The Mess Hall
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The Mess Hall

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"The Mess Hall @ Triple R Performance Space, Melbourne 27/10/09"

Triple R’s live-to-air performances are always quite the treat. Their ability to send rocking tunes through sketchy car stereos and little white headphones have been keeping the people of Melbourne happily entertained for years. Sydney rock duo The Mess Hall graced the Triple R studios and airwaves last Tuesday for a power hour of damn fine rock and roll.
Having laid seemingly low on the music scene since the release of the 2007 AMP award winning album Devils Elbow, the Sydney rock duo are back, and sounding tighter and hotter than ever before.
A leisurely, balmy spring afternoon saw the Triple R studios quickly filled with subscribers and fans of all ages. There’s nothing like a touch of Jed Kurzel’s rocking guitar riffs and vocals partnered with Con Condon’s smashing rhythm blazing down the airwaves to make your Tuesday afternoon worthwhile. Kurzel comically likened the broadcast to that of Led Zeppelin on the BBC. On a grass roots level, this comparison actually works splendidly well. The tracks from the new album follow in the footsteps of the bands previous rock antics, yet seem to creep into a more bluesy and melodic arena. It’s rock and roll with vibrance, total energy and of course some damn fine drumming. Although a live to air broadcast, there was little ‘radio friendly type toe tapping’ occurring as the guys belted out tunes from their forthcoming LP For the Birds.
The studio was witness to a collective crowd bounce when the duo performed some older favourites, including Keep Walking and Pills from Notes from a Ceiling. The boys new baby Bell, lives inside their theme of explosive guitar riffs but the inclusion of keys and a god damn funky drum beat makes this an exciting taste of what’s to come on For the Birds.
As The Mess Hall continue to not-so-cleverly be compared to other rock duos, the well rested and well experienced sons of rock and roll are back and ready to smash out some tunes for our summer ears, and this may well be the album to blow these comparisons into another day. It all fell into place when the clad in black guy ahead of me whispered “White Stripes shmite stripes, these guys are the business.”
After a number of crowd requests, including the mammoth Disco Number 1, the on air light flicked off and the crowd, happily dosed up on amplified bliss, hit the streets of East Brunswick ready to take on the world, or at least pint or two.
- Shelleyb - Fasterlouder


"Valley Fiesta 2009, Brisbane 25/10/09"

It’s been a while since The Mess Hall graced Brisbane with their raw, drum-driven rock. The pair are very tight tonight, with Jed Kurzel ’s voice in very fine form and Cec Condon absolutely killing it on drums. They treat us to an assortment of songs from their two albums, including crowd favourites Pills, cowbell-tastic Keep Walking and the dancey numbers Disco 1 and Disco 2. They put on an explosive performance, dazzling the crowd with their intensity and leaving us completely satisfied. - Misscrystle - Fasterlouder


"The Mess Hall Devils Elbow10/12/2007"

Sydney's The Mess Hall have released their second album 'Devils Elbow' and its a corker! jed kurzel and cec condon have turned the energy up to 11 on this record, one which is bursting at the seams with gutsy, bluesy aussie rock.

What do You Think?


MO rates it 5/5
Awesome. Best played loud!


jim robinson rates it 4/5
top opening 2 songs a lovely album still keeping to their original sound


Rod rates it 5/5
Actually I was gonna give it 4.5 but JJJ doen't do half marks.
My only criticism is Track 2 'Pulse', & yet this is one of the songs on rotation on JJJ.
My favorite album for 2007, some unforgettable songs with really simple but clever arrangements. I can't get Load Left, Cookie, Part 1, or Be Not A Man out of my head.
One of the greatest Aussie albums ever!


Jeremy rates it 1/5
yeah I love writing music and making songs so thought triple J are a huge insperation to show talent off....


Frank rates it 5/5
The most well rounded release from the Mess Hall to date. An album that grows on you with every listen. It still has the arse kicking bluesy rock that the Mess Hall are known for, but the music is much fuller and combined with the vibrant lyrics give the album an uplifting yet reflective feel that makes you proud to be an Aussie!


heath rates it 4/5
From the first drop this album had me. Their last effort "Notes from a Ceiling" had too many low points for my liking, but I love the changeups and rawness of this album. Fantastic stuff!


Steve rates it 5/5
This is a great follow up album, if you liked their last album you will certainly like this one as well.


lil rates it 4/5
i think its amazing thgat this band only has 2 guys!


Ben rates it 4/5
awesome sound, these guys make you want to do every thing harder and faster, dangerous music when Im behind the wheel.......gimme more!!!


paul rates it 5/5
Definately one of the most interesting albums of 2007. Honest and explosive.
Best live band going around


Ana rates it 5/5
Wasn't sure if I liked it at as I was still caught up on Notes on a Ceiling, but after the 3rd listen I absolutely loved it. The Mess Hall are the only indie/alternative band that I like - and the only reason why I even bother to listen to JJJ. - Triple J Reviews


"The Mess Hall Win Australian Music Prize"

Considering the amount of pain and suffering frontman Jed Kurzel put into The Mess Hall's 2nd record, it's fitting that the album didn't slip through the cracks in the Australian music industry like their incredibly underrated 1st record. Now, however, there's little chance, as The Mess Hall received the honour of being awarded the Australian Music Prize.
Not only do the two-piece - made up of frontman, singer and guitarist Kurzel and debonair hirsute drummer Cec Condon - get to enjoy the honour of being deemed to have made the best Australian record of last year, they also take home $25,000 donated by the PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia). That's either a lot of Tarago fuel, or even more recording time for a band as low on infrastructure as the Mess Hall.

The album that the award was honouring, Devil's Elbow, is a more than fitting winner. It's a parched, inebriated treatise on a cloudy mind coming to grips with suicide and the deaths of close family, and Kurzel being awash in despair. It translated into a beat driven rock-blues record with hints of fragility in its ballads and late-night booze-fuelled adventures elsewhere.

Previous winners of the AMP prize - that awards innovation as well as excellence and is the Australian equivalent to the British Mercury Prize - has been Augie March for Moo, You Bloody Choir, and The Drones for Wait Long By the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By in its inaugural year. The Mess Hall are also gearing up for a mammoth stadium tour around Australia in support of the Foo Fighters after they finish their upcoming headline tour around the country in April.

Jaymz Clements, March 2008 - City Search Sydney - Jaymz Clements March 2008


"Gig Review - For The Birds"


Sydney duo the Mess Hall
have been around the block.
For a while they were in danger
of being defined by two
things: the sheer number of
support slots they did for large
international acts and the fact
that for just two musicians, they
made a heck of a lot of noise.
lhe album's best single, "Bell",
sounds like it was recorded
in 1977. Which is a good thing.
Driven by a propulsive beat
of percussion, its secret weapon
is a gorgeous, toelappìng
slice of organ that's spliced
into the track, The band says
that the track is about "someone
who knocks your socks off or
amazes you," and this is evident
in the song's instrumental build.
The rest ofthe album is brief:
10 tracks done with in just over
40 minutes. The defiantly retro
vibe percolates through the rest
of the album. - The Age Melbourne Nov 09


Discography

Albums and EPs

The Mess Hall (2001)
Feeling Sideways (2003)
Evelyn (2005)
Notes From A Ceiling (2005)
Devils Elbow (2007)
For The Birds (Nov 13 2009)

Singles
Pills (2005)
Metal And Hair (2005)
Pulse (2007)
Keep Walking (2007)
Bell (Sept 15 2009) Current single at radio

Photos

Bio

"My villain grew from a villain seed…"

So begins 'My Villain', track one, side one of The Mess Hall's new album 'For The Birds'. It’s the perfect introduction to the musical journey that unfolds in its wake. A bastardised glam rock stomp - aptly described by producer Burke Reid as being the place where, finally, Robert Palmer’s 'Simply Irresistible' can co-exist with Tom Waits - it’s an instant ice–breaker. On the surface, it’s simply a knockout song that invites you to lose your mind on the dance floor, but nothing is ever that simple in The Mess Hall’s world, and it comes with a darker lyrical twist:

"You bearing the knife/While I duck I dive and I weave/And when I get up/You hand me the missing piece".

So the tone is set for the rest of the album.

'For The Birds' is a record that sees The Mess Hall heading towards a new kind of beatnik soul that is very much their own. Every song is infused with a gritty kind of beauty, a surfeit of swing and sense of experimentation that is a natural progression from everything they achieved on their previous release, 'Devils Elbow' (winner of the Australian Music Prize in 2007). That album set the band apart as one who create their own world and fill it with narratives of the broken, the forgotten, the misunderstood, and very occasionally, the redeemed, and here those themes are refined and expanded upon.

Recorded at BJB studios in Sydney with producer Burke Reid once again at the helm, the band entered the studio more prepared than they had ever been - with 'prepared' being a relative term. To keep the recording process as spontaneous and creative as possible, The Mess Hall don’t demo in the traditional sense, preferring to leave themselves room to experiment and create once the tape is rolling without being held to anything they could have laid down as a practice run. Completely absorbing themselves in the album process, days passed without sleep, deadlines were stretched, and cabin fever came and went, but like all projects where struggle rears its head, the resulting album is worth every painful moment of its creation. 'For The Birds' is a cinematic, swinging, loping masterwork from a band that create their own world, and make music that is unique, fascinating, dark, uplifting and ambitious.

Where 'For The Birds' departs from The Mess Hall's previous recorded works is in the scope of its musical ambition and the band’s willingness to experiment. The most noticeable change comes in the band’s desire to play with a newfound sense of swing that owes a debt of gratitude to the great jazz players of a bygone era. On the drum set, Cec Condon provides a bed of sass and controlled looseness that can only come with the confidence of knowing exactly what you’re doing, and what the songs require. This playing gives the songs room to breathe and move in and around the beat with a studied abandon, and importantly, gives singer/guitarist Jed Kurzel the ability to move within the songs with a new sense of freedom.

First single, 'Bell', illustrates this template perfectly. A swinging, fuzzed-out keyboard bass lope, it sets off with a southerly bluster at its back and doesn’t look back. It’s full of room to move, feeling no need to fill in the gaps with anything other than the essentials. It’s a step away from the more guitar-heavy numbers generally associated with band, indicative of their desire to make a record that progresses from places they’ve already visited.

From there, 'Tijuana 500' tells a tale of misfortune, loss and, maybe, some kind of redemption, set against a clanging guitar with an atmospheric glockenspiel line that keeps moving the song forward over a simple, repetitive two chord pattern. At the heart of the song is the simple truth that a place to fall, any place, is perhaps the greatest comfort one can hope for in a life misled.


The musical hypnotism of 'Tijuana 500' leads beautifully in to 'Bare', which begins with a lyrical nod to the unsettling world of Twin Peaks’ Leland Palmer, and starts to build slowly, gaining the momentum of a freight train (hackneyed, but true) as pianos begin to pound, and the desperation of Jed’s vocals reach a peak. Its frenetic energy is tempered immediately by the beginning of the next track, 'Marlene', a far slower and controlled piece of gothic balladry: "The bible in your hand is just for show". It’s bare and minimal, almost a shuffle that moves with an understated elegance.

As each song unfolds it becomes clear that this is an album that takes classic song structures and combines them with a sonic otherworldliness. There’s a cinematic quality to all of these tales, and an atmosphere that hints at things half seen and maybe half understood. In an age where mystery has no currency, 'For The Birds' rewards the listener over repeated listens by allowing them the luxury of making their own sense of the stories and sounds within it. Suggestion and atmosphere are more powerful than a