of judging or investigating this on its own merits. Has the NSW Police taken a stand to disregard any consumer video footage as evidence? And is this policy? I would like these questions answered.

But I would imagine Mr Weber could be presented with the Rodney King beating and say “we’ve seen time and time again…”. And not even watch the footage. It could be a video of a police officer jerking off into the face of a puppy. How the hell would Weber know?

Our culture has a long history of people protesting films, music or more, from reactionary groups who have never even seen it. I think it’s clear that we all think that is not the best part of us as humans. An awful part of us that the NSW Police are embodying, this morning at least.

Who knows what will happen with the video. I am going to be extremely forgiving and say this. It was most likely a heightened situation. And on both sides, any wrongs, were not premeditated, likely regrettable and ultimately forgivable.

But to make a planned statement that is deliberately, wilfully and belligerently ignorant, and to pass judgement on the case already, is an insult. If there is police brutality, ever, it’s your help we, the community, need.

Haven’t you ever seen Serpico?

The Reservations – Victorias

I’ve been sitting on this album for a while. I figure putting it out there might be the thing to do. Recorded over a year ago with friends and members of what has become the loose collective of The Reservations.

The songs were written and about my time in London. It was supposed to be a very long album, but in the end became a very short album. Anyway, enjoy. For the record, I think the song Strummer has some pretty good lyrics.

Top 10 Films of 2012

1. Cabin In the Woods

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard created a mini masterpiece. Hilarious, scary and about the art of film itself, it questions what we love about violent films. A bunch of teenagers set out on a camping trip in a cabin, and they are soon attacked….but by what? and why? It’s a horror for those who hate horror, with the two funniest performance of the year from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. Also two of the most holy shit moments of the year – one involving a motorbike, the other a big button. But anything more is spoiling this wonderful puzzle of a film.

2. Holy Flying Circus

Another fun film with a really strong message. A BBC telemovie about the banning of Life Of Brian, it is a Monty Python film about Monty Python. It is, of course, hilarious, and the performances – Darren Boyd as John Cleese in particular – are perfect. I love letter to Monty Python, but also a stand against this culture of offense that we are trapped in. The film asks – why can’t we be offensive? In the era of oublic apologies for Tiger Woods, David Petraeus and the Jonathan Ross fiasco – should we give a shit that people get offended? Are people who get offended inherently shit? We need offensive humour more than ever, and a reminder that people are often stupid and we should rally against the idiots.

There’s no trailer so here’s a key clip.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

I love Wes Anderson, and the films that people don’t like, I love. So it’s weird to see one that everyone likes, which has all the elements of Anderson that people usually hate. It’s perhaps the sweetness of the story – two kids on island runaway and build their own fantasy life – while the adults around them fall apart. It’s high fantasy, on an Amelie-esque level, but it works perhaps it’s easier to swallow when it’s a kid’s fantasy. Anderson is on fire – the scene where Sam and Suzy write letters – is the kind of thing that only Anderson can pull off.

4. 21 Jump Street
This is the funniest film of the year. This is Zoolander/Anchorman level humour. Every second line is awesome, dozens upon dozens of laugh out loud moments. There’s no reason for this film to be this good. But every cliche is popped, but it’s a well made teen drama action thing. It doesn’t blow minds like Cabin In the woods, but it’s just funny. Channing Tataum, who I’ve never seen before, is the funniest thing in the film. And the greatest cameo of the year. Put it on, turn your mind off a little and just laugh.

5. We Bought A Zoo

I saw this on a plane, on my own, thinking a lot about people dying. And Cameron Crowe, for better or worse, can really tap into heart strings. Based on a true story about a family dealing with loss by buying a zoo, it’s a family film with cute kids and cute animals. But above all that is those moments that make Cameron Crowe such a crowd pleaser. When Matt Damon explains how he met his late wife, it’s one of the more heartbreaking and sweet scenes you’ll ever see. The film goes exactly where you expect – it’s happy, quiet heroism. But done really well and again, much better than it needed to be.

6. The Master

Long, rambling, and there’s no story to speak of. But it’s brilliant. Always captivating, every frame is a winner, and nailed down by Joaquin Phoenix, who I normally hate, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Phoenix in particular is totally lost in his character. For my part, it is the struggle for control – a man who wants the world to bend to his image, and the impossibility of people being tamed. As much as it’s denied by the filmmakers – it is a tale about religion, and the struggle of religion. Weird, wonderful and you hold your breath the whole time.

7. The Avengers

In a lot of ways, the fact this film exists is a miracle. It’s easy to pull apart the elements that don’t work, but it terms of pure superhero joy, it doesn’t get better than this. A big colourful spectacle, with big laughs, air punching moments and just enough sophistication to lift it above the summer blockbuster. The praise for this film mainly comes from the fact it’s not utterly terrible. I’ve never loved the Avengers, or any of the films before it, but the pay off was completely worth it.

8. The Raid Redemption

A brilliant martial arts film. A group of police men raid a slum tower, hoping to get to the boss at the top. But they are trapped and the entire tower turns against them, and they have to fight their way out – or to the top. It’s one big video game of a film, but it’s the action – old school martial arts film with some of the most inventive fight scenes you’ll see this year. It’s never indulgent, very cool characters and a great ride of a film.

9. Hugo

This probably should be higher but it came out in January in Oz, and these kinds of lists are awlays tough on January stuff. A love letter to the silent era, it’s a fairy tale of a boy who lives in a Parisian train station, trying to build a clockwork robot. But it quickly turns the magic of robots into the technical magic of film. Surrounded by fun chracters, and set in a time and place that I love, it’s just a quiet thrill of a film.

10. To Rome With Love

I love Woody Allen, and I’m utterly biased. His humour just gets me, and as soon as he’s on screen, it lights up. The film is big and silly – four stories set in Rome that have little connection – but it’s chance for Rome to look pretty, some fun escapism, people looking sexy, and killer one liners. Nothing deep – it’s a throw back to Allen’s weird, funny films.

Top 10 Albums of 2012 So Far….Part 2

5. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes

I started off on the wrong foot with this album. What to expect from a Craig Finn solo album? Would he follow his hero Springsteen and make that deep, searing Nebraska album? Or would he follow his hero Paul Westerberg and make a play at the pop charts? It’s none and it’s both. It’s Finn’s least serious, and most fun, album.

Which I guess I miss. I love the ‘important’ songs by the Hold Steady. Initially, it made this album feel slight. But maybe it’s not all about teenagers wallowing in their own doom. How can you not love the line “It’s hard to suck with Jesus in your band”?

And it’s the songs, man. The aforementioned ‘My New Friend Jesus’, the lonely ‘Rented Room’, the wonderful ‘Jackson’ and more. Finn is at his most tuneful – he’s almost singing! But it’s a fun, relaxed record – a talented writer enjoying not rocking out and making important statements. Rather he’s just singing a tune and telling a yarn.

4. fun. – Some Nights

Well, who would have thought it would all happen for Nate Ruess? Ten years, several label label deals and bands, he finally scored big with fun. It’s mainly off the back of one track, We Are Young, currently playing over your supermarket stereo. It’s a pretty good song, with a huge chorus. In fact, every song has a HUGE chorus. Once you get your head around it, it’s a lot of – well – fun.

There’s something really exciting about this album. It’s like Ruess had something to prove and he brought his A game. The second single ‘Some Nights’ is another killer. My favourite is ‘Why Am I The One?’. There’s shadows of Graceland going on here too. Big sing-alongs with world music rhythms.

Who knows where this will go. Could well be this year’s ‘Pretty. Odd’. A wonderful, one off aberration. Because after this, Ruess has nothing to prove.

We Are Young and Some Nights are probably overplayed, so here’s an acoustic version of Why Am I The One.

3. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Thank god for Jack White. When you look around at the music world, and you wonder what will last, you know you can count on Jack White. And having worn himself thin with all the collaborations, it’s great to hear his voice on it’s own.

He’s actually reined it in a bit. It’s not that far away from later White Stripes. It drifts from piano tinkering to full rock mode, but never once losing his sense of a tune and a great lyric. I mean, it’s Jack White, the guy can do it all.

It’s worth the wait for him to get it right. And he is someone else with nothing to prove. When Icky Thump was maybe trying to hard, Blunderbuss revels in it’s simplicity. It’s a directness that White hasn’t used in years, and it’s great to have it back.

2. The Shins – Port Of Morrow

He fired the whole band, and then started again. This album could have been anything. And guess what? It’s a friggin perfect album. Every track is a highlight.

It’s ever slightly more pop than ever before, but in some weird brittle 80s way. Songs like ‘No Way Down’ or ‘Fall Of ‘82’ are so pop. Then there’s the beautiful ballads – ‘It’s Only Life’ or ’40 Mark Strasse’. And some mid tempo rockers. It’s standard operating procedure for the Shins.

They haven’t reinvented the wheel but the wheel is so good, and I’m back on the ride.

1. Joel Plaskett Emergency – Scrappy Happiness

After a crazy, schizo triple album, it’s weird to get just ten songs for a Joel Plaskett album. But it’s so clear what he’s doing – making a fun guitar rock album. It’s been a long time since he’s been so fiery with his guitar. His lyrics and his voice are the best they’ve ever been. And the songs are stunning.

The album hangs off the rockiest rockers – all six-and-a-half minutes of Lightning Bolt, he’s best ever song and his masterpiece. You’re Mine, North Star and Tough Love are about as heavy and powerful as Plaskett’s ever gotten. It’s music that illicits a physical reacton – writing about it here feels odd.

There’s lovely slower songs that break it up. Each of them are lovely. But I can’t get over the rockers. And after all this time, I’m still enthralled by a fucking fun, sparkly, heavy rock record. Some things might never change.

Melbourne

A friend asked me to write a few thoughts about Melbourne for possible publication. Here’s what I wrote.

Melbourne must seem exotic to most parts of the world. But it’s most exotic to the people of Sydney.

The (two) centuries old argument of which is better – Sydney or Melbourne? – continues to this day. We may never have a consensus, but there is something about Melbourne that is like nowhere else in Australia. It’s little wonder that the rest of the country looks at it, and scoffs.

The biggest complaint about Melbourne is the weather. Decades before global-warming became a catch phrase, Crowded House wrote ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ about their adopted hometown. A morning can be so hot, you wish you could be one of those men who walk around without a shirt. That same night you will find your running for shelter as your socks get wetter and wetter. True Melbourners have learnt to ride it out. The rain wont last. The heat will go. The winds will pass. Change is normal for Melbourne.

It’s biggest compliment is the arts. Sydney has the film studios, the record companies, the government and business. But somehow Melbourne has wrangled the nation’s cool. It’s a city where creativity thrives. Cheaper than Sydney, it attracts the young and creative types in droves. And not just from Sydney, but from all over the country, and especially the country side. If your dream goes beyond having a big office in a skyscraper, then Melbourne is the city in Australia that can make that dream come true.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. So much so that even the locals will argue amongst themselves about what part of Melbourne is the coolest.

There is the south, by the water, which has St Kilda at it’s heart. A beach and a famous esplanade frames the area. The it follows a curve around the water, an inviting smile that leads you to another smile – a huge clown face that leads you to the tacky yet charming set of carnival rides known as Luna Park.

The south is relaxed. Days in the sun, on the beach or in the parks. Late afternoons in bars, or in the shops along the super wide roads. Even the sidewalks feel like they are too lazy be too close to each other. Then wind down the nights on the rooftops of someone’s terrace as the sun sets. Travel a bit wider in the south to find Prahan, with it’s hip clubs and second hand shops, which ends at the Astor – Australia’s greatest repertoire cinema.

But many would argue that it’s all about the north! The symbolic heart is the suburb of Fitzroy, with the long Brunswick Street full of all manner of shops. A down-home Asian grocery, an indie rock venue, an up-market pizza joint, an adult book shop – most likely in a row. And hey, why not have some street art that double as benches? It’s where the Melbourne art scene comes to show off it’s colours. Writers, musicians, students and more mingle in the cafes where you can barely find a seat that’s not covered with pamphlets and flyers.

Fitzroy at night is not as glamorous as some places but there is that Very Melbourne thing of choice. If you’re bored of the gallery opening, just wander down to the club that’s having a Japanese noise band night, or watch a local band at any second bar, or find a chilled little wine bar to melt away the hours. Sure, it’s a little pretentious, and maybe even a little proud of it. But it leaves the rest of us looking in, and only a hard heart will not have some sense of curiosity.

The north spreads out too. The Italian area, which has Lygon Street at it’s heart, has some of the best Pasta in Australia if not the world. And the art house cool of Fitzroy has started to drift north into suburbs like Northcote.

But it’s the area known as the City that is the heart of Melbourne. It’s a perfectly set grid – no winding roads here. This perfect grid with the big shops, and then smaller streets with smaller, cooler shops. I’ve spent so much time in Melbourne, but I could walk through a few thoroughfares, turn into an alley here, turn right that way, turn around there, and find myself lost. In the best way. Might as well sit yourself in a little cafe, or check out that little elegant bookshop. You’ll find your way out.

But getting a bit lost is the best way to explore. One of my favourite record shops (Basement Discs) is actually in a basement, below a cafe. My favourite cafe (Cookie) is above a second had record shop. You could walk right past my favourite Italian place without noticing it at all. I’m always being taken up some stairs, around a corner, to somewhere both literally and figuratively off the beaten path.

There are big things in the City too. The big shopping strip which is Bourke St runs through the heart of the City. Somehow they managed to squeeze a world class University, a seedy Red Light district and a Chinatown in there somewhere. Not to mention thousands of tourists.

Best of all, the City has yet to turn into a collection of faceless office buildings – although some parts of it are getting close. But it’s hard to imagine them knocking down the old train stations, the old theatres, the old expensive hotels. It’s part of Melbourne’s character. Again, it’s ever changing. You’ll find an old stone bank building next to a flashy new age sneaker shop, and back again.

And there is so much more. Just outside of the City lies two big stadiums. One is the classic Melbourne Cricket Ground (although you’d call it the MCG). The new and controversial culture park that is Federation Square. And the whole city is linked by the most Melbourne of Australian icons – the tram. It’s slow, it’s frustrating, it’s always full. But if you need to go somewhere and a tram doesn’t take you there, then you probably don’t really need to go there.

Oh, and a big ugly casino. And a murky river. And an international racing course. It’s all in there somewhere, all before you really reach the identical looking suburbs that belong to Melbourne in name, but never in style.

Maybe Melbourne doesn’t have the easy wins that a city usually has. No world famous structures. No great historical resonance. No big business mecha. But what it lacks in the One Big Reason to go, it gives back in the hundreds of smaller reasons. Any given day in Melbourne can be completely different from the next. Depends which way the wind blows, or maybe there will be no wind at all. Change, after all, is normal for Melbourne.

Australia – The Game

So it takes this to inspire me to write

Australia – the Game.

Yes, it’s a viral game about Australia, made to promote Australian tourism and Baz Luhrmann’s new film.

I refuse to let my home be driven to stereotype. Bad enough that the Ozmusic stand at conventions have blow up kangaroos. Luhrmann, how I have hated you for years, but this takes the cake.

When I grew up in Oz, I did not get raised on a farm. I remember the bicentennial, in ’88, and promoting of Australia as multicultural and modern. Larrikin culture, although having a place in our history, is as dated as the drunken Irish or pencil moustaches on Frenchmen. We used to be proud of our pacific nature. We used to be proud to be a young country, making our mark, with little burden of history.

Howard did more than anyone else to destroy this, and he brought back the white Australian Policy in culture if not in law. Australia is stuck – there’s no racial minorities on Neighbours or Home And Away, nothing in our culture that reflects us. It’s just an easily digested cliche.

The game has a Drover (as one newspaper put it, that’s Aussie-speak for Cowboy), chasing cattle around. Oh, what to do, for that country I love so much. Rehional Australia is dying a slow death. I’ve heard some commentators say this this summer will make or break. More farmers are packing it up, the culture is dying. And someone has put a $130 million bet that tourism is the answer?

There’s so many problems here. Someone has to save the outback for one. But that is such a huge issue.

Australia’s cultural image is still stuck in the past, and doesn’t reflect the 85% of the population who do not live on an cattle ranch in Kimberley. Yes, the Australian sun burnt landscape is lovely, but it’s really nothing but cool looking dirt. What about the culture, and the people.

The two films that most spurred on tourism in my time is Notting Hill and Amelie. Both were small stories, and love letters to something particular about a culture. Both were modern. And yes, both were cleaned up, idealised versions too. But both are also great movies (kind of) beyond their postcard nature. There was at least a plot.

Australia needs help. And maybe all is not lost. This could be the prog rock before the punk. Maybe it will inspire a generation of Australian film makers, writers, musicians, actors, painters and people to not sell a cheapened version of our culture. Fuck pandering to the cliche, I’m going to tell my story.

Anyway – enjoy the game. If you like driving cattle.

Danny