The Wax Conspiracy

Confessions of a Misspent Weekend - Splendour in the Grass - 2004

wonderful, yes

This review was written in spurts over the period of a week, if it doesn't flow well, that is why.

Franz Ferdinand
I heard the Franz Ferdinand album on the way up to Byron Bay and it's OK. It's well written and well played but, unfortunately, it's also kind of dull.
Really, if you're gonna mine the past for music to rip-off then art-punk really isn't the way to go, 'cause every chump and his dog is doing that.
I mean, Franz Ferdinand already look like pretentious twats, there's really no reason to sound it as well.

I thought their set was kinda boring, which is odd because they were a very exciting, dynamic band. Musically, they were great, doing really well to recreate the sound of the CD, but I just couldn't bring myself to care.
I think, therefore, that the problem doesn't lie with the band itself or with the songs that they've written, but rather with me — I don't like Franz Ferdinand, and I think that's fine.

To the person that pointed out that Franz Ferdinand must have been good because the crowd "went-off" when they played their "radio song," well, to them I offer this retort: people used to "go off" at public hangings, people "go off" at the Big Brother final eviction and people "go off" at The Price is Right.
It doesn't mean shit.

Spiderbait, probably the best band that played on the Saturday, were also, ironically, the most annoying.

See, Spiderbait are an amazingly talented pop band that can write amazingly catchy, yet energetic, short pop songs.
However, for every tight, catchy, short pop song, there's a gigantic, bloated jam that stops only to start up again about a million times.
Their gigs are just draining — they really are; we'd seen them twice before in the last few months and the set list had barely changed so that made it all the more infuriating.

I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for the fact that they're pop songs are everything that a pop song should be — short, catchy as all fuck, energetic and, above all, fun.

On the other hand, the long jams do give Kram the chance to be Kram, and I don't think there's a better, more charismatic drummer in the world.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I'm gonna be annoyed by a band it might as well be by Spiderbait.

Electric Six
There was something a little off about Electric Six.
I'd been told earlier in the day that it wasn't the original band, i.e. the ones who recorded the album, that would be playing that night, and I think we all carried that apprehension with us when we saw them play.
It turns out that only three out of the six were new.

Whichever way, their set seemed forced, so much so that I was convinced that it was, in fact, a whole different band.

I was expecting something totally different so it may be that it wasn't as much a bad show as it was one that didn't match up to my expectations.
I truly believed — with no proof whatsoever, mind you — that they were one of those bands whose music suffered during the recording process, one of those bands that just sounds a million times better live than what they do on record.

It was quite the opposite really; instead of an insane stage show with weird costumes we were treated to just a rock band, which was to be expected 'cause that's what Electric Six are.
Unfortunately, because they looked like an ordinary rock band playing what are essentially absurdist songs, it only heightened the impression that we were watching impostors.

Shit, even a guitar flame-thrower would've been nice.

Another problem was that they didn't quite nail the sound down right; the opening riff to "Gaybar" was muffled, as was the sax sample in "Danger! High Voltage!"

The most interesting thing about their set was the bonehead in the audience who was deriving an inhuman amount of joy and satisfaction from violently shoving his friends into other people in the pit.

I have never seen such simple-minded stupidity in all my life. No, that's a lie.

Dizzee Rascal
Dizzee Rascal was entertaining but we were tired, so when the suggestion to go get some food was made, no one really resisted.

First of all, you cannot understand a word that man is saying, regardless of whether he's rapping or not.
Now, from what I've read, there's quite a bit of lyrical depth to his Boy in da Corner CD, which suggests that to fully appreciate a Dizzee Rascal concert you'd have to have heard the album to have a general idea where the affecting high-points were.

I hadn't really heard the album, so I have to go by sound alone, and it sounded pretty good. The beats aren't your usual hip hop beats, which is refreshing, and his flow is also very different to a lot of the stuff that's out there.
In fact, I'd say that he is probably one of the most exciting personalities in hip hop at the moment, and God knows hip hop needs to be shaken up a little, especially now that that particularly fertile period of a few years ago seems determined to stay locked in the past.

Oh, and yeah, his DJ only had one arm, which was odd.

I missed PJ Harvey. I don't regret doing so because hanging out with my friends seemed more important at the time. However, I'm told that her show was absolutely magical.

Ash - A review by Captain Dan
I was a big fan of the Chili Peppers before I saw them on their Californication tour. Man, was that disappointing. Henceforth, seeing a band for the first time that I'm a big fan of is a daunting process, as there's a chance that I'll come away from it resenting them for sucking so much.

Luckily for me, Ash was everything I'd hoped they would be and more. "More" being a guitar which shot two blinding three meter flames into the air. Now some people would say "Pfft! A good band shouldn't need to have a flame thrower guitar to impress people," and to those people I say cram it!
Flame thrower guitars are cool. You're jealous.

And with that, I'm all out of wit. Here's what I liked about Ash:

1. Their sound. When confronted with a venue such as the huge tent at Splendour, some bands have trouble maintaining their sound, i.e. one guitar will drown out the other, the drums will pretty much drown out everything, and the end result is noise.
Ash managed to maintain their sound despite the setting, with guitar solos and bass riffs being heard where they're supposed to, as they're supposed to.

2. Their stage presence. After seeing Electric Six pretend to be a band, it was refreshing, and possibly even reassuring seeing Ash on stage. They seemed very comfortable and relaxed, and bonded with the crowd quite well.

3. Their set list. I don't like it when bands tour and only play their new stuff, so I was one happy chappy when Ash whipped out classics such as "Burn Baby Burn," "Girl From Mars," and "Oh Yeah." I also enjoyed their new stuff, but that may be because I made a point of purchasing their latest album Meltdown, prior to seeing them in case they only played new stuff - which they didn't.

So, in conclusion, Ash were tops, so much topser than my reviewing skills, which, hopefully, I'll never, ever, have to use ever again.

The best thing that I saw at Splendour — and possibly in all my life — was a jester by the name of Rumplestiltskin.

This man was an absolute god. In between talking absolute gibberish, jumping around on spring shoes and juggling whilst hopping on a unicycle (wearing the aforementioned spring shoes), he juggled an armadillo wearing a nappy, a guitar and a brain. He then played cricket with the brain using the guitar as a bat.

We must've sat in front of that fool for at least two hours. He was such a beautifully determined man. He kept telling us that it was time for him to pack up before starting up on some silly thing or another.
Really, it had more false stops than a Queens of the Stone Age song.

He had silly props — giant noses, giant undies, a giant fly (that he juggled with), goofy glasses... there were, all in all, two suitcases full of assorted crap that just... look, religion has often been accused of taking all that is noble and good of humankind and projecting it into the heavens, well, I assure you, there is nothing in heaven that cannot be found in that man's suitcases of assorted crap! Nothing!

His gibberish, his gibberish, as nonsensical as it was, I swear to Christ, contained some of the most profound metaphysical and existential statements that I have ever heard — and none of it made any sense.

There was something authentic about that man. Maybe it was his little voice squeaking, "Jesus!" when his little amplifier broke down. Maybe it was the way he pointed at his head and yelled, quite seriously, "I've lost my brain," after he'd smacked his little rubber brain over the fence behind him.
Or maybe it was the genuine surprise that we not only wanted to buy his books but we were willing to pay more than he was asking.

I saw him walking around after his show without his costume and makeup on. I really wanted to talk to him. I wanted to know if he really, really liked his job.

I'm happy, jester; I hope you're happy too.

Money Mark
Money Mark was probably the most entertaining musical performer at the festival.

He started the set with a weird noise making box that he held up to the microphone and tweaked to get different sounds out of — and when I say "sound," I really mean "noise."
I think it has been overlooked or forgotten or something but noise in music isn't solely the domain of geeky, white boys.

In fact, there's quite a tradition of it in hip hop, case in point, the Public Enemy sample collages that made up their earlier records, or, even more recently, some of the stuff found on The Roots' Phrenology.
Whichever way, it's always fun to see or hear noise in music. It's certainly a texture that's not used nearly often enough.

Anyhoo, this continued for just long enough for the people standing behind me to ask, "is this as good as he gets?" when, all of a sudden, his band, which was set up and standing behind him, was illuminated and kicked into a nice hip hop beat that complemented the noise to become a nice little instrumental.

From this moment on, Money Mark was either holding a guitar or standing behind a keyboard producing a mixture of soul, funk and Motown with a little experimental hip hop thrown into the mix.
The songs had a sunny wash to them and the screens behind Mark were lit up with nice, bright colours, which gave the concert a happy glow.

Money Mark's vocals, though I'm told that they're actually flat, sound like liquid gold, and they fit his brand of psychedelic funk/soul extremely well.

I'm really happy that he played proper songs. I was worried that he would be playing a DJ set and, generally, unless you're doing something really special it's just gonna sound boring.

Jurassic 5
I turned down a chance to watch Sonic Animation to watch Jurassic 5 knowing full well how terribly boring the latter band are live.

I think the most disappointing thing is that their CDs, despite showing no real musical growth, are actually very good, and it's a paradoxical shame that, live, you merely get a rehash of what J5 do well on record.

It's a lie to say that there was no musical growth; Power in Numbers was certainly a darker album than its predecessor.
However, musically, in terms of the songs and how they were produced, well, there's not really much happening outside of old-school hip hop.

I think that it bugs me so much because they are a good band and they are extremely talented, and I'm going to be very disappointed if their third album is merely Quality Control part three.

So, no, Jurassic 5 weren't particularly good, or, better said, they were predictably alright.

Who cares?

I was told later that Sonic Animation were fantastic.
Actually, Sonic Animation was the second show at the festival that I now regret missing, the first being P.J. Harvey, who, I'm told, put on a transcendent show.

The following CDs I took with me to Splendour
Blonde Redhead — Misery is a Butterfly
This CD is about the same length as the last Mclusky CD and yet, when you listen to it, it feels about twice as long.
However, and here's the clanger, it never overstays its welcome. I tell you, it's significant — significant! — when a medium-length CD sounds long and doesn't drag.

Misery is a Butterfly is a very, very melancholic album.
The first single, "Elephant Girl," has Kazu, one of the singers, setting to rights a recent accident involving a horse and a broken jaw.
It contains the line, "now inside and outside are matching," which reads to me that the singer feels that her physical disfigurement has now come to mirror some sort of internal blemish or defect, which, I think, is such a sad, negative, depressing outlook to have.

All of the lyrics have a really sad feel to them, even if I don't know the full story behind them.
The music as well is pretty melancholic, with a lot of muted sounds, minor notes and lush, sweeping string arrangements.

However, the melodies are absolutely gorgeous, just absolutely gorgeous.
It's mostly a slower album though there are a handful of upbeat, though not exactly happy, songs toward the end that allow the album to open up and breathe a little.

This'd probably be the best album that was released in 2004 so far if it weren't for the fact that there's already a tie with three other CDs.

I suggest you buy this:
but don't look sad 'cause it isn't sad

Electrelane — The Power Out
The Power Out is a good CD but it's one that I'll probably never really listen to.
I'm considering giving it away so first person to e-mail me an address gets it in the mail.

Man, Electrelane are a literate band, and I mean that quite literally.
One of the songs features a line from Die Froehlich Wissenschaft by Nietzsche and the lyrics of another are actually a sonnet by the Spanish poet, Juan Boscan.

Electrelane sound like an 80's art-punk band; there's keyboard and guitar interplay, there's a choral rock piece, there's the aforementioned literary references, and, yet, they don't sound as wanky as Franz. Go figure.

It's a pretty entertaining CD, I guess, but I don't particularly want it.
This is what you'll get in the mail:
maybe... probably

Love of Diagrams — The Target is You
Love of Diagrams are an Australian band who, I think, are based in Melbourne.
I saw them when they played at The Hopetoun once but I can't for the life of me remember for whom they were opening.

Anyhoo, their album, The Target is You, is a mostly instrumental affair, featuring some scant vocals on the third song.
Musically, it's a pretty exciting album, offering, as it does, 10 songs in about 32 minutes.
I should mention, however, that we're not talking instrumental in a bloated, fatty Godspeed You Black Emperor! way, but rather in a catchy, punchy, 10 songs in 32 minutes kind of way.

My only criticism of the album is that there are no vocals, which I realize sounds silly given that it's not actually meant to have any.
However, vocals generally do give songs a more cohesive feel and, lyrically, some sort of emotional anchor. Having said that, it's probably one of the best Australian releases that I've recently bought.

This CD looks like this, though pink.
pink is the new black

Thanks to anyone who spoke to me including our fair-weather friends. And also to the person who designed and mass-produced the "There is More to Life than Consumerism" shirts. You're either a fucking idiot or a genius. Shine on, you crazy diamond!
Thanks to Captain Dan for his Ash review.
And much love and much respect to a certain jester who made me laugh so much I wanted to cry.

And for a second, for just a second, the world was fun and we were the kings of it.

that is sad, but you will remember it

Belvedere Jehosophat

Reviewed on Sunday, 1 August 2004

The Wax Conspiracy



Other reviews by Belvedere Jehosophat