Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – JAPAN – Day 13 – Shimokitazawa & an All-nighter in Shibuya

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 22, 2010

WT2010 – JAPAN
Day 13 – Shimokitazawa & an All-nighter in Shibuya
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / Iggy Pop

Struggle street. I was flipping through a guide-book pondering the museums and points of interest. They involved train trips and transfers and effort, something I’d exceeded in past days but was baulking at after two late nights getting intimate with alcohol and the the near-sight of a Tokyo sunrise approaching the horizon.

Then almost flippantly a place called Shimokitazawa is mentioned, it has no dedicated section because its outer-Tokyo but then again so is my hotel in Sangenjaya (by outer I mean an outer-line a mere two stops from Shibuya) I google the area an realize it’s actually 2km in a straight line north of my hotels road. It would probably be quicker to walk than catch a train in and hop on a transfer back out. I decide it’s a plan; walking has become my default form of exploration.

I’ve forgotten to mention this; People love bikes here (bicycles as well as motorbikes) Tokyo seems dedicated to the bike rider, perhaps it’s not as dedicated as some stand out places but every footpath you find bike lines (they share them with pedestrians and are usually wide or have a line down the centre saying bikes on one side) Besides that locals have an uncanny ability to dodge anything and everything. My first night here I watched a women with shopping on hee handle-bars holding an umbrella swaying vigorously in the wind whilst it SNOWED she pedalled on. People cycling one hand whilst the other is holding a cigarette or whilst talking on a mobile phone they dodge cars and weave around and through tight passages without stopping. Some how I’m yet to witness a stack.

Walking to Shimokitazawa I came across a park that completely split one part of town from the other (like a road you could say) but not a road, it was a park with a dedicated cycle path. It must have been converted from an actual road, I can’t forsee a park originally being that long. A great idea of urban planning. People of all ages use bikes and the men-women ratio is near 50/50 Id say. It’s great to see.

A mere 2km wander from Sangenjaya is Shimokitazawa; I’m promised some good shops; but the entire town is essentially a shop as far as I can tell. One minute I’m walking passed peoples homes and the next minute its a restaurant, a bargain basement, a vintage clothing store, an upmarket clothing store, a music store, an antique store, an electronics store. But mostly clothes and food.

On I walk to find a bridge leading under a train line, turns out the town is split North/South by this bridge (or so it seemed so far) I then explored that side of the tracks only to another train line and it’s a pedestrian/car crossing right in the centre of town. It turns out it’s also split East/West by a second train line. So Shimokitazawa is essentially four quadrants of awesomeness. The shops just don’t end, they’re all of interest and I literally walked around for 2hours just trying to figure out what I wanted to buy, whatever it was you could find it there. Remember we’re not talking big shopping centres but a local community who have built a town of shops to cater for all.

A stop and stare at the price of a brand new LCD screen and an American fellow bumps into me introducing himself as someone who served on duty from the states but has since settled down with a Japanese wife and is living outside of Tokyo he’s been here for awhile. I express admiration for the town we’re in and he replies with “Shimokitazawa is the bomb” too true. It was refreshing to come across a down to earth, chilled out cool American without an air of superiority.

I stumble through a record store and many a clothing store. Some are more commercial than others and if your looking for something slightly Indie and Alternative just keep walking you’ll find it somewhere. Don’t ask me where because you DO get lost in this place. Which is half the fun. I had the camera out wholey awares that I wasn’t going to take photos of shop-fronts because I would have too many damn photos to sort so I restrained myself diligently. I did however take a photo of a crepe place. Their crepe menu was in small crepe size boxes on the wall; faux designed plastic examples of what you could order. It looked amazing. I would walk a thousand miles and I would walk a thousand more just to…(ok I’ll stop) just to find that crepe store later on when I felt desert was on the cards. I couldn’t however, so I settled for a cake/coffee ‘deli’ which served amazing cakes such as “Caramel / Banana” etc.

You’ll also find a few restaurants that are hosting live-bands (at lunch time) and they’ll serve you a drink or food with your ticket. Theres many places like this in Shimokitazawa, you’ll find kids walking around with guitars constantly. The prices are pretty hefty though (compared to back-home) Bands (even small ones) seem to get paid well here (tickets to one place were 2500yen including a drink) that’s about $28 I wanted to checkout some local acts but If I bought the ticket I’d have to forgo paying for dinner later on (with no citibank in town) So instead I checked out one or two local buskers. Pretty talented.

Just like that the day was winding down, you can spend a good half-day wandering this little suburb of shops aimlessly. Sadly though it’s apparently all going to come to an end I’ve heard. The powers that be are building an extension of a subway line directly under it (I think) and the small cultural vibe and community style shops are set to make way for the real urban sprawl of Tokyo (think sky scrapers) The locals are fighting back to keep Shimokitazawa the way it is. I’m definitely on their side. Inner city Tokyo is great with it’s Neon shops but this place (the buildings stand no more than 2 stories tall) have that community vibe that developers always don’t care for. It happens all over the world it seems (I draw parallels to venues and pubs giving way in Sydney) It seems you can’t stop progress no matter the cultural cost, if culture even has a value to big wigs.

I’d put my DSLR camera away so many times this day; Instead I opted for the LOMO film camera (so not many shots until theyre developed) but I was on my way back when I noticed a cat sleeping on mans lap… the photos speak for themselves really.

I strolled back to my hotel and that night (it being a Sunday night the night before a holiday on monday) Long weekend essentially. I was aiming for a club in Shibuya I got there way too early (11pm) so I decided that I’d have a wander around somewhere else first. I had no idea what I was going to find, if anything hell I had trouble finding the place I was going to and I knew where I was going.

No more than a few metres up this quiet backstreet road I observed some Musos coming out of a bar (carrying equipment etc) So I decided to scope this place out. It was called “Derori” I walked in to find an avant-garde oldschool rock vibe venue. It had drums/guitar/bass/pa setup on the floor and a DJ decks behind it. A bunch of people were at the bar so I decided to take a seat with a drink.

Within minutes a guy from behind the bar came over to greet me and ask where I was from and How i’d found the place. I told him all about my travels and after a few words a nice lady came over to talk to me who as it turns out owned the bar. Eventually more and more people came in and I got to talking to a few locals who have traveled. The music was classic rock but as far as I could tell there was no one DJ behind the decks, it was more random people getting up to mix.

Eventually a guy hopped on drums and another on bass and another on guitar, I downed a few drinks and listed to them Jam along to what the DJ was spinning; mostly the likes of Iggy Pop, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, The Ramones and so on. Classic music along that vibe. Next thing I knew the guitarist is asking me If I play guitar, I reply yes. He hands me his Telecaster (plugged into a Vox amp which is cranking) As much as I love the aforementioned music I don’t play too well in that style but I obliged. Doing my best 12-bar-blues rock solo thing pretty poorly, but I tried to mix it up a bit.

I turn around to find a filling dance-floor and I start bumping into people; Iggy Pops “I Wanna Be Your Dog” comes on and I’ve got the song down in about 20sec (as I said I don’t play in that style at all) The PA is fighting against the sound coming from this 3-piece band that Im jamming in. Struggling to hear the song it’s probably sounding like complete ass but I don’t care and kick on for a good 30minutes to various tunes. Eventually we put the gear down and people start coming up to me at the bar. An Australian from Canberra even, I talk about travel plans and a few people reply; Is the band touring overseas too? How long have you guys been together? (They must have walked in late)

The bar was kicking, I enquired about the song selection and asked why different people were getting on stage. One girl said it was ‘A party’ I asked what the occasion was and got “No reason” as an answer. It’s a good an answer as any. Apparently the DJ decks were free reign, people had brought their own vinyl and cd’s and you could mix them up live. Naturally I pulled out my Iphone and played a track.

The vibe of Derori is one of people with a seasoned knowledge and love of the avante-garde and some classic rock and punk tunes. I could imagine Iggy himself rocking out here. I looked at the time and it was close to 2am, damnit I was supposed to meet someone at that place down the road. I didn’t want to leave all these cool people but I decided I’d come back later on. The bartenders and DJ’s and co were all occupied so I slipped out quietly.

A venue called Seco was the destination for a night called British Pavilion. It was a bigger venue with multiple DJ booths and a younger crowd of the Indie variety. It’s funny how I’ve traveled halfway around the world for the sounds of familiarity, but theres just nothing better to dance to. The door charge was kind of steep but included a free drink ticket so what the heck.

A short summary without going into details I met a bunch of awesome people one of which was one of the DJ’s dressed in an awesome avante-garde-steam-punk getup. He gave me like 4 free drink tickets for some reason over the night So I virtually didn’t pay for anything that night. One thing perplexes me about Japan, back home you have ‘promo girls’ right who are usually dressed in a companies gear and go around giving free samplers of said companies brews or sometimes not. This club featured 2 girls dressed as nurses and another as a playboy bunny all of which were serving shots for FREE, for apparently no other reason than to keep punters happy.

And boy was I happy. Damn damn damn the language barrier, that’s all I’ve got to say! It was like 6am and the venue had run its course, a bunch of cool indie songs, a bunch of cool people from all over town (and out of town) Everyone is really welcoming, I was probably the only gaijin in there but I felt at home.

Ok time to head home! Hold on what’s that I hear? Music coming from Derori, I head down to find it as I left it only the people are a little drunker. A different set of people jamming, Im sitting next to a rad looking spiked hair old rocker. A girl leans in and asks me If I know who I’m sitting next, I reply no. She says he’s a famous bass player from a big band in Japan. I’d guessed a much from the two girls either side of him. Derori has the feeling of that bar I’d talked about earlier called MOTHER, it has that sense of a bunch of friends running a bar and treating every night as a party to meet and make new friends and have a good time with them. You can’t buy that by throwing money at a venue. Why don’t they have places like this in Sydney?

I say bye to some friendly faces, It’s 7am Maccas breakfast time. Sitting there, face blankly staring at the wall. I could live somewhere between Sangenjaya and Shimokitazawa, a cool community a stones throw from the epic radness that is Shibuya. Hmmm.

MORE OVER AT FLICKR

MORE OVER AT FLICKR

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Bluejuice – Broken Leg, and more.

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on July 19, 2009

Bluejuice are a band from Sydney, Australia. I caught them at a show at the Annandale Hotel a few years back and was blown away on performance alone. These guys put on such a good show they force you to like their music even if your not that into it… yeah.

Anyway, check out their new video which is the first single of their upcoming second LP which is out the second half of 2009 through new label Dew Process The music video is a classic!

It’s in the similar vein of the popular single off their first albums music video, Vitriol (check that out below) They probably need their own TV show or something.

Craig Schuftan On Romanticism & Rock n Roll

Posted in Books/Comics/Manga, Music, Oldschool/Classic Things by jukeboxparables on May 20, 2009

I’ve caught this program called Fora on ABC TV a few times now, It’s an Australian equivalent of something like CSPAN. A show dedicated to Talks on intellectual, political, cultural and economic debate in Australia. However they also have a website and offer their feature segments IN FULL for viewing online, great stuff.

Their current feature is Craig Schuftan, who Triple J listeners might know as occasionally presenting a short segment called “The Culture Club” which basically traces contemporary music and specific bands/artists back through time to the origins of the subject matter a particular artist happens to be talking about. In some cases it’s easy work; Craig takes in song/album titles or lyrics and traces their origin. In other cases however, he thoroughly investigates the links to the motif’s and movements/underlying statements of a particular song/album/band. It’s powerful stuff.

The segment was turned into a book but this ABC Fora talk is about his most recent book on the ties between modern music and romanticism. It’s must watch viewing for all you fellow music nerds. I’ve tagged a handful of the artists mentioned in the talk.

Enjoy! – Click here to view video. *Click play, then Play Full Clip*

Alternatively you can listen to the MP3 right here.

Sonic Youth – What We Know. Live on Jools Holland

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on May 1, 2009

I’m declaring May: Sonic Youth month. Because after a few listens of their 16th album “The Eternal” …basically they’ve still got it. No other band in History has been able to pull this off in my opinion; that is not making rehashed or dull or just plain dinosaur music after 30+ years. Maybe Bowie… or The Beatles.

The Eternal is as fresh as their 15th effort Rather Ripped but rather than emitting a cleaner lighter vibe that album had it has memorable heavy/dirty hooks as if giving nods to albums like “Goo” and “Dirty”. Full review in the coming weeks.

But here’s the band playing “What We Know” on Jools Holland (above). Jools rightly mentions the band played way back on the shows debut in 1992. So I’ve tracked down that performance (below) 18years later, its all still there. Bravo.

Metric – Help I’m Alive; documentary

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on April 18, 2009

Metric are a band in it for the long-run. It’s been four years since their last album Live It Out. Four years much to long in my mind. But good things come to those who wait. So whilst I take some time to digest their latest effort “Fantasies” before I review it check out this. It’s a mini-doc about just what exactly lead singer Emily Haines has been up to. It also shows some footage of her playing the first single off the new album “Help I’m Alive”.

Fasterlouder also have the “world debut” of the Music Video for the first single available for viewing here.

Fantasies is in stores as of April 14th (USA & Canada) From what I’ve heard so far, it’s a diverse and eclectic leap for the band. Great news for us fans.

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Live on Jools Holland

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on April 13, 2009

The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s perform 2 songs off their latest album “It’s Blitz!” on UK show Jools Holland. First up is “Zero” followed by “Heads Will Roll”. Enjoy

Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Sink or Swim

Posted in Music, Review by jukeboxparables on March 27, 2009

Picture sociopolitical old-new punk Canadian band Against Me! only with Bruce Springsteen on vocals. What do you get? If you said The Gaslight Anthem, your wrong that would be pigeonholing. But you are close. I felt compelled to review their debut 2007 album entitled “Sink or Swim” simply because it’s been on repeat in my car, at home and on the portable music player and more importantly I think I’ve discovered what makes it tick.

Besides it being on repeat, the other reason It’s being mentioned here is because I’ve never been put-off more by an album upon first listen and then subsequently caved to its sentiments upon repeated listens. The Gaslight Anthem hail from New Brunswick, NJ, USA and lead singer Brian Fallon’s vocals growl with working-man like intent. I initially took issue with this, It’s easy to be flippant with newer bands in our day and age and question their sentiments. If you are one for flippancy you’d probably find yourself (initially) filing this band under done-to-death mainstream rock. You might even group them with certain late 90’s group’s who are utterly gag inducing. But wait, you’d be wrong.

You’d be wrong because what The Gaslight Anthem do best is make it genuine. As already mentioned my first listen to Sink or Swim left me wincing at certain quips and turn of phrase. I was wincing because bands from the late 90’s who shall remain un-named ruined it for everyone. Swathes of Southern-baritone-growl mainstream rock made open and fragile lyrical prose cliche and it’s been passe ever since. I was so sure a few years ago that such song writing would never be credible again.

Sink or Swim has possibly turned this all around on its own. Which isn’t to say The Gaslight Anthem’s writing is anything like that, these definitely aren’t cheap throw-away lines and the actual lyrics tell stories with a Dylan-esque trail of thought rather than being in the style of 3minute pop songs. I think the key to the songs are; what actually separates them from the straight-up Mainstream Rock tag is liberal use of Punk rhythms and change ups yet you can’t classify them as a Punk band.

This use of rhythm can be put down to genuine local influence; the New Brunswick underground or “basement” Punk scene which has given birth to some impressive acts over the years. The band themselves have described their sound as “Bruce Springsteen singing for a Cure cover band, with a tinge more aggression.” I’m not sure about the Cure cover band citing. But the Boss (Bruce Springsteen) is of course from New Jersey, so there again; genuine local influence.

When you realise The Gaslight Anthem are basically a proverbial sponge of The Hub City absorbing all that surrounds them and they really don’t give a shit what style that happens to be, you start to like them more. It’s that blend of Punk sentiment over traditional topical song writing that makes you remember their songs. They’re signed to Indie Label SideOneDummy But band motives aside let’s get onto the music as that’s what matters.

Sink or Swim kicks off with opening track “Boomboxes And Dictionaries” and is a quick indication of song writing approach. Slightly left-of-center lyrically as are most of the songs on the album. Liberal use of lyrics to tell the story rather than falling over themselves desperately to get back to that catchy chorus.

And if you’re scared of the future tonight, we’ll just take it each hour one at a time.
It’s a pretty good night for a drive, so dry up those eyes, dry up those eyes.
Because the radio will still play loud, songs that we heard as our guards came down.
Like in the summertime when we first met, I’ll never forget, don’t you forget, these nights are still ours.

Kicking off with as sing along moment that also gets the blood flowing is a good thing. But then they go one better with “I Could’a Been A Contender” Which song has the better chorus I’ll let you decide. Either way you’ll find yourself coming back to these two tracks more often then not.

There’s a dirty wind blowing, there’s a storm front coming
There’s an S.O.S. on the seas tonight
Steady now, steady now, soldier hold fast now
It’s heads or tails on heart attacks and broken dreams tonight

The pace continues throughout the first half of the album. Yes this is your favourite new driving album. Just watch those speed limits…

Things take a turn on “The Navesink Banks” where the Acoustic guitar is brought out for a soft yet resilient reminisce of the past which probably pays some ode to Tom Waits. A nice break in the pacing just at the right time.

“I’da Called You Woody, Joe” is apparently a track about Joe Strummer no less or the story of Brian’s first listen to The Clash presumably. This song resonates if your a Strummer fan or perhaps if you’ve seen The Future Is Unwritten particularly one of the later scenes where Joe is handing out flyers to one of his solo shows to people on the street who ignore him.

“Angry Johnny And The Radio” has one hell of a rolling breakdown that makes it one of the highlights of the back end of the album. Though for me the last track is one of particular note. “Red At Night” is a folk/blues inspired Acoustic come-down of sorts. Featuring a nice lazy harmonica channeling Bob Dylan perhaps? It wraps up the album nicely and nails home your sentiments; Sink or Swim is an album worth the time not only for its sing-a-long driving songs but for it’s vivid projections and tales of life in New Brunswick.

Rating: 7.7/10

Tracklist:

1. “Boomboxes and Dictionaries” – 3:11
2. “I Coulda Been a Contender” – 3:22
3. “Wooderson” – 2:11
4. “We Came to Dance” – 3:34
5. “1930” – 3:48
6. “The Navesink Banks” – 2:48
7. “Red in the Morning” – 2:51
8. “I’da Called You Woody, Joe” – 3:21
9. “Angry Johnny and the Radio” – 3:00
10. “Drive” – 2:55
11. “We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner” – 3:11
12. “Red at Night” – 3:07

The Gaslight Anthem
Sink Or Swim
Released: 2007
Label: SideOneDummy / XOXO Records

Bloc Party / Klaxons news.

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on March 20, 2009

So back in 2005 Bloc Party’s debut album Silent Alarm was a breath of fresh air from the UK music scene. It was pretty surprising a few months later to find an entire remix of the album in stores and what’s more it was one hell of an album to boot. It even started various fan-boy debates on the internets about if Silent Alarm Remixed was actually a better album than the original. Without opening that can of worms again I’ve gotta say It is actually open to debate.

So anyway, It’s been announced that their most recent and 3rd album Intimacy is getting the same treatment. That is; an entire remix will be released May 11, including a vinyl version! Their 3rd LP took awhile to grow on me. I immediately noticed the goodness of tracks such as Talons and Biko but the opening two threw me off and It’s taken me awhile to digest its premise. A remix should be equally interesting. The first video of a remix track is on their website. Will it out-do Silent Alarm remixed? I doubt it. The first track (Signs) sounds good though, very dance-electronic though. The great thing about Silent Alarm remixed was it didn’t go for that all out dance feel, it had its odd subtle moments also. Oh is it just me or do Bloc Party have the worst music videos ever?

Now on to Klaxons news. NME hype a lot of bands especially their native UK bands and the Klaxons debut album Myths of the Near Future in 2006 was no stranger to this, but for a change it actually stood up to that Hype. More-so I saw these lads at the Enmore Theatre on that tour and besides me and a friends deer-in-the-headlights bewilderment at the opening tracks laser/neon light show inducing what seemed to be a 16/17yr-old fangirl “nu-rave” dance party in the mosh. They were tight and it was a good show.

So for those reasons I’m actually looking forward to their followup LP which is/was? due this year although it seems they’ve succumb to major-label woes. Their label Universal has told them to re-record the album! Jamie Reynolds; “Because we’ve made a really dense, psychedelic record. We’ve made a really heavy record and it isn’t the right thing for us, I understand and know that. First and foremost we’re a pop band. I haven’t thought about that for a long time, and now it’s in the forefront of my mind.”

Record labels should butt the hell out and let artists do what they want. Re-recording an album probably for the sole reason of making it more accessible to aforementioned 16/17yr old dance party kiddies is not justification with the bands best interests in mind. Klaxons should probably seek out a better deal.

But we’ll know the outcome of their followup in due time. Here’s to hoping they don’t suffer the second album slump (ala the Arctic Monkeys)

Klaxons

blocparty-live1

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero” music video debut.

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on March 10, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

Yes the new music video for the first single off It’s Blitz! Click the link Above! Drool worthy for the Karen O fanboys out there (like myself) Cool video, simple and not over the top yet flamboyant and to the point. Everything YYY’s are. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs always manage to pick directors who pull off the right feel visually. Without going for big-budget crap.

Take; Maps, Down Boy, Cheated Hearts and Date With The Night for example. The opening scene of Maps one of deer-in-the-headlights bemusement or Down Boy which granted is a Live gig taping but the neon-green night vision camera work bleeds the seduction of the track. Cheated Hearts a compilation of fan made videos from around the world along with actual footage of the band spliced together gives the same ‘fuzzy’ feeling of warmth the track does. Lastly Date With The Night although a relatively typical/done to death tour/on the road montage still resonates with the party binge lifestyle that track invokes.

So here are those aforementioned older videos/previous singles which manage to perfectly capture the feeling the songs radiate;

Maps

Down Boy

Date With The Night

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – It’s Blitz!; first listen.

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on March 8, 2009

Ok so you had to be hovering about yesterday because it seems the entire album has now been replaced by 30sec samples on their myspace, when I actually checked out their page all the songs had 0 plays It must have just been uploaded. This album along with Sonic Youth’s – Eternal are my two picks this year for most anticipated albums. And after hearing It’s Blitz a good 3-4times over yesterday this hasn’t changed. It’s definitely not a disappointment.

The first few tracks; Zero, Heads Will Roll, Soft Shock are all synth-laden dance-rock numbers. The album then takes a slightly somber tone through; Skeletons, Dull Life, Shame And Fortune and then a standout track Runaway It could well be the new Maps I’m not going to state that outright because the album closer Little Shadow is also a minimalist heart-wrenching sing along.

It’s definitely something new, gone is the all-out rock. But thankfully it hasn’t been replaced by ‘whats-hot-right-now’ going all-out electronic. Even though there are hints of that. It’s more an introspective sound.

Full review coming when I get my hands on it!

It’s Blitz! Entire album streaming online!!!

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on March 7, 2009

Yes, that deserved 3 exclamation marks.
So as previously mentioned, the album got leaked awhile ago and I blogged two days ago that It was slated for release April 13th. It turns out they’ve decided to jump the gun on illegal downloaders. The entire album is streaming on their myspace right now.

The actual release date has also been pushed forward. You can buy it online from March 9th (Worldwide) and 10th (USA). And you can grab it in-stores April 6th (Worldwide) and March 31st (USA).

Right now I have speakers at full volume and I’m listening intently. The album will only be streaming until the official release date.

P.S Karen O Please Marry me, that is all.

yyy

Review: The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane

Posted in Music, Review by jukeboxparables on March 7, 2009

16-lovers-lane

I’m going to come straight out with a ‘big call’ there is probably no more an authentic Australian album than this 1988 release by Brisbane band The Go-Betweens, their 6th and final album (with an original lineup) Of course that’s as subjective as statements come. But put aside AC/DC’s Back In Black for one moment and let me continue, traditionally speaking the world thinks of Australia through the eyes of our biggest musical export’s visual imagery. Thunder, dust, breaking out of gaol (gaolbreak damnit!) blue singlets and probably utes doing burnouts. All of those things are completely absent from a band like The Go-Betweens. This album is a culmination of sorts for them and It’s a different yet equally valid perspective on things.

What does that even mean; authentic Australian album? Well at first listen 16 Lovers Lane projects tales of love, loss, reserved regret, melancholy moments and fiery proclamations. Those things aren’t exclusively Australian no, but the way these stories are told and crafted are exclusively Australian, they’re instinctively the work of The Go-Betweens.

Each subsequent listen drags you further and further into the scenes of the album. You get the distinct feeling of driving in an oldschool kingswood not-so-hurriedly as to miss passing scenery; tall golden grass plains and country cow pastures roll by yet with pertinent swiftness as if to make some pressing meeting in inner-city Brisbane, A pressing meeting to sort out matters of the heart even.

The opening track “Love Goes On!” with apt use of the exclamation mark, Grant McLennan almost cheekily delivers a line that could well be a book-blurb summary for the album.

There’s a cat in my alleyway, Dreaming of birds that are blue
Sometimes girl when I’m lonely, This is how I think about you

After only a few listens of this album initially. I found myself making comparisons with bands like The Smiths. It was the only thing in my mind that I could strike a comparison too either them or rather more loosely The Pixies. I still think there is a hint of London love and longing etched throughout this album. Although less urban, more acoustic and slightly more oddball-folk-Australian. This may be a bit of an unfounded comparison musically. But If your one for comparisons there are certain ‘quips which you’d pick Morissey as having penned. The album was recorded in Sydney at Studio 301 and written in Australia shortly after all of the members returned from a tough time in London, England where they were for several years. You get the impression that the memory of time over there was hovering over them and set the scene for part of the mood of this work even though its themes are universal.

You get the distinct impression this is Art, it’s not intended to be a pop album, it flows more like a short novel or a collection of short-stories; cut scenes from a life of living with love and all it’s shortcomings/glory. Yet pop sensibilities do indeed shine through.

Take the grab-you-first sing-along “Streets of Your Town” probably the bands most famous tune. It’s simple and yet paints a clear picture of it’s intention. A place where every landmark is a reminder of someone and something special.

Round and round up and down, Through the streets of your town
Everyday I make my way, Through the streets of your town

While its easy to hear this track as a stand-out. After subsquent listens it isn’t. The album has so many stand out songs it’s hard to chose a favourite they’re more a collective of parts that function to create a mood and I probably shouldn’t be talking about them individually. But this mood is two sides of a coin.

At the time one half of the songwriting duo; Grant Mclennan was in a relationship with fellow band member Amanda Brown the exclamation on the opening track now resonates what Grant was writing about though it is best expressed on “Quiet Heart” the love-struck feel of the strings backing the track having been arranged by Amanda, whilst other half of the songwriting duo Robert Forster penned more introverted outside-looking-in tunes “Love is A Sign”

I’m ten feet underwater, Standing on a sunken canoe
Looking up at the waterlillies, They’re green and violet blue
Still the sun it finds, A place to light me

Nearing the tail-end of the album another of Robert Forster’s tracks “I’m Allright” grabs every lover that has ever dealt with broken hope and replaces any remaining melancholy angst and leaves listeners incessantly repeating I’m allright…

A personal standout however comes from Mclennan’s “Was There Anything I Could Do? The rhythmic driving acoustic guitar gets your feet tapping whilst the lyrics tale a tale of confusion and bemusement.

She went out with her paint box, Paints the chapel blue
She went out with her matchsticks, Torched a carwash too
I don’t know where she’s living, All I’ve got is a card
A picture of her at the pyramids, A knife held to her heart
Was there anything I could do?

16 Lovers Lane is a bit of an enigma; It’s pop album yet at first listen its hard to really ‘hear’ it’s hooks. It’s a bunch of great songs penned by a duo sitting at opposite ends of the table of life’s luck in love. Yet somehow it’s all perfectly intertwined. It somehow is the perfect soundtrack for both driving in that kingswood on a sunny day in the suburbs or country Australia happy and content yet equally valid for a dreary rainy Melbourne (or perhaps London?) day when everything has gone wrong.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. “Love Goes On!” – 3:19
2. “Quiet Heart” – 5:20
3. “Love is a Sign” – 4:12
4. “You Can’t Say No Forever” – 3:57
5. “The Devil’s Eye” – 2:05
6. “Streets of Your Town” – 3:36
7. “Clouds” – 4:02
8. “Was There Anything I Could Do?” – 3:06
9. “I’m Allright” – 3:10
10. “Dive for Your Memory” – 4:17

The Go-Betweens
16 Lovers Lane
Released: 1988
Label: Beggars Banquet Records / LO-MAX Records (2004 Reissue)

gobetweens