St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favourite holidays, even though these days I’m more inclined to smoke the green than drink it or wear it (I love stout, though – that shit’s the nectar of the gods). In a perfect world, the vast treasury of Irish drinking tunes would be as thoroughly burned into the public conscience as the holiday standards that Mariah Carey tortures us with every Christmas. This blog post probably won’t bring about that perfect world. But I guess it can’t hurt to try.
My first exposure to Gizzard occurred a couple of years ago, on the way back from a therapy session. Interestingly and somewhat freakishly enough, it was by way of a radio station that isn’t usually known for playing anything cool, which for about half and hour exchanged souls in a manner suggestive of Freaky Friday with a way cooler station whose main broadcast antenna is located out in international waters somewhere. The impossible-to-forget moniker of this seven-man† Melbourne outfit was something I would learn after the fact; I was struck by the music first and foremost. It sounded highly reminiscent to me of the British space rock bands of the Seventies, like Pink Fairies or Hawkwind. But it was recent! Hot damn! Who says all new music sucks?
I swear there’s something in the water in Australia these days. First came Wolfmother, then Tame Impala, and now…
This band reminds me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers†† in their prime, in that every one of their albums has a different flavour to it. One album sounds heavily jazz-influenced, another is a driving psychedelic opus that could hypothetically be played on repeat and come across sounding like one continuous multifaceted piece that never ends, and yet another sounds like the soundtrack to some low fantasy spaghetti Western starring a resurrected Charles Bronson that never left development hell. They’ve even done a laid-back album that your mama would like, complete with a Sixties-tinged cover:
† Three guitarists, two drummers, a bassist and a keyboardist, with frontman Stu Mackenzie occasionally expanding the band’s musical palette by trading in his (usually custom-built) guitar for a flute, a zurna, or some utterly obscure instrument that rock n’ roll somehow hasn’t conquered yet.
†† Contrary to popular belief, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was not the Chilis’ first album, but their fifth. The three albums they did before that, which were graced by the spirit (if not the blatant guitar wizardry) of the late Hillel Slovak, easily rank among their best. It’s a crying shame more people don’t know they exist.
…and then there are those moments when Gizzard just isn’t in the mood for whatever particular flavour you’re expecting them to have, and just want to blow your mind clean off into a million little ectoplasmic rubber shards that will scatter everywhere in all dimensions. The end result would be something like this:
I’ve been getting into the Ghost lately. This is a little old band from Sweden famous for their highly theatrical live shows. Not quite a Rammstein level of theatrical, but still pretty damn theatrical. They are fronted by a guy who calls himself either Papa Emeritus or Cardinal Copia (depending on his mood), who wears Roman Catholic clergy-inspired getups onstage coupled with what looks like Norwegian death metal-style makeup. Like a zombie pope. Which precisely no one in the band’s homeland finds offensive, because it’s Sweden. The rest of the band dress in face-concealing identical costumes, and are known only as the Nameless Ghouls. Brilliant, when you really think about it. If one member abruptly quits, they could just quietly replace him without having to bother with the press release.
It most certainly doesn’t hurt that those Nameless Ghouls also just happen to be damn good musicians, churning out tunage the likes of which I haven’t heard in years. There’s definitely an audible Eighties influence here. Tastes just like the hair metal my mother used to hate.
Here’s another Ghost jam I dig. The harmonics between the guitar lines are exquisite enough when considered on their own merits, but the singer’s proclamation of “Rats!” in every fourth measure of the chorus (if you can call it that) totally makes the whole tune. The lyrical subject matter indeed deals with the titular rodents in a literal sense, and the singer’s delivery ensures you never forget that.