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Doug Wallen

Doug Wallen

Doug Wallen is a freelance arts writer based in Beechworth, Victoria.

Doug Wallen reviews 'Storyland' by Catherine McKinnon

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
‘I write best from place,’ Catherine McKinnon told Fairfax newspapers in a recent interview. Her second novel, which concerns centuries of human interaction with the New South Wales coast region between Wollongong and Lake Illawarra, makes this abundantly clear. Storyland  ’s tendrils extend as far back as 1796 and as far forward as 2033 and 2717, though the latter is glimpsed mostly in ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Grant & I' by Robert Forster

November 2016, no. 386 25 October 2016
Long before earning a place as one of Australia’s best-loved bands, The Go-Betweens sprang from the close creative pairing of Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, who met as students at the University of Queensland. As Forster makes clear in this tender memoir, he wanted McLennan in the band not because of his musical ability – he had never played an instrument – but because of their intense f ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'On Bowie' by Simon Critchley

August 2016, no. 383 25 July 2016
When David Bowie died in January 2016, Simon Critchley received many invitations to reflect on the pop star, in part because he had published a collection of brief essays called Bowie in 2014. A New York-based Englishman like Bowie himself, Critchley has repurposed that book after its subject's death, also integrating elements of a eulogy he wrote for The New York Times. The result is a probing bl ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Road Series' by Hugo Race

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
The dislocation of international travel often prompts spontaneous moments of clarity, sparking a renewed awareness of where one is at in life. Stepping out from well-established comfort zones forces us to take stock, whether we like it or not. Australian singer–songwriter Hugo Race details his own scathing scrutiny of his life choices throughout Road Series, a vivid travelogue that follows his i ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Yodelling Boundary Riders' by Toby Martin

March 2016, no. 379 25 February 2016
The history of country music in Australia is in many ways the history of the specialisation of a genre,' writes Toby Martin, explaining how the style evolved from copying the American singing-cowboy model of the 1930s to incorporating Australian bush ballads and staking a 'unique claim to national authenticity'. Notions of authenticity are among the many lines of conventional wisdom that Martin p ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink' by Elvis Costello

January-February 2016, no. 378 21 December 2015
'Oh, I just don't know where to begin,' opens 'Accidents Will Happen', one of the best pop songs of Elvis Costello's four-decade recording career. The English songwriter (born Declan MacManus) has no such trouble with his generously sized memoir, which details the creation of so much of his work. 'A lot of pop music has come out of people failing to copy their model and accidentally creating somet ... (read more)

Patti Smith's Horses (Melbourne Festival)

ABR Arts 21 October 2015
Released in 1975, the début album by American songwriter, poet, artist, and memoirist Patti Smith captured a volatile alchemy of past and future modes. Horses came out of the much-mythologised rock scene of 1970s New York City, but also fed on the unbridled lyrical freedom of Beat poetry, the firmer narrative tradition of hymns, and the bodily release of formative 1960s rock and soul. Smith adve ... (read more)

Festival of Slow Music

ABR Arts 02 September 2015
For anyone who witnessed the frenetic pitch of Afrolankan Drumming System, the festival’s name might seem like a misnomer. Now in its third year, Ballarat’s Festival of Slow Music isn’t about reduced tempos but about listeners slowing down to properly digest music. All of the performances across nine days were acoustic, yet that term too can mislead, associated as it is with folky songwriter ... (read more)

North by Northwest (MTC)

ABR Arts 09 June 2015
In Saul Bass’s title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film North by Northwest, diagonal and vertical lines intersect to form a grid that eventually dissolves to the façade of a New York City office building. Bringing the classic spy caper to the stage for the first time, Melbourne Theatre Company uses that visual switch-up as the inspiration for a long series of objects that double as som ... (read more)

Bill Callahan

ABR Arts 02 June 2015
Texas-based songwriter Bill Callahan recorded for fifteen years under the name Smog but, since releasing his first album under his own name in 2007, he has gradually shed the murkier indie-rock connotations of Smog and broadened into an acclaimed bard of minimalist Americana. He sings of cattle, horses, birds and rivers in stoic vision quests favouring stark imagery and pastoral settings. Over fo ... (read more)
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