New Music Through Old Ears: Australian Music Edition

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To celebrate the new year, entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out some of the best new local music from Aussie legends AC/DC, dancing boy band Justice Crew, actor turned singer Guy Pearce and singer/songwriter Ed Wells.

New Album by an Old Artist

AC/DC: Rock or Bust

Rock or Bust is the 16th studio album from AC/DC, a band known for their subtlety and willingness to experiment with new musical genres. Okay, that last bit isn’t true.

AC/DC are an Australian institution and most music fans who grew up in this part of the world have an AC/DC song that represents a significant moment in their lives. For me, it’s You Shook Me All Night Long, which was probably the heaviest song that was played on commercial radio back in the early 1980s.

Rock or Bust continues the AC/DC tradition of guitar-driven hard rock straight out of the 1970s, with lyrics filled with double entendres about having sex with women of loose morals. Few of the tracks clock in at longer than three minutes and the entire album is done in a tight 35 minutes — more akin to a blast of punk rock, than the Led Zeppelin epics that dominated rock ‘n roll when the band first started out.

AC/DC have faced some recent setbacks, including the legal troubles of drummer Phil Rudd and the health problems of rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, that led to his retirement from the band. Add to this the fact, lead singer Brian Johnson is approaching 70 years of age and you might think the band have mellowed, but you’d be wrong. Rock or Bust sees AC/DC playing as hard and as fast as they always have and, although the popular music bandwagon may have moved on, they’re still making music the only way they know.

Lead single Play Ball has performed relatively well overseas, reaching number 19 on the charts in Switzerland and #39 in France and Rock or Bust has gone to #1 in Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden.

Not bad for a bunch of old rockers.

Best tracks: Play Ball, Dogs of War, Hard Times

Sample lyric:She do a dance, slides down the pole, she turn a backflip, make your heart roll.’ (Sweet Candy)

Verdict: 7/10 — if you like AC/DC you will like this album. If not, try the one below…

New Album by a New Artist

Justice Crew: Live By the Words

Justice Crew rose to fame as a dance troupe on the fourth season of Australia’s Got Talent, winning karaoke competition/talent contest over contestants like that Juggling guy and the Australian version of Susan Boyle.

Shortly thereafter, they were signed by Sony Music and learnt to sing, having a few minor hits such as Friday to Sunday, Boom Boom and And Then We Dance.

The hits kept getting bigger as the band worked hard to build their profile and were eventually rewarded with the breakout success of 2013 single Everybody.

Unafraid to use their growing public persona, Justice Crew have dabbled in both commercial interests and charities, shilling for Suisse Vitamins and Lamb Australia, while actively supporting charity Musicians Making a Difference and giving out free dance lessons to underprivileged young people.

Now signed to Pitbull’s label Mr 305 Inc, Justice Crew have released their first album Live By the Words and it’s choc-full of upbeat tracks with positive lyrics about stuff like believing in yourself. In the days of clowns like Lana Del Rey talking about how she wishes she was dead, this is a great message to be communicating to their target audience of tweens and teens, but tends to get a little repetitive if you listen to the whole album in one go.

Pitbull was also the producer of mega-hit single Que Sera, which debuted at Number 1 on the ARIA chart and remained there for 9 weeks. This track is like a summary of Justice Crew in three minutes — upbeat, feel-good pop performed by a bunch of clean cut young men. If you hate this song, I’d suggest giving Live By the Words a miss — complexity and depth aren’t really words that spring to mind when describing this album.

While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, full credit should be awarded to Justice Crew for finding success both within Australia and in international markets, particularly when you consider most of their fan base are infamous for getting all of their music for free via illegal downloads.

Best tracks: Que Sera, Everybody, Boom Boom

Sample lyric: ‘At the end of the day, some you win, some you don’t.’ (Que Sera)

Verdict: 7/10 — upbeat pop music that you can dance to. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Album I Expect to Suck

Guy Pearce: Broken Bones

You might remember Guy Pearce from such films as Memento, LA Confidential and Prometheus. You are less likely to remember him from fictional band Video Rodney, made somewhat famous by Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee in their much-missed MMM show Get This.

Born in the UK, but moving to Australia when he was three years old, Pearce first rose to prominence playing the hot-but-troubled Mike Young in Neighbours, before breaking out to international acclaim as transvestite Felicia Jollygoodfellow in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

While successful internationally, Pearce hasn’t forgotten his roots, returning frequently to Australia to star in films including The Hard Word, The Proposition and slow-burner The Rover, in which he co-starred with sparkly vampire boy Robert Pattinson

Produced in collaboration with former John Butler Trio drummer Michael Barker, Broken Bones isn’t a vanity album in the vein of Bruce Willis or 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, but rather a collection of well-written ballads and folk/pop songs. Pearce has a versatile voice capable of gentle beauty and surprising passion on tracks like the politically charged Leader of the Land, bringing to mind artists like Pete Yorn and Tim Buckley.

With influences ranging from Radiohead to David Bowie, Pearce has put together a strong album filled with light and shade, from the harmony-driven Fly All The Way to the folk sensibilities of Taste.

More than worth a listen for fans of Australian music, or those just curious about what a Guy Pearce album might sound like — check it out and I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Best tracks: Taste, Leader of the Land, Broken Bones

Sample lyric: ‘I’m in over my fat head.’ (Leader of the Land)

Verdict: 8/10 — I love it when albums I expect to suck are great!

Ch-check it out…

Ed Wells: Sparrow and Seed (single)

20 year old Sydneysider Ed Wells moved around a lot while he was growing up, spending time in London, Hong Kong and Australia. This free-range upbringing has had a definite influence on his music, adding layers of awareness and depth that can only be gained through life experience.

After spending his formative years writing music and honing his performance skills, Ed moved to the UK in 2014 and set up a showcase tour, performing at venues including the iconic Troubadour Club, made famous by performers like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Influenced by singer-songwriters such as Ben Howard and Jeff Buckley, Ed returned to Australia in late 2014 to focus on recording his debut album, currently untitled and scheduled for release mid-2015.

Sparrow and Seed is the first single from this album, a piano-based track showcasing Ed’s textured voice and suggesting an enormous potential for the future. Check it out through the link above and visit Ed’s website for tour details.

Verdict: 7/10 — a strong track from a rising talent – Ed Wells is definitely one to watch.

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