Everything’s gone green

It might not be my most anticipated release of the year but that shouldn’t diminish Green Day’s legacy.
On the eve of the band’s 12th studio album, I reflect on them like an old friendship.
We’ve lost regular contact but they occasionally pop up in my news feed to remind me of what they’re up to.
It didn’t start like that of course.
For a while Green Day were the most exciting new band in my life.
I treated myself to Dookie on CD for my 19th birthday.
Lead single Longview lured me in, the video dragging me from half sleep during a late-night Rage viewing.
They were young, they had attitude and they were seemingly influenced by so many bands my friends’ older brothers had introduced me to.
The rolling drum intro, soft-loud dynamics, spiky guitar burst and teen angst-ridden lyrics instantly appealed.
They might never have topped this classic but their contribution to the 1990s and 2000s should not be underestimated.
My top five Green Day albums:
5. Nimrod (1997)
Too long at 18 tracks but contains the huge hit Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), propelled into the mainstream by the finale of ’90s defining sitcom Seinfeld. Hitchin’ A Ride was closest to their heyday and Nice Guys Finish Last a strong pop opener.
4. Warning (2000)
Showed they could still deliver in their second decade with a trio of quality singles in the title track, Minority and Waiting.
3. Insomniac (1995)
A quick follow up to their breakthrough, Insomniac might suffer in comparison but the attitude and songs are there in the stop-start Brain Stew, chugging Geek Stink Breath and the pop fun of Walking Contradiction.
2. American Idiot (2004)
Now this was a surprise. Ten years on from their breakthrough, the band delivered a politically charged epic punk rock concept album.
Told through the voice of anti-hero the Jesus of Suburbia it railed against the America of the early noughties – Dubya’s politics and a nation at war.
The artwork set the scene with a hand grasping a bleeding heart-shaped grenade.
The opener and title track then left you in no doubt.
Modern classics Wake Me Up When September Ends, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Holiday continued the narrative.
Jesus of Suburbia, Are We The Waiting and Extraordinary Girl are also highlights.
1. Dookie (1994)
The band’s breakthrough and best album.
A punk classic, it’s comfortably the best of its era and a ’90s favourite.
The loud guitars, sneering vocals and up-tempo beats are maintained throughout.
Like all the best albums, it never misfires.
It’s slacker aesthetic is carried through the title (a slang term for poo), the artwork (a chaotic cartoon explosion and more poo) and songs about masturbation (Longview), disillusionment (Burnout) and drugs (Basket Case).
It’s all capped off by the Kermit-inspired innuendo of the closing secret track.
Other highlights include a re-recorded Welcome To Paradise, She, When I Come Around and F.O.D.
Some will greet the release of new album Revolution Radio this week with excitement, others with disinterest.
Green Day probably won’t reach career peaks again but on back catalogue alone they’re still the dookie to me.

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I drink, therefore I am

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Memories. I have very few.
You see, I overindulged a little last night.
But it’s not every year your team wins the Cricket World Cup (especially if you support England).
The reason for my hazy memory isn’t what you would expect.
I didn’t get carried away as the Kiwi wickets tumbled and Aussie runs flowed.
It was because I played a spontaneous Cricket World Cup drinking game.
You know the one. It’s when you neck a VB every time the Channel 9 commentary team makes a reference to impending post-match celebrations.
After half an hour of Warnie, Mark Nicholas and co I was a drunken mess searching the pantry for a kebab and picking a fight with the lamp.
Warnie’s probing ‘thirst’ for details about how the winning team would celebrate nearly had me booking into rehab.
And fair enough too.
The Australian public doesn’t want to hear about what the win means to players, their thoughts about the match or their attitudes to the spirit of the game.
We just want to hear how much they’re going to drink.
Because that’s what four years worth of training and preparation is for isn’t it?
Let’s hear more about alcohol-infused celebrations.
We already know alcohol and football are a good mix but what about Olympians, politicians or Lotto winners?
No one cares how hard they train, what policies they will implement or their plans for altruism.
Cut to the issue. How hard are they going to party?
Surprisingly, not all share these views with some even having the temerity to question Warnie’s priorities.
Today an understandably remorseful Warnie tweeted: “Do gooders get stuffed. Straya is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly ! #thirsty”.
It’s enough to make you stand to attention, thrust your chest out and chant “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi”.
Back to reality. Warnie was a great spin bowler, accomplished tabloid fodder and a very ordinary role model.
Hopefully he can use the next four years to prepare some more insightful questions for the next World Cup winners.

Australia sux – Kiwis nil

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Kiwis.
Harder to beat than a boiled egg.
That is unless you’re 8-1 down against them in the America’s Cup final or protesters hell-bent on chopping down lone trees.
But if you were born under the Southern Cross, your blood flows green and gold and you hail from the “west island”, you’ve got no chance.
No matter what the sport, the Kiwis will lift against their Aussie big brother.
Let’s look at recent history.
Haven’t won a cricket match in years and have to take on the world champions on their soil? No dramas – drawn series.
Similar lead-up to a major rugby league final? Never fear – a monumental Billy Slater blunder and a miracle try is just around the corner.
But what is it about Aussies that brings out the best in their cousins from across the ditch?
Why do they despise us so on the sporting field?
Surely, we’re forgiven and forgetten for the underarm incident.
And it’s not like we’ve ever bombed ships in your waters, poached your whales or tested weapons nearby.
Sure, we might have an annoying habit for claiming successful Kiwis as our own – there are too many musicians and actors to list.
(It’s a strange habit given the depth and breadth of our homegrown talent. After all, we’re a nation that produced the amazing Lord of the Rings movies, the first man to climb Everest and led the way in giving women the vote).
Sure, we might occassionally make fun of your accents, suggest an inappropriate fondness for farm animals and lampoon your bleak weather.
But it’s only because we like you.
And surely all should be given after we accepted Russell Crowe (although we draw the line at citizenship).
So, isn’t it about time you took more revenge against the French and planted a new tree on that hill?
Channel your anger wisely and give your Aussie friends a break.
Our sporting cupboard is bare, and to be frank you’re not helping.
All we ask is that you revert to easy beat status when it comes to the important things in life such a cricket, netball and rugby.
Come on bros. We need your help.

Eurovision, the drug of a nation

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At long last Australia is on the world music stage.
Forget AC/DC opening the Grammys or the likes of Iggy Azalea and her chart domination.
This is much bigger. This is Eurovision.
In case you live under a rock (or only follow important news), SBS has won its bid for Australia to be represented at Eurovision for the first time.
The big moment will be in Austria (home of 2014 winner, bearded lady Conchita Wurst) in May.
It’s a shame this opportunity has taken so long given Australia’s rich musical history.
Joe Dolce would have killed it in 1980 with his anthem Shaddap You Face.
And how could Europeans have resisted Cameron Daddo and his epic Fifteen Minutes of Fame?
Or in a nod to previous metal winners (Lordi from Finland) perhaps Salmon Hater could have dominated with their classic 6.66 – One Hundredth of the Number of the Beast.
Alas, in bland Eurovision tradition previous Australian entrants would more likely have come from the John Farnham or 5 Seconds of Summer school of musical banality.
But that’s the past. Now we have the chance to get it right for the future.
This is how we want the rest of the world to see Australia.
Our brand, reputation and culture are at stake.
The honour to represent Australia at Eurovision 2015 will probably go to the likes of Kylie Minogue or Jessica Mauboy.
Sia would be a good option but it’s hard to go past the social media campaign for TISM to reform for the event.
They tick numerous Eurovision boxes.
TISM embraced costumes (members wore balaclavas), mystery (we didn’t know who they were because of said balaclavas), their musical ability was limited and they filled a quirky niche in our musical landscape.
Regardless of who represents us, Australia loves a winner.
And hopefully winning means we could host the event in 2016.
It could be held at the local RSL club with Daryl Somers and Lara Bingle co-hosting and Bindi Irwin presenting the winning trophy.
With that sort of Australian makeover Eurovision would never be the same again.

In joyful strains then let us listen

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It’s a modern Australia Day tradition up there with barbecues, backyard cricket and drinking to excess.
Whether you observe January 26 as a day of foundation or invasion, chances are the Triple J Hottest 100 will play a part in soundtracking it.
And why wouldn’t it?
Would you rather spend the day trying to finish the elusive second verse of Advance Australia Fair?
Or perhaps drunk bogans sing/shouting Down Under and Chisel is more your thing.
Me, I’ll take what Triple J listeners voted as the best songs of the previous year.
I’ve tuned in to some extent every year since the first annual countdown in 1993.
There have been hits (Take Me Out, 2004), misses (Amazing, 2001), surprises (One Crowded Hour, 2006) and many great tunes (every year).
The winning trackĀ is understandably lauded but is more a song of the time than necessarily the best of the past year.
It helps to be homegrown.
Appropriately, Aussie artists have topped the poll 11 times in the past 21 years.
It also doesn’t hurt to drop a prominent F bomb (Little Lion Man, 2009) or have novelty value (Asshole, 1993).
There have been controversies.
An analysis of votes shared on social media correctly predicted the 2012 winner (Thrift Shop) in advance.
Social media is in the thick of it again this year with the #Tay4Hottest100 campaign.
I’ve been known to turn my nose up at commercial pop in the past. Haters gonna hate, as they say.
Yet I can see the funny side just like the groundswell that propelled Killing In The Name to the UK’s Christmas number one position in 2009.
Is there really any harm in shaking up (or off) the too-cool-for-school set?
And can a voting public that anointed Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) as the best song of 1998 really be trusted with such responsibility?
There is no justice in a world when it can be judged as a better song than Heavy Heart (number 9 that year).
Scarily, other near misses include Teenage Dirtbag (4 in 2000) and Back Door Man (7 in 1997).
But having said all that I would hate to see an emerging artist or Aussie band miss out on the top spot because of a hijacked voting process.
The current favourites are Peking Duck ($1.85) and Chet Faker ($2.75), both Australian artists who would enjoy a significant sales and marketing boost from winning the poll.
Taylor Swift (three lines back at $21) doesn’t need the money or the publicity.
Voting ends tonight (no pressure Australia) then let’s play, play, play.

99 problems (but an itch ain’t one)

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Bleard (beard blog) Day 43
Goodbyes are hard.
They seem so final.
Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t go through with it when the time came to shave at the end of December.
I was poised with razor and shaving cream in hand on January 1.
Then the second thoughts arrived.
We had shared some good times, me and my beard.
There were the quiet nights in, long walks on the beach and Christmas holidays in New Zealand.
Could I really farewell the facial hair so soon?
After a month of growing, fundraising and scratching, it seemed so sudden.
Besides, I had never grown a beard before.
The hard work had been done.
Shaving on January 1 would have been like getting out for 99 or subbing off at half-time in the grand final.
The beard was fully formed with the itchiness gone.
Thinking is so much better when you have facial hair to stroke.
And this beard is valuable.
Thanks to my generous donors it has raised $1341.20 for Decembeard.
The downside is people think I’m a wannabe hipster.
And perhaps it’s rubbing off.
My vinyl collection has almost doubled since I started growing a beard.
I must act before I start using the word bespoke, riding a penny farthing and writing my blog on a vintage typewriter.
So the beard and I must go our separate ways, agree to see other people and consciously uncouple.
But it’s staying temporarily – just until Decembeard counting finishes on January 15.
That’s a final few days for you to donate to this worthy cause.
For more information, visit http://www.decembeard.com.au/
To support me, go to https://decembeard.everydayhero.com/au/simon

Listful thinking

I love a good list.
Not the useful type such as shopping or ‘to do’ lists – I prefer ‘procrastination’ lists.
They’re the type which serve little purpose other than to distract you from more important things you should be doing.
The ‘top five’ list is a personal favourite, particularly when it comes to music.
So much so that my sister once said she saw a movie about me.
I winced and tentatively asked if she was talking about High Fidelity.
She was.
Now I like to think that’s due to the main character’s proclivity for making top five lists and doesn’t have anything to do with his narcissism, obsessive tendencies and emotional immaturity.
So in true time wasting tradition I have combined my love of top fives with the ubiquitous end-of-year list.
It’s a great way of reflecting on the previous 12 months. The opportunity to inflict your views on others is a bonus.
While satisfying, the process generally leaves me craving the chance to devour even more music, books, movies and sport over the next year.
But until then here are my top fives of 2014:

My top 5 albums of 2014:
5. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
4. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters
3. This Is All Yours – Alt-J
2. Built On Glass – Chet Faker
1. Puddinghead – Ball Park Music

My top 5 songs of 2014:
5. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
4. Talk Is Cheap – Chet Faker
3. Every Other Freckle – Alt-J
2. Take Me to Church – Hozier
1. Cosby Sweater – Hilltop Hoods

My top 5 new artists of 2014:
5. Japanese Wallpaper
4. Royal Blood
3. Meg Mac
2. Hozier
1. Broods

My top 5 concerts of 2014:
5. Pearl Jam – Big Day Out
4. Robert Forster – Junk Bar
3. Eddie Vedder / Glen Hansard – QPAC Concert Hall
2. Robert Forster – Enoggera Bowls Club
1. Arcade Fire – Big Day Out

My top 5 books of 2014:
5. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
4. Analogue Men – Nick Earls
3. Summer House with Swimming Pool – Herman Koch
2. The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion
1. Time and Time Again – Ben Elton