Busted Flat

REVIEW: Sexdwarf – Has Disappeared Into the Mystic Dawn (2013)

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  I was given Sexdwarf by Meat.

SEXDWARF – Has Disappeared Into the Mystic Dawn (2013 Busted Flat)

No background, no story, straight into the songs.  The only disclosure I owe you is that Meat and I both know the lead singer of Sexdwarf, Chris Boyne.  I briefly worked with him at the Record Store, but I am putting that completely out of my mind for the sake of the purity of this first listen.  Let’s go.

“Thomasina” – A slinky, 70s jazzy piano starts us off but then a solid beat gets the feet moving.  This kicks.  I could dance to this.  Great lead vocal, Killers-like with slight distortion.  I keep coming back to that catchy piano bit.  It’s disco and it’s rock and it’s brilliant.

“Love is a Boner” – Ah, I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a song with “boner” in the title.  I am not disappointed.  I didn’t expect a Beatles-like psychedelic rock gem.  If the Beatles did a 14th studio album, I hope “Love is a Boner” would have been on it.  There is even a dual lead vocal, perfect for Lennon and McCartney.  Paul would sing the higher part.

“Spazzy” – Not as “spazzy” sounding as I expected.  Great guitar tones here.  This is the kind of stuff July Talk is doing now.  It’s frantic but well-constructed.

“Tear It Out” – “I think I’m gonna break your fuckin’ heart again,” goes the opening line on a song that reminds me a little bit of Jellyfish.  This one seems to be about one of that asshole manipulative boyfriends that everybody hates.  It has one of my favourite guitar solos on the album.

“Young Girls” – Acoustic guitars now, and a fun little keyboard riff.  Excellent, summery tune you could party to.  I hear the quirk of the Kinks.

“People in Trees” – The first…ballad?  Sparse, quiet, atmospheric, bird-like guitars.  And there’s people in trees, apparently and they live to be free.  Hold on — well, that picked up.  Drums, guitars, all fuzzed out.  Everything is fuzzy and it’s beautiful in the headphones.  The ending is like listening to a moon landing.

“Paid Me for Sex” – See, this is more the kind of song title I’m expecting from Sexdwarf.  Back to a vintage bopping pop rock sound.  I prefer this kind of stuff.  The whole album so far is covered in this fuzzy vintage amp kind of sound that makes it easy to imagine it was recorded in 1971.

“I Don’t Think About People” – A surprisingly warm song about a cold antisocial character.  “I don’t think about people, they’re assholes.”  Brilliantly melodic and simple.

“Gold Rush” – Echoey acoustics and then crashing electrics.  Slow and mournful, with a nice noisy Neil Young guitar solo.  Not as outstanding as some of the previous songs but it could be a grower.

“Centre of it All” – A nice grand chorus, lots of crashing drums…sure, I like it.  The vocal arrangement in the chorus is quite excellent.

“Magnolia” – Jazzy piano and bass again, and then the guitars kick in.  It’s another good song in the Sexdwarf vein — which I am hopefully describing to you well enough.  Jangly guitars give way to an awesome solo bit that is the highlight of the song.

“Therapists” – Loud bangy drums.  A strange combination of sounds from the 60s, 70s and 90s.  A ballad by the Ronettes on acid?  Who knows.  It’s Sexdwarf.  It’s its own thing.

“Mystic Dawn” – Finally we arrive at the end after a frankly trippy 50 minutes of quirky music.  Meat insisted we had to use headphones to write these reviews and this time it’s perfect because there’s a bit where the mix bounces back and forth from right to left.  This finale has everything from Black Sabbath chords to trippy Yellow Submarine passages, and then straight into a racing Deep Purple instrumental section.  This, people, is how you end an album!

Sexdwarf, where you have been all this time?  Why have you not been in my life?  Well now you will be — forever and ever.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Paul MacLeod – Close and Play (2006)

PAUL MacLEOD – Close and Play (2006 Busted Flat)

This CD was given to me by Uncle Meat for the purpose of reviewing.  Unfortunately I was too slow and Paul didn’t live to read it.  For that I’m sorry.

With Hawksley Workman in the production chair, one expects great sonics and perhaps just a touch of “weird”.  The opening track “Ghosts” has a familiar piano-based “bop” that is reminiscent of Workman.  This delightful little track is upbeat with just a slight sense of melancholy.  Moving on to “Cruelty”, the song has a strange aura that sounds as if you’re playing it on vinyl.  This electric song really showcases how versatile MacLeod’s voice was.  “Cruelty” does not easily escape from the memory.

Sadness and loneliness are two prevailing feelings on “Schopenhauer’s”, a beautiful acoustic tune.  “Gloat” adds a base of electric guitar for a rock solid foundation.  On top of this, Paul sings his soul out.  “All I could ever do was, was be but a crutch to you.”  The mood flows into the next tune “Pools of Blue” which speaks of regret.  This changes to anger on “Broken Wing”.  “She’s feeding the bullshit, a mouthful at a time.”  A tense little guitar lick goes on until the brilliant chorus releases it.  “Broken Wing” is an easy contender for best track on the album.

After the emotional peak of “Broken Wing”, it’s nice to go back to mellow on “Listen Mary”.  Its love acoustic guitar solo is a definite highlight.  “Giants”, another upbeat catchy number, would also be a peak point.

Closing the CD is “Stanley Steamer”, initially a shock as it begins with uncharacteristic electronic sound effects.  This soon turns into a humourous look back to an era long gone.  Paul’s song sounds as if it could have been born in that past decade.  One thing Paul had a talent for was tapping into the musical feelings of the past, like a human time machine.

Check out this fantastic CD by Paul MacLeod the Musical Tardis.

4/5 stars