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Howzat! Archive - May 11th 2011

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MONKEY BUSINESS
"Where do you go when the heart breaks?"
When a friend heard Skipping Girl Vinegar's new album, she was stunned. "What's happened to the fun-loving guys and gals of Skipping Girl Vinegar?" she asked Howzat! "Have they all grown up since the last album, broken up with their girlfriends/boyfriends?" It's a fair question. The new album, Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey (out now on Popboomerang), is deeper and darker than the band's debut. Sure, it opens with a song called Chase The Sun and starts with some "la la las", but looks are deceptive. This is a beach song where the undercurrent is dark, and danger lurks beneath the surface. Later in the song, Mark Lang reveals, "I was lost, I was lost". The rest of the album sees him trying to find himself.

Howzat! had SGV pegged as a summer band. But suddenly it's winter. Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey is the sound of a band on a desperate search for meaning in a changing, confused world. "Want to be in real time," Mark sings, "social networks cold/I'm just looking for a hand to hold." The conclusion (a beautiful piece with Ron Sexsmith on backing vocals) is that "in the end, love's all that you have". It's probably true. But the journey has been so unsettling that initially you're not sure of anything. "What do you do in the moment?" All you know is you want to play the record again.

SGV are not afraid to rock out - Hand To Hold and Hell Out Of Town sound like they're having nights out with Nick Cave and Wagons - but Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey is deep and dark. And it will haunt you. It's an album of layers, but none of the songs outstays its welcome. No track is longer than 3.30, and eight of the 12 cuts clock in under three minutes. No flab, all fab. Album of the year? It's going to be hard to top.

Skipping Girl Vinegar play at Basement Discs on Friday at 12.45pm, and launch the album at the Arts Centre's Fairfax Studio on June 4.


PHIA FLYING
It's always exciting when you hear a great new talent. Indecision, the opening cut on Phia's debut EP, Garden Of Youth, grabs you immediately. A caller to Neil Rogers' The Australian Mood on RRR suggested it sounded like "a more indie and Australian version of Lily Allen". The EP also reminds Howzat! of Georgia Fields, as Phia (Sophia Exiner's stage name) also likes to use exotic and playful instrumentation - the EP features toy piano, glockenspiel, Mellotron, kalimba, banjo, saucepan and toy percussion. Phia launches the EP at the Grace Darling on Friday.


KILLJOYS COME UP WITH A PEARLER
Twenty-one years after their ARIA-winning debut album, Ruby, The Killjoys are getting set to unleash a sequel, Pearl. The first single, My Old Guitar, a collaboration with Charles Jenkins, is launched on Friday at the Northcote Social Club. "My first memory of meeting The Killjoys was when we went to Adelaide to play a gig a long time ago," Charles recalls. "I was spotty and unsophisticated, they were worldly and outrageously good looking. Nothing has changed." Charles is a big fan of duets, "though maybe I'm showing my age. I thought they were so dumb when I was a kid; you know Johnny Rotten would never do a duet and all that." So what's his favourite duet? "Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's Your Precious Love." My Old Guitar is a tale of nostalgia and longing with a great guitar metaphor. "I walk on by you in the hall," Charles sings, "I don't pick you up at all." Believe it or not, Charles owns just two guitars - a Fender Telecaster '78 and a Maton Jumbo Acoustic '97.


YOU'RE A WINNER WITH A RONSON
It's definitely one of Howzat!'s favourite band names: The Ronson Hangup. It's both meaningful (paying tribute to a little known legend, Mick Ronson) and meaningless (who knows what it really means). It's a great name. Not a bad lineup, either. A supergroup, if you like, with Steve and Mal Pinkerton, Ash Naylor, Luke Thomas and Dave Mudie. As The Ronson Hangup prepare their second album, they're playing at Yah Yah's on Friday.


HALL FIDELITY
Howzat! thought of the High Fidelity line while listening to Dan Hall's new solo album, A Parting Shot, which he's released under the name South Side Rebel: What came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? "I love that book," Dan says. "Shame about the movie. I believe misery and pop music go hand in hand. Music is a form of therapy. It really does help me get through tough times. It's a great way of conveying how you feel when you can't say it in words. I really don't know what came first though - my money's on misery." Dan is playing at Pure Pop on Saturday at 4pm followed by a gig that night at Hardimans in Kensington.


CHART WATCH
DJ Havana Brown scores the first Aussie Top 10 hit in three months.

We Run The Night DJ HAVANA BROWN (number seven, debut)
From The Music THE POTBELLEEZ (16)
What Happened To Us JESSICA MAUBOY (40)

Damien Leith's Roy Orbison tribute jumps from five to two.

Roy DAMIEN LEITH (number two)
Rrakala GURRUMUL (14)
The Life of Riley DRAPHT (18)
Weekend Detention CONTINUOUS CALL TEAM (25)
When I First Met Your Ma VARIOUS (29, debut)
Kosciuszko JEBEDIAH (30)
I Want That You Are Always Happy THE MIDDLE EAST (35)
Best Of DAVID HOBSON (36, debut)


HOWZAT! PLAYLIST
You Can SKIPPING GIRL VINEGAR
Indecision PHIA
Before Now CAITLIN HARNETT
My Old Guitar THE KILLJOYS
This Darkness DAN HALL

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