REVIEW: Elgen and Johnny Utah – “The Welcoming Party” EP

Do you like your Aussie hip-hop? If you do, this will be perfect for you! If not, you should listen anyway, because these guys are pretty damn good. Elgen and Johnny Utah are two Australian brothers who make hip-hop together. Elgen produces the music and Johnny raps, and it’s the combination of these talents in “The Welcoming Party” that landed them a spot at the Maitland Groovin’ The Moo festival, courtesy of triple j Unearthed.

If I’m bluntly honest, I never used to listen to hip-hop at all. Years ago, I had the misguided and incorrect view (cultivated by living in a town where most people get their musical education from mainstream commercial radio) that all rap was boring, repetitive, lyrically shallow, and arrogant. Luckily these days I know exactly how wrong I was.

Despite my realisation, I can’t say I constantly listen to hip-hop now either. It’s not one of my largest influences. But being a fan of triple j, I’ve been exposed to some great hip-hop that makes use of interesting and catchy instrumentation which I absolutely love (Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso, etc.). So when I first heard “When The Rain Hits” by Elgen and Johnny Utah, I was excited to say the least. On top of that I was stunned that they were unsigned.

Lyrically, Elgen and Johnny Utah don’t sing about “how dope their bitches are”, or about how rich they are, or about how they can afford 3 private jets. It’s quite refreshing, and it sure beats the stagnant, ego-inflating material some other artists produce.

“Matchbox”’s chorus contrasts brilliantly with the rapping verses, and it’s this contrast that helps set this song apart. The sampled riff is a bit out-there too, but it’s got personality and it’s catchy.

“It’s A Little Bit Funny (But That’s How I’m Living)” begins with a great quote from The Shining, but unfortunately it’s let down a little by the over-use of a laughing sample. It’s not a bad effect, but it’s used to the extent that it becomes mildy irritating. This is the only real complaint I can procure, to be completely honest.

“When The Rain Hits” is the standout track, and it’s the simplicity of the piano chords throughout which help emphasise the rapping. The chorus shines, it’s brilliant and catchy, and it almost feels like something you could get up and dance to. It’s definitely something you want to sing along with, and I can already see this song going off at festivals and gigs.

The performace put on by Steve Hollins, who features on a couple of tracks (“Matchbox” and “When The Rain Hits”), should really be commended. As should the work from other guests, including Phatchance, Drake MC, and Doctor Freud. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of these guys prior to listening to “The Welcoming Party”, but their contributions to the EP really help make it what it is.

It’s a solid release, and “Close The Door” really completes it. The off-beat drums are great, and like most of their other songs, the samples really make the songs more appealing and interesting. It’s a fitting closer, and lyrically it’s emotionally moving:

If you listen, please take notice that I’m not upset / There’s not a thing we could’ve done and I have no regrets / I won’t be left to wonder, wait for change and false hope / When it rains, it pours, I keep the door closed. I’ll keep that door closed.

These songs feel like they really showcase Elgen and Johnny Utah’s talents. And if this is the base that they build upon in the future, we can safely look forward to what is hopefully an amazing debut album.

Verdict: Positive.

Grab some of their tracks for free here. Do it.

REVIEW: Bloc Party – "Silent Alarm"

"Silent Alarm" may be a few years old, but by no means does that affect it’s value as a musical work. The debut album from Bloc Party is filled with many now famous indie gems such as "Banquet" and "Helicopter", the latter of which gained immense popularity by being featured on Guitar Hero 3.

Many people consider this album their best, as after this Bloc Party experiment in a way, moving gradually towards electronic sounds in their following albums ("A Weekend In The City" and "Intimacy"). Personally, I’ve grown attached to all of their albums. However, "Silent Alarm" does standout from the 3 in a few aspects.

Firstly, some of the guitar hooks in "Silent Alarm", such as the two aformentioned songs ("Banquet" and "Helicopter") are brilliant. Nothing else can describe them.

Secondly, Matt Tong’s drumming on this album is really, really good. I think it just sets some of the songs apart from something another band could pull off.

The album begins very strongly, but unfortunately towards the end seems to lose energy and vitality. Some of the later songs begin to drift. However "Little Thoughts" and "Two More Years" are worthy pieces to complete the album with. The drums roll away and Kele’s vocals rarely fail to evoke some emotion in lines such as:

"They say: "be brave, there’s a right way and a wrong way"
This pain won’t last for ever, this pain won’t last for ever"

Overall the album has some really great songs on it. It’s a shame it fails to stand up about two thirds of the way through, but with 16 songs there’s more than enough to keep people satisfied.

Overall score: 7/10