Abbe May’s Karmageddon

Australian singer-songwriter Abbe May’s recent video is as minimalist as parts of the electronic based tune itself. ‘Karmageddon’ has so far gained mixed responses from those who’ve seen it, but especially from listeners who are used to May’s previous guitar-oriented work.

Previously described as “mind-bending”, the clip for ‘Karmageddon’ can be seen below. The track is taken from Abbe May’s upcoming full-length ‘Kiss My Apocalypse’, due for release in April 2013.


Recorded in a weekend, this EP comprises four tunes by retro/garage rock band The Greenhornes (best known for their association with Jack White and Brendan Benson) jamming with ex-Animals vocalist Eric Burdon.  Given Burdon’s prior love for keeping things a little raw and The Greenhornes naturalistic performances, the results are interesting.

My name’s Winston Churchill…and I’m having a fucking nervous breakdown” grumbles Burdon during the intro of ‘Black Dog’, as Patrick Keeler leads the band with a crashing entrance, before everyone settles into a classic blues groove that’s a dead ringer for Hendrix’s ‘Who Knows’ (from ‘Band of Gypsies’).  Backed by slabs of organ and fuzzy guitar lines, the aging Burdon lets his inner animal loose as he snarls and shouts, delivering each line with a real fire and defiant power; his loudest moments among the best a white blues growler can muster, while his quieter moments (of which are few) have an equally ominous presence.

With cleaner guitar and a very welcome electric piano, ‘Out of My Mind’ finds Burdon turning in a much more thoughtful performance, though never quite managing to eclipse Jack Lawrence, whose wandering basslines are very high in the mix and sound terrific throughout.  In the producer’s chair, Brendan Benson seems to have had the good sense to let everything happen naturally, doing very little himself – the “live in the studio” vibes are perfect for both The Greenhornes and Burdon.  ‘Can You Win’ pitches Burdon’s fearsome growl against a near funky bass and some reverb-filled guitar lines.  Burdon’s voice wobbles, caring not for anything remotely close to perfection, but placed against the quasi-aggressive guitar lines and loud drum parts, this appears to be a yet another perfect matching of musicians from different generations.  As they pull things to a close, it’s clear that this is their finest moment – one which you may wish could have gone on for longer.

After three blistering performances, expectations are set high for the EP to finish with a forth.  Sadly, the EPs closing track ‘Cab Driver’ is so bad – so offensively bad, even – it comes close to spoiling the good work that’s been laid down previously.  So, what’s so objectionable?  Over a tune with a distinctly eastern flavour – like a garage band jamming out bits of Sol Bloom’s ‘Snake Charmer’ music – Burdon adopts a cod Arabic accent where (amongst other things) he “sings” about having a tattoo removed that was anti-American, before claiming he has nothing against the English soldiers if they stay lying in their graves.  Christ.  How this was deemed to be okay in the 21st century is a mystery, considering other racially motivated pieces – such as ‘Doctor I’m In Trouble’ by Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – are often viewed as being in bad taste.  Much in the same way his ‘PC3’ did forty years previously with its themes of police brutality and sexualising the monarch, was Burdon aiming for controversy here?  Yes.  Was it necessary? No.  Should this have been kept private? Certainly.

So, there it is – four tunes recorded in less time than it takes some bands to decide on a drum sound.  The off-the-cuff approach yields some excellent results from a great band sparking off an unquestionably edgy vocalist.  In places, it could even represent the sound of artists who’d been working together for years.  Now, if someone had the foresight – and possibly the guts – to tell Burdon that ‘Cab Driver’ was a bad idea, this EP would have been even better.

November 2012

New music from Oranjuly man Brian E. King

In 2010, Oranjuly released a rather fine power pop album.  After two years of working on new music, Brian has put his former band to bed and and has resurfaced fronting a new outfit – Parks.

Parks have an album on the way (some of which is re-worked from song ideas intended for Oranjuly’s abandoned sophomore disc), but before that appears, here’s a taster – a great piece of jangly pop entitled ‘Sweater Weather’.

You can keep up to date with news from Brian and Parks at

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Drug Buddies: A Tribute To The Lemonheads

In terms of mainstream popularity, The Lemonheads’ peak came in the early 90s, when their fifth album ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ and cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson’ both became big hits.  Either side of that release, despite hugely unstable line-ups, the band recorded other great music, both punk based and of the summery slacker pop variety.  Each of the albums within the band’s catalogue are worthy of investigation.

With such cult status – and Evan Dando’s knack with a throwaway pop ditty deserving of the praise he has intermittently been given – it’s obvious they would be a huge influence upon other jangle-pop bands from Boston and beyond.  On this tribute disc, twenty one DIY bands have been brought together, putting their mark on various tunes associated with The Lemonheads, alongside one original composition about Dando himself.  The results, as you may expect, are mixed.

For ‘I’ll Do It Anyway’, Star fuzz things up considerably, so much so there’s more distortion than actual tune in places, but they make it their own.  Cutting through the sheets of trebly noise, a twee female voice evokes recordings by Velocity Girl and other 90s indie favourites, and once you’ve tuned into the band’s style, Dando’s melodic leanings eventually shine through, especially on the chorus, which still stands up as an amazing piece of pop.  Far less fortunate is Marauder’s take on the lovely ‘Down About It’.  There are a few nice slide guitar notes and a reasonable jangle, but any enjoyment is killed by an extremely flat vocal performance.  Better, Himson re-imagine ‘My Drug Buddy’ as stripped down workout for acoustic guitar and ukulele.  While it turns out exactly as you’d expect for something with a uke in tow, all harmony vocals are well executed and the electric guitar laying down jazzy leads intermittently provides a welcome addition.

Following a long-wave radio-esque intro, Shindig don’t really use the full spectrum of their obvious talents on ‘Confetti’, preferring instead to offer something as close to Dando’s vision as they can. This is fine, but without the sharpness in the guitar department it doesn’t quite have the impact it should.  Vicious Whiskey turn in a raucous version of ‘6ix’ (originally from the overlooked ‘Car Button Cloth’) which, while a little unimaginative, their version is great in its own right, chockfull of garage-sounding guitar lines and a small serving of feedback for good measure.  In the hands of The Neuvos, ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ has plenty of summery guitars, shimmering constantly and an occasional accompaniment which sounds as if it really ought to belong to a brass section.  Both features are enjoyable on this slightly slower rendition, but like Marauder, The Neuvos is a band hampered by a wobbly vocalist.  Overall, Neuvos’ offering is a case of “close, but…”

Fans of The Lemonheads’ punkier sounds may find some enjoyment from Numbers on Napkins thrashing their way through a decent version of ‘Uhh’ (the comp’s only Ben Deily related tune), and Suinage taking the jangly ‘Stove’ and cranking the speed and volume just enough to make it interesting.   Both are worth spinning, though neither are classic.  [Since Deily’s compositions are seemingly fair game – unless, of course, NoN chose ‘Uhhh’ unknowingly, it’s a pity they didn’t plump for his vastly superior ‘Second Chance’.]

So with a lot of the material hovering around the enjoyable but workmanlike mark or – in a couple of cases – bewilderingly bad, why should you bother checking out this comp?   Hidden amongst the more average material, there are a few of bright shining stars…and it’s those that have used a little more imagination that gives ‘Drug Buddies’ a huge lift.  With a staccato riff leading the way, Trucker Cleavage offer a rendition of ‘Being Around’ that’s got plenty of punch via a chunky bass riff and slightly discordant lead guitar.  What makes this enjoyable, though, is the lead vocal performance: it’s delivered in a nasal harmony throughout, hugely reminiscent of John Linnell and John Flansborough of They Might Be Giants!  A hugely jangly take on ‘The Great Big No’ sounds at times like the work of a bad Matthew Sweet impersonator, but if you can make it past that, it’s musically sound, making use of swirling keyboards and  big power pop harmonies throughout.  You’re probably curious about the ballsy one-note guitar solo from the original version…  It’s now nowhere to be heard!  The instrumental break here is filled with a suitable amount of noodling, always tastefully played, not shadowing the rest of the tune.

The best of the bunch is Lucky Day’s thoughtful reimagining of ‘Bit Part’, stretching it out to three times the original length.  While the vocal melody remains intact, the music is soft and almost loungy, with the addition of wordless oohs and ahs reminiscent of Sixpence None The Richer.  Of all the tunes featured on ‘Drug Buddies’, Lucky Day are streets ahead of the competition, taking a once trashy ninety second trashy number and dressing it up with passionate vocals and a multi-layered arrangement, culminating in a funky lead bass solo.  In short, this is a tune not to be missed.

…And that previously mentioned original track written as a tribute to Evan?  Mean Carlene’s ‘Evan Says’, surprisingly, is an okay slice of jangle pop that befits Boston’s slacker hero.  Staccato riffs and a repetition of the title are its main concerns, but it’s a more than solid piece of pop rock. Given that it’s writers Mean Carlene appear to be reasonably talented – certainly far more talented than some of ‘Drug Buddies’ contributors – it would have been good to hear them singing one of the many Lemonheads numbers not included here: where are ‘Dawn Can’t Decide’, ‘It’s About Time’ ‘Mallo Cup’, ‘Half The Time’?  Surely all are better than the ‘Car Button Cloth’ era tunes present…

Listen for yourselves using the widget below.  For the hardcore Lemonheads fan, ‘Drug Buddies’ may not always be much more than a welcome distraction, but there are a handful of tunes worth downloading.

November 2012