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By The Numbers: Ageism In Hip-Hop Doesn't Exist

The argument that rappers must lose relevance after a certain age is as old as hip-hop itself, and artists like Rakim, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, M...

Placebo and Little Scout Live at the Enmore Theatre, 24/2/2014



My fourth trek to see the wonderous Placebo began nervously. My ride missed the turn off to Newtown, and we endured a hard slog through Sydney's traditional traffic nightmare to back track and right our wrong. I was particularly edgy because, despite seeing Brian and the boys 3 previous times, I'd never been anywhere near them! In 2004 I went with my dad, and was too scared to even attempt the barrier. In 2006 I sat in the wings, and in 2010 we were drinking right up until the start, so I got stuck at the back. Being tall, this isn't an issue, but this year I really wanted to see and feel the essence of the lads.

It's always so spine tingling, knowing that people you absolutely idolise and who have had such a huge impact on your life are even in the same country as you. Placebo played Soundwave on Sunday, and I happened to be in the vicinity wandering around, and just that knowledge that all that separated me from my heroes was a metal fence and fat security guard filled me with goosebumps. Inside the Enmore, I turned to my friend and said 'you know, I haven't been exicted in 3 years. Tonight I feel like exploding'. For the better part of a decade Placebo has soundtracked my entire life. This was never going to be a dull night.



First up were Little Scout, a band from Brisvegas in Australia. I am always amazed at the depth of musical talent in this country. Sure, they weren't anything special, a stock standard 4 piece with an attractive vocalist and 3 burly men to back her up. Yet all of these bands, who may sound slightly stunted on record, take on new personas when faced with a sea of eager faces and a sound system that isn't a $5 microphone plugged in to a set of lap top speakers. The drumming was electric, filling the spacely theatre with deep sonic blasts. Each song began to mesh together, as they do when you are unfamiliar with the music, but they provided ample energy to warm a crowd who were in danger of tipping in to fever pitch.

Then, Little Scout left and we sat, and waited. Half an hour is an age. Finally, to the interluding drum loops that punctuate the show, the lads made their way on to the stage. B3 rained down upon as, all pulsing synth, and Brian was in absolutely fine voice. There was a period where question marks were raised over his live performances, and certainly in years passed I have noticed that towards the middle of a set he has shied away from the higher notes. Not so tonight. Absolutely stunning.



The first half hour was breathless. B3 in to For What It's Worth, which bled in to Loud Like Love, provoking a raptuous response from the crowd who chanted every single word back at them. Brian's performance was mesmerising, his expressions as he sung 'Breath, breath, breath, breath, believe, believe, believe, believe' were those of a man still desperately battling for the sun, a man with knowledge and hard fought wisdom to impart. He then introduced the jack in a box Steve Forrest, and invited him to bring the funk, as the redux of Twenty Years came in to fruition. Still a beautiful song, no matter what incartation we hear.

Then the real mayhem started. The crowd was an eclectic mix. No longer the refuge of the teenage and angsty, Placebo draw a broad brush. They are currently being promoted by Triple M, a local Sydney radio station that is, unapologetically, for males aged 18-45. This ensured a healthy mix of working class men with the plethora of genders and dispositions that usually attend a Placebo show. When Every You, Every Me started, the moshing began, almost unexpectedly. The crowd went ballistic, truly raised the roof. The slightly slower Too Many Friends was preceded by Brian saying he had changed the names in the story to protect those implicated, and I'm not sure the crowd fully understood his meaning, but parroted the lyrics nonetheless.



Then, unfortunately, set list choice fell down a little. Borrowing heavily from Loud Like Love was always a must, and Scene of the Crime, A Million Little Pieces (brilliant), Rob The Bank and Purify were all quite well recieved, even if the lyrics weren't quite as universally known. Speak In Tongues was an odd choice, The Never Ending Why or Battle For The Sun more obvious selections. This middle section didn't sag, despite the unfamiliarity of the music, and the entire time Stef and Brian were masters of those in front of them, playing the role of rock gods to perfection.

The final half of the set (before the encore) was electric. Space Monkey exploded in to being, before Blind (a tad safe) and Exit Wounds (would rather have Begin The End). Then the real mayhem started. Meds, the version that starts slow then quickens to a fever pitch, provoked more delighted moshing and screeched lyrics. Song To Say Goodbye, an absolute gem live, didn't disappoint one bit, and to appease the radio listeners Special K and The Bitter End rounded that portion out. Despite all the years, and the countless listens to Bitter End and Special K, hearing them live is a completely new experience. The crowd were absolutely mental, the floor was bouncing like a trampoline and I was drenched in the sweat of about 9 different people. The adoration shown to the band was beyond anything I've seen since a Justin Timberlake concert. There'd be moments where Brian would stop, framed by the only spotlight, and just listen to the rapture. It was deafening.



The encore featured the weakest selection of songs, yet this in no way detracted from the night. The haunting new version of Teenage Angst was another crowd favourite, as was Running Up That Hill, although this was one of the least energetic performances I've seen of it. The night ended with Post Blue and Infra-Red, both off Meds. I found it slightly odd they ended with those two, when they used up The Bitter End and Special K before the encore, yet the crowd were in the mood to compromise. At the end, Steve jumped down in the crowd, Brian bowed graciously and Stef, an ever present pillar of calm throughout the night seemed overwhelmed. I certainly was. I'd expected a slightly more ambiguous crowd, given this new jump in Australian status from indie, relatively unknown band to mainstream radio promotion. Yet Teenage Angst was met with one of the biggest responses of the night, indicating a knowledgeable and euphoric attendence.



I've seen a lot of live shows. Placebo's is one that will always intrigue me. Tonight was not for me, it wasn't for those who have spent a life collecting Placebo records and learning to play the guitar just so you can strum out Twenty Years. They steered well clear of any kind of nostalgic romance, picking only 4 tracks from the first 4 albums, all of them successful songs or live staples. Tonight was for the new fans, the ones who heard The Bitter End and envisaged a rock band. I've seen them as an electronic band, and a rock band, and this was their most destroying display. The way they never let the energy drop for a minute. There were no ballads, no Bosco, no Centrefolds. Fiona Brice providing beautiful strings and some piano just added a deeper texture.

If you'd paid your $74.95 plus the $82 booking fee and you only knew one song, you'd walk away with a giant smile on your face, a ringing in your ears and a credit card that was soon to become your worst enemy as you went back and dove in to their back catalogue. This was the boys in full attack mode, and it was glorious to behold.


Set list 
B3
For What It’s Worth
Loud Like Love
Twenty Years
Every You Every Me
Too Many Friends
Scene Of The Crime
A Million Little Pieces
Speak In Tongues
Rob The Bank
Purify
Monkey
Blind
Exit Wounds
Meds
Song To Say Goodbye
Special K
The Bitter End
Teenage Angst
Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)
Post Blue
Infra-Red

Charlotte Dawson




Since the Charlotte Dawson tragedy, I have looked back on this piece that I wrote. Some people told me not to publish it, but I disagree with them. I will post a short intro though.

When I heard the news, I was shellshocked. I was absolutely devastated, I had to pull the car over and compose myself. No I didn't know her, and in fact I didn't much like her until the most recent series of Top Model. Whilst I never engaged in the twitter bashing that has become so highly publicised, I certainly was guilty of taking aim at other celebrities. Thankfully, I learnt the errors of my ways and can claim it as a passing angry phase.

If Charlotte had been one of those I'd treated poorly, I'd have been more than mortified and crushed, and I can imagine there are a lot of people sitting around doing some serious soul searching over their treatment of her. But they needn't. These people do not have blood on their hands. Charlotte didn't decide to leave this earth because someone she'd never met told her to on twitter. She was suffering dangerously from mental illness. Depression took her, not a twitter bully, so all this bullshit about "Charlotte's Law" makes my blood boil. That precious time and media exposure is being wasted on these bullies is what is sickening. The entire conversation should be only about how we can better help people suffering from mental health issues. Did you know suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 44, and females under 34? No, but I can bet you'd be able to name those that have died from one punch incidents in the last year. Or you'd probably remember the plethora of advertisements on the dangers of drinking, or speeding. But you won't remember the names of anyone other than Charlotte Dawson who committed suicide over the past 12 months, unless you were directly affected by it.

I urge you, don't jump on board this ridiculous wave of public sentiment. Any kind of Charlotte's Law is a waste of money and time that is absolutely precious. Money needs to be spent on treating mental health issues. As you'll read in this post, the Government's stance on mental health is atrocious, woeful. To think that this is a first world country and see the damage that depression, anxiety, anorexia, PTSD and other issues do to society, and I mean the real society not the crap you read about in papers, is just sad. It's awful.

As I said I wrote this when the Ian Thorpe thing was happening. It's still relevant, and will always be relevant, regardless of what celebrity is in the press next week or the week after. People are dying every day and most of it is preventable. But no-one with power seems to care..

I’m angry. No, it’s more than an emotion actually. It’s a mindset, a frustration, a disappointment, a loneliness. I feel incensed by some aspects. I feel empathy for those going through worse than me. Let me explain.

Ian Thorpe is going through a much publicised depressive episode, one that has lasted for a long period of time and he is finding extremely difficult to shift. The nuts and bolts of it is that last week we all thought he was in rehab. Turns out he wasn’t, but was recieving shoulder surgery. Then he was found wandering around a street trying to get in to a car that wasn’t his at 3am on a Sunday morning. By Monday, he is in rehab for alcohol abuse and a depressive disorder. My heart goes out to him, it honestly does. He has been reluctant to come forth with his story, and with his aversion to the media it is understandable why. But I want to point one thing out to everyone out there. Thorpie walked in to a rehab centre, with one days notice. For a member of the general public, this is not a possibility.

There are countless examples around the world of mega stars suffering from mental health issues. Phillip Seymour Hoffman dies from a drug overdose, the tragic consequence of a life spent fighting addiction. Ke$ha enters rehab for an eating disorder, the apparent result of an industry that puts an inhuman amount of strain upon the body of its disciples. Matthew Reilly, the famed writer, went on Australian Story with his own personal battle after his wife lost hers with depression and anorexia. As a part of the community that is afflicted by mental health issues, I and others look to these stars to promote our plight. As individuals we have no real power. We are a minority group, and the majority of that minority require intense care and have trouble expressing themselves and seeking help. By someone like Ian Thorpe going on TV and explaining about his own battle, it creates priceless, precious awareness around something that is a massive issue in the community.

But unfortunately, that is where it stops. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in NSW chuckling slyly when I read that Thorpie entered rehab on Monday. You don’t just ‘walk in’ to rehabilitation centres in this country. No. If you’re like me and suffer from anorexia, or you’ve been in contact with someone who does, you are aware of the atrocious, woeful and sad lack of resources available to members of the general public when it comes to the treatment of their disorder, whether it be a substance addiction, depression and anxiety, or anorexia. In fact all mental health issues. This country may pride itself on its public healthcare system, and in comparison to some other countries it is light years ahead, but when it comes to mental health we have absolutely nothing to be proud of. Nothing.

Did you know there are 5 public beds for anorexia sufferers in NSW? FIVE. 9% of the population is estimated to suffer from an eating disorder. NSW has a population of over 7 million, which means that 630,000 of your fellow states people suffer from some form of eating disorder. Now, naturally, all of those people are not going to be requiring inpatient treatment. Let’s hope not, right? There are 25 beds Australia-wide. We have a population of around 22 million. This is just absolutely mind boggling. 1,800 people died (est) from eating disorders in 2012 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-05/anorexia-support-services/5240948). You know what happens when you present at a public hospital with an eating disorder? You are stabilised, then sent home. In July of 2013, I woke up one morning, got out of bed, passed out and gashed my head. This required stitches at the local emergency ward. When I was there my pulse rate was 38, my BP was so low I was almost in a coma, and I was presenting with severe dizziness and fatigue. One of the nurses asked me whether I’d let her put the drip in my arm or if I’d put up a fight. I had no idea why, until mum told me she’d probably seen hundreds of people with eating disorders refuse drips. Not once was I asked if I had anorexia or bulimia. Not once was my diet questioned. My medications were blamed, and once they’d run a couple of tests they declared me stable and I left. Google is full of stories of women who have been close to death presenting at hospitals, only to be sent back in to their deadly lifestyle once their vital organs have stabilised. This is just insanity.

If you don’t have private health insurance you are, and I won’t put too fine a point on this, up shit creek without a paddle or a boat. In fact you’re more than likely to drown. When I was going through withdrawals from Effexor, a particularly nasty anti-depressant, I presented at my local emergency room begging for help. My girlfriend was with me, and I was in tears, tatters. I was at my wits end. My psychologist and psychiatrist both told me to go to hospital immediately. When I was there, they asked me if I intended to harm myself. I said no. Did I intend to harm anyone else? No. Ok, go wait in the waiting room. 3 hours later I was seen, not by a psychiatrist, but by a nurse, who took a patient history and relayed this (over the course of another couple of hours) to a psychiatrist. The end result? They gave me six valium, told me to take 3 that day and 3 the next, and if things got worse to come back. I said to this poor nurse who was clearly desperate to help me, ‘why aren’t you helping me? I need help’. I asked if I told him I wanted to kill myself what he would do. He said he’d sedate me and put me in a monitored, locked room for 48 hours. So I could either be sedated in a locked room, or sedated at home. I went home. I saw my GP the next day, and asked him what my options were. Since I didn’t have private health insurance, I had no options. I couldn’t go in to a private mental hospital because the expense was catastrophic, and I couldn’t go to a public ward because they wouldn’t take me. They had no room, all their beds are taken up by people who are a danger to themselves or others. I was out on the street.

I’m using myself as an example here and let me explain why. I am a 25 year old male with an undergraduate degree, who’s condition has deteriorated to such a point that I need to be in an inpatient program, not only for my eating disorder but also for my anxiety and depression issues. I live with my parents, have private health insurance (full cover), and those around me are financially well off enough to cover my costs when my money runs out (often). I am, you may say, extremely lucky. To think that even I am struggling through this makes me frankly quite afraid for those out there who haven't got the good fortune that I have. What if I were trying to live alone with this? What if I were estranged from my parents? Trying to rent, living alone in the city? If my parents weren't able to afford private health insurance? I shudder to think, and my heart goes out to those less fortunate than me. 

The problem is that the system is not set up to care for people with mental health issues, and in fact changes to it have made it even more unsuitable, begging the question does the Government really care about mental health? In 2008, when I began treatment, we were given 18 subsidised psychological visits under the Medicare scheme. Now, whilst this is still less than ideal, it was a darn sight more than when it was slashed in 2011 to just 10. 10!! Most people requiring serious care also require weekly psychological visits. By mid-March I will have run out of my 10 and will rely entirely on private health insurance. What of those who can't afford it? Well, join the waiting line to see a public psychologist (usually a student), and do the best you can until then.


Whilst the Government throws money at advertising campaigns for alcohol fuelled violence and road related fatalities, it seems loathe to even attempt to address our worsening suicide crisis. Certainly, if there are things in the works we haven't heard about them. There was a Hack program just before the last election when it was put to the incumbent health minister what impact a change on government would have on mental health funding. All we got in return was a lot of political spin, which is what sufferers have come to expect. Spin a line for the masses, marginalise the minority again.

Since my original article on exercise addiction I have achieved a minor storm of fame. I appeared on The Project on Channel Ten, conducted 2 radio interviews including one with Triple M's The Grill Team, and will be contributing to a book being written by the lovely Katherine Schreiber in the US on exercise addiction. 20 or 30 people have contacted me seeking help, and 1 or 2 have really stood out. A girl from Melbourne, who lives with her mum, recently reached out to me and sought my help and guidance in her own recovery. She didn't have private health insurance, and has spent months on a waiting list to get in to an inpatient program she desperately needs (which, at the time of writing, she is taking part in). Isolated by her illness she has struggled to make friends and maintain relationships, and boy can I relate (and my friends, for that matter) to this situation. Another girl stopped me on the street and was blatantly angry and annoyed at the way that eating disorders are treated in Australia. She said like me her parents had to pay for her private health insurance so she could recieve treatment because if she'd stayed in the public system she just wouldn't have recovered.

Eating disorders aren't like depression and anxiety, I want to make that clear. Depression is, by nature, quite cyclical. You go through valleys and plateaus, but rarely does it keep getting worse and worse. There is a rock bottom. Anxiety is a day to day struggle, but again, it isn't degenerative like anorexia or bulimia. These 2 afflictions are so extremely difficult to beat on your own that most psychologists, once you get past a certain point, will tell you to go in to intensive therapy immediately. Because they progress, they get worse, they have physical complications that the other disorders don't have. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, I am no expert on these disorders, but I do know that there are blatant physical health risks associated with eating disorders that get worse until you die. Asking someone to wait on a waiting list for 2 months is akin to telling the heroin addict that now is not a good time to recover, continue your addiction for another 2 months then come talk to us then.

The exposure that exercise addiction recieved from The Project and The Grill Team is absolutely priceless. There is a woeful lack of public knowledge and awareness around these kinds of illnesses, and this only perpetuates their stigma. I spent today in Dymocks in Sydney, a giant bookstore with three levels. At this point in my recovery I am dying to read of others struggles with exercise and how they have overcome it. Unfortunately, the literature is sadly lacking, unless you really dig deep. Put it like this. There were about 8 books on eating disorders. There would've been well over 200 on diets and dieting. The rate of eating disorders in this country is 9%, and the prevalence of obesity is 28%. 2.07 million with eating disorders. 1 book for every 258,750. 6.44 million with obesity. 1 book for every 32,200.

There needs to be a dramatic revamp of the services provided to these marginalised members of our society. Everytime we see a celebrity on TV struggling with mental health, we sit on our couches, remark on how much they struggle and how sorry we feel for them, then switch over to the tennis. And that's it. I'm not asking ordinary people to care or to actually DO something, it isn't your responsibility. I am trying to highlight the lack of knowledge around treatment options for those suffering. There are wonderful websites out there such as The Butterfly Effect who provide valuable public services in linking people with treatment options and a plethora of information on eating disorders. The only problem is the services they are linking us to are inadequate. Waiting lists are unacceptably long because there aren't enough beds. Pyschiatrists who bulk bill? Ha! You're kidding right? And everyone is going ballistic over the $6 medicare levy. Well spare a thought for those who have to pay their psychiatrist $40 a visit, or $80 for their psychologist. How are they meant to live?

There is no easy answer to this. I can't make 20 million people all of a sudden care about this issue enough for it to register as a blip on the Governments radar. I'm also aware that by speaking up like this, I risk segregating this community even further from the general public, and this is in no way my intention. We don't deserve special treatment because we suffer from these ailments, we deserve the same treatment as the rest of the country gets when they are struggling with sickness.

Gluten Free Banana Mocha Bread



This is as delicious as it sounds. I won't bother with a random anecdote today because in all honesty I don't want to keep you another second from putting this in your oven and turning your house in to the equivalent of Subway crossed with The Cookie Man.

Ingredients:

115gms butter, chopped, room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
4 bananas
1 tbs vanilla essence
2 eggs
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbs instant coffee granules

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

2. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on a high speed until creamy, about 5 minutes

3. Peel your bananas and place them in a microwave safe dish. Buzz for 1 minute, then mash thoroughly

4. Mix your flours, gum, cocoa, salt and baking powder together. Sift, then add the coffee. Using a wire whisk, stir until it is completely mixed.

5. Pour the banana mash in to the butter mix, then add the vanilla, beating as you go

6. Add each egg individually to the butter mixture, beating well after each inclusion. Beat for 4 minutes to ensure full combination

7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix thoroughly until there is no visible dry flour. It will be quite runny at this stage (this is good)

8. Grease a standard loaf pan well and pour the mixture in.

9. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and sit loaf in the oven for a further 10 minutes

10. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove (carefully). Allow to cool before slicing (as it may crumble or fall apart whilst still warm)


Bonus Recipe: Coconut Cocoa Loaf (Gluten free, duh)

Ingredients: 

115gms butter, softened and chopped
1 cup caster sugar
1 tbs vanilla essence
4 eggs
1 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark choc chips

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

2. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on a high speed until creamy, about 5 minutes

3.  Mix your flours, gum, cocoa, salt and baking powder together. Sift. Using a wire whisk, stir until it is completely mixed.

4. Add each egg individually to the butter mixture, beating well after each inclusion. Beat for 4 minutes to ensure full combination

5. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until completely combined

6. Add the choc chips and stir to combine

7. Pour in to loaf pan and cook for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave in there for another ten minutes. Then, remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack




Bike For Three! - So Much Forever



Rating: 8/10

This album is brilliant, because it isn't very good. Yeah yeah, you've probably read that line a million times. No name blogger tries his hand at a Call Me Ishmael moment to draw you in. Well, read on and I will present the perfect argument for giving this sub-par record an 8 out of 10.

Bike For Three!, if you didn't know, is a collaboration between the rapper Buck 65 and producer Greetings From Tuskan. Buck 65 is a poetic lyricist who's lineage can be traced back through Sage Francis, Atmosphere and The Beastie Boys. Greetings From Tuskan is the project of Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê, a Belgian who produces beautiful ethereal music that sits somewhere between Iceland Brooklyn. Adaptable, versatile. The interesting thing is that these two have never met. They hooked up on the frankly stunning More Heart Than Brains in 2009, and have teamed up for So Much Forever in 2014.

Buck 65 is a poet. His earlier work is laced with beautiful imagery, complex rhyming structures and the kind of story telling that would make Johnny Cash proud. He is a journeyman of the highest order, a cowboy with a heart the size of a zeppelin, and as fragile. I saw Buck in 2010, a performing veteran. I took a girl who dislikes rap music. In 90 minutes she fell in love, and my heart exploded.

He introduced a beautiful song that appeared on his Dirtbike series, a collection of 60 songs that he released for free in 2008, called She Said Yes. It was later included on 20 Odd Years, his most recent studio album, and is the story of his proposal to then girlfriend, and her acceptance. It is a beautiful, slow, romantic number written by a man who was desperately in love and desperately euphoric that he would be able to marry the woman of his dreams. More Heart Than Brains spawned from this mindset, an absolute jerker of an album. It had such a lasting impact on me emotionally that I cannot even touch it anymore, it hit me right between the ribs in my love muscle and I haven't recovered enough to revisit it. It was one of the most beautiful, amazing things I have ever heard.

Now it is 2014, and Buck 65 has been very active on his Facebook. There was a period last year when every morning I'd awake to a new story from him, something from his past. Such a gifted yarn slinger, the internet hung on his every word. But there was a dark place that was often mentioned but never explored. He'd had his heart broken. I don't know how, I don't know why, but it was broken and possibly beyond repair. 2013, when most of the writing and recording for So Much Forever took place, was not a happy place for Buck, as his stories told of loneliness, depression, a loss of identity and a lack of emotion.

Not the kind of place to be when approaching a project such as Bike For Three!, who have always prided themselves on the beauty of love within life. The Intro alone is a clear statement, a muted heartbeat pulsing over a dense electronic haze, punctuated by delicate synths that burble with expectancy. Full Moon then breaks like the start line in a 100 metre dash, Buck breathlessly whispering 'How did it bleed? It bled like fire' before the beat explodes in to Joëlle's most hip-hop focused work since MC Space. Buck is tense, anxious, aggressive like a caged animal, 'who can sleep at a time like this?', almost as if a beast is awakening inside him, desperate to get loose. It's a far cry from the almost placidity he displays on More Heart Than Brains. There's something amiss..

A quick perusal of the tracklisting reveals more. Songs like Agony, Heart As Hell, Wolf Sister, The Last Romance, Successful With Heavy Losses. This is more like something Trent Reznor or Josh Homme would consider romantic, a sledgehammer of negative emotions rather than a scalpel of purity. Buck has checked out. He wrote on his Facebook not a couple of days ago about a girl he had met, who asked him whether it was possible to be loved if you didn't love yourself. This inherent question and tension is present in the entire record, and it is orchestrated and facilitated brilliantly by Joëlle. On Heart As Hell, a foreboding string section gives way to an almost triumphant piano riff, before Buck whispers 'I have two hearts and one of them is hard as hell, its scarred shell cracks as it starts to swell, the heart is hell' before his rejection of his most pure organ, 'I followed my heart, and misled by my heart' as it trails off in to a smoke haze sunset.

The brief for Bike For Three! was always more heart than brains. It was to paint a musical vista of stunning shapes and soundscapes that Buck could then weave his wizardry through, touching each piece of the landscape with a magic wand that made it even more vivid than it already was. It was a Lord of the Rings novel; a journey, punctuated by beauty and nostalgia. Even tracks like Nightdriving had such a wonderful cadence that the listener was completely seduced by the mastery of technique and form. So Much Forever is none of these things. Rather than doling out vivid imagery and dynamic colours, everything Buck touches turns brown, his presence a soured expression, a morose being. On Successful With Heavy Losses Joëlle concocts a shrill siren-like drone that is quite stunning, until Buck slides in and rhymes mess with test, and usual with mutual, sucking the life out of the middle of the song until it is a hollow shell.

Eventually this drain becomes apparent in the production too. You Can Be Everything becomes a by the numbers drum beat, The Dream is a desperate attempt to recreate the magic of Lazarus Phenomenon, and Stay Close Until We Reach The End is an industrial strength grate that would put Yeezus to shame. But the most depressing aspect is Buck. Once so full of life and vibrant emotion, his voice lacks impact. It's not as though he is going through the motions, putting in a sub par performance. He is searching for that magic, aware that it isn't there but you can feel him tearing his hair out, desperate to recreate it. By the time we get to Conflation, a direct reprisal of 50 Gallon Drum from Talkin Honky Blues, he is exhausted. Limited to spoken word, he says things like 'Lets refuse to take part in the future' and 'We're blind owls in elevator shafts' ' drawn on hearts'.

So my justification. 8/10. Without a doubt. This is art, plain and simple. What you are witnessing is the dark, desolate depths of a soul that is searching for meaning, one that is reeling and lost, broken and stepped on. The beauty lies within the struggle, the clawing to get back to where he was, the battle and war being waged in such a gentle heart. This is one of the starkest examples of a broken heart I have witnessed in music. I've heard people sing about it, I've even been there when people have created music about me breaking their heart. But this resonates so much. And Joëlle, despite having never even met the man, matches his darkness so expertly its as if she's known him for decades. From the cagey angst of Full Moon, the regret tinged hue of Wolf Sister and the playful interlude of You Can Be Everything, her production is as desolate as Bucks mood.

And this is the funny thing. If you didn't know any of this, you'd toss this on the heap. So Much Forever finds both artists well below their respective peaks. So little emotion, such a lack of organic chemistry, a complete change from More Heart Than Brains. In fact since Dirtbike, with the occasional exception (Dang, Joey Bats, 1957), Buck has been gradually building to a moment of mediocrity like this. I don't believe he loves himself anymore. Yet somehow, without trying to, he has created a mecca for those searching for reason and meaning in loss to trek to.

Best Tracks: Full Moon, Wolf Sister, Heart As Hell

Gluten Free Puff Pastry



Some people have busy lives. I talk to them about what they eat, and how they approach the preparation of their food, and they complain they never have time. 'Oh I work all week, I get home late and wake up early, it's easier to just pick something up from the store'. Then they will give me a detailed account of what happened on the Toddlers in Tiara's marathon that was on over the weekend.

My point is, occasionally it pays to make time for food. If you are a coeliac or have some kind of wheat intolerance, it almost ALWAYS pays to make time for food. Store bought gluten free food is about as authentic as Gerard Butler playing an American. Most of the substitutes taste like a drunken car manufacturer made them, they are bland, rubbery, crumbly, awful. Puff Pastry proves the rule. I have yet to have store bought gluten free puff pastry that actually puffs. After all, what is the point? You may as well eat buttered bread with your mince, it'll be more authentic than a sausage roll made with this junk.



Making puff pastry seems daunting but its actually ridiculously easy. The first 3 times you will fail. And you'll make such a mess of failing that your kitchen will look like Jordan Belfort's briefcase, there'll be so much flour plastered all over every single surface the police will call in the riot squad. Never fear! Like riding a bike and using your left hand for certain pursuits, you will become an expert in time. And as you get better, you realise you can whip this up in under 3 hours (total time, not actual work). Then you bake it for 25 minutes, and you have unbelievably delicately delicious puffed pastry on the table by 6:30.



When I say 3 hours, the actual time you will be doing things is much less than that, so you can easily pause your Toddlers in Tiara's marathon when you are rolling your dough out and come back to it during the 15 minute intervals I have prescribed. Or, if you'd rather, you can go bang your skull against a brick wall, which would be my personal choice.



If you haven't been experimenting with flours yet, never fear. I have provided a flour mix that actually works better than anything I have come across so far, and it doesn't involve corn starch amazingly! Yes, a gluten free recipe with no corn starch.. But I will put one proviso on this. The butter you use MUST be high quality. It must be unsalted, and brands I will allow are New Zealand Westgold, Western Star, Allowrie or the absolute freaking holy grail, Pepe Sayer cultured unsalted. Last night I was bored and, having some left over from my puff, decided to put it on a rice crisp. Needless to say at 1am I was at the Tempe headquarters of Pepe Saya screeching until the police came for them to open up and give me some more. Warning: It is addictive, but oh so good.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown rice flour*
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour* (don't worry about the glutinous it doesn't have anything to do with gluten)
1/2 cup Quinoa flour*
1 tsp xantham gum**
1/4 tsp guar gum**
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup iced water




* I source all my gluten free flours from here: https://www.facebook.com/ScoopWholefoods
You can substitute brown rice for white rice flour, and quinoa for more brown rice, white rice, buckwheat or besan (chickpea).
** found in most health food stores

For the Butter package:
170g GOOD QUALITY unsalted butter, slightly softened

Extra glutinous rice flour for dusting and rolling.



Method:
1. Take your butter out of the fridge. Combine your flours, salt and gum in a large mixing bowl. I don't sift but if you'd prefer then go ahead. Mix well with a wire whisk or a spoon, make sure they are well combined. Make a well in the centre and pour your iced water in. Now draw the flour over the well of water until it begins to come together in to doughy pieces. Shove your hands in your packet of flour and get to work kneading in the bowl. Here is a tutorial on the best way to knead. Keep kneading until it begins to come together, then turn it out on to a lightly floured surface, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

2. Place your butter on a floured piece of baking paper, then lightly flour the top and place another piece of baking paper on top. Now the fun bit. Using your rolling pin or whatever blunt instrument you possess (I use my head), pound your butter until it is about 1cm thick. Fold it back over on itself a couple of times, and repeat the process. Do this 3 or 4 times, we want the butter to be nice and pliable. When you've done this, using floured hands, shape it in to a 10x10cm square, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 10 minutes or until hardened.

3. Take your dough out of the freezer. On a lightly floured surface (I use a pastry mat), roll in to a 20cm round. Put your butter package in the middle of the dough round and lightly trace around the outside of it. We want the outline of a 10x10cm square, but do not cut the dough all the way to the bottom. This is just a guide.

The dough with the flaps is now ready to have the butter package inserted

4. Remove the butter package, and lightly flour the top of your dough again. Using your rolling pin, roll from each side of the square until you have 4 flaps that are 10 - 11cm long. This is a tricky bit. You do not want to touch the square in the centre. Place your rolling pin on the very edge of the square and roll from there, so in the end you will have a dough package with 4 flaps and a raised 10 x 10 cm square in the centre of it.

5. Place your butter (unwrapped) back on to this raised square, and fold each flap over the top of it. Do not worry if they overlap, this is good. Using damp hands, press along all the joins to seal them closed. Press hard, we don't want any butter escaping!

 The butter package will sit atop it's throne in the middle of the dough

6. Using your rolling pin now, press down on the dough at regular intervals in a horizontal fashion. This is designed to stabilise the butter in the dough package. It sounds complicated but it is quite easy. You are achieving the same aim as rolling would, but we are gently pressing until the dough package is around 5cm thick.

 Fold the flaps in to enclose the butter

7. Now, you should have a rough rectangle in front of you. With one of the shorter sides facing you, roll your dough package upwards and downwards (never side to side) until it is 2cm thick. When you've done this, the tricky part begins. We need to fold it. Fold the rectangle in thirds. So take the end closest to you and fold it a third of the way, then take the furthest end and fold it over the top. At this stage there will most likely be some butter leaking out which is totally fine. Patch up any holes with your extra flour, and pat them down until the holes are gone. Tidy your package up, make sure the edges are nice and straight. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes. You've just completed the first turn.

 This is how it should look after your first turn

8. CONGRATULATE YOURSELF!!! If you made it this far you've done a bloody good job. Sit down, watch some Toddlers, Bang your head against the wall, or eat your left over pepe saya butter.

9. We want to essentially do 5 turns (6 if you have time). When the 15 minutes is up, take the dough out of the freezer and, like before, place it on your floured surface with the smallest side facing you. Roll it out again to 2cm thick, fold it in thirds, tidy it up, wrap it and freeze for 15 minutes.

10. Once you have done this the 5 or 6 times, Wrap it as tightly as you can in plastic, and if you plan to use it within 2 days chuck it in the fridge. If you want to wait for a special occasion, puff pastry loves to be frozen for up to 6 months. When you are ready to use it, leave it out of the freezer for around an hour, roll it out to a thickness of around 1.5cm and cook it in an oven at 220 degrees for 20-25 minutes, although individual recipes will of course differ.

Once you eat this puff pastry, your life as you know it will have changed. You will become a slave to the puff, as I say. 




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