Dope Lemon’s Smooth Big Cat Review
If you listen to the record long enough, you might begin to sympathize with those “beers around the pool table at midnight,” in fact, you might begin to feel like a sidewalk slab bristled by grassweeds, like paint flaking on a cornerstore sign, like dust on the doorstep, waiting to be let in; you might begin to believe that this, the slow roll of drunkenness fraying the edges of your inhibitions, is indeed “Angus’ real world.” But Smooth Big Cat, and thus Angus’ real world, does not hold much for surprises besides a few moments of note, that includes the brushstick percussion and tumbadora claps on “Hey You;” that includes “Lonely Boys Paradise” as a lo fi descendant of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer;” that includes “Smooth Big Cat’s” keyboards interpolated right into the middle of the mix.
It’s not until “Dope and Smoke” comes on that you realize that the argument whether Dope Lemon has crafted a dirty Don Henley or an Ariel Pink cowpoke record is all just decadent overcoating the lo-fi War underlayment. At his best, Dope Lemon is not working some millennial Johnny Cash on whiskey cannabis image but some serious low riding machismo. It’s not until then you realize just why he’s leaning on the hood of that Rolls-Royce: he totally intends to spring that suspension with the hydraulic lifeblood of his bottled chauvinism. After which Angus Stone’s themes begin to tumble down. With the advent of “The Midnight Slow” it is understood that Smooth Big Cat is supposed to be the “Stormy Monday” record for getting stoned, drunk or laid. Preferably in that order. The second half of this record offers no new element besides a demotape harmonica jugband blues cut in the form of “Hey Man, Don’t Look At Me Like That,” whistling on the sunset winds of every John Wayne film ever made. So even at his most reserved, he’s still banal.
Written for Atwood Magazine (.com)
Emotional Orange’s The Juice, Vol. 1 Review
Well Drake’s gonna do Drake and so is apparently everyone else too; hence Emotional Oranges and their debut album The Juice: Vol. 1. Piggybacking off that Toronto sound in hogwild style that it won’t surprise me when people listen to this little extended player and think, “whoa, mama, hold on to your contemporaneous self.” Because if Emotional Oranges is nu-disco then where is that real kink, downhearted sensitivity aside? I’ve met sadboys – shit I am one – we’ve got as dirty a mind as any run-o’-the-mill nymphos or downbeat sex addict celebrities this side of Hollywood.
But, frankly, I’m disgusted. Not disgusted and turned on, just plain disgusted by the decision to be so dishonest with my expectations. At least FKJ, a leader if there are any in the field of new-with-a-u disco, had the honesty to at least make those synth squeals coo and come at the primo alto moments of his tracks like percussive lovetaps reaffirming an “ooh, ooh, ooh!” or a “yes, yes, yes!” It may not be outright Prince-like, but dammit, that’ll do in the field of new school funk; Nu-disco by any other word is just limestone electrofunk and if this were a sane world, we would switch appellations immediately.
Written for Atwood Magazine (.com)
Marina Diamandis’ LOVE + FEAR Review
Marina Diamandis is as basic as it gets.
On the cover of Love + Fear, she plays in dualities. Her skin, pearly white. Her hair, jet black. Her shoulders, borne bare. All else, hidden from sight. Her name, big, all-caps. Album title, small but capped too. Diamonds no longer form her postscript. But earrings befitting noblesse adorn her neck. An uproaring visual reversal of her polychromatic FROOT salad tour, she’s as stripped down as it gets — Bat for Lashes must have been giving her some major tips — but she’s still all royalty; some might say Cleopatra, some might say Salammbô, stripped down to nothing but form and naught but a jewel — hardly the headpiece of a pharaoh nor the veil of an empress—that no poor Mathô should care, her naked image should enough to stain his mind as he continues to stare. She has mastered the modern art of the Lady Gaga-esque “Queen.”
Yas, yas and yas, all the much and many-maligned yassss’ to trumpet her entry on the scene, Marina Diamandis’ (dit MARINA) fourth effort, a double album (or as she calls it, a set) split into two collections devoted to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ theories on human emotional capacity, Love and Fear, aims big on a conceptual front; there’s much to be said about the effects of either emotion on a person’s psyche and there’s potential to analyze mental and social blocks on either side, perhaps interpolating tracks together to mesh the give and take of either (nope), maybe clever wordplay to meta-reference the events put forth in the record (nope again) or even pulling a trick from Seventies auteurs and crafting a cyclical long-player that replaces listeners right where they came in (nope a third time).
Written for Atwood Magazine (.com)
Eskimo Joe Black Fingernails, Red Wine Review
I picture my being in the mold of man painted by Egon Schiele, a subject for The Embrace (II), a body rendered to waves, writ in shires of lush, teeming gestures, powerful yet gentle arms, shoulders, ash tree skin cresting on hills discolored by the limestone bone beneath them, before, oddly, lines cast to roll-ridden pudgy middle, before the leg just as defined in power, as with intonations of the macabre inherent to the damned riddled corpse, a visual tragedy, Herculean, wrapped, writhing, twisted; in an embrace of life or death, protector or destroyer, lover or rapist painted in a pose both admirable and abominable, a tribunal between Socrates and Nietzsche with only a tanned Adonis as witness and record keeper, his body radiating with Jekyllian terror at the evil of his subconscious, as if horrified at his own binary potential between good and evil, yet entirely unaware of his own majestic entropy; too concerned, with, he like the audience is drawn to, the Venus of his desire, peach pitch skin, a shade of foggy warmth befit for dawn in April or October, dew dipped and glowing, a canvas colored equally in shades fresh with life, yet ripening with age, ever beautiful but with each mortal coup and stroke, human, she is as he is: binary, but replete with the prismatic tones of tints and shades and hues and flesh; their embrace is at once omnipotent as it is impotent; they can not stop time, only hold moments, they can not cure nature of itself, only euthanize it, before Schiele’s eyes, taking his mentor’s, Gustav Klimt’s, Der Kuss—a collage of art nouveau, impressionist, cubist romantics, stacked into a towering tableau moderne of symbolism; breaking down every foreground form to circles, squares, shapes concentric, linework woven and embroidered, polygonal fields of lilacs and blues bordered by gilded bronze and cubist coats and whirlpool robes, Eve kneeling to an L, eyes closed, her hand on Adam’s hand and his hands and her face, nymphic, harbored and cradled together, his head protruding from the stoic posture of its golden sheath, phallic, the ivy in his oaken crown pressing the flowers in her hair, her toes curling backwards, the idyllism of Klimt’s subjects immutable and tangible and impossible—and breaking it.
In this picture I see an insane man and madwoman in embrace, the field of violets and bluebells bleached into a quilted pile of dirtied linens like clothespieces, makeshift, temporary, a smudged meadow for the moment to be effaced by the future, laid diagonal to swirling, formless background noises of mustards, mayonaisses and olive, colours perhaps of modernity, perhaps of psychology but no matter; in this picture I see myself and I see my love, narcissism permitted; in this picture what I see is two nihilists, neophytes embracing the only thing they have left before that too is erased, the horror that Kierkegaard suffered, Turgenev discussed and Camus pondered. These notes are an avalanche come upon me each time I contemplate Schiele’s and Klimt’s pieces together, a barrage of inferences collapsing upon my inward person, the id swallowing the ego whole in defiance of the superego, shaking it violently enough to the point of revaluation. If art fails to do so, then I am unconvinced that it is good.
Written for The Fried Neckbones (.net)
FEELS Live in Bordeaux
I couldn’t answer her question—but my mind reeled: how many critics would rip an artist like Geronimo for putting on someone else’s image? How many more will want to? She looked at me like I had the answer—perhaps forgetting I was the one who asked the original question. Platitudes, full for sentiment but empty for comfort, dribbled out of my mouth. Only now as I am writing do I remember a pertinent conversation after a private concert on the night before the 2017 eclipse. I was privileged as a nascent fan to watch a performance by Sol Seed (freshly on tour for their latest and greatest long-player, The Spark) and meet the various band members while bartering for CD’s. Eventually I met lead vocalist Michael Lennon, expressed my fandom’s birth from an earth-shattering medley cover of “I Shot The Sheriff>Soul Sacrifice” two summers prior and then began to spitball on the nature of taste and human reciprocity, when Lennon replied to my spiel and I will paraphrase:
“Humans are incredibly mimetic creatures… that we are able to identify and replicate what we like is entirely natural and profoundly human; imitation is the highest form of flattery after all.”
So who was to care if Geronimo looked like PJ Harvey? She doesn’t play like Polly Jean, she played like Laena Geronimo. These words probably would have been more of a comfort after her expression of self-doubt. Alas, I’m only good at these things when I write about them. Allen came to relieve her while we went to smoke in the foyer of the VOID, waxed a little more bullshit on Indiana Jones films and then returned. Once back at the booth, I bought myself a tee-shirt. They had run out of sizes with the debut artwork (I’m quite fond of that hand) so I settled on the fingerprint decal—Geronimo quipped, “Hey, at the very least it won’t look like a band shirt.”
“Yeah, don’t worry,” I swung back, “I’ll let everyone know.”
Written for The Fried Neckbones (.net)
Eskimo Joe, Melbourne
Back here again, so long but too soon
Among childhood loves and bullies,
Lambs, Wheatbix and Milo never missed
Me, or wanted me here, down under
Between eucalyptus trees. I am found,
Nursed across wavebreaks, suffocated
Over deep dreams of gum smells and
Beach days that no one can remember,
But ever recalled in melodies, pianos
Pounding, bloodbeats, and humming
Guitar strings. I flick pages off the easel,
Old tabs locked in an ego-death spiral,
A winding anatomy around sonar tick
Tocks gone before anyone ever knew:
The chords were something I would forget.
Lyrics For A Song I Don’t Know
flying from rosy clifftops; falling
homunculi tongues vatted in; saliva
on the white rocks; impale
fetal lyrics for a song I don’t know.
Bury Him With Music, Death Said
Find your genius
When life breathes you in
And blows you back
Well, the record was true—
Notes may paint your
In brooding Dutch
He could outplay ‘em all—
Bitter than a peach
Pill, black n’ steel rips
Into jeans, he’s road
But he couldn’t outplay you.
She arrived on that date in spring when the weather feels better and everyone’s ready for summer to swing.
As the twilight again glow and white ol’ Jack’s last breath ended its bellow, each eye flint n’ tinder spark, no arms need hold her through dark. Hair painted in red magic, warm-witches only habit midnight fabric, her silence gave a thirst—she spoke each word like a cloud burst. But as the next day woke, she had disappeared without a word spoke; tears on the discus run to rose as summertime comes, springtime goes.
Sun shimmered, rising high while her only breeze released a deep sigh, but we fried on the deck, we fried in the hall, we fried like dreck. Walls waved with her heat, trees trembled and I melted into my seat, living with no glass case, hippy spirits sprinted free from time and space. The music grooved good as we fared well in the old Oregon wood and flew fire on the lawn, ah, summertime came, now summertime’s gone.
Begonias ne’er bloom in the dark hours miscountin’ minutes pickin’ the flowers all twisted like the china cat—stumblin’ over colors and crawling ‘cross the forest floor. And I was Spinnin’ on fair grounds when I spied Cuckoo Delilah swirl just to see ye, but ye ne’er did catch her real name, ye just chose cards n’ divined dice all game, cuz summer was a-comin’ and the wind was changin’ for someone’s better.
And we were grass, dancin’ down by the river, and we were crowns, wearing magnolias forever and we are Spring, come early, for a Summertime swing.