Friday, July 31, 2009

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

This is my favourite album of all time, and ranks up there with 'Pet Sounds' as one of the greatest pop albums ever. Those are mighty big claims. They come as no surprise to some people who know me well. They might be very surprising to others who also know me, given my predilection for the loud, grunty or just plain weird when it comes to music.

I was a late bloomer as far as The Kinks are concerned. It was 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society' that transformed my appreciation of The Kinks and of music in general. For this I am indebted to my friend Richard Watter. We met in Brisbane in the mid 80's through the (in)famous GSA common room at the University of Queensland. Richard not only shared a common interest in bands I liked such, as The Fall and Pere Ubu: he expanded my knowledge and appreciation of their work. He also taught me what it meant to be a true fan. No more was this true than in Melbourne, where he introduced me to the delights of The Kinks. This came through introducing me to 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society'. I have never looked back since.

I have always had a copy of this record in some shape or form. I wore out through repeated listenings - largely on the walkperson on the way to Melbourne Uni - a tape recording I made of Richard's copy. Eventually, when once again resident in Brisbane, I came to own it myself on CD. (Whenever I am testing new stereo components, out comes VGPS, along with such strange bedfellows as The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi.) My pal Martin gave me a copy on vinyl when I turned 40. It also lives on my iPod.

Like a trusted old friend, 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation' has been there in all aspects of my life - especially the bleak and melancholic moments - over the last two decades. I am always consoled and soothed when I make acquaintances with this album. There is always something new that adds weight to my love of it. My appreciation of VGPS is deepened with each listen, reaffirming my embrace of life in all its quotidian detail. This is the special genius of Ray Davies in his songwriting. It is sheer poetry.

I find that this album works, throughout its length, because of Davies' sense of optimism and longing, that taps into the natural urging for simpler times. That does not make the quest or yearning simplistic, though. It involves a very richly detailed tapestry. The songs on 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society' are about life and love, and the things that define the bonds of attachment to the two. Melancholic? Yes. Maudlin? No. Saccharine? Never. Life affirming? Always. This album is also proof that you do not need to turn cosmic in music to connect with the fundamental themes of human existence AND change the world forever. That is the power of great pop music. It transcends the genre and lifts up the listener from where they are.

'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation' is evidence of eternally great music. I also regard it as a quantum leap in realising the emotional power of music over the space of an album. That, in my opinion, makes it a true conceptual work, and well worth inclusion in one's music collection.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome To My World

G'day. My name is Brendan, but you can call me Axe. I have accumulated many monikers throughout my life. Long.E. Trendy Brendy. Hoss. Barney. Axe, however, is a term of endearment that has stuck with me, as a name I wear with pride. It is an acknowledgement of my involvement with Brisbands in my former life.

I was christened 'Axe' by the great Dirt Petty. This was during my brief stint as bass player with Dirt and the Rebels. Or should I say "bass player"? I am not a musician. I never learned to play my chosen instrument. I do not know scales, notes, chords, let alone how to tune the blasted contraption. God knows how proper musicians ever put up with me. (It has, in particular, been a great source of consternation for my good friend Carl, who often accused me of being tone deaf.) I could competently acquit myself once shown what frets to hit on the bass and, God knows, how I would practice through repetition to get the songs right. But a musician? Nah. I was more concerned with style and sound. I also treated the bass guitar as a sonic weapon. To be called 'Axe', therefore, affirmed my lack of musicianship, and amped up the style and sound credentials. I did a mean Stetson on Saturday nights.

I have always loved music. Being in bands such as Laissez Faire, Dementia 13, Hotel Breslin and Slaughterhouse Joe allowed me to channel that love into more expansive and creative dimensions. It also established a series of core values and principles that I live my life by. They are part and parcel of being 'Axe'.

Anyways, nostalgia for the ghosts of beers and bands past is not the point of this post, nor of any others that will appear on my blog. That job is being done elsewhere, by more competent authorities. (See, for example, Carl's definitive blog The Rehearsal Room.) I do not feel that I can add or curate anything meaningful about 80's music as a "bass player" or slavish fan of music. What I hope to do on this blog is talk about music - albums, singles, songs, bands - that has mattered deeply to me in the time since I hung up my Stetson and bass guitar. Music, in that time, has gone from being a personal creative enterprise to something that has provided the very emotional and intellectual foundation of my life. This covers the period from 1989 to the present day. I will not talk about things in chronological order. My ramblings will also not just be confined to 90's and 00's releases. Rather, I will share my thoughts, as they come to me, on music that has come to be significantly meaningful and life shaping to me over the last twenty odd years. I have come to learn a lot more about music and life in that time. Music, in particular, has come to be a deeply trusted and faithful friend.

These posts are also a tribute to my good friend Dogga. He has done more than he can possibly know to encourage me to channel and share my enthusiasms and creativity. When I was in a bad way some seven years ago, Paul encouraged me to dabble in music software. Out of these sessions was born my electronic music alter egos Luvox and Knuckles. This saw me, again, assuming the mantle of non-musician. I was constructing soundscapes, engineering noises and effects, not making music. I certainly was not a band. But it was a liberating time for me, as I realised further creative possibilities. "Being" Luvox and Knuckles allowed me to once again channel into the practical principles of being 'Axe'. Luvox and Knuckles are currently inactive (or, should I say, in hiatus).

Dogga has recently encouraged me to take up blogging on music. He is good at getting my arse into gear. Let's hope it has been worth the wait.

I am sorry to have waffled on so much in my introductory post. Hopefully it sets the scene for what will follow in subsequent posts. I look forward to sharing and conversing more with youse all.