She’s back


Kate BushI just finished listening to the first new Kate Bush song in 12 years—the new single King of the Mountain. Follow the link and click on ‘Listen Again’—the song is about 37 minutes into the show (you can fast forward but not rewind). You’ll need Realplayer.

I haven’t been this excited about a new music release in years. The new album Aerial is out October 24th (more info here) and the official site is launched Nov 7.

I know twelve years have passed, but I couldn’t get that horrible thing she did with Prince on The Red Shoes out of my head, and I was afraid that her new work would try to be ‘poppy’ like that again. Well, to my great relief, on the strength of this single it seems Kate is back to her own unique and much-loved self. The song is atmospheric and a bit creepy, and takes its time building to one of those wonderful richly textured crescendos she does so well. I can hardly wait to hear it on a good stereo and have it grow on me as I know it will.

My last memory of a new Kate album is The Red Shoes, which I first played lying on my bed with headphones on in total darkness, savouring every moment. While it isn’t her best work it’s still head and shoulders over the output of most musicians. Like so many others I’ve missed new music from her more than I’ve realised. Masterworks like The Kick Inside, The Dreaming, The Hounds of Love … these albums have been the soundtrack to my life.

Good things take time they say—hopefully that’s true in this case, and this new album turns out to be something very special …

Update: Just discovered it will be a double album! Hallelujah!
By the way, this is my 100th post here on Headless Hollow. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader.

Live Music Review: Doves


I’ve been playing in bands live for almost fifteen years, and if there’s one thing that frustrates above all else, it’s playing really well and having your sound ruined by some inexperienced, incompetent or even malicious sound guy. We’ve all heard stories of the support band’s sound mix being purposely sabotaged by the main band’s mixer—yep, it happens. But the biggest problem is that sound mixing, though probably the most crucial part of the live music experience, is one of those things that—along with graphic design and abstract art—everyone thinks they can do, given a go.

This rather long-winded prologue brings me to the Doves gig last night at the Metro. To my delight the band seemed to be able to reproduce the complexities of their sound live, with the help of an excellent keyboardist. But all their hard work was ravaged by the sound guy. The mix was muddy and without top end, and the vocals were a blurry mess. There was no clarity in the guitar sounds, and the drumkit was one loud, very acoustic-sounding snare with virtually no cymbals or toms. Blissfully unaware of how all their hard work wasn’t translating, the band played beautifully. At the very least, I suppose a fan like me could fill in the gaps with his memory of the songs, but my companions didn’t know the band well. We all missed out on what could have been a fantastic, memorable experience.

Doves, for the love of God sack your sound man. Arrogant bastard that I am, I leaned over after the gig (I happened to be standing behind and above the sound desk all night) and told him what a disappointment the mix was, and his harried response was to blame the Metro’s PA. Umm, no good mate, I’ve seen scores of great gigs at the Metro with excellent sound. I’m afraid you’re just crap at your job. The problem is, you brought the Doves down with you.

Anyway, go buy the CDs—Lost Souls, The Last Broadcast and Some Cities are all multi-layered, rewarding albums.

This gig—two muddy washes of sound out of five.

Live Music Review: Tori Amos


Tori AmosI imagine living with Tori Amos would be an exhausting experience; she comes across as 100% intense, involved, creative—almost not of this earth. I just can’t see her sitting in front of the TV eating takeway in track pants. Which is a shame, as a little more of a human connection would have been just the thing on Saturday night at the Sydney Opera House, where I saw her perform. The concert was intense, but emotional in a detached, ethereal, slightly scary kind of way. And that kind of experience ratcheted up to the top level of intensity for almost two hours can be exhausting, even draining.

As my girlfriend, who is not really a fan, pointed out, one of the best parts of the concert was ‘Tori’s Piano Bar’, where she played a couple of requests previously sent in by fans—in this case Suzanne by Leonard Cohen and Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night). Unlike Tori’s songs, these two had room to breathe, and she played them beautifully, her strong voice filling the concert hall and complemented by a restrained but lovely light show.

Her own songs sometimes didn’t fare quite so well, and I missed the grounding prescence that a band usually gives to her sometimes self-indulgent pauses and phrasings. An example was Tear in Your Hand, from her first album Little Earthquakes, which was too drawn out and lost the strength of the original. The new songs from her most recent album The Beekeeper were more effective, perhaps because I have yet to hear the album versions. The eponymous song, in particular, had a wonderful repetitive organ line, which she played in a spotlight like a supplicant at an altar (an impression reinforced by the long flowing white dress and red hair).

There was not an empty seat in the house, and the audience were obviously ecstatic fans—mostly groups of women in their early twenties, I noticed. In fact we must have been one of the rare incidents of a male fan accompanied by a female non-fan. Oh well, I’m a Kate Bush fan too.

Tori’s voice was powerful to the last, hanging in the air at the end of each song; and her playing was amazingly assured and strong. But there was an imaginary wall hanging in the air between performer and audience. That word ‘intense’ keeps coming back to mind. Intensity is a wonderful thing when tempered by contrast, but alone as here, it can drown out the possibility of a real emotional connection.

Four earth mothers out of five (PS Thanks for the tickets babe!).

The Telltales New Album: First Press Review

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Last thing before I go—I’ve mentioned before that I’m the drummer in a band called The Telltales. Well, the first major review of our second album Haymaking has just been published, in Sydney music mag Drum Media, and it’s a beauty.

Reviewer Michael Smith says “More tales of quiet loss and love, sadness and hope from a band that should be much more widely known and appreciated than it seems to be at the moment … great melodies, intelligent playing, thoughtful arrangements and insightful lyrics—what more could you ask for in a pop record?” and makes comparisons with McCartney, UK Squeeze, Travis and Coldplay.

You can read the full review, listen to samples of our music, view our two video clips (and of course order the CDs) at

Live Music review: The Shins

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The ShinsMy girlfriend has The Shins CD Chutes Too Narrow and I’d given it a perfunctory listen, but was a bit turned off by the lead singer tending to strain at the top of his register, and also some strange impression I’d formed of him being some annoying West US coast surfer with a backing band … god knows where I got that from—I certainly couldn’t have been more wrong. This bunch of incredibly likeable lads from Portland, Ohio, put on a fantastic show at the Metro in Sydney last week. Supported ably by our own ’78 Saab, whose crisp rock show left me wanting more, The Shins were fun, entertaining, and obviously having a great time. Not surprising considering their last show down here was at the Gaelic Club, a venue about a fifth of the size, and this time they’d sold out the Metro with a crowd that was going crazy.

Singer/songwriter James Mercer’s voice comes off better live, but centre stage was occupied by the grinning keyboard/guitar player, who did most of the talking and was infectiously happy—”Do that thing you do James!”. Mercer was no doubt fully occupied by playing the guitar and getting out his poetic, bizarre and very convoluted lyrics to reply. Also worthy of mention were the snappy, interesting rhythms that came out of a big drummer with a surprisingly light touch. This is complex, interesting pop (in the old sense of the word) played with great confidence and fun.

Four planes flying into the sea out of five.

The Telltales new CD released


After a year of hard work, my band The Telltales has just released its new CD, Haymaking. Let me assure you the term ‘difficult second album’ is not just a rock and roll cliché. But the beast is finally loose, and we’re all very proud of the results. And as the humble drummer, I can personally say I’m proud, after 20-plus years of playing music, to be in a band that has released a second album.

We have a website at where you can find out all about the band, download some songs, and most importantly, link to where you can buy the CD online. Or even better, just walk into your local music store (if you live in Australia that is) and order a copy. Every sale guaranteed to advance the cause of independent Australian music!

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