This is one of the best Australian albums I’ve heard. It was recommended to me back in 1987, when it was released, and I’ve pretty much listened to it intermittently ever since. This music is often described as folk-rock- guitar and accordion driven songs, highly political and personal in nature, all with a sharp and prickly edge to them. There’s no baby, baby stuff here. Nine of the songs are by bandleader Mick Thomas, and the other three are written and sung by guitarist Dave Steel.
Factually, you can discard Steel’s songs. They’re dry, monotonous and soulless things that do nothing for the overall vibe of the record. The nine Thomas songs are something else and are worth the price of the album.
It starts off with the worker’s lament of Hungry Years and rages into the shearer’s night out of the pub song Ladies Lounge. Things get darker with The Infanticide of Marie Farrar, a re-telling of a Berthold Brecht poem, strident with its chiming guitar. She Works is next, about a proud woman who won’t give into her RSI. It’s the album highlight. Then there’s the title track, about a man who’s eyes weren’t good enough to serve a soldier in WW2 and instead made aircraft in western Melbourne. Encapsulates the feeling of the times. Away Away is next, probably the album’s most searing rocker and the most obvious single.
The record loses some steam after this, but picks up nicely with the Irish jig-o-rama of Women of Ireland.
All up, wonderful and thought-provoking. It’s not often potent lyricim is tied to arresting music, but they’re married here and it’s all good.
Coalescent by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t buy the concept of human eusociality, so I found that a little hard to take, yet Baxter has presented the idea with such iron plausibility you want to believe. And he has laid it bare on the table, with no judgementalism or bias. It’s for you, dear reader, to decide if Regina’s Order of human termites is a boon or a bane for mankind.
Theme aside, it’s a compelling tale that weaves its warps between disparate periods of time with aplomb. I found the tale of Regina to be the highlight of these – her struggles in the dying days of the Roman Empire are frankly captivating.
I’m glad I read this. It’s left a palpable impression on me.
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The City by Stella Gemmell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book is a scattered mess. It jumps haphazardly from one location and time to another, and while that aspect in itself is not a fault per se, it is with this. The author’s writing is full of disjointed short constructions and repetitive words and phrasings. What looked like a promising read started out that way but rather than keep to the premise, it turns to the old trope: war. And more war.
It’s compelling enough of a read not to write it off completely, but it has too many faults to be fully enjoyed.
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This is record number four for Icehouse. It sounds absolutely nothing like anything that came before it. In fact, the evolution of this band’s sound from the nervy hard rock/new wave of their first album, to the “bottled” sounding fake-rock of Sidewalk (I’ll get to Primitive Man one of these days) is all quite amazing.
Measure For Measure is all smooth textures, round edges and dreamy rhythms. In fact, it’s Iva Davies approximation of Roxy Music’s Avalon and Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream ’81-82-83-84.
Keyboards are front and centre here, and the music tries its best to float by on some ethereal current. It works sometimes, especially on the opening track Paradise, and other album cuts like Angel Street and No Promises. It falls flat too namely on tracks like Baby You’re So Strange and Lucky Me. Strangely, the B-side to Baby You’re So Strange, Too Late Now, is probably one of the best things Icehouse have recorded. They wisely included it on the CD release of the album.
But it’s intriguing listening to Mr Big, then going back in time six years and comparing it to the first album’s Fatman, which I think are two connected songs. The change in sound…talk about rapid evolution.
Anyhow, Icehouse were to hit the big time with their next record, Man of Colours, which is more or less a continuation of this. This isn’t a bad record, but it’s certainly an 80s relic. Big drums and big synths. And there’s a little too much trying to be Bryan Ferry or David Bowie (or Simple Minds) here. Iva Davies never quite did sound like himself on a record.