Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track.
Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week, and why they matter.
Helen Reddy, singer of “I Am Woman”, dies aged 78
Helen Reddy, the Australian singer-songwriter known for the 1972 second-wave feminist anthem “I Am Woman”, died this week aged 78 in a Los Angeles Hospital. Reddy had long battled Addison’s Disease, and lived with Dementia since 2015. The news was confirmed by her two children Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers via the Helen Reddy Official Fan Page on Facebook.
Eulogies for musicians which hitch their legacy on a single song are usually clumsy, inaccurate and come from legacy newspapers, but Reddy is a unique case – the impact “I Am Woman” had on the women’s liberation movement was seismic. Although the singer would be occasionally frustrated that it overshadowed her other hits, Reddy found peace when a friend’s school-age nephew showed her that she was printed in a section on ‘70s feminism in a modern history textbook. “I thought, 'Well, I'm part of history now. And how do I top that? I can't top that’,”
she told CBS in 2015.
Another affirmation of the song’s historic importance came just yesterday (October 1) from none other than former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who wrote an opinion piece on Reddy for the ABC; Helen Reddy's I Am Woman is still relevant, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Gillard drew a kinship with Reddy over their shared frustration at having their career told through a single-track, feminist frame – in the politician’s case, her misogyny speech.
To start building a more panoramic view of Reddy’s narrative, you could do worse than begin with the 2019 biopic, I Am Woman, starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey. Watch her iconic 1973 Grammy’s acceptance speech, in which she thanks “God, because She makes everything possible”. And listen to her other hits – “Delta Dawn”, “Angie Baby”, “You’re My World” and many more.
Nick Murphy is Chet Faker again (?)
In what is perhaps one of the more pointless persona changes in Australian music, Nick Murphy has re-adopted the Chet Faker name four years after ditching it for his birth name. Murphy relaunched Chet Faker’s old social media accounts on Wednesday, and confirmed the release of a new single, entitled “Low”, out October 2. He’s also recently signed to major label BMG, who made the not-so-modest claim in a press statement that the new single has “decade-defining potential”.
Murphy’s link to the old name, under which he released his most popular music like triple j Hottest 100 number one “Talk Is Cheap”, remained clear through his four year sojourn as “himself”. On festival posters, he was almost always billed as “Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker”. His music under his own name did see him experiment with more expansive and noisier arrangements – Murphy’s 2017 EP Missing Link is the apotheosis of this ragged period, though last year’s Run Fast Sleep Naked saw him mostly return to the cafe-soul of his work as Chet Faker. This year he released the instrumental album Music For Silence, an ethereal mixtape in the vein of Brian Eno. It remains to be seen whether he will release music as Murphy and Chet Faker as separate personas.
Tasmania’s Mona Foma festival is actually happening in January….probably
Mona Foma, the younger sister of Tasmania’s flagship festival Dark Mofo, has confirmed plans to go ahead in January split across Hobart and Launceston. Dark Mofo was cancelled in the initial flurry of COVID cancellations in March, with hopes of returning in 2021. Mona Foma is set to run from January 5-17 in Launceston, and continue in Hobart on January 22-24. But how, you might ask, when the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has canned the summer of music festivals in Australia?
Tasmania is in a better position vis-à-vis coronavirus than most at the moment, with the third step of its Roadmap To Recovery currently allowing for 250 people in an undivided space in an indoor premises, and 1,000 people outdoors. The state government has not published what a fourth step might be, though based on more detailed roadmaps like Victoria’s this will likely be a mostly unrestricted “COVID Normal”. This is what festival organisers will be hoping to be operating under in January, though one thing they will definitely have to contend with is a total lack of international artists – no small thing for a festival that this year (in the Before Times of January) was headlined by international heavyweights Flying Lotus and Orville Peck.
AC/DC confirm comeback with Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd
The long-rumoured new AC/DC album is ever closer, after the band confirmed their comeback this week with vocalist Brian Johnson, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd back in the fray. It followed several PWR UP teasers posted to social media in the preceding days, with a redesign of their iconic red lightning bolt logo.
Rudd and Johnson’s respective returns are somewhat unexpected for, uh, a few reasons. In 2015, Rudd was charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis – pleading guilty to all except one charge of threatening to kill. He served eight months home detention. Johnson departed on AC/DC’s last tour in 2016 promoting their most recent studio album Rock Or Bust, citing irreparable hearing issues. He was replaced by none other than Axl Rose, but now it appears that was a stopgap change.
It might be that this comeback is a new album sans a tour because of Johnson’s hearing issues but that remains to be seen. Friend of the band Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider claims that the album is already complete, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Snider also said it would be their last album, but for the moment that’s just hearsay.
Tame Impala push their December tour to late 2021
Another dose of the inevitable came this week with Tame Impala postponing their December tour this year to 2021. The psych juggernauts had initially scheduled the tour for April, before postponing to December this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Shows will now begin on December 7, 2021 in Sydney before running through other major capital cities. It’s interesting to note that had the band cancelled instead of postponed their tour this year, they could have adapted it into a limited-capacity affair or a residency in some Australian states.
Tame Impala’s Tiny Desk (Home) performance saw the band’s mastermind Kevin Parker reimagine the songs from this year’s The Slow Rush as “Tame Impala Soundsystem” – played on a DJ mixer and a stack of sequencers and samplers. That format could be thrilling to see in a more intimate setting, coming from a band now couched in bombastic live shows on global stages. It would also be nice to see the band spend extended time on Australian stages while international borders are closed. Alas, it’s not to be.
Aussie Album Of The Week: Aphir – ‘Republic of Paradise’
The catalyst for Aphir’s transition to the darker music on Republic of Paradise was very literal, according to the Melbourne producer – fuelled by “pure terror”. The part-chipmunked, breathy vocals of Becki Whitton partner with snatches of ethereal synths and metallic percussion to sonify modern anxiety. It borrows the despairing tone of Alice Glass, and removes the anchor of the rhythmic pound, preferring to discomfit in its sparsity. It’s also immensely cathartic electronic music, in a year when we can’t dance anyway.
Aussie Track of the Week: m8riarchy – 'Cry'
Melbourne producer m8riarchy has long been a member of Simona Castricum’s band, helping to produce her angular darkwave, so the soulful R&B of her solo music comes as something of a shock. m8riarchy’s second single “Cry” sees her pop sensibilities calcify, with a soaring hook (“I’m feeling like I’m going to cry/It’s not going away”) and a bouncy synth plod. In the right hands, this could be big.
Aussie Music Tweet of the Week:
There is something particularly precious about Kylie Minogue treating an edit of the Russian dancing boy meme to her latest single “Magic” as a new young fan video submission.
Got a question for gaz?
Struggling? Feel like today’s advice columns don’t speak to you? Tropical Fuck Storm’s Gareth Liddiard hears you. He’s taking questions for MTV Australia’s new advice column, The Moment Of Truth – send Gaz a question via our Twitter DMs and he'll answer them right here on mtv.com.au.
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