culture, music, and identity politics musings from a 20-something Australian-Asian living in Washington D.C.

Ladytron at 9:30 Club September 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — itslateagain @ 5:45 am

Monday – September 25, 2006

I arrived at the 9:30 in time to catch the last two songs from the playful, apparently Brazilian CSS. They appeared to be in their early teens, looked at their hands when they played their instruments, and sang the refrain “Let’s Make Love” with neither a clear sense of irony or homage. Fun, yes? Musical revolutionaries? Certainly not.

I’ve come to realize that being at a show by yourself has certain benefits. But it also involves certain dreadfully unavoidable chasms of boredom, like the half hour space between the last opener and the main act. With my friend unresponsive to phonecalls, I whiled away that interminable half hour crowd-watching from the bar, slid my way across to the other side of the club, then finally back into the middle of the throng, before resorting to lame, plan-ahead texting.

Does that make me fidgety and completely non-zen? Perhaps it does, but I must say that there are few less appealing places to be standing than in a crowded, smokey club waiting for a band with nobody to talk to, beer glue beneath your shoes and loud, generally unrecognizable music belting out of the soundsystem.

Ladytron wandered onstage smack on the hour of ten and launched into several songs from their latest album, “Witching Hour,” which is a real career pinnacle-level piece of work. Immediately, their well-mixed soundscapes achieved glorious levels of darkness and strength, sounding ominous, gothic and utterly enchanting. A handful of synths (that enormous sonic boom of noise has to come from somewhere!), a guitarist, bassist, and drums provided the aural thunderstorm to the vocals of Helena and Mira, Ladytron’s two most recognizable faces. I had earlier wondered how the live sound would compare to the stereo version, and found the live surround sound attack to be far more preferable.

Helena, a charmer with a perfect British set of bangs and occasional authoritative hands on hips, sings Ladytron’s more tuneful numbers, such as set highlights “Seventeen” and “International Dateline.” The latter, with its extended middle section and high, wordless strains twisting their way into the song’s irresistible two-step groove, was the evening’s definitive performance. Helena occasionally broke into tasteful, but always flavorsome dance that is heavy both on shoulder and sass. In comparison, Mira, who joined the band on travel in Bulgaria, has about as much stage presence as a Malaysian bat: by which I mean very little. Additionally, she can’t (or at least does not) sing. Rather, she mumbles and slur-narrates in a variety of European tongues, often accompanied by Helena on backing vocals. It makes for an interesting and visually compelling dynamic between the two girls, who were both, quite naturally, dressed in all-black dresses and looked equal measures stern, plaintive and ravishing.

The band moved swiftly through their set, warming the crowd up only to a medium state of jubilation at the most frenetic of times. For an electronica band, Ladytron’s sound is much more contemplative and emotive than most. Even the band themselves tend to rock out in short, limited bursts, rather than break out into fully extended dancing. A small group of young revelers in the audience broke loose, but the majority of people kept their dancing spatially contained, maximizing limb movement symbolism against emotional sentiment through varying combinations of shoulder bobs, foot stomps and head nods.

I spent most of the show with my eyes closed. It became a beautiful, cold release, stepping into this wintery, Eastern bloc-aping world of dark urban mazes, droning, pumping synths and razor sharp rhythm boxes. Ladytron make mood music first, dance music second, and I got a satisfying fill of both. When the six-strong group finished off with the blistering pop jewel “Destroy Everything You Touch,” I could not wait until I was out and on the street, pumping the song back into my bloodline through the white wires of my iPod.

We are the generation of abstracted, bottled emotions after all.


Guillemots Chords for Made-Up Love Song #43 September 17, 2006

Filed under: Guitar Chords,Music,Uncategorized — itslateagain @ 2:10 pm

I have submitted this to Ultimate Guitar Archive, but in case there are folks googling this marvellous song unsuccessfully, I took the time to figure out the chords.

I am at present obsessed with this tune! Highly recommended for those into quality, luscious tunes of a particularly Anglophilic bent.

Made-Up Love Song #43 Chords (for guitar)
CAPO 1 (Open)

C               F                   C
I love you through sparks and shining dragons, i do,
F    C         F        G
now there’s poetry, in an empty coke can.
C               F                   C
I love you through sparks and shining dragons, i do,
F    C         F            G
now there’s majesty, in a burnt out caravan.

G                F
you got me off the paper round,
F                G
just sprang out of the air,
G                    F
the best things come from nowhere,
F                    C
i love you, i don’t think you care.

C        G        C
(guitar entrance)
G    F    C    G

C               F                   C
I love you through sparks and shining dragons, i do,
F          C            F       G
and the symmetry in your northern grin
C               F                   C
I love you through sparks and shining dragons, i do,
F    C            F        G
i can see myself in the refill litter bin.

G               F
you got me off the sofa,
F                G
just sprang out of the air,
G                    F
the best things come from nowhere
F                C    G    F
i can’t believe you care

C    G    F

G        F
F        G

C (repeat through to end)
Yes I believe you…


Remembering the Crocodile Hunter: a dinky-di Aussie ambassador September 5, 2006

Filed under: Australians,Tribute — itslateagain @ 6:38 am

Yesterday evening, I was enjoying the homely accents and semi-obscure, always well-chosen tunes of Australia’s youth radio station—triple j—when I learned of the death of Steve Irwin, the most recognizable Aussie icon of my generation.

When I first arrived in the United States, I became closely familiar with a handful of questions relating to my home country. Each of these offered their own unique insights into the American mind: it’s self-orbiting and nation-centric ignorance, tendency to caricaturize foreign cultures into bite-size, catch-phrase soundbites, and its endearing and overly commodified innocence. Of these questions, some of the most humorous involved animals, and better yet: my presupposed experience with them.

“I heard you can ride kangaroos…Do you ride them to school?,” asked one fresh-faced boy during a physical education period during my two years of American high school.

“Only on Thursdays, when I had to let the crocs have a day off.”

“Wait…you said ‘Crocs?’ As in crocodiles? Whoa man, are you, like, an Asian crocodile Dundee?…Wait, are you, like, a crocodile hunter?”

Steve Irwin is arguably the most well known Australian in modern history. Pop culture being what it is, the others are all mostly actors, musicians, or sport stars. Steve’s story, though, is a little bit different. Growing up the son of a reptile enthusiast, he became a genuinely knowledgeable zoologist whose honeymoon video of he and his American wife, Terri, on a crocodile-catching trip, would become the first of hundreds more upon which a global audience with Animal Planet subscriptions would later accompany him.

With his mud-thick Queensland colloquial accent and continually amplified levels of excitement, Irwin could come off on-screen as rather over-the-top and perhaps disingenuous. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to many close friends, Irwin the croc hunter was no more larger-than-life and enthusiastic than Irwin the person. And even though I’ve never been a particularly avid viewer of his programs or his oft-parodied shtick, I came to appreciate Irwin for what he was: a true-blue, dinky-di Aussie bloke who wore his heart on his sleeve, shared a genuine love for wildlife and conservation, and in the middle of all his theatrics, gave the world as wholesomely positive and honest an ambassador for his country that Australia has ever seen. I’ll take a crocodile wrestling larrikin in khakis over our current political figures, that’s for absolute sure.

As tragic as it is, I agree with those who noted the fitting nature of Steve’s death. For all the close calls he has had, a stingray barb through the heart is truly freakish. As one might predict, Irwin was in the midst of doing what he loved best. In this case: filming a documentary on dangerous sea creatures. As unusual as such an accident is—some sources say that this is only the second stingray fatality in Australian history—the odds surely go up when one interacts with deadly creatures on a consistent basis, even as experienced and trained as Irwin might have been.

And so we have lost a husband, a father, a children’s hero, a one-of-a-kind entertainer and a committed conservationist, among other things. Australia has lost her most prominent ambassador, and without question one of the most genuinely Australian, be it those familiar calls of “Crikey!” or that thick shock of blonde hair.

The last time I saw Steve was on television in a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in Borneo Island, East Malaysia, whilst visiting relatives earlier this year. We were relaxing and laughing together, watching Steve animatedly chasing a wild boar, whilst on a break en route towards Mount Kinabalu, a site known for its own endangered fauna. Unable to speak their native tongue, our communication was severely limited. But the physical appeal of Steve’s work crosses linguistic boundaries, and speakers of many tongues will remember him fondly.

You’ll be missed mate. Wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll be surrounded by plenty of friends, amphibious or otherwise.