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Thursday
May252017

Live Review: Devin Townsend Project (Hysteria)

My review of Devin Townsend Project at 170 Russell on 23rd May:

Photo: Elizabeth Kent

Witnessing the brutality Manchester had me seething. I was mad. Mad enough to kill. As editor of this fine publication (which one is that again?), music is kind of a big deal around here. Terror lancing through the heart of music is a counterpoint; a movement set to war.

Those 22 souls cut from their lives that night will never be forgotten. Our tears can’t wash their memories away. I really felt guilty stepping into 170 Russell to enjoy myself at a rock ‘n’ roll show.

The crowd at this first (yet second?) show on Canuck maestro Devin Townsend’s tour was moderate. Punters stood about, sensing there was something off, just about being here.

Read more at Hysteriamag.com.

Monday
May012017

Punctured Armour

Over this year, I’ve read three books that have changed my life. All three combined shifted my thinking and feeling on an existential level, on par with No More Mr. Nice Guy and the work I’ve done with the Melbourne Chapter over six odd years. They are:

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  • What Men Still Don't Know About Women, Relationships, and Love by Dr. Herb Goldberg
  • Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep – Love by Dr. Amir Levine & Rachel Heller

Prior to reading any of these books, writing this post would be unthinkable to me. Since, it’s been a trying exercise to open up and understand the nature of how I act and interact with others. Revealing oneself isn’t weakness, it’s Wholeheartedness. Focusing on what women tell me and not what they need is following Content, not Process. Keeping significant others at arm’s length isn’t a deep need for independence, more an attachment style known as Fearful Avoidance. To the outside world, these are meaningless buzzwords. To my friends and family, I imagine it just boils me down to a quiet, unknowable asshole.

Same goes for those featured on puerile reality shows such as Married at First Sight or Seven-Year Switch. I’m sure there are countless others that exploit neuroses as entertainment. Clashing attachment types creak under the weight of their own internal burdens until collapse. Opening up about themselves causes sweating, a clenching of fists, the desire to run away.  I imagine half the population wonders why speaking about such simple inner truths seems like torture to these people. For someone like me, who grew up reading, building with Legos and playing computer games on his own for most of his childhood, it seems perfect and rational.

I often think that changing oneself is a Heisenberg principle – you know where you’re going or you know where you are, never both at the same time. I’m making new friends and new connections, and it scares me to think in the new ways. Maybe they give a shit? Maybe closeness won’t send the sky hurdling toward my head? Maybe everything I learned is a god damned lie? I hope it will all be for the better.

Of course, I use music to put it all in perspective. Two songs in particular sums up my experience living “as me.”

 

 

Thursday
Dec292016

The Top 10 of Metal (and Mosh!) 2016

I just can't help myself. I'm like a fat kid eying off the last slice of pizza or a Kardashian with an internet-enabled camera. I just have to do it. I've been writing these lists for about ten years now, so why stop? Because THEY don't want me to? In the words of the great prophet DJ Khaled, THEY don't want me to, therefore I must. (I don't think he said that last part. Did I just play myself?)

2016 sucked ass in so many ways. Music was the one way it didn't. Here's my Top 10 in order of what I thought was the best - remember when people did that? Yeah anyway:

SPECIAL MENTION: Gunship - Gunship

The fact Gunship is "retrowave" precludes it from a place on a mosh/metal/punk list. But it really is my favourite this year. It's not a mere 80s nostalgia trip, it's something trancendental. It's new, it's old, it's like it was always with you. (Killjoy Deluxe Owen tells me this came out in 2015. THANKS BRO)

SEE ALSO: The black celebrated 80s sounds of The Black Queen's Fever Daydream.

1. White Lung - Paradise

I might need a new copy of this on vinyl cos I've played it so much this year. Punk, pop, perfection.

Read my interview with vocalist Mish Barber-Way here

2. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

I think our melodeath masters deserve to soundtrack 2016. It's like an ice-wind cutting through your ribcage. It'll draw you in and never let go.

3. Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

The second of my favourite bands released their best in many a year, reinvigorated by a new lineup. No fucking emo, just fire and balls.

4. Hellions - Opera Oblivia

It really is their Number of the Beast - a proud testament to being yourself and doing it right.

Read my cover story with Hellions, here

5. Architects - All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

"Really Tom, you are into fuckin Architects now?" When a band produces something with as much heart as this, you bet your ass in the middle of a prison riot that I dig 'em.

6. Vektor - Terminal Redux

Space metal. Enough said.

7. Evergrey - The Storm Within

Sweden's dreamboat not only floats, but cruises over emotional seas in this front-to-back belter.

8. Rotting Christ - Rituals

Beware of bloodthirsty Greeks bearing riffs.

9. Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary

'Member prog metal? 'Member when it was cheesy but awesome at the same time? OH, I 'Member!

10. Sabaton - The Last Stand

History metal that's more historic, battle-ready, and epic than ever. Duh.

---

The Honourable Mentions

Gold Award: Deftones - Gore

Silver Award: Driven Fear - Free Thinker

Bronze Award: In Mourning - Afterglow

 

Tuesday
Oct042016

Was my thesis right? Five years on in the thick of music journalism

Collage by Brooke DorrattIn 2011, I completed my thesis on music journalism in Australia, titled Rock Sells Out? Cultural creation, industry influence and electronic evolution. I resigned as Digital Editor of Hysteria Mag last month. So I'm FREE AT LAST to dump my bargain basement opinions on whether my thesis holds any water, five years on.

“The counter-culture was a mistake”

Legendary rock writer Robert Christgau said the counter-culture’s “gospel of sexual liberation and generational identity became a smug ritual” in the 60s and 70s, and that’s no less true now. Dancing around state troopers and placing flowers in gun barrels isn’t a thing any more. However, we do have tweets and blogs and blogs about tweets about how someone or something is “problematic” because it disagrees with their world view. This is now called “virtue-signalling,” or expressing an opinion to get a pat on the back for it. Adulthood, at least to me, is the feeling you got as a kid as you cleaned your room unprompted, without your parents even noticing. You do shit because you have to, not for external validation.

Cultural capital is bullshit

I argued that cultural capital builds up around rock journalists who have access to certain artists or bands. This is only true…for other rock writers. In my experience, the public couldn’t give a shit. Only other scribes scramble for the top of the rock writing pile, reaching out for that crown of cool. Like any niche in the marketplace, achievement in the niche is self-congratulatory. Of course, the output benefits almost no one outside the niche.

Reviewer as self-entitled brat, not “tastemaker”

The rock reviewer in this day and age is not a tastemaker. You cannot tell people what they should and should not listen to. I think Emmure is complete shit, but people will fight and die for Frankie Palmieri’s right to pollute the atmosphere with his slack-jawed internet rants disguised as songs. Reviewers, especially who haven’t grown up with glossy mags are doing it for the cultural kudos (which as I said before, no one gives a shit about.) I’ve encountered many doing it for those cool points. Which are redeemable for an amount south of zero. I cannot pay the rent with cool points, so here we are.

Authenticity, schmauthenticity

Every band has a schtick. If they don’t have one, they should probably go out and find one. Authenticity is easy to emulate and filtered through PR and communications specialists. A band is authentic predicated on the fact their PR says they are. The mere act of declaration invalidates true authenticity, so nothing is authentic. The rampant amount of back room fiddling with articles and copy lays that theory to rest.

The irony of critical rock journalism 2: Electric Ironyloo

In Australia at least, every major rock publication is held at gunpoint by record labels or PR. That’s not to say it’s the friendliest mugging in the world. Because it sort of is.

Without access to labels, managers, PRs (the roles of which get so confusing after a while), you do not have a publication. Worse still, many of these labels advertise in these publications so that true “criticism” is near impossible. During the Soundwave era, before Soundwave put everything on the credit card and cried “oopsie!” when they couldn’t pay it back, Soundwave had a near monopoly on supplying content (not the content itself, but the material or access to create it). If you upset your only supplier, it meant you had no publication.

Publications that can diversify their income may have a chance. Even so, if you upset a PR, you don’t get content. So nothing has changed in this regard.

Media playing catch up – the gates are crushed and burning

The kids with their Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are creating their own communities – they seldom need mags or publications to tell them anything. People can connect to their favourite artists or bands using social media. In many cases, a band will make an announcement themselves, leaving the media to play catch up. By the time the media does, it’s already old news.

So as depressing as that is – my thesis still holds water. In some ways, even more so. Now give me some money so I can finish paying my HECS debt off.

As for writing about rock n' roll again? I'm good...for the moment.

Monday
Jun202016

Music is the jam of life [The Listserve]

Last week, I was lucky enough to win The Listserve. It's an email list with 22,200 subscribers (and counting - you can subscribe here). Each day a lottery chooses one user to send a 600-word email to the entire list. Here's what I wrote:

My name is Tom, and I'm a fairly cynical guy. Friends and family always call me a grumpy guy, down in the dumps, whatever. I brush it off and frown on into the sunset. But that's fine. Because even beneath it all, I think there's one thing keeping us all spinning on this ball of water, people and green - music.I'm a student of history (and most things) and I think music keeps us all guessing, angling at what's next. That's probably the reason why we haven't blown ourselves up yet. We love a good story. What happens next? What's at the end of the rainbow? We'll keep running toward it, pushing away obstacles and jumping over challenges until we find out. No one wants to be the guy who writes "The End" when we're having such an interesting time.

But music is the way we decorate time and space - art decorates just space, TV and movies and books decorate just time. It's an invisible force that vitalises us - much like air - and brings us closer together. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Europeans invented waltz music to break down the barriers between dancers. Instead of dancing side by side, they could now dance in front of each other. Music may have precipitated the novel idea that love and marriage is for other reasons than money and prestige. Of course, this is just my theory. Well, Shakespeare might back me up.

Though we're not a ritualistic society. Well, not really. Even so, our rites of passage are marked with music. Christenings, graduations, weddings, you name it - there's songs to commemorate them, across every culture. Music is everywhere. After the shocking tragedy in Orlando the other day, people came together to grieve...and sing. It's a release like no other. We cannot change the past but we can make it that little bit better with music.

People gather together to see art and watch films, but they aren't sharing the experience like music. We sit on seats divided by armrests or clump together and walk on to the next painting. I have yet to talk to someone who made a lifelong friend watching a film or proceeding past a bunch of paintings. I can recall sitting on a bench at high school, earbuds lodged way too far in when a fellow traveller walked past and asked what I was listening to. I told him it was Slipknot (don't judge - I was 13 at the time...I still love heavy metal though) and I offered him an earbud. (Imagine doing that now!)

He plucked it in, nodded away for a while and we got talking. We talked about other bands that were hot at the time (Blink 182! The Offspring!) and we've been friends ever since. Music is the neverending story. I think it keeps us grounded, and hanging on to this sometimes awful, sometimes beautiful place we call home.

So what do you think? I'd love to gain a few music loving friends through this, maybe some pen friends (keyboard friends?) I love writing - I'm a copywriter and journalist by trade - so the more correspondence the better!

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You can read an archive of the Listserve here.