Another week, another episode of Hugs and Kisses from Mr. Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press)—one more fucking book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties. He has been doing this for us over a year, which is something like a decade in blog years. Send him belated birthday wishes at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week: music in confined spaces
There’s a great Australian film from the Eighties called The Year My Voice Broke. It’s set in 1962, in a rural backwater, where a shy, nervous schoolboy called Danny (Noah Taylor) plays out an unrequited love for childhood friend Freya (Leone Carmen). There are some memorable, deeply affecting performances from the youthful cast, capturing adolescent yearning well, but that isn’t the film’s main attraction for me. Director John Duigan lovingly lingers on New South Wales’ open spaces, weaving among the slowly developing action a great sense of time and silence and heat. It left a lasting impression upon me – and clearly upon the Australian public too, as it was nominated for nine awards by the Australian Film Institute, winning six – so much so that, two decades on, I find myself living in the verges of overgrown Aussie country town Brisbane. The main theme for the film is a piece by English composer Robert Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending. The mournful, haunting violins and clarinets seem to perfectly capture both Danny’s solemn and earnest primary fumbles and the countryside that surrounds him.
I was reminded of it again last night in Brisbane’s Gallery Of Modern Art, as I sat looking at a series of paintings from Pablo Picasso’s personal collection (Cézanne, Picasso himself, Salvador Dali, a disturbing Miró self-portrait) while vertiginous instrumental music wafted down the corridor. Outside, neon skyscrapers and city ferries plied dazzling reflections upon the river. Inside, Dirty Three (and ex-Moodists) guitarist Mick Turner dazzled with his unassuming adventuring upon guitar and melodica – a sliver of bow across the strings here, a looped dub beat there – while behind him, images flashed across a screen: home road movies of scrubland and trees, illustrations of colour-saturated, distorted child-animals and washes of waves subtly changing tint and orientation. The mood was inclement yet peaceful, as if hinting at a looming storm that never quite burst, filled with the promise of Australia’s great untamed wilderness and the water-filled streets of St Kilda, yet somehow contained wonderfully by the clean, spacious lines of GoMA.
He was wielding magic – nature’s magic, earth’s magic – with his lanky fingers and bow and mouth, but that wasn’t all. No, not at all. For behind Mick, sat teasing and crashing and flurrying and chiding his drum kit, was a man I (and others with too-long memories) had once venerated as near-god – and that I (and others like me) had long given up for dead, Mr Jeffrey Wegener. It was weird, near surreal. The last time I saw Jeffrey on stage was over two decades ago – as one of the two vital components in BEST FUCKING ROCK’N’ROLL LIVE BAND EVER, FULL STOP (Brisbane’s Laughing Clowns). And just by happenstance I encounter him again…?
The first couple of numbers it seemed like the pair was playing different songs – on different planes altogether. Maybe it was Jeffrey’s nerves, maybe we all needed to settle. But then, not even gradually just then, but just you blinked and checked out the Miró painting, noticed the more you looked the weirder it got, the pair coalesced and the sun was in its heavens, the rain was in the clouds, Danny was finally coming back to stay and his love this time would never leave him, would never betray such a fragile, blossoming heart.
Yes, it mattered.
Hugs And Kisses Top 5< Five Brisbane Records I Enjoyed Last Friday
1. I ♥ Hiroshima – Punks (Valve)
It’s whiplash smart, and full of energy: the (new) new wave as Williamsburg bequeathed to us a few years hence: and as sassy as even These Dancing Days.
2. Lullatone – The Bedtime Beat (Room 40)
Not strictly from Brisbane, but on a Brisbane label – some Japanese noise adventurers once again proving that when it comes to gentle, sweetly spooky, nursery electronics they have no peer.
3. Flamingo Crash – Triangle Island (Side Kick)
Their drummer is the new Clem Burke, honest to Jeffrey. And their sound is post-disco (early Eighties) with a few sneering pouts thrown in.
4 Vegas Kings – Dead Money (Mere Noise)
Forget The Strokes (what do you mean, you already have?). This is outright demented, as only bands raised on Australian’s finest punk band period, The Saints, can be.
5. Do The Robot – Amp On Fire (Valve)
Scots band Life Without Buildings were undeservedly obscure – scattergun, stream-of-consciousness female vocals over searing guitar. They split, after (oddly) completing one low-key Australian tour. Here is one band that obviously managed to see them (more than I ever did). Good on them!