OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2002 Demos Of The Weeks -
Sarah Sarah, Mirablue, Skeptic, Dog Rocket, The Bigger Lovers, Grise, Treetops

Our Demo Of The Week for 9th December, 2002:
Sarah Sarah

Sarah Sarah are from Melbourne, three girls and a boy. They sent us a two-track demo and a stylish press pack. In general, we try not to be influenced by all that extra stuff bands enclose with their cds; and sometimes, the more a band gives away, the less interesting they become, especially when that includes song lyrics.
Sarah Sarah didn't include lyrics, but because we still haven't got around to figuring out how to put an extract from the Demo Of The Week up on the website, we'll make do with a line from one of the songs:

"Here's a song from an eighties movie, the song they played at the party."

On first listen, we thought Sarah Sarah was just too cute for words. But we went back and gave their well-recorded, vibrant two-tracker another listen and started to understand them a bit more. Maybe they fit into that category of 'fictional' music - music that is about expressing yourself by exploring a genre, a mood, about creating an alternate reality, rather than by exposing your innermost thoughts or latest dud romance. When fictional music is badly done, it just sounds fake and empty, but sometimes it's great (Beach Boys, Ratcat, our own Sneeze - for the record, Nic didn't write this). Their attitude - a fine balance between fun and cynical - won us over, and that's before I've got around to mentioning their rollicking boy/girl vocals, their perfect power-pop ba baas, their incredibly catchy melodies. We think they've got something coming out soon on Popboomerang Records. -LL
contact: sarahsarah_@hotmail.com
website: Sarah Sarah

Our Demo Of The Week for 2nd December, 2002:
and Skeptic
It's a tie!

Mirablue are three well-travelled, photogenic, 22-year-old boys who've been a band for four years. They share the title of Demo Of This Week with Skeptic, another three-piece, two girls and a boy, all aged 15.

Mirablue mix electronica with a sort of dreamy, '60s-esque pop/folk, complete with sitar-sounds and a Loudon Wainwright cover. It's a really good combination, a surprisingly natural progression - if Tim Buckley and Nick Drake had been a bit less prodigal with their lives, they might've descended into their own electronic experimentations. There are only two tracks on this demo (there are actually four, one is a couple of minutes of silence, and the fourth track is a rather intriguing fragment of someone's ideas tape. Or is he singing along to a walkman?) One thing we have noticed with these electronic/guitar fusions is that they invariably use a lot of reverb - is the spaciousness just too irresistible? Or do people's voices just sound too fleshy and hot compared to the coolness of the non-manmade sounds? The first track has a more intimate sound - proving that it's possible to use all that modern stuff without the song sounding as though it has been recorded on a wind-swept glacier in the South Pole. The second track - the non-cover - is more Pole-ish, but stands up proudly beside Loudon Wainwright.

Skeptic are, so far, content to exist on the well-tilled soil of pop/punk. A dirty guitar, a catchy tune, a tough vocal. So, apart from their extreme youth, which is hard to be immune to ("If they're this good now, imagine what they'll be like in five years!" - that magic word, 'imagine', where they can grow way beyond your wildest dreams, though, statistically, in five years most bands have become disillusioned and broken up), they have three strong songs, arranged with a good sense of dynamics, performed with energy. The (girl) guitarist sings lead vocals, and the (boy) drummer sings back-ups - I've always had a soft spot for singing drummers (thanks to the Hard-Ons), and for girls on lead guitar. Track three is interesting - I haven't been able to decipher all the words, but it's about Mums coming home to yelling, milk-spilling children. It's refreshing subject matter for the weary demo-listener, ears filled up with colourless lyrics about dud relationships. -LL
website: Mirablue

Our Demo Of The Week for 25th November, 2002:
Dog Rocket

Dog Rocket are from Sydney and a 5-piece, and that's about all we know. They've sent us a three-track demo.

The songs and the vocals - heartfelt but distant boy/girl vocals - are Dog Rocket's strength. The guitars and drums are not much more than a background, quite simple and almost naive, but perfectly acceptable. I think of a basic butter cake recipe, which is followed by a few alternatives - add cocoa, and it becomes a chocolate cake, swap the milk for orange juice and it becomes an orange cake. Dog Rocket have taken the basic butter indie pop recipe (from a Flying Nun cookbook, perhaps) and added a few distinctive ingredients to transform it into something quite individual. The recording itself has, at times, a rather flat, tired quality, a bit muffled, and it took us a couple of songs to see through this...actually, it was the third track that grabbed us, a great song, with a really beautiful vocal performance, full of feeling. She has a very strong, unfaltering voice, but restrains herself from bursting into show-offy, muscle-flexing singing - stays focused on the meaning of the song. And maybe it is this, rather than their musical prowess, that won us over to Dog Rocket - they are sincere, damn it. Sincere.

No email or website contact details

Our Demo Of The Week for 18th November, 2002:
The Bigger Lovers

lovers Okay, we either have to get out more often or plough our way through the swaying tower of demos a lot quicker than we do. Here's what happened. We pick six demos at random, put them in the 6-disc cd player and listen to all of them a couple of times to work out which we'll pick as Demo Of The Week. When The Bigger Lovers came on, we went "Hang on! This is pretty bloody fantastic!" and, despite it being album-length (some album-length demos can be a torture to get through), was thrilled at the music contained and the songwriting talent of what we thought was a solo guy, a certain Bret from Adelaide - quietly mastering the history of pop (admittedly, the American accent should have clued us in a bit more). "Looks like we've found our demo of the week. Hmmm, no bio, no band info or photo. Let's look up The Bigger Lovers on Google."

So we discover that The Bigger Lovers are from Philadelphia, have two albums out on Zep Roc Records and are getting rave reviews in Magnet, Uncut and Rolling Stone. Here's what they say about the new one: "Finely crafted communion of pop-rock's touchstones: pre-Tommy Who, Brian Wilson, the Zombies, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Chris Bell-era Big Star." - CMJ. What we were sent in 2001 (See? We weren't lying about the huge stack of demos) was an unmastered cd-r of their first album How I Learned To Stop Worrying (see top picture - b&w photocopy. Compare to pic on the right - the released version). If only we'd listened to it back then, maybe now we'd have The Bigger Lovers on the Half A Cow roster and they'd be doing the festival circus this summer. And we'd all be fat and rich I tells ya!
contact: the Bigger Lovers website

Our Demo Of The Week for 11th November, 2002:

Grise are a four-piece from Sydney (Hornsby), founded in 1997 (at that time playing as Blind Boy Grunt). By now, their debut album should be recorded. We are sorry to say that it has taken us a year to get around to listening to this demo.
Grise plays noisy (at times), heavy (at times), dark guitar rock. There are two singers, male and female, who have been jamming since '95, and you can tell - there's a balance, an intertwining of the vocals that can probably only be achieved when two singers know each other well, maybe even know the other's voice as well as they know their own. Sometimes the voices are solo whispers, or low mutters, and sometimes they're screaming at each other, sometimes theyre united to scream at us, the listeners.

This alone makes for a lot of tension and interest. But the songs are good, with tight arrangements, and distinctly pop moments buried underneath the "heavy sludge rhythms". And the standard guitarx2, bass & drums line-up is never content to be just a monochrome background to the vocals - the music races off, the singers chase after it...At first Grise stands out of the demo stack because of its diversity and drama, but after a few listens, we can see that there's a solid base of IDEAS (our favourite quality!) that the music is built on.
contact: grise@live.com.au OR grise@music.com
Grise website

grisecd Update: Grise release debut album The Slanderpuss in late 2002 and is available from Utopia Records and Redeye Records Sydney, Missing Link Melbourne.

Our Demo Of The Week for 28th October, 2002:

Ben, Jordan and Emmett, three-quarters of Melbourne band Treetops, have been playing together for a few years (possibly since high school?), with guitarist-turned-drummer, Leif, joining last year, replacing the Roland DR202 that can be heard on this demo.

We actually like the drum machine - it's a surprising thing to hear in breezy acoustic harmony-pop, a style that usually seems to call for the warmth of a human drummer. One good thing about the Roland DR202 is that it doesn't have an ego, so the band has been able to mix it quite low and keep the drum track subtle and simple without hurting its feelings. The human, Leif, plays drums on track two, and we have to admit, he does a good job. God forbid we ever prefer a machine over a man! Except maybe vacuum-cleaners. It's hard to pick out what elements, in particular, make Treetops so listenable, just as it's hard to look at a person and say exactly what it is that makes them sexy...it's the way they're put together. Everything just clicks - the relaxed harmonies, the seemingly effortless songwriting, which is bonded by motifs of sun, rain, gentle hopes, the assured instrumentation and arrangement. Only one query: we settled in for a ten or so tracker, but 'The Demo LP' stopped abruptly after track 4. Did Half A Cow get a dud cd - is this a lesson in "check every cd before sending out to record labels"? Or is it a trick?

Update: Treetops release debut 6 tracker What's The Matter, Baby? on Cavalier Records. It's filled to the brim with incredibly catchy pop tunes. The record of the year! Available from HAC's mailorder.

Previous Demo Of The Week
MARCH-APRIL 2002 Genes, Landy, The Sound Platform
JANUARY 2002 Temporal Lobe, Hero Puppy, The Carousel, Randy Lee Majors, Sharmelle Peterson
DECEMBER 2001 Sugarchild, The Rectifiers
NOVEMBER 2001 The Drones, The Savages, Sideshow, Arbuckle
OCTOBER 2001 Halfway, Earth To Nigel, Closure, A Cat Called Monty