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Somethin’ Somewhere Better – Album Review

In reviews on August 19, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Pinky Beecroft has finally got control. Three years after Machine Gun Fellatio folded, he has a new band, a new album and a new direction, and he’s sounding better than he ever did. With the White Russians, he’s doing what he says he’s always wanted to do – fronting a ‘rockin’ little 4-piece’, and so far, he’s succeeding.

Pinky Beecroft and the White Russians’ debut album, Somethin’ Somewhere Better is remarkably simple sounding. In a massive shift away from the meticulously produced and layered sounds of MGF, this album is back to basics, and has a real live feel to it. There’s definitely no studio trickery going on, and it’s a testament to the band’s talent that it sounds so good.

After an ode to Scarlett Johansson (Scarlett), there is the first of two ‘re-imagined’ MGF tracks, I Will Tear It Down To Make You Happy, which was once Just B’Coz from 2002’s Paging Mr Strike. Just like the new organ-filled Unsent Letter, it’s radically different to the original, and benefits from the new energy that has been injected, as well as the more loose arrangement. This is followed by This Song Has Only Got Happy Words (“This song was written by ladybirds”), which immediately brings to mind Positive Song from MGF On Ice, but where that was somewhat ironic and not at all what it claimed to be, this is much cheerier, and guaranteed to be a live favourite.

The White Russians are a band who are able to jump from one style into another – from the near-seven minute epic Sunflowers to the pub-rock Real Good Time (first heard as part of Beecroft’s ‘PK Spaceship’ project) and the gentle ballad of Floor. But the most obvious shift is the hard-driving This Hangover, which I’m not sure is a convincing argument for Pinky as a rock god, but is still fun nonetheless.

Following a sparsely instrumented cover of Blondie’s Call Me (I’m pretty sure I hear a saucepan along with the glockenspiel in there), album closer My Haircut Will Come Back Around is something of a reassertion of Beecroft’s place in the music scene – “it won’t be too long ’til you’ll be seeing me on the rise again”.

Somethin’ Somewhere Better is a seriously good album. Pinky’s writing is just as good, if better, than it ever was, especially now he has a real chance to showcase it without being overshadowed by theatrics, and the band is an incredibly talented bunch of guys. After listening to it for a few days now, I’m finding myself singing along to most of the tracks and hearing new details that I’ve previously missed. For all the references I’ve made to his previous band, this is a new start for Beecroft, and really, it can’t be summed up much better than by the man himself – he’s on the rise again.

Pinky Beecroft & The White Russians debut album Somethin’ Somewhere Better is released through Gigpiglet/Inertia, available in stores August 23.

Simplify Media iPhone Review

In reviews on August 15, 2008 at 10:54 am

Simplify Media have released an iPhone app to go with their desktop streaming app.

Download it from the iTunes App Store

Basically, Simplify Media allows you to stream your music library to your iPhone via wifi or 3G. You do need to download the desktop app and sign up (it just requires a name and email for password retrieval purposes) in order for the service to be enabled, but it’s free, and also allows you to stream to friends using the service, as long as they have your username and you’ve granted permission.

Setup on the Mac is fairly simple – it just requires a username and password, before it starts cataloguing your music library. Depending on how large it is, it may take some time, but it gets there. You can start listening to your music before everything is read, so you don’t have to wait, either. Mine started off with over 700 files accessed, and after about 15 minutes, is up to 6,500.

Streaming is fast – once your iPhone (or iPod touch) makes the connection, you can navigate by artist, album, genre or song, and playback is almost instant. I haven’t noticed any playback errors yet.

What I like about Simplify Media is that as well as allowing you remote access to your entire music library, it displays album art, artist biographies and lyrics, downloaded as you listen. It’s a cool little feature.

Though having to sign up for the Simplify Media service and have a desktop app running to enable streaming may put some off, until Apple enable streaming straight from iTunes itself, this is probably the best option available. The interface is simple to use, it’s quick, and the extra info is a nice touch.

The iPhone app is free for now, but only for the first 100,000 downloads. The desktop software is available from Simplify Media.

(This was originally published on MacTalk.com.au)

Gravy Chip Review

In reviews on August 14, 2008 at 3:13 pm

A few months ago, Hamish and Andy, of the Hamish and Andy Show on the Austereo Network, came up with the idea of inventing their own flavour of chip. They put it to their listeners to vote for a flavour, which resulted in the creation, with the help of Smith’s Crisps, of the gravy chip – “The People’s Chip”.

After two successful runs of 500 and 60,000 packets respectively, the gravy chip was made available in stores around Australia on August 11.

Upon opening the bag, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in aroma to barbecue chips, though the gravy chips are slightly beefier. They are visually different, however – not as orange as barbecue chips tend to be, but with little black specks all over. Pepper, maybe?

While I was suspicious of how authentic the gravy flavour would be, they do actually taste of gravy. It’s a simple flavour – it’s basically beef, much like a stock cube in chip form, and just as you’d expect from a stock cube, incredibly salty. This means that it doesn’t take much before the roof of my mouth is stinging from salt, which takes away from the experience somewhat.

Apart from the base beef flavour, there’s not much else. I would have expected a hint of vegetable in addition to the meat, but it seems that the gravy variant used to manufacture the flavour was chosen for its emphasis on the meat. 

So are they actually any good? Well, yeah. The flavour is strong and recognisable as a rich beef gravy, which I would say fulfils its aim. If anything, they’re the beef equivalent of the chicken chip. To be honest, I don’t know why this hasn’t been a permanent addition to the Smith’s lineup of flavours, as it would complement the others quite nicely. It’s not a bad chip by any means.

The gravy chip is available until the end of next week (August 22), so if the idea of a novelty gravy-flavoured chip designed by a couple of guys on the radio sounds like your sort of thing, go buy some before they sell out.

Crumpet Toast?

In reviews on August 12, 2008 at 9:11 pm

I think we can all agree that toast is good. Many would also agree that crumpets are also good. So if we follow this to its over-simplistic conclusion, then surely crumpets + toast = great.



It's crumpets AND toast!

It's crumpets AND toast!

 Well, I had some this morning, and I’m not quite sure about that.

For a start, there isn’t much of it. There’s maybe eight slices per loaf, not including the ends. And it’s a very small loaf, too. The slices are roughly three quarters the size of your usual white sliced. They are slightly thicker, but not by much.

The texture is odd. It’s much like bread, but spongier… like a sponge. Imagine a regular kitchen sponge, damp enough to give a bit of weight, and that’s a slice of crumpet toast. Don’t forget to imagine the dampness, because that’s there, too. I found it rather alarming.

I’m assuming the dampness is to prevent the toast from drying out and burning in the toaster. While usually I like my toast done until golden, which takes about 2 minutes to achieve with regular bread, the crumpet toast was in there for about 4 minutes before threatening to go further than ‘slightly brownish’. So I guess it can be said that the toast is indeed golden, as its name suggests.

As for taste, well, I can’t say it was terrible, unlike this guy. But it’s nowhere near the same level as real crumpets. It just tastes, well… like toast. It’s not unpleasant, just bland. And it’s definitely not crumpets.

So really, I can’t say you should or shouldn’t get some crumpet toast. If you do, well, you’ll experience some ordinary tasting toast. And if you don’t, you could spend your money on some crumpets. Or some toast.

of Montreal – Id Engager

In reviews on August 11, 2008 at 6:55 pm

of Montreal (remember, the ‘of’ isn’t capitalised!) have released the first single from their upcoming album Skeletal Lamping. It’s called ‘Id Engager’, and it’s excellent.

Of Montreal: “Id Engager”

It’s very much in keeping with the sound of the second half of their 2007 album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, with plenty of synths, ‘ooh-ahh’ backing vocals, noise snippets and screams. It seems to be continuing Hissing Fauna’s theme of Kevin Barnes’ metamorphosis into Georgie Fruit, repeating the line ‘can’t help it if it’s true, don’t want to be a man, just want to play with you’, but there seems to be something darker happening as well;

Ladies, I’m screaming out to you from the depths of this phallocentric tyranny,

My self-concept is awaiting your invasion, clumsy penetration punishment… oh yeah.

When the hope of another wet nightmare is all we have to live for.

It’s also perfect for dancing in the kitchen to.

Skeletal Lamping is out mid-October 2008. More info is available at the of Montreal blog.