The dark retro age of danceable desperation

Amongst the fluoro colours of the 80s there were delightful glimpses of black. While Prince prowled in purple and MC Hammer glittered in gold (and don’t get me started on his ultra-baggy pants), there were also musicians who smeared themselves in black makeup, teased their hair to Tim Burton-esq heights, and dipped themselves in tar and feathers (I’m thinking of the underrated Fad Gadget – for example, check out his song Collapsing New People).

Some might associate retro music with Madonna and Boy George, but for me 1979 to 1990 was a beautifully dark age of danceable desperation: an age where there was no such thing as too much hairspray or angst, and self-consciousness was a dirty compound word. And on that note, here are my top 10 dark (arguably goth) retro songs:
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Vasco – Surry Hills

The view from Vasco's bar counter

Martin Luther King Jnr said we should never succumb to the temptation of bitterness, but I disagree – at least when it comes to cocktails. After all, it’s bitterness that adds complexity and saves us from the perils of saccharine sweetness, and you won’t find a better shrine to the dark side of our taste buds than Vasco.

This is partly because this small rock and roll bar on Cleveland Street has an Italian bent to it, and Italian liqueurs (from Cynar to Campari) are renowned for their bitterness – and partly because it’s run by two of Australia’s best bartenders (namely Max Greco and Luke Ashton).

The cocktail I recommend here is the Black Betty, which is made with Wild Turkey rye, Cynar, Braulio (an Italian amaro), and Herbsaint ($17.50). Continue reading

Two Maitland bars that captured my heart and liver

Grand Junction Hotel Maitla

Maitland’s a town where the pubs outnumber the cafes. Some open at 7am, most were never renovated, and all are filled with locals who, for the most part, looked at me like I was an alien crash landing in their backyard.

The pubs also have a charm and beauty that too many Sydney bars have sadly lost. We’re talking original 1950s fittings, middle bars, troughs, tiled walls, and bar counters that have been gouged by time and countless stubbies. In short, they have an authenticity no interior designer could ever recreate.

My favourite pub in Maitland is the Grand Junction Hotel (88 Church Street): a beautifully dilapidated monstrosity near the train station that looks like something out of a movie. Possibly a horror. Continue reading

Temptation: a cheap and cursory pop culture examination

Risky Business still
Temptation isn’t a topic to be treated lightly. It is, after all, the darker side of desire; the sensation of needing something we know we shouldn’t have. It struggles with our conscience, mocks our good intentions, and it’s a stronger man than I who has never succumbed.

I’m not talking about the temptation ice-cream commercials carelessly flaunt, and as far I’m concerned it has nothing to do with cupcakes or chocolate. Instead, I’m thinking of the ungovernable force of nature that leads to illicit affairs, broken dreams and disillusionment. The temptation that leads us down a dark path we later wish we had never found.

Few songs express temptation’s conflicting emotions better than Neil Finn’s tortured Into Temptation. “The guilty get no sleep, in the last slow hours of morning,” Finn sings. “Experience is cheap … I should’ve listened to the warning.”

Not many musicians can compete with this. In The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun, for example, Eric Burdon may caution against visiting whorehouses but when he smoothly intones how the experience ruined him it somehow lacks conviction.
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