Thank God Taylor Swift Won’t Disrupt the Hottest 100’s Beautiful Picture of Diversity

Social Hottest 100 just posted their prediction for the outcome of Triple J’s Hottest 100. The site has tallied over 20,000 votes using things posted by Australians over social media, so it’s likely to be quite accurate.  Sadly, even after a nationwide conversation, #Tay4Hottest100’s Shake It Off is only predicted to reach number 75. But don’t let that stop you basking in the #diversity of the predicted top ten.

10. Mark Ronson


9. The Kite String Tangle


8. ZHU


7. Hilltop Hoods

hilltop hoods

6. The Griswolds

The Griswolds

5. Peking Duk

peking duck

4. Milky Chance


3. Chet Faker


2. Chet Faker


1. Peking Duck

peking duck

Mmmmmm diversity.

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When You Were Young: Reflecting on Sam’s Town

For almost a decade I’ve been in an ongoing argument with various friends about the best Killers album. For most, the answer is instantaneous and easy: Hot Fuss. I have to admit then, that I have few allies in believing Sam’s Town to be the best. However, amongst the friends that believe in Sam’s Town, there is a certain vigour to our defence of the album that is both comforting and tends to make me feel like we’re all in on a secret that no one else quite gets.

For me, Sam’s Town came at the perfect moment. Released before my insecure late-adolescence and the age of Pitchfork, before I discovered bands that were ‘cooler’ and ones that didn’t try as hard, I happily lapped up Sam’s Town sincerity and grandeur without fear. Even the process of getting Sam’s Town seems like an oddly profound and age-defining moment in retrospect. Unable to find all of Sam’s Town tracks on Limewire, I commandeered a friend who had the money to buy the album and they ripped the tracks onto Windows Media Player and burnt me a copy onto a real life CD.

Sam’s Town is a sprawling, cinematic epic. It speaks in sweeping generalizations and is filled with a cast of characters drawn from clichés of small town America. These characterizations and clichés are sometimes so obvious they are literally breathtaking – ‘Higher and higher, we’re gonna take it down to the wire’ or ‘He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus’. But like all great popular music, the obviousness works because it speaks to something universal. That the Killers repeat the trick so many times on Sam’s Town doesn’t jar and if anything makes the whole thing more cohesive.

If Sam’s Town continues to be a secret amongst my friends that no one else gets, then to most at the time of the album’s release it was something altogether different: a joke that everyone got.

Sam’s Town confounded and initially failed for many because it was unsettling. It unsettled listeners who loved Hot Fuss and falsely believed the Killers were a British band that should be aping Joy Division and New Order and not an American one that loved Springsteen and Tom Petty. It unsettled the listeners who, in the midst of late Bush-era cynicism and wars that were going no where, didn’t want a studied and sincere take on the “American Dream”, and probably preferred to hear about American Idiots.

Listen closely to Sam’s Town and you realise that this wasn’t an album that was immune to cynicism. Reading between the album’s shimmering guitars, the dizzying crescendos of When You Were Young, and the ambitious bookends Enterlude and Exitlude that made it absolutely crystal clear this was a Serious Concept Album, you can hear the cracks in the dream. Whether it was Uncle Jonny who was doing cocaine or the album’s jarring meditations on lists, counting and reading minds, it seems not everything was ok. Knowing that the Killers based much of the material for the album from their experiences growing up in Las Vegas – perhaps the gaudiest and most fucked up manifestation of the “American Dream” – made the whole album make more sense.

Maybe what drew people to criticise wasn’t so much that the Killers had failed to be cynical, but that the way they tried to articulate their cynicism was a little too sincere. It’s certainly more difficult to believe someone is disaffected when the soundtrack to their cynicism is throwing everything but the kitchen sink. If it sounds like an album that is trying hard to be great, then that’s probably because it was. Fuck it, they were sincere.

And that’s probably what continues to draw me, and many of the people I grew up with, to Sam’s Town. I have read so many shitty think pieces about ‘millennials’ and what defines us. Recently rereading a Bret Easton Ellis piece about the whole thing, I hit upon a depiction I probably associate with most: that his generation reacted against the Empire and historic wealth of their Baby Boomer parents with irony and negativity, and that millennials have reacted against their relative hardship with a craving to be positive, to be liked, and to ultimately be sincere. And for those who disagree us – the haters – millennials can always just shake them off.

The Killers and Sam’s Town works for millennials and me because they fit the template. Their grand, deliberate leap forward on Sam’s Town, trying to make a record about Things That Matter and make themselves matter in the process, is admirable. For the critics and listeners whose youth was marked with a drip feed of irony, the Killers claims to grandeur and their lack of self-awareness doesn’t wash. It’s no surprise then that albums released at the same time that happily traded in cynicism and irony like the Strokes’ Is This It or basically anything by the Arctic Monkeys worked better for the same critics that pilloried Sam’s Town. Certainly artists who have also traded in sincerity have found success with these critics – Arcade Fire and M83 to name a few – but they still work because they have lacked the success or soaring ambition of the Killers.

For all the deaden expectations that came with the album’s release, Sam’s Town has come to achieve its own kind of glory. It regularly tops polls on underrated albums (probably just millennials voting) and a number of critics have positively reevaluated the record.  I get the sense too, that for some of my friends the arguments about the strength of Sam’s Town are becoming more convincing. The argument will go on, and even if the album wasn’t right for the times and for some people, I will continue to argue it was important to me. It does try to mean something and maybe that’s important too.


In spite of this blog being almost dead, I intend for the piece to be the first in a series of reflections on my favourite albums. 

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Fourteen Awful Decisions the Coalition Has Already Made in Government

For women:

1. Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a Cabinet that includes just one woman. One woman. For context, the previous Labor Government had six women in Cabinet, the last time Australia had only one female in Cabinet was 2001, and countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, Uganda, Liberia and China have more.

2. Tony Abbott is now the minister responsible for women’s policies. No really, the same Tony Abbott who said abortion is the ‘easy way out’ is the minister responsible for women’s policies.

3. After the Cabinet was finalised, the Government announced it would scrap massive pay increases to aged care workers who are mostly women.

For the environment:

4. The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, recently used Wikipedia – ‘I looked up what Wikipedia said for example just to see what the rest of the world though’ – as a legitimate source to refute arguments that there was a connection between bushfires and climate change. He didn’t stop there. When a BBC journalist quoted Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comment that ‘Climate change is absolute crap’, Hunt angrily refused to respond to the question.

5. Perhaps even more depressingly, the Coalition continues to pursue a climate change policy – Direct Action – that is expensive, won’t meet Australia’s already miserly carbon reduction target and has been recently rejected by both Australia’s leading economists and the OECD. Indeed, the Coalition’s first act in the new Parliament will be to introduce legislation to repeal a scheme that is already working. Labor’s first act of Parliament was an apology to Indigenous Australians. #priorities

For taxpayers:

6. Multiple members of the Coalition frontbench – including Prime Minister Tony Abbott – have been forced to payback thousands of taxpayer dollars after erroneously using their money to attend lavish weddings and various other functions unrelated to their work as MPs.

For gay Australians:

7. In a depressingly ironic turn of events, the very same Coalition frontbenchers that used taxpayer money to attend the weddings of MPs and accompany billionaire-mining magnates on trips to India have launched action in the High Court to repeal the ACT’s recently passed same-sex marriage legislation.

For the economy:

8. After repeatedly lambasting the Labor Government for creating a ‘budget emergency’ and calling Labor’s 2012 increase to the debt ceiling ‘really extraordinary’, the Coalition announced an increase in Australia’s ceiling to an unprecedented $500 billion.

9. On the same day the debt ceiling increase was announced, the Coalition announced it was likely to sell Medibank Private as part of Commission of Audit that could also include massive cuts to government services and an increase in the GST.

For foreign policy:

10. Tony Abbott was forced to issue an embarrassing apology to Malaysia’s Prime Minister after repeatedly criticising the country during debate over Labor’s ‘Malaysia Solution’. Not to be out done, he later attacked the previous Labor Government in an American interview, calling them ‘wacko’ and ‘embarrassing’, in a performance a right-wing American political scientist called a big mistake.

For education:

11. As part of their own ‘schools revolution’, the Coalition have announced a plan to make public schools ‘independent’ by giving parents and principles more control over hiring staff and setting budgets – a move many see as a way to simply make public schools private.

12. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also revealed that he would like to scrap the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF); recap university places and potentially privatise HECS debt. Woo university students!

For asylum seekers:

13. Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, has issued a directive that asylum seekers who arrive by boat are to be called ‘illegals’. Never mind the fact that a person seeking asylum is definitely not doing anything ‘illegal’, Morrison seems content on taking Australia down the 1984 path of thoughtcrimes and newspeak.

14. In another 1984-realted development, Morrison has also stopped the Government’s established practice of announcing boat arrivals and limited his Department’s ability to make any comments on arrivals.

It’s going to be a long three years…


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An Open Letter to the ALP and Bill Shorten

I’ve been a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) since I was 16. Before Kevin Rudd was leader and led the party to Government in 2007. Before Julia Gillard deposed him. Before the internecine war that followed his loss and destroyed the party’s prospects in last month’s election. Before Gillard got caught in a maelstrom of hate by announcing she would legislate a price on carbon.

I write these things because in spite of them I remain dedicated to the cause. Dedicated to a party that has the history, the guts and the determination to make a difference. To truly enrich the lives of ordinary Australians. I initially joined the ALP because I was outraged at the Howard Government’s decision to introduce WorkChoices. Even at 16, it was clear to me that WorkChoices represented something manifestly unfair.

WorkChoices might be gone, but the Labor project of equality – to repair those parts of our society that are unfair – has marched on. A project that is committed to bringing superfast and affordable Internet to every Australian; a project that believes a child’s postcode should never determine their opportunities in life; a project committed to permanent and ongoing support for Australians with a disability.

It’s a commitment to equality that shouldn’t begin and end in an election cycle. It is a contract owed to the generations of Australians who will inhabit this great, beautiful land in fifty years time and in five hundred years time.

Generations who won’t know what the fuck Electricity Bill was, who will learn about Gillard’s decision to legislate a price on carbon not in a cheap sound bite delivered by Tony Abbott but in a history textbook that celebrates her courageous decision to take action.

Putting a price on carbon, and taking genuine action against climate change is a central part of this intergenerational contract.

It’s not enough to say you believe climate change is real, but will support the end of meaningful action against it. It’s not enough to let the Coalition scrap the carbon price and introduce an expensive and ineffective policy to try and combat the problem. While the ALP dithers, Australia is already burning.

The kind of commitment the ALP makes in regards to climate change will starkly highlight what kind of party rises in the ashes of last month’s devastating election loss. Whether it chooses to be a party of purpose or one directed only by expediency. A party whose philosophy will always be shaped by a steadfast commitment to equality or one that is only committed when it is politically convenient.

History will be kind to those who always fought for action against climate change. This member might not be if the ALP doesn’t continue that fight now.


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The Five Stages of Accepting Wrecking Ball’s Brilliance

1. Shock & Denial

Somewhere on Facebook a friend from high school who you haven’t talked to in years will link to the original Wrecking Ball film clip and proclaim music dead (RIP). You’ll watch the clip and be horrified that some girl is licking a sledgehammer. You’ll cringe at the opening shot of her crying, think that the wrecking ball metaphor is fucking stupid and believe that music is indeed dead.

2. Anger & Bargaining

Disappointed that music is dead, you’ll read Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley and agree that licking a sledgehammer and swinging naked on a wrecking ball is #notcool. Maybe you’ll also read the Amanda Palmer open letter and begin sympathising with some of the stuff she’s writing. Is it really a bad thing that a young woman is exploring and celebrating her sexuality? Conflicted, you’ll think that maybe a girl can have her sledgehammer and lick it too.

3. The Upward Turn

Another friend on Facebook will link to that mash-up of Wrecking Ball and Little Lion Man. Or maybe they’ll send you to the video of Wrecking Ball intercut with Miley’s #enemy Sinead O’Connor singing Nothing Compares 2U. Something will click. Maybe it won’t be the song just yet, but backed by the strings of Sinead’s song, you might at least accept that Miley can sing.

4. Reconstruction & Working Through

Now more than mildly curious, you’ll revisit the Wrecking Ball video on Youtube. But instead of getting the sledgehammer-licking version, you’ll find yourself watching the Director’s Cut. Stark, dignified and well shot, the video will convince you to properly listen to the song for the first time. Noticing the tear running down her face as she sings about not wanting to start a war you’ll begin thinking that the song really isn’t that bad.

5. Acceptance & Hope

2am. Misty eyed and drunk on regret, somewhere on a seedy dance floor it will finally hit you: this song is actually amazing. Marvel at the first time the dubstep inspired chorus hits or the way she says picks apart the syllables of ‘wrecked’. Find yourself agreeing with a friend that yes, the wrecking ball metaphor is indeed the best figure of speech to grace popular music since Rihanna was saying shit about an Umbrella.

And perhaps the finality of the acceptance will say something more to you. Stripped of pretense, popular music remains something more than just an open letter or an argument about whether a young woman is allowed to be sexually aggressive. More than a bizarre film clip or some rando Twitter #fued.

It’s the night you got high and realised Ke$ha’s hedonism wasn’t really that far removed from your own experience of being twenty-one and emotionally unstable. Or maybe it was the first time you heard the blaring horns at the start of Crazy In Love and were left with no doubt that Beyonce was the only reason Destiny’s Child ever existed.

Maybe none of this will happen. You’ll reject the song and Miley from the off; popular music is a distraction, obsessed with conspicuous consumption and warping the minds of vulnerable young people. Of course none of this will matter to Cyrus. Twerking on a pile of hundred dollar bills, Miley probably doesn’t give one fuck about what you think. And maybe that’s the point anyway?

#bangerz forever.


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The Problem With Hello Mr. Magazine

An image sticks out in my Facebook News Feed. The lead singer of one of my favourite bands – Grizzly Bear – looks at me from the cover of a new magazine for gay men: Hello Mr. Trumpeting itself self as a new voice for gay men, the magazine promises to be an ‘overdue response to the unending clichés that surround current gay lifestyle publications’ and a chance ‘to expose our vulnerabilities and redefine our identities.’

Just what vulnerabilities it is trying to expose, I’m not quite sure. If the trailer for the magazine is any indication, perhaps it’s our vulnerability when we’re perched on a windowsill drinking tea or reading a book. Or maybe it’s the difficult task of maintaining just the right amount of stubble to seem like you haven’t tried at all.

Alternative gay press like Hello Mr. is of course, nothing new. Internationally, Butt magazine has successfully promoted itself as an alternative outlet for gay men. Though much more risqué (OR SHOULD I SAY RIS-GAY?) than Hello Mr., both magazines form an important part of a growing alternative gay subculture predominated by bands you haven’t heard of, clothes you couldn’t afford and hairstyles that look more at home at a Hitler Youth camp.

My characterisation of this subculture is pretty reductive, but it’s clear that this subculture is a direct move away from mainstream gay culture and publications like DNA, where muscle-bound men stare vacantly from magazine covers wearing nothing more than designer swimwear. But is this a good thing?

Hello Mr. proposes to avoid ‘perfecting appearances’ but flicking through the pages of the first edition you would be forgiven for thinking that wasn’t the case. Maybe the muscles are out, but surely spending hours perfecting your disaffected look is just as superficial. The men remain, like in other gay lifestyle magazines, uniformly attractive. In other words, the currency might look different, but the unattainable lifestyle remains.

I also find the magazine’s mission statement incredibly difficult, and this is the real problem. The magazine’s central proposition: that it will help ‘redefine our identities’ seems to imply that currently there is something wrong. Which leads to this problematic question: by selectively airbrushing parts of queer identity and history we are uncomfortable with, are we not falling back into the trap of internalizing society’s homophobia?

Time and again, gay men have attempted to redefine themselves in a way that implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) rejects the predominate stereotype of gay men, but what motivates us? Is it the realisation that suddenly reading literature and listening to bands from Sweden is cool? Or is it the fear of seeming too ‘gay’ itself? Too often it is the second question and this is the problem with Hello Mr. We should never be motivated by the idea that parts of gay culture are wrong; it’s unhealthy and only feeds self-loathing.

Certainly there should be room for alternative gay voices in the media; for too long the conversation hasn’t been about what, as gay men, we can offer intellectually, spiritually or creatively, it has been about how much iron we can pump at a gym. But we should always be vigilant. We shouldn’t forsake part of our identity in the hope of starting another one that is cooler. The danger then, is that in creating an alternative outlet for gay men, you simply establish another unattainable stereotype motivated by the same internalised homophobia that has held gay men back for so long.


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17 reasons not to vote Liberal on election day

Tony Abbott doesn’t deserve to be PM. Here are seventeen reasons why:

1. All the statistics show that the economy is doing well and everyone except the Coalition seems to know this, including Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz. It’s doing so well Wayne Swan was awarded the best treasurer in the world.

2. The Coalition’s policy costings are completely pathetic.

3. The Coalition doesn’t have any big ideas of its own, whereas the ALP has the national broadband network, NDIS/DisabilityCare, carbon tax/ETS/investment in renewable energy, Gonski/Better Schools Plan, tobacco plain packaging and has invested billions in dental care, mental health, and roads and rail.

4. Tony Abbott does not support marriage equality.

5. Tony Abbott has no experience in foreign affairs.

6. Tony Abbott makes bizarre comments about female candidates.

7. Tony Abbott makes bizarre comments about females.

8. Australia’s mineral wealth is not infinite. Whereas other countries making heaps of money out of resources, like Norway, have sovereign wealth funds worth billions the Coalition doesn’t even support a tax on mining super profits.

9. The Coalition’s national broadband network proposal is a joke.

10. Climate change exists and the Direct Action plan will not work – even Tony Abbott says so! The rest of the world is beginning to implement policies like the ETS championed by the ALP.

11. The Coalition will cut a superannuation bonus for low income earners, which will effectively be a 15% tax on super contributions for people on less than $37,000 a year.

12. The Coalition will cut $4b from the foreign aid budget, despite an Australian commitment at the UN to raise foreign aid spending to 0.7% of GNI (i.e. $0.07 from every $100 in the Australian economy up from the $0.036 given now) and that money saving tens of thousands of lives.

13. The Coalition will end access to the Refugee Review Tribunal, which is potentially unconstitutional and may flood the High Court with claims.

14. The Coalition will stop funding to at least five major rail projects in favour of more roads, despite high petrol prices and rail being a more affordable and sustainable type of transport.

15. The Coalition will cut the School Kids Bonus – which goes to low and middle-income families – but are prepared to pay thousands of dollars to millionaire parents under their luxurious Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

16. Tony Abbott wants to win the election so badly he steals ALP policies despite opposing them, sometimes for years.

17. The Coalition will dump the Aged Care Workers Compact, an ALP policy worth $1.2b to deliver pay rises to the nation’s 350,000 aged care workers. And they didn’t even have the guts to hold a press conference to announce it.

Liam, Jamila and guest contributor James Walker.

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