Ned Heckling The Band #3

So before I begin this, I just want to clear one thing up: I have never commented on any of these columns and I never will.

Anyway, while thinking about what to write about this week, I had a flashback to something a friend of mine said to me. We were discussing this column and she mentioned to me how she would like me to write a column insulting alternative music. At first I absolutely obliged and set out on a dangerously personal rant. However, as I ferociously typed these suddenly-appearing hate-filled thoughts, I realised that I actually liked ‘alternative music’.

Confused and somewhat annoyed at my wasted words, I went back to my friend and asked her for a definition of ‘alternative music’. Now, I should clarify one thing: I asked this person for the definition because I wanted to see what the everyday music fan considered ‘alternative music’ to be, not what a music website thought. When asked for her definition this girl said, “as in, ‘I’m really into this band at the moment, you wouldn’t know them, their music isn’t actually played anywhere, but the lead singer is an art student, and I feel I really relate because I like to wear berets and skinny leg jeans and take ‘arty’ photographs of leaves whilst I talk to my like-minded friends about bands that don’t even exist yet’ alternative.”

While this definition falls more into the idea of ‘indie music’ (although the two ideas have become grossly morphed and confused in recent years – perhaps a topic for another discussion soon), I realised that in some ways what she described is now considered to be the socially ‘cool’ thing to be. Don’t believe me? Take a drive through the trendy suburbs of Newtown or Glebe. Walk around the various concert venues this city has to offer. Or, quite simply, go into any heavily populated bar or nightclub on a Saturday night and observe the predominant male fashion sense. That’s right, skinny jeans are back and cooler than ever. Not only skinny jeans, but those Blues Brother’s Ray Bans, as well as Aviators and shiny black boots. Such is the reoccurrence of 70s rock fashion, that only the other day I was informed by a particularly-fashion conscious friend that he thought skinny, midriff-showing t-shirts could make an appearance soon. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld: Oh Moses smell the roses!

Furthermore, online communication such as Facebook has seen everyone from the school-yard jock to the timid arty kid take up the challenge of becoming the next Lyndon Wade. Not a day goes by where I’m not treated to the extravagant photographic evidence of some of my friends having another night on the turps. People clad in skinny jeans hold half-smoked cigarettes gently in their mouths and stare ‘stylishly’ through the camera, apparently oblivious to being caught on film. Yeah right.

While I sit here and bitterly insult these fads, I can’t help but feel hypocritical. Why? In some way, I am one of these ‘alternative guys’. Last night, while enjoying one of my many nightly Seinfeld episodes with a friend of mine, he remarked that my fashion sense was “not 100% indie, but like, getting there with those skinny black jeans and those new glasses.” Does that make me cool? Certainly not. Being cool goes a lot further than just fashion, a few pretty pictures, and the odd witty tweet; but they are all contributing factors to this flash-back to the 1970s.

Like these new social trends, the music scene has been altered in the past few years. Hip-hop and rap has been significantly commercialised, dance music has formed all sorts of sub-genres like electro and trance, while musicians like Katy Perry dominate our airwaves. Moreover, it seems that a lot of commercial music is now only being released to sell the image behind it, such as over-sexualised music videos, rather than the sounds within it.

However, amongst the clutter of heavy beats and flashing lights, there is now a particularly strong following amongst youths for what is loosely described as ‘alternative music’ or ‘indie music’, much like there was in the 70s. While these genres aren’t necessarily the same thing (traditionally ‘indie music’ would be that of a band that is signed to an independent label, while alternative music is more associated with more melodic acts such as R.E.M.), nowadays though the two definitions are essentially grouped together for better or for worse. Therefore the definition of ‘alternative music’ is such an umbrella that it basically includes anything with a guitar that isn’t too heavy. However, bands such as Interpol, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Editors and Franz Ferdinand have gone on to represent ‘indie music’ with major record labels. These bands and countless others who are either unsigned or signed to proper independent record labels are obviously influenced both musically and behaviorally by the bands of the 70s such as Joy Division, The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, The Who, The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that recently there has been a flashback to the past for the ‘new social trends’. Through fashion, music and behaviour, our society is slowly beginning to mirror those that have already passed. How is this relevant to this column? Well, while browsing through my record collection I stumbled across trumpeter Dave Douglas’ new album with Brass Ecstasy named Spirit Moves. Released on June 16 2009, the album consists of Douglas on Trumpet, Vincent Chancy on French Horn, Luis Bonilla on Trombone, Marcus Rojas on Tuba, and Nasheet Waits on Drums. This unique instrumentation is no-doubt a throwback to the old New Orleans Brass Bands of the 19th century, and let me tell you, like the aforementioned social throwback to the 1970s, this CD is very cool.

Probably one of the most fun Jazz albums I’ve heard, it begins with the laid back and almost too smooth This Love Affair where it becomes immediately evident that the combination of the drumming of Waits and the accompaniment of Rojas on Tuba leaves us in no need of a traditional rhythm section. This strong rhythmic backing is only emphasised further in the funky Orujo. The up-tempo busyness of The View From The Blue Mountain allows Douglas to put on his solo shoes and take centre stage, whilst Twilight Of The Dogs contrasts perfectly in its soothing ballad ways. Douglas also pays homage to trumpeters Lester Bowie and Enrico Rava in the aptly named tracks Bowie and Rava. Bowie is the album’s most complex track, but arguably its best, where Waits’ ghost-note-ridden rhythm allows all four musicians to collide in an eclectic mix of sounds. Rava is the quiet track of the album, opening with a deeply melancholic Douglas solo that moves through to a contrasting bridge where a meter change serves to end the piece. Fats is perhaps the most conventional jazz tune of the album, and it leads into the album’s longest track The Brass Ring. This sophisticated piece is home to some of Douglas’ best solo work as Waits provides an equally as impressive backdrop for the rest of the horns to cooly accompany. The album ends with a groovy cover of Mister Pitful, a spirited tune called Great Awakening which allows Douglas to further portray his chops in some mesmerizing trills, and finally a trip to the 1940s with a cover of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. This album, like our society today, takes us back to the ‘glory days’ and shows us that sometimes a step backwards is really the way to go.

Upcoming Jazz Events

Wednesday 19th August, 8:30pm – 11pm

George Garzone w/ The Mike Nock Trio @ The Sound Lounge. Tix $18/$14/$12 @ [email protected] or at the door if not sold out.

Wednesday 19th August, 9:30pm

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Friday 21st August, 8:30pm – 11pm

George Garzone w/ The Mike Nock Trio @ The Sound Lounge. Tix $18/$14/$12 @ [email protected] or at the door if not sold out.

Saturday 22nd August, 8:30pm – 11pm

George Garzone w/ The Mike Nock Trio @ The Sound Lounge. Tix $18/$14/$12 @ [email protected] or at the door if not sold out.

New residence for Marsala beginning on Friday 21st August! @ 8pm – 11:00pm

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