Sometimes there’s only so much words can express. With the help of everyone’s favourite app (sorry Android users), I’ve used Apple Emojis to tell the story of Sheezus and her monthly periods.
Also, listen to Lily Allen‘s self-proclaimed “unofficial worldcup song” Bass Like Home.
the interns are thrilled to announce that we are now officially part of the VICE Blogging Network.
It’s a collection of independent Australasian websites which are, in VICE’s opinion, ‘the most interesting, relevant and popular ones going’ and we’re so excited to be included in such a well-respected realm of music, art and culture.
Montaigne (aka. Jessica Cerro) was a Triple J Unearthed High finalist in 2012. She didn’t win, but since then she’s been turning out some pretty stunning music. I Am Not An End is the second single off her forthcoming EP, Life of Montaigne. It follows I’m A Fantastic Wreck which pricked up ears last month. It’s a stings-driven number that revolves around Cerro’s sunshine-induced voice. She’s got the quick-wit of Lily Allen with the pop quirks of somebody like Regina Spektor. Australia is desperately in need of a new left-of-centre pop queen and Montaigne could be it. This is a very strong debut.
On this month, ten years ago, it’s likely that you were anticipating Las-Vegas band The Killers’ debut record, Hot Fuss. With four albums to their name now and a greatest hits, The Killers have engrained themselves as a band that never quite made it as big as Coldplay or The Strokes but have happily plodded along as a sometimes-headliner.
On 7 June 2004, when Hot Fuss was released it was looking like The Killers were destined for giddy heights. The album went number one in Australia (such trendsetters), Ireland and the UK while it also reached the top ten in the US. At the end of the decade, the LP was the 27th and 97th highest selling album in the UK and Australia respectively.
The Singles also performed well. Mr. Brightside reached the top ten in the US and the UK while Somebody Told Me mustered a peak of number three in the UK.
Few new bands that were born around the time The Killers surfaced managed that feat with their debut. Indie-rockers turned stadium-fillers, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, started with critically acclaimed albums but ultimately it took them the better part of a decade to turn that into commercial success. Even if it was at the cost of critical adoration.
At the time of Hot Fuss’ release there was no other band, apart from perhaps Coldplay and an ageing U2, that presented alternative rock in such a straight-forward, digestible manner. Lead singer Brandon Flowers marks it best in Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, when he preaches “It’s indie rock n roll for me/It’s all I need”. Hot Fuss was certainly not the most indie record of the time. Far from it. But it exposed ‘the rebel’ inside all of those who didn’t want to delve into garage-rock to reveal it.
Lamenting on Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, NME wrote “The Killers’ charm is to be both clever and clueless at once”. And to this day, that is still true of Hot Fuss. They probably knew that proclaiming they love indie rock was somewhat cringeworthy but it works because Flowers’ delivery is so self-assured. Personally, as a twelve year-old kid there was a certain feeling about holding The Killers’ record and believing I’d uncovered a band that was just a tad alternative.
On paper, The Killers sounded ridiculous. They were a band from Las Vegas who sung a lyric like “somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend”, and delivered decadent, Moulin-Rouge style videos. There was nothing gritty to this indie rock n’ roll. It was clean; formulaic even. But it was also perfectly delivered and believable because Flowers and co were so convincing in their delivery of such grandiosity.
In labelling Mr. Brightside the 72nd best song of the ‘00s, Pitchfork wrote “Merging Duran Duran makeup, New Order hi-hats, and Bruce Springsteen-ian grandiosity, they gave rock fans a non-geriatric arena-ready alternative to the world’s Nickelbacks”. A year later, PANIC! At The Disco would release their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, borrowing a similar, if not more emo-enhanced formula. Even now, bands are still using that well-balanced combination of alternative rock and stadium-ready flashiness. Has anyone seen Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys or Muse live recently?
In 2009, Brandon Flowers told Spin that “Hot Fuss was all based on fantasy. The English influences, the makeup — they were what I imagined rock was. I’m a dreamer, you know? So I dug into that dream and made Hot Fuss.” It comes as a defence to critics saying the album held no sense of identity. Pitchfork wrote in their 5.2 review of the album, “The Killers are just the latest band to be born too quick inside the popular music vacuum, where expectations for broad accessibility kill dudes’ potential for deeper creativity quite fabulously dead.”
In 2004, the Brits dictated alternative rock, so it made sense that the Killers would follow this formula. However, it left little room for them to inject their hometown and own influences into it. Listening back to Hot Fuss, it’s hard to say that it sounds specifically British. So many bands from around the world have adopted the Brits’ alternative style of rock that it sounds universal now more than anything.
In an interview with The Quietus, after the release of their third album Day & Night, Flowers admitted the rock n roll fantasy had become “unhealthy”. He said, “I think we still can be the biggest band in the world. But maybe we were falling into traps – getting the producers and photographers U2 had. That’s unhealthy.”
In the interview with Spin, Flowers also notes that Hot Fuss was “a very special part of this generation.” And it’s true. It would be hard for anyone to deny hearing All These Things That I’ve Done and not singing along. As Vice writer, Clive Martin puts it “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” was the “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” chorus for the cool clubs.”
As I listen back to the album many of the lyrics sound iconic if not slightly over-heard. Lines like “Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine” or “It’s not confidential, I’ve got potential” are instantly nostalgic. They’re aggressive and well-timed, perfect for both the clubs and stadiums. They also induce some serious nostalgia which is a good tell-tale that the album was a signpost of the time.
When Mr. Brightside was voted in as the fifth best song of NME’s lifetime, drummer Ronnie Vanucci said “The song is basically about one being totally content and fearless and happy, and then having it totally be the antithesis in a blink of an eye – all of the sudden being the opposite of that because of someone”. Basically, it’s the topic of just about every pop song but delivered differently. Instead of a Scott Storch, Max Martin or Timbaland production it was partly-distorted and centred around a delicious guitar lick. The drum-beat is rollicking and Flowers vocals are commanding in a conversation, train-of-thought way.
It’s withstood any song from Hot Fuss and has become The Killers’ signature track. Ten years later, it sounds unaged. Radio still plays it, clubs still play it and every man and his dog knows it started out with a kiss.
Even Smile Like You Mean It sounds instantly comforting when hearing it ten years later. As does the theatrical, desperation of Believe Me Natalie.
The Strokes achieved a similar feat with Is This It?, particularly in regards to Last Night. They disguised a beautifully simple, pop melody under waves of distortion and noisy guitars. Yes, the Strokes record was more successful but it’s easy to see how and why the Killers were inspired by this. Flowers even told NME, “Is This It…just sounded so perfect. I got so depressed after that, we threw away everything and the only song that made the cut and remained was ‘Mr. Brightside’.”
Rolling Stones put it best when they wrote, “So what if they were from Vegas, not the U.K., and the year was 2004, not 1983?” Hot Fuss is a guilty pleasure record in every sense. It’s a big, boastful record that touches on matters of relationships, sex, bitterness and falsity. Or as Vice puts it: a record about a murderous homosexual relationship.
Hot Fuss didn’t have the gritty, indie aura that the first records by Kings Of Leon or The Black Keys did. The Killers were introduced with a flurry of glitz and glamour that lends itself more to Duran Duran than it did the bands of their own era. As such, they were able to permeate a pop/rock landscape that was dominated by the likes of Maroon 5, Nickelback and Jet.
When hearing those three bands it’s hard to argue that The Killers are not the more likeable alternative. Even their harshest critics would surely have to agree.
It’s difficult to call Hot Fuss a classic in the way that The Strokes Is This It? or Oasis’ Definitely, Maybe are regarded but it’s a key post-it note in the musical timeline of the ‘00s. It was a time when alternative rock became glamorous and digestible once again; made for huge audiences. It’s worth noting that the year after Hot Fuss, Coldplay became a fully-fledged arena-rock band with their synth-heavy X&Y. A sound not dissimilar to the foundations of Hot Fuss.
Hot Fuss was an integral part of the transition period that got us to the point where Arcade Fire and The Black Keys could headline festivals.
The positive of Hot Fuss not being Is This It? is that The Killers have not been burdened in the way The Strokes have. In different ways, Sam’s Town and Day & Age have matched Hot Fuss whereas The Strokes other albums have paled in comparison. They are not as instantly recognisable, but each of them have tracks that make worthy additions to their ‘Greatest Hits’. It’s helped their career track-along in a straight line rather than plummet like The Strokes.
Sydney/Adelaide duo, Collarbones are probably making the most innovative RnB music in Australia at the moment. Following 2012’s fantastic Die Young LP, the pair have released the free, Atlantis 2014 EP. Like most of their work, it’s a layered and introverted soundscape that borrows from contemporary RnB and electronica. As the title suggests, Atlantis 2014 is a world of its own built on lush synths, pulsating beats and sparse melodies. Lead-vocalist Marcus Whale leads the way with his dulcet tones and runs while his partner in crime , Travis Cook, engulfs it in a hazy atmosphere. It’s pretty startling stuff.
Collarbones will take to Sydney’s Seymour centre as part of Vivid Festival on 6 June with Synergy Percussion. You can grab your tickets here.
For this week’s reviews we’re delving into all things pop. Whether it’s straight up, glitter-pop or left-of-centre pop, we’re dipping our toes in all things melodic. It takes us to some unsettling EDM territory, vintage Hollywood and the ’80s. Those things combined have to mean a good time…right?
Sam: I did love Let Me Down Gently but this is what I expected from La Roux. Elly Jackson is an exquisite pop creator and this sort of reminds me of Bowie’s Let’s Dance . Mandating everyone to ‘move, move move’ is always a good idea. I’ve probably played this in excess of 20 times this week. 4.5 Sam’s Pick
Lizzie: Can I really understand what she’s saying? No not really. Do I care? No a cent. I’m mesmerised too much by her boppy poppy beat. La Roux delivers again and again. My vote for consistently giving me chills! 4 Lizzie’s Pick
Hannah: This song reminds me of a long lost old friend that suddenly walks back into your life. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable and it’s damn good to see them again. Now move, move, move. 3.5
Bianca: So good to have Elly back in my ears. Does my vote still count if this listen was about my 30th impression? 4.5 Bianca’s Pick
Sam: Damn Dev Hynes is such a brilliant pop-producer. There’s a glistening charm to this, which he’s done, without much help from Kylie I’m sure. It’s for a good cause but my goodness the video is a stinker. Truth be told, I really don’t mind the song though. #TeamKylie. 3
Lizzie: NOTE: DO NOT WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP. It is god awful. The song on the other hand, follows yet another perfect recipe for pop catchiness. Produced by Blood Orange (say what!?), I feel I’ve been transported back to a 90’s Blue Light Disco…may have even caught myself singing this in the shower this morning. Miss Minogue you’ve done it to me again. 3.5
Hannah: ….but… but… it just doesn’t go anywhere? 2
Bianca: I want to hate this video clip so bad but it takes me back to my hairbrush-singing-in-the-mirror days that I can’t help but feel nostalgic. That’s probably where my affection ends though. To put it bluntly, I certainly wouldn’t be turning my chair around for this one. 2
Sam: Isabella Manfredi’s vocals are pure sex. I feel like they hark back to Chrissy Amphlett in the way of that really gritty, smokey tone. I’m so glad they’ve gone for a slow tempo and understated melody so that Manfredi can take the spotlight. 4
Lizzie: Well hello Ministry of Sound Chill Out album 2014. It kinda makes me want to move to Byron Bay for some reason. I feel that’s a good thing…The vocals by Manfredi, really own this song. Simple, majestic and fluid. 4
Hannah: Manfredi, I’m yours, I’m yours I’m yours. Simultaneously melancholic, whimsical and strangely hopeful, this song is destined for “soundtrack to your life” type lists everywhere. Excuse me while I go back to staring dreamily out of my rain strewn window. 3
Bianca: It’s an emotionally genuine, honest song but it wouldn’t feature on the soundtrack of my life. 3
Sam: Haxan Cloak’s production on this is the beginning is minimal brilliance but it’s all about 2:13 when it takes flight. The rollicking beat really smacks you in the stomach. It’s a very bold move for Wife to introduce himself this way, but it captures your attention. It’s all about the ebbs and flows. 3.5
Lizzie: This song does nothing for me. It’s too slow, harsh for the ears and general vibe is too intense for me. Just not my cup of tea sorry. 2
Hannah: The perfectly practised, totally atmospheric restraint of the first half of this track, coupled with the dark seduction and bone shattering anger of the climactic second has me hooked. Big, big, big fan. 4 Hannah’s Pick
Bianca: Probably not the best song for a hungover Monday morning but I can appreciate the raw emotions of the track. Hot tip: Do not search ‘wife + tongue’ on Youtube. Unless you’re into that kinda thing. 2.5
Sam: This is Lana’s second album and I still feel like we’re as far away from knowing who she actually is as ever. It’s still very vintage Hollywood. I like that she’s roughed it up a bit for Ultraviolence but it sounds like something I’d do at Karaoke at 4am in the morning, swaying, slightly off pitch and thinking I’m seducing everyone around. 2.5
Lizzie: Bond… James Bond. Is anyone else feeling that vibe – Daniel Craig shooting his gun into the distance in his newest franchise with this track echoing in the distance? I have utterly succumbed to the sexy broodiness of this song. 4 Lizzie’s very close second
Hannah: This week we’ve got the work of two major songstresses featured on First Impressions. First Kylie and now Ms Del Rey and yet I really feel neither of them delivers a track that goes anywhere I’m willing to go. Kylie’s chugs along a predictable pop princess route and Del Rey’s just crumbles into a sepia-toned car crash of messy guitar and percussion. It probably doesn’t help I hate Lana Del Rey at her best. 1.5
Bianca: If you’re a Lana Del Rey fan, you’ll no doubt be singing her praises for her latest track. If you’re not a fan, don’t worry, nothing’s changed. She’s the same Lana you know and don’t love. 2
Sam: Frankly, it’s a cheap rip-off of Daft Punk and the disco flavoured-EDM sound that has followed. The vocalist is devoid of any type of human-appeal and the instrumental is so bland I’d rather be eating wet wipes. If Deadmau5 took me for a ride in his car and made me endure this, I’d open the door and roll-out. Seeya! 0.5
Lizzie: He said he had this track lying around for a while, waiting to be released. He should have released it way back when…now it just sounds like a shitty electro attempt to cover the current funk disco vibe doing its rounds atm. (deadmau2.5)
Hannah: Yes Colleen D’Agostino you can move my body… away from the speakers pronto. And my mind is already well and truly asleep. Mission accomplished. Total yawn. 0.5
Bianca: Colleen’s voice makes me want to put a giant mouse on her head just so I don’t have to hear that screech. The track certainly has amiable disco vibes about it but fails to take me to funky town. Points for effort, I guess. 2
It seems half of Australian-duo Big Scary, Tom Iansek, has been a busy man. Aside from wrapping up a US tour with Big Scary, he’s just announced a new solo album under the moniker of #1 Dads. The album, About Face, has today been preceded by its first single, Return To. The song is a sparse, experimental track that layers with sporadic keys and a metronome back-beat. Iansek’s haunting vocal sits atop steering the song through an unpredictable yet enchanting melody. About Face will be released through Big Scary’s Pieater label on 8 August.