Share LIVE 2011 - New Christs (self released)
There's no such thing as a perfect live album but there are a few that come close, even if all that means is capturing a fleeting few moments of time in their urgent, raw existence. Consider this quick-fire release one of the best stars in that particular firmament. Capturing the New Christs in full flight, it's nothing short of stunning.
"Live 2011" documents the last night of live music at Sydney's Surry Hills Excelsior (R.I.P.) and the band's decision to record their set was not untypical on a whim. Praise the lord and all that. In-house soundman Dylan Mitrovich's mix was (is) a killer. Rob Younger's vocal is probably a tad buried but Brent Williams' production is otherwise punchy, transparent and balanced. You can hear every note and the bottom end sound has traction.
Not much to quibble about with the set list which spans much of the New Christs' recent history. Of the recent stuff, "The Wheel" drips fuzz menace, "These Reasons" bursts out of the speakers with enough attitude to fuel 10 divorces and "My Existence" pulses on the most perfect of strident feels. "No Way On Earth" crackles and immolates with a heat that's astounding. Dave Kettley and Brent Williams really do the business on guitars.
Set openers "Coming Apart" and "We Have Landed" might be the best partners in crime since Smash and Grab. A coup de grace at the wrong end of the night? That's fine because "Bonsoir A Vous" is a fine nightcap.
There are a few more songs from this show still in the can. God knows it would have been hard arriving on a final track-listing. Even allowing for a few substitutions, it's hard to think of a document that better represents this band.
"Live 2011" has only been released in a short run, to be sold on the band's 2011 Euro tour, so if you're not in possession of a copy, let's hope for your sake that plans to parlay it into a full-blown release (including vinyl) grow legs. It would be criminal if it didn't happen.- The Barman
Tight (real tight!) and speedy (really!), this is the New Christs live as you hope to see them (and I did during the 2011 Euro tour). The record was done at the Excelsior Hotel's closing night in Sydney in May, and the thing was quickly mixed by guitarist-keyboardist Brent Williams.
The album's got a big sound, with Dave Kettley's guitar high in the ears. My personal criticisms is that Rob Younger's voice is too low in the mix - also i think there are a few cuts between the songs. The track list includes no covers or new songs (i would happily have listened to Magazine's '"The Light Pours Out of Me" for instance). Also, no "Psych Nurse" (my favourite song on "Gloria"). I do not really like the artwork, sorry - but I think it's tongue in cheek?
A live record - Rob is supposed not to like live records but this is second this year if we talk 'bout Radio Birdman's "Live in Texas" - and they've issued this one with very limited distro, restricted to shows during the European tour. There is talk of a bigger pressing later in 2011.
This is (I think) Mark 10 of the New Christs. Jim Dickson is back as he was in '89 during the Distemper era. They have a huge bass and drums engine room (Dickson and Stu Wilson play on the album - Paul Larsen is sitting in on drums for the tour.)
It's not really a "greatest hits" package, but a few old favourites appear ("No Way On Earth" and"Burning Of Rome".) "Gloria" is obviously the main source (six songs), three are from "Distemper", three from "We Got This" and two from "Lower Yourself." "I Come Cheap" features Brent's keys faking the original trumpet.
"From On High" is played too fast (and features a drum tribute to the Clash's "Tommy Gun"). "These Reasons" shows us how great a song that one is. Also, a big thumbs up for "On Top Of Me", which is a great version with Dave Kettley (almost) losing the guitar riff at time and then getting it back. - Dominque Genot
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GLORIA - New Christs (Impedance)
Like a curse, the New Christs' recorded output returns to haunt them. Which is to say that inevitable comparisons to the band's first long-player "Distemper" that roll out whenever a fresh album hits the racks will be back. So be it.
A new release by these guys (or more accurately their predecessors) isn't all that frequent and event. Four full albums in 28 years isn't prodigious Anyway, if you're new to those that have gone before you'll have one up on the rest of us because you'll consider "Gloria" on its own merits. So let's do the same.
Sonically, "Gloria" is the most low key-sounding New Christs album in the canon. Production was an exercise in economic rationalism - live crowds are small and labels with cash to burn are thin on the ground - and much of what resulted from an earlier session was scrapped.
None of this infers it sounds bad; it's just not "big"-sounding and the odd hook could have been put into sharper relief, given more studio time. "Gloria" dresses modestly but she's not a frump.
The songs are at the heart of "Gloria" and it's the usual fraught line-up of stark and dark insights into the human condition. Younger calls his lyrics "word salads" and every ingredient is audible this time out with his vocal prominently mixed. So no need for the lyric sheet that you were never going to get anyway.
"Gloria" and I got off to a slow start and the initial thought was that a few of these songs that had worked live hadn't translated so well to tape. Repeated listening put paid to most of that. There's ample energy, some great melodies and (above all) a sense of brooding doom - three Rob Younger trademarks that are the essence of the New Christs "brand".
"Try Something" is a classic New Christs opener, an insistent riff entwining its way through the versus before an ascending (if not uplifting) melody line in the chorus. Lyrically, it's a series of questions that say: 'I might just like you if I can be bothered to give a fuck'.
If there's a song that might have come from "Lower Yourself" it's "The Wheel" where an insistent, grinding riff is counterbalanced by Brent Williams' keyboard wash.
"Impossible Now" has a nice melody but pales in that regard against "Bonsoir A Vous" (forthcoming as a 45 on French label Pitshark.) It's one of those Younger pop moments that still has balls the size of a Brahman bull but ends up catchier than swine flu.
"Psych Nurse" uses Brent's electric piano to great dynamic effect and throws horns into the mix to set up the album's most diverse song. There's no moodier (and mood-invoking) tune on the album. Dave Kettley's buzzing guitar licks lurk in the background in the background as Williams' keys swirl and build to take us out. Lyrics like "God's a fucking liar/God's a funny guy" just add to it.
"On All Fours" meanders a little but gets tugged back on track as the guitarists take the chance to cut loose.
It's not "Distemper" but they don't come along very often. Let's be thankful for what it is which is an excellent album, the high points of which most other bands can only aspire to.
Shit, I'm not going to pull the wings off this fly and indulge in profound over-analysis of why it works. It's a New Christs album. It's cranky and ill-willed and its presence makes rock and roll a better place. Amen. - The Barman
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WE GOT THIS - New Christs (Laughing Outlaw)
With "We Got This" the curtain is drawn on a band continually hamstrung by lineup changes, but which gave the world some of the most seminal Australian independent music (through several singles and EPs, and up until "We Got This" twoamazing CDs) and always unforgettable live shows.
"We Got This" opens the CDLP and here Mr. Rob Younger proceeds to spear, howl and snarl his way under your skin, as the band starts to wind up for the rest of the set in an uncomprising manner.
"First Plane Home" follows and is undeniably searing and recalls the more malevolent, moody side of the band, as practiced earlier with songs like "The Burning of Rom"' and "Fuzz Expo".
With "Shivnarine" and "Groovy Times" the band maintain the snarl that could stop the most rabid dog in its tracks in next to no time. Not surprisingly Rob Younger is in some of his best vocal form on this CDLP, as the band responds the best way they can; solid and continually menacing. "He's too Slow" catches the listener off-guard with its strong, fast-acting pepper of high energy, slash and burn punk rock, dim the bitter, salty taste of the previous malevolent, menacing coupling.
"Spit it Out" is the album's defiantly radical departure and surely should have the likes of P76, Challenger 7, Even and You Am I exceedingly jealous.
"Nadir" puts the regular New Christs fans' minds at ease, as the band proceeds to find its dark, moody, gritty mood and raises the volume and lowers the tempo and subtlety.
Another highlight is "Sunny Day Sun" as the band continues to combine the vocal and lyrical talents of Rob Younger, with sharp, captivating guitar rock, with another surprise in the guest vocals of Suzy Goodwin. "Khartoum" and "I Deny Everything" are further left turns and surely hint at Mr. Younger's most recent musical project, Nanker Phelge; with the subtle to noticeable musical homages to Britain's mid-60s Maximum RnB merchants (and legends) The Who.
"The Party Died" closes the "We Got This" and can't have been more aptly titled; being the closing track on this CDLP and quite possibly the end of this legendary Australian rock-n-roll band and maintains the high standard of performance and composition set by the band through this album and through the two decade career of The New Christs. - Simon Li
Finally, it's here and this album defies objective critical analysis, at least in this part of the world. The New Christs have been, in most of their many incarnations, the most consistently great Australian hard rock band around - bar none - so it was with a lot of sadness that we viewed their demise in early 2001.
The story behind this album would keep an afternoon soap opera rich in plotlines. Consider: The band gives longtime manager John Needham (and therefore his Citadel label) the kiss-off. A year of sporadic gigs follows. Internal friction, illness and the financial failure of their then new label, Man's Ruin, sees the New Christs implode midway through its recording. Failing the materialisation of a promised label advance to pay for work-to-date, the tapes are impounded by the studio. With various members not talking or moving interstate, that looks to be that. Enter a mystery benefactor (a guitarist-turned-sports-promoter) with some spare cash. Combine him with a label like Laughing Outlaw, more noted for powerpop and alt.country leanings but, thankfully, willing to take a punt, and things start looking interesting. Some deft studio tweaking by Rob Younger and Wayne Connolly and the best part of a year later, um, We Got This.
On the strength of that saga, you might be excused for fretting that "We Got This" is a trifle underdone, a bits-and-pieces effort patched together. You'd be wrong. Sure, individual band members will quibble over some of the nuances (and you just KNOW Rob will say he could have done better, given a bigger budget and more time) but, with the greatest respect to all concerned, that's irrelevant. What they've all delivered is (in our biased opinion) an album so far ahead of anything else to have come out that it's all academic.
Better than the album widely acknowledged as the New Christs' masterwork, "Distemper"? Time will tell. I have to agree with Noise for Heroes editor Steve Gardner that, when you're talking about albums as good as these, comparisons aren't valid. Both are so far ahead of almost everything else that grading them head-to-head is a redundant exercise.
Fave cuts? Virtually everything here shines. Pushed to pick a few stand-outs, a handful spring to mind for the time being. "He's Too Slow" is the sort of flat-out rocker that sticks like shit to a blanket. "Spit It Out" is a primo piece of gilt-edged pop that shows this line-up could have gone a fair bit further, had fate and personalities not intervened. "Shivnarine" was one of the songs in the set when the boom gate went down and is a fetching piece of reflective bile. Also here is the farewell single that came out on Munster, "On Top of Me" b/w " Groovy Times" - ironically released to remind people the band was still around and sow some seeds for a European tour that never came off - sounds better here.
The themes are familar - thwarted relationships, revenge and sexual politics - as you'd guess by some of the titles ("Intercourse" - killer song with a great Christian Houllemare bassline - "I Deny Everything", "Impeachment") but the lyrics are Younger's best yet. In that department, "Sombrero" does it for me every time and Rob even manages to work "onamatopeia" into "Nadir" - no mean feat. There's a variety in the telling of these dark stories and psychodramas, with generous tonings of keyboards - and even female harmonies on "Sunny Day Sun" - to keep interest levels high. The playing is awesome, with the sharp guitarwork of Al Creed and Mark Wilkinson (duties equitably shared, for the most part) prominent throughout and the entire band working like their lives depended on it, rather than as a shaky collective gasping its last breath.
If you buy nothing else this year, buy this. - The Barman
This is starting to look like a big month for eulogies and parting disks. First Died Pretty's farewell single and now this, the last testament of the New Christs, rescued from the brink of oblivion at the eleventh hour just when it seemed likely that it was never going to see the light of day [shit, how many cliches can a man cram into one sentence?]. Both sides of the last single ("Groovy Times"/"On Top Of Me") have been included as well.
With 15 tracks running out at over an hour (62:30 in fact), the first playing of this CD left me speechless. The second leaves me wanting to go up to strangers in the street, grab them by the lapels of their smart jackets and scream into their faces, "How fucking great was this band!?!".
Since this is just an advance review copy - I only have the disc itself, not the covers and inserts that will come with it when it's finally released at the end of the month - so I'm flying a bit blind at the moment. I know that some of these tracks were recorded back when Nik Reith was still in the band, while the rest feature new/final drummer Stuart Wilson; and that both Rob Younger and Wayne Connolly had a hand in the mixing/producing, which dragged out in fits and starts for well over a year.
Despite all this, there is a remarkable consistency of vision, intent and achievement across the whole album. Not for a single moment on any of these tracks does this sound like a band that had run its race, dropped the ball, hit bottom, lost the plot, shot its load and/or was about to tear itself apart.
Opening up with the title track, three and a bit minutes of rumbling menace (like the end of the world is coming to a theatre near you), "We Got This" takes up pretty much where "Lower Yourself" left off. If you liked that, then you'll love this; if you didn't like that, then what the fuck is wrong with you?
Don't get me wrong though; "consistency" doesn't mean "samey". From the mock Egyptian rhythms (via Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley) of "Khartoum", through the grinding garage beat of the biting, accusatory "Impeachment" and the moody, reflective "I Deny Everything", with its gently loping rhythm nicely counter-pointing the withering slant of the lyrics, to the near power pop of "Spit It Out", there's a remarkable breadth and a richness of texture to the songs on this album.
Favourite track at this early stage would have to be "Shivnarine". This was one of the new songs that featured fairly regularly in the set during the band's last days and I developed a real taste for it. On disk, it more than stands up to my best/fondest memories of it. It's also firmly in the same mold as earlier New Christs' classics like "Burning of Rome" and "The Way You Suck Me Down": bitter and disdainful lyrics dissecting, summarizing and judging the foibles, quirks and general shortcomings of someone whose life is badly in need of a complete rethink, not to mention a 100,000 km service ("running for the safety of daddy again/draggin' her behind 'coz you could use a friend/why not get a dog and simply pretend?").
If there was ever going to be a film clip to go with a song from this album (any of them!), then I'd imagine the band in the studio late at night, with the lighting dim and constantly flickering out to black as the power drain of the amps sucks all extraneous electricity out of whatever power source they're using (and if it's coming from the public grid, rather than some heavy duty local back up generator, then I can just imagine the houses for a couple of blocks around the studio suffering constant brown outs during these recording sessions).
The album closes with "The Party Died". Possibly a reference to "Party Time" on "Lower Yourself", it also seems eerily prescient and fatalistic now ("that shit is pre-ordained"), even if they couldn't have known at the time that this was going to be the band's final statement. We got this? Yeah, now at long last we really do! - John McPharlin
THESE RAGS The New Christs (Citadel)
This is actually a compilation of tracks from two underrated mid-90s EPs ("Woe Betide" and "Pedestal") by a line-up of the New Christs that never really took flight live, and its been given the full re-mix and re-master treatment. In this instance, its not the usual hook the big rekkid companies dangle to make completists re-purchase something either the tunes on "These Rags" sounds radically better than the originals.
"Pedestal" was a watershed of sorts for the New Christs; it found vocalist (and the bands only constant) Rob Younger pushing the envelope both vocally and stylistically, featuring as it did two covers (the Whos "The Seeker" and Loves "She Comes in Colours") and some of his most adventurous songs to date. It also had an under-cooked, demo feel. "Woe Betide" had some excellent songs ("In State", "Only a Hole") and was a substantial release for a band that had released nothing/done little since the classic "Distemper" long-player in 1988. The mix, however, lacked real presence and depth. No-one was complaining at the time it was a relief to know the band was still around and releasing stuff but all those technical issues have now been righted, making this an essential purchase.
The guitars now leap out of the speakers with greater separation and the bottom end sounds a helluva lot more happening something that adds to the dynamics of a cut like "The Way You Suck Me Down" which was one o f the best things on "Pedestal". Youll hear a few nuances not apparent on the original "Woe Betide". The artwork's pretty basic and as enigmatic as ever (but I did like the live gig handbill that the front of the slick if derived from.)
Lyrically, these songs provide some of Youngers most impenetrable moments but lots of bile and loathing still cuts through so you certainly get the drift. If only Saddam Hussein was as quick to give up weapons of mass destruction like Robs been known to disown old songs, but Id bet even hed restore a few of these cuts to the starting line-up, if the New Christs still existed. So what are you waiting for? You KNOW you haveta own it. The Barman
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