Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hey Living Thing!

It has to be said: 2009 has been a great year for music, and it just keeps getting better and better.

I can't remember the last time I was inundated with such a wave of musical delights. currently i'm in the throes of working my way through a lot of new albums from the likes of Flaming Lips, Arctic Monkeys, Florence & The Machine, David Gray and Bon Iver's new musical dalliance Volcano Choir. On top of that a lot of my time has been eaten up by the twin titans of musical gaming, namely The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5. Which is to say, when i'm not listening to all these great artists i'm mimicking old ones on plastic instruments.

All this and I've been tackling (from week-to-week) a small pile of records for Beat magazine reviews, the latest issue of which i'm all over. There's reviews for Alberta Cross, Marmaduke Duke, album of the week on The Features and that Porcupine Tree article - so do pick yourself up a copy from your local street press outlet (it's the one with Empire Of The Sun on the cover) or check out the cool new app online that lets you flip through the issue here (to speed things up, it's pg 58 for the reviews and 48 for the PT article)

If all this takes on a slight tone of annoying complaint, it's delivered with the best of intentions. It seems like most of my waking hours are spent consuming music - and I wouldn't want it any other way. As a result though, it means i'm slighlty overwhelmed with what to actually stick to for this particular entry.

So I thought i'd post the long-overdue review of Paul Dempsey's Everything Is True, which was made Album Of The Week in last week's Beat and to which the website for Mr. Dempsey himself drew as a quote of praise on their website (this has happened before, ho ho).

I also had the pleasure of seeing Dempsey perform live @ The Corner a couple of weekends back, needless to say it was an excellent show. He performed pretty much the full album with the same excellent performance he's always given, as well as some delightfully surprising covers (namely Bruce Springsteen's Atlantic City, Television's See No Evil and Gillian Welch's Wrecking Ball). There was even time for a few Something For Kate numbers. A great show for a great album.

It's also worth noting that he was supported by the excellent Parallel Lions, the new project for Art Of Fighting's Ollie Browne, so needless to say you'll be hearing more about them on AMR in the future.
But I digress...

Paul Dempsey - Everything Is True (EMI, 2009)

Putting Something For Kate on the back-burner to focus on a solo record may have seemed like a risky move, especially when it seemed like the Melbourne three piece were finally getting the commercial clout that equalled their exceedingly well-respected critical reputation. But then, lest we forget, it’s all due to the quality and intelligence of the songwriting – which is exactly the strengths that Paul Dempsey plays to on his first solo record, Everything Is True.
While the heady guitar rock-outs and sly pop nous of Something For Kate aren’t completely out the picture, there’s much more of a focus here on simplicity and economy, deceptive though it may be.
Even despite Dempsey’s well-catalogued struggles with writer’s block, it’s hard to conceptualise it, considering the breezy elegance of Bird In A Basement or The Great Optimist that sound like they were knocked out on the porch in the wee hours of the morning. Much of the album’s pulse rattles with an acoustic jangle and Dempsey’s delightfully raspy croon.
The heralding single Out The Airlock poised Dempsey among the Josh Pykes and Bob Evans(es) of the Aussie singer-songwriter realm with its plaintive acoustic picking and drum-less backing, but there are far more diverse things on offer on the album proper. Whether it’s Fast Friends’ dose of driving rock or the endearing melancholy of Safety In Numbness or Theme From Nice Guy.
Indeed the follow-up single, Ramona Was A Waitress, is barrel-long full of ideas; its metronomic groove and melody disguising a lyric about having a philosophical discussion with a robot. But you’d never know it from its spry delivery and infectious chorus, “I don’t need these arms anymore/I don’t need this heart now to love/I don’t need this skin and bone at all.”
It’s emblematic of Dempsey’s most powerful gift; that ability to weave brow-creasing philosophy and detailed minutiae into such brilliantly captivating harmonies and melodies without ever sounding convoluted, or heaven forbid, pretentious. Music for the head and the heart.
His wonderful way with a lyric remains undiminished, his potent imagery twisting in the most satisfying ways around the music to which they are married. The opening Bats with its images of “a swinging wire that slams shut like a guillotine/strum a note up in the wires/ to send bats down the river, seagulls around spires” or Take Me To Your Leader’s action to “unwrap the city one backstreet at a time.” The tally for genius lyrics per second is positively baffling
Even if Dempsey’s literary prowess won’t dazzle you, any number of the easy-going tracks on offer certainly will; eleven excellent reasons to acquaint yourself with one of Australia’s finest songwriters. That’s perhaps the point of Dempsey’s solo record, to appeal to those who mistook the chin-stroking intelligence of his dayjob as stroking of another kind.
Everything Is True will bring a wider audience into the artist’s fold making them see just what they’ve been missing out on and realise that, regarding his talents and abilities, Everything Is True.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unify and watch our flag ascend

First things first, I'm still thrilled about the fact that Porcupine Tree themselves added my humble little interview with Steven Wilson to their news feed. So, if you haven't read it yet, please do: here.

While I'm on the plugging bandwagon, I may as well mention my
Beat reviews over at their website. Specifically my recent takes on new albums from The Mars Volta, The Melodics and my featured album-of-the-week review of Paul Dempsey's Everything Is True. Also a live review of Ben Folds gig at the Palais a few weeks back. Read away Mr. McManus, read away.

Right, now if that wasn't enough for you, on to the main body, which I will warn you right now is as unapologetically epic and long as it's subject. I'm taking about my review of the highly-anticipated new
Muse album, The Resistance. phew, deep breaths people.

- The Resistance (WB, 2009)

Early assumptions (including mine) were that this was to be Muse’s most progressive influenced (and sounding) set, it was easy to find points of reference in the two singles that preceded the album, namely Uprising with its Blondie Call Me shouts and Dr. Who Theremin and jokes that United States of Eurasia was the new Queen single. A glance at the tracklist also revealed a three part symphony that capped off the album’s running order. The results however are not as insane as early signs indicated.

Though far from disappointing, when it comes down to it, this is almost Black Holes and Revelations Part II, and that is in no way meant as a snide insult. Even if there’s no breaking down of any boundaries that had been previously obliterated, there’s still an expected evolution from the previous album’s sound. Besides, even by the musical yardstick that is used to measure lesser bands, Muse really are, fittingly, on another planet. Even if they haven’t raised the bar much higher with The Resistance, their big ideas – large in sound and ambition – still dwarf their contemporaries. The greatest part being that they will pursue any endeavour without fear of failure or ridicule. Recall the uproarious United States of Eurasia to herald their new album. It squeezes in piano balladry, arena rock harmonies, scintillating guitars, some Middle Eastern influenced romantic symphonic, quotations of Chopin and even the sound of a passing jet fighter. No other band would even dream up such a creation, let alone dare release it as an album taster. Muse however is working with musical blueprints of a far grander scale, and for this album they use all manner of sonic architecture to construct them.

The Resistance finds Muse focusing more on their atmospheric and electronic side than out and out rock numbers. Where previous albums found a consistent approach to production techniques, such as the grunge meets symphony attitude of Origin Of Symmetry or the heavy-metal meets baroque of Absolution; The Resistance finds the band experimenting with different genres and then finding production conducive to that style. As such, there’s the glam-rock track (Uprising) the electro R&B number (Undisclosed Desires) the cock-rock arena ballad (Guiding Light) and of course the three-part symphony. As a result, it’s Muse’s most eclectic set yet. And that’s saying a lot for a band for whom ‘being eclectic’ is probably pretty high on the list of priorities.

Thematically speaking the album picks straight up from where Knights of Cydonia left off with Uprising, a song about ‘control’ – or the lack of it – a term that continues throughout the record. Lyrically, it takes its cues from the incendiary political themes of Assassin and Exo-Politics but it is perhaps Bellamy’s most concise statement of intent regarding rebellion and revolution. “Another promise another seed/another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed/and all the green belts wrapped around our minds/and endless red tape to keep the truth confined.”

It may come as an ironic surprise that newly informing Bellamy was George Orwell’s timeless tome, 1984. A surprise because Orwell’s paranoid sci-fi vision of a controlled society is synonymous with Bellamy’s already. Nevertheless, Uprising sets the lyrical template of the album, it’s the age old ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – neither are particularly well defined, but its important to note that Bellamy rarely uses ‘I’ in his musical vernacular. The togetherness of his lyrics matched by the huge arena sized football chants that first appear on Uprising and re-emerge throughout the album. A mood continued in the title track, which features a brilliant call-and-response chorus (It could be wrong, could be wrong). Building from a soundtrack-worthy atmosphere – sawing keys and epic drums – the track reaches the aforementioned chorus and grinds through naggingly catchy chord changes as Bellamy’s yearning becomes ever more tangible. It also highlights the other theme that permeates the album – romance, the words tying the album's twin themes tidily together "Love is our Resistance."

Where previously Bellamy dealt with lust (think Plug In Baby, Hysteria et al.) it seems his newly settled relationship (with Italian model Gaia Polloni) has found him following his romantic streak further. Generally it suits him, even on the eighties influenced Guiding Light, this album’s Invincible. Namely, an epic, up-beat ballad that contains powerfully primal drums and bass as well as a tasteful guitar solo. Elsewhere there’s the dark Undisclosed Desires, a stripped-back track featuring drum loops and keyboard strings, that – stripped of guitar and piano – feels more like a modern R&B number. Even if its lyrics are more complicated, “I want to reconcile the violence from your past/I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask.” Fear not, it works, and even sounds a little like Pure Reason Revolution’s newly minted prog-electronica.

For all the romantic dips and swoons there’s some blistering rockers on offer too to keep the headbangers happy, in the form of Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra. The former instantly ranks as one of Muse’s best songs, reintroducing the riffage from New Born and supplants it with a free-form section that allows the group to go a little bit experimental, Mars Volta style. MK Ultra meanwhile offers a corker of an opening, riding an arpeggiated riff, before diving head-first into some sci-fi rock.

Most important to note is that this is also Muse’s most unapologetically Classical set. There are direct quotations of both Chopin and Saint-Saens, as well as the usually baroque influenced chord structures, but most obviously in the brilliant Exogenesis symphony. The three-movement concerto that ends the album is easily one of the group’s greatest achievements thus far. As much as the band’s synergy – driven by the bass and drum work of Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard respectively - is key to the Muse experience, this is Bellamy’s time to dazzle. It’s not really worth trying to articulate the sumptuous delights of its complexity, only know that it’s emotional ups and downs track a mini-narrative all of its own, and while its charms won’t be immediate – it’s such a stylistic shift from what’s come before – they will reveal and reward themselves given time. It’s a hugely ambitious and risky move that pays dividends, even if the majority of The Resistance wastes no time in attempting to carve a wider audience for Muse, even the doubters should check out Exogenesis, it’s that good.

The album’s greatest point of indulgence however has to be I Belong To You, it doesn’t so much cross the line as bust a jig on it before performing stupendous acrobatics well beyond it. Built on a knees-up piano bounce and preposterous couplets such as “She attacks me like a Leo/when my heart is split like Rio” it only gets more and more ridiculous: crooning in French, grand piano swells that lead into sampling some opera, namely Saint SaensSamson and Delilah (Rufus Wainwright would be proud) and just when you think the band have done it all, they throw in the proverbial kitchen sink – or in this case a bass clarinet solo. Outrageous.

It’s a microcosm for Muse’s appeal though, sure it treads heartily on the borders of excess and wraps on the door of silliness on more occasions than previous albums, but you really wouldn’t want them any other way. Though The Resistance contains moments that make the likes of Butterflies and Hurricanes or Knights of Cydonia look positively dull it doesn’t always equate to a better listening experience.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s not their best album, though it contains some excellent moments, but it’s more a consolidation of their abilities so far and a thrilling taste of any one of the musical directions to which messrs Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme can commit themselves to next. Will it be electronically tempered dance rock? Perhaps heavy metal prog rock meets glam pop? Or even the full-on classical inclinations of a full blown symphony or opera? The brilliance of Muse is that they’ve created and now inhabit their own musical universe where they can satisfy any and all of their musical curiosities.

It’s their world – we just have the pleasure of visiting it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Twenty Minutes With An Idol

(EDIT: Wow, so it turns out my humble little interview with Mr. Wilson impressed the powers that be themselves, as it was linked to from the band's main website; so if you've been referred to from there, please check out some other parts of the blog that will appeal to the PT faithful - and those who haven't been referred - well go check it out. Needless to say its made me a proud little puppy)

A few weeks back I had the absolute privilege of speaking to
Steven Wilson. If you're a regular round these rantish parts, the name should seem familiar. He is the front man of my favourite band (next to Radiohead, of course) Porcupine Tree, as well as a vast array of side-projects including Blackfield, No-Man and Bass Communion; even moonlighting as a producer.
It's amazing he even had the time to getting around to his first
proper solo record, the brilliant Insurgentes - which offered what its creator calls "the complete picture of Steven Wilson." In fact, if one wanted to, you could base your musical diet entirely on the tireless output of Mr. Wilson's discography (and one very nearly does).
Anyway, my sycophantic tendencies are getting the better of me. I was afforded the opportunity to speak to Steven Wilson (again) thanks to
Beat Magazine, about the imminent release of Porcupine Tree's eleventh studio album: The Incident. A double album in which the first disc is a 55-min song cycle, and the second disc consisting of an EP's worth of standalone compositions.
I've drooled over this album's release
for a while now, and what better way to prepare for my interview than a streamed preview of the album? Thank you very, very much Roadrunner records, but further thanks to Porcupine Tree for crafting another brilliant release.
Rest assured, I'll be covering the album in full in the near-future, and the resulting article from my interview will appear in Beat, but I thought I'd use this opportunity to show off the complete, un-edited interview with one of music's most talented and treasured individuals.
Waiting after business hours in the back-room of my humble games retailer, my phone rings, a crackle down the line and then the sound of a familiarly accented voice, "Hello?"

Hello Steven, first of all I wanted to say - your record publicist gave me a link to a stream of the album last night, and i've got to say congratulations. It's another excellent record and it stands shoulder with your best work.

Well thank-you, we're pretty proud of it so it's good to hear positive feedback

You’ve had a wealth of material for your recent albums, yet held off a double album. Such as Fear Of A Blank Planet and the accompanying Nil Recurring EP – why the decision to release a two disc set as opposed to that format?

The answer is simply in terms of reaching the most people possible, there’s nothing like the album [format]. You never get the same attention from the record label and the public on an EP that you do on an album. We learnt that from the Nil Recurring EP, it just didn’t reach the same amount of people as the album [Fear Of A Blank Planet].

Because this was a two disc set, we wanted both sets of songs to receive the same exposure, the same attention. So it was a pragmatic decision really, the short songs were just as strong and we wanted them to get the same attention.

I don’t want to pigeon hole you by any means, but many will view a 55 minute song cycle as very prog rock. Would you say that progressive rock is becoming more overt and accepted by the mainstream?

Ambition is no longer a dirty word as it has been for so many years. Even in the early days of Porcupine Tree, in the early 90’s, grunge was in and the very idea of the guitar solo was just out of bounds. And there I was doing these twenty minute guitar freak outs. As time goes an, we’ve seen more and more of this kind of ambition and pretentiousness – whatever you wanna call it – coming back. And I think that if bands were allowed more to be more ambitious and pretentious, the music industry would be in a much healthier state. More bands and music seems to be liberated from major records labels and mainstream media and are becoming more ambitious than just fitting into a three minute pop video.

The climate has inclined our way, and there are a lot more bands that are progressive, or at least progressive as a synonym for ambitious or conceptual work that treats the album as art form.

This may be due to bands such as Muse, The Mars Volta, Pure Reason Revolution...

Mmm, Totally

... even the likes of Mastodon and of course Opeth. Do you feel like Porcupine Tree's approach has influenced these bands at all, or is part of an overall movement?

I’d like to think… well, there’s definitely an element of many bands now looking back to the 70’s influence of making records.

I’ve listened to bands like The Mars Volta, Radiohead and Meshuggah and they’ve inspired me in a way, I feel like I have an affinity with them, I listen to them… I know Mastodon have said they’re Porcupine Tree fans. But yeah its great to feel like a part of a wave or movement now; because remember in the early 90’s when Porcupine Tree was starting out – we felt like we were out on a limb, outsiders doing our own thing because it was so different to what was accepted. So it’s great to hear that guys like Mikael from Opeth listen to us and respect us, and I listen to them and there’s a mutual empathy between bands doing what we do.

I think what ties them all together is a changed perception of progressive as something that isn’t necessarily old fashioned. All those bands [you mentioned] make progressive music but its also contemporary, they’ve removed the stigma of progressive music being old-fashioned and redundant and incorporated all these new ideas and that’s what true progressive music should be.

Here in Australia, there’s a new wave of hard rock that takes its cues from progressive influences and tendencies. Acts like Cog, The Butterfly Effect and Karnivool – are you aware of these acts?

Yes, I’ve heard of Cog because someone gave me their CD, and also the band that supported us on our last tour, Sleep Parade. It’s good to see that they’re all bands that are very progressive but also contemporary.

Turning back to the The Incident now; How did your experience in making Insurgentes [Wilson's solo album] affect this album?

It was very liberating making Insurgentes, there are always a lot of things that are part of my musical personality that I couldn’t play with the band. That’s what makes the band so great, this exchange of ideas but there’s always things that I felt outside of them.

Because Insurgentes felt like a complete picture of Steven Wilson it liberated me from those fascinations and aspects of my musical personality. I think if I hadn’t done that there’d still be an element of frustration in wanting to exorcise those aspects, but Insurgentes managed to express those.

As a result, it liberated me and felt like ‘right, now lets come back and write a classic, great, Porcupine Tree record. I’d like to think there’s a freshness in coming back to a Porcupine Tree album too, like this is the definitive Porcupine Tree record.

It’s interesting you call it the definitive Porcupine Tree record, because I felt that recollection in listening to it – it harkens back to a lot of your albums, stretching right back to things like Up The Downstair through to Lightbulb Sun and your recent metal records.

Last time we spoke you mentioned something called “conceptual continuity” in which “certain things do re-occur in a different context”. I hear lots of Porcupine Tree’s past albums in certain ways across The Incident, would you say this is more ‘conceptual continuity’?

Yeah, there is, but it wasn’t intentional. But I think it was due to a number of things. Firstly, I turned 40 between making Insurgentes and The Incident, and there was a sense of reaching a landmark or a turning point in that age, and time to reflect and in taking stock. Not feeling such a pressure to shock and keep the sound… well the sound is still developing – but to just take stock of Porcupine Tree and our history.

Encapsulating everything that’s great about Porcupine Tree while keeping it fresh.

Plus I hadn’t experienced new forms of music like I did with metal a few years ago, so there’s no new drastic element to the sound of the band. There was a chance to meet what people recognise already, which wasn’t really dull, god know its eclectic enough already, but yes I feel it’s the definitive Porcupine Tree record.

Lyrically much of the album is written in first-person, dealing with a variety of ‘incidents’ you drew upon from the media, to humanise them in first-person - was it affecting to write in such a manner?

Well when you write a song, in a way it doesn’t matter what you’re writing about. So even when you’re dealing with things that you’ve never experienced you draw on your own experiences to make it believable. There’s not that big a divide between autobiographical and the fictional, I think there’s a little bit of fiction in autobiography and vice versa.

When creating something [like this], you have to bring the dark side of the human psyche to the surface to make it believable, like drawing on your emotional well. The things I was writing about were ugly – child abductions, religious cults, homicides – so ugly that one day I just sat down and began playing and these words came out “I was born in ‘67/the year of Sgt. Pepper”. I started getting nostalgic and exploring my idyllic childhood, these summers that stretched on forever. I guess it was a reaction to the other side, like an oasis in the desert of ugliness.

The music poured out, and I didn’t rewrite or edit I just let it flow. It became Time Flies, which I think is the heart of the record that everything spirals out from. And I think it makes the record work, it gives it balance.

Indeed, it certainly feels like the record's centrepiece. With auto-biographical material, such as Time Flies, were you concerned with the lyrics that are actually personal and those that are integrated as a first person view of incidents getting confused?

I didn’t think about it, but I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone. Like I said, there’s an element of autobiography and fiction in everything, so there’s even a little bit of fiction in things like Time Flies and vice versa. There’s a little bit of me in all the other songs too, It’s not always clear-cut but I think it’s pretty obvious what content is which.

The second disc of four songs from the same sessions, is there a separate theme that links them also – or are they standalone compositions?

Pretty much, there are themes on there – that I keep coming back to again and again and again, but they’re all different from the main part of the record. They were unplanned children. They were pieces of music that came out of writing The Incident but simply didn’t fit into that scheme and were too good to throw away. The analogy I use is that the novel is on one disc, on the other you have short stories.

As it is a 55 minute song cycle – how will this affect the performance on tour, will you be performing the work in its entirety or just specific movements?

We’re going to start the first leg of the tour, which runs up to new year with the first half being The Incident in its entirety and the second half being back catalogue. We wanted to perform the whole thing and retain the intensity and musical journey of the record, and there’ll be lots of new films for The Incident too.

Will you be touring in Australia again in the near future?

Absolutely, probably January or early Feburary. (Hell Yes!)

You’re a prolific worker – your solo album, your production work, the King Crimson re-issues - can we assume that you’ve already started work on your next project?

Actually, I haven’t. I need a bit of space. I’m moving out at the moment, and there’s other things going on in my life… it was a very intense period from doing Insurgentes straight into The Incident, so I think I’m going to take a bit of time off, recharge the creative batteries

Fair enough too, as his intense labour has borne very sweet fruits indeed, if anyone’s earnt their rest - it’s Steven Wilson.

The Incident is due out tomorrow and if you're still not convinced of its greatness then check out the Roadrunner Records website, including the edited Time Flies video as well as interviews with the entire band.

Now, if you'll excuse me... i'm off to take that amazing musical journey again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

It's been a while since I did a playlist round these parts, partly because all the themes I came up with seem a little contrived compared to just doing some good honest reviews - but mostly cause i just got really sick of having posts taken down cause of links and such. As you (should) know though, this Sunday is Father's Day, and to celebrate I thought i'd give another mix cd a shot. Now I won't bore you all with a full autobiography, but my own father was integral to my musical development - always having the radio or vinyl on around the house - and he certainly encouraged my flourishing musical tastes and rabid appetite for collecting cd's. On top of all this i think he's been endlessly supportive of all my musical writing - compostion and critical wise - and of all my pursuits in general. So this list is dedicated to him, and though he probably won't like most of the selections (he's a hip-hop/R&B kinda guy), MediaMark, this one's for you.

Father's Day Playlist
Super Furry Animals - Father Father #1
The most famous Welsh outfit in indie offer a sunny instrumental that induces a kind of shimmering nostalgia that'll set the mood for the tracks ahead.
Bluebottle Kiss - Father's Hands
Jamie Hutchings
offers a semi-autobiographical tune about seeking out his family's history. It's road-weary and intelligent but also offering a kind of naive innocence in its imagery and narration. The kind of song every artist wish they'd written about their own dad. Well, unless you're Yussef Islam...

Cat Stevens - Father and Son
Forget all the bad cover versions and cut straight to the classic original, with its timeless lyrics and Stevens' cracking voice that renders the emotion so palpable. It offers a darker side to father-son relationships but in doing so provides a slice of tangible realism in which the emotion is powerfully visceral.
George Michael - Father Figure Though it's artificial production air and backing gospel choir screams early nineties, this is still an intriguing ballad. It not only showcases Michael's still-impressive breathy timbre but also mixes an ambiguous sexual element with its yearning romanticism. In any case, it also serves to remind us that fathers and hereoes don't have to be biological.

Paul Simon - Father And Daughter
Taken from his 2006 "comeback" album Surprise, this track originally appeared in, of all things, The Wild Thornberrys Movie. Nevertheless, it doesn't play it so much cute, as breezily honest, Simon's love for his child beautifully captured in the simple efficiency of the chorus:
"As long as one and one is two/There could never be a father/
Who loved his daughter more than I love you."
Loudon Wainwright III - Daughter
Another song with a movie connection, playing over the credits of Judd Apatow's dramedy
Knocked Up, a cover that betters Peter Blagved's original. It's an interesting choice for Wainwright too, considering the strained relationship he has with his own kin, Martha Wainwright, who obviously didn't return the favour when she wrote Bloody Motherfucking Asshole.
Radiohead - Sail To The Moon
One of the group's most beautiful moments from a catalgoue that has no shortage of them. Written as a lullaby for his son Noah, Yorke croons and sways his way through an aching melody and ethereal backing, ruminating on the future of his child "maybe you'll/be president/but know/right from wrong/or in the flood/you'll build an ark/and sail us to the moon." Sumptous without being sentimental, it's actually one of Radiohead's most deceptively direct songs.

Neil Finn & Liam Finn -
Two Of Us
The son of the Crowded House/Split Enz/solo star is not only a spitting image of his dad (be it with a great grizzly beard), but he also followed in his father's musical footsteps. Here they cover The Beatles for the I Am Sam soundtrack (mmm detecting a theme yet?), there's something beautiful about hearing the nearly indistinguishable voices of the Finns singing in harmony about the simple pleasures of life. One of the rare instances of a father and son musical duo captured in a recording.

Keith Urban - Song For Dad
Forget George Michael, here's the cheesiest song on the list. A shamelessly schmaltzy ode from the country superstar better known as Mr. Nicole Kidman, to his old man. Despite the cringe factor, if you pay attention there's quite a lot to endear to; such as the images of jangling car keys, wrapping of fingers on table tops and Urban's realisation that he's become the image of his father even despite his stoic upbringing. It's not quite Father and Son but it can't be so easily dismissed either.

Ugly Kid Joe - Cat's In The Cradle
A fleeting one-hit wonder band best remembered for
their snotty band character and this, their take on a 1974 Harry Chapin number. Interestingly, the original lyrics were actually from a poem written by Chapin's wife of the time. Still, it was Ugly Kid Joe who gave the song a resurgence into pop culture, later referenced in the likes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Scrubs and even Shrek. Everclear - Father Of Mine
's strength always lay in bolstering their cartoon-rock with Art Alexakis' unique world-view of confusion, anxiety and personal experiences. Father of Mine is perhaps then the band's watershed moment. In brutally honest lyrics, Alexakis turns his semi-confession of anger and bitterness into a resolve to better his own role in fatherhood to his little girl. Equally rocking and meaningful.

Glasvegas - Daddy's Gone
Another song about a dad who up and ran out on the family, and the resulting repercussions. The little boy longing in this case is James Allan, whose Scottish brogue - broad as the English channel - renders the song with a highly personal touch. It's a symptom in Glasvegas' overall pattern of tear-jerking fuzz-rock, but no less powerful for it.

Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
Aparrantley written by Gabriel after a spiritual experience he had atop the titular hill after qutting as the frontman and chief songwriter of Genesis. Nevertheless, there's a fatherly vibe thanks to the jaunty off-kilter acoustic pattern (in 7/4 for you music buffs) and key line of "son, he said/grab your things i'm going to take you home".
Wilco - On and On and On
Changing pace from previous songs in the list about fathers writing about their children, here's a song written by a child to their father. Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy wrote the closing statement to 2007's Sky Blue Sky as a comforting hymn to his grieving father after his wife passed away. The bittersweet mood is reflected by the circling dissonance, the resulting effect is a song that, ostensibly is about death, but manages to be forthright and uplifting without pandering to sentimentality.

U2 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
A slow-burning ballad written by Bono for, and about, his father. Even though it was written four years after his passing in 2001, Paul Hewson as he was known to his papa, is obviously still smarting - and learning - from his loss. Rather than a grieving, funereal tune however, U2 turn in a wonderfully understated performance that balances Edge's guitar echoes with the slow-chug of the rhythm section. Rising to a chorus that acts as a perfect bed for the call and response falsetto of the chorus "and it's you when I look in the mirror/and it's you when I don't pick up the phone/sometimes you can't make it on your own."

Super Furry Animals - Father Father #2
Bringing the mix to a close is the second half of SFA's Father Father instrumental
, bringing everything full cirlce - much like the relationship between a father and son. Awwww.


Perry Como - Papa Loves Mambo Though it doesn't quite fit in the tracklisting, I just had to include this swingin' ditty from the '50s.

Happy Father's Day for Sunday to all the Papas out there