picture courtesy of Adem at I'm Always Right, who was lucky enough to see them in concert!
Rogue Traders were originally an Australian dance act, featuring the DJ skills of James Ash, who continues to write songs for the group. Like many dance acts, they had one hit single (a remix of the INXS track "One of My Kind") and a flop album. Ash decided to makeover the band, and combine those dance and electro influences with rock and pop. They auditioned for a lead singer, and Natalie Bassingthwaighte won out. The group, which had filled out to be a full-fledged band from its two-guy roots, was initially apprehensive about hiring a woman that had the soap opera roots seemingly required of almost every Australian female pop star (in her case Neighbours). As a result, for the single cover and music video for the lead song off their second album, Here Come the Drums, Natalie's likeness was obscured, so the song would sell on its own merit as opposed to the existing fame of their lead singer. "Voodoo Child" was a smash #1 hit in Australia in 2005 and later a top 3 hit in the UK. After that, there was no stopping them, releasing several more singles and the extremely successful album; and touring both with Kelly Clarkson and as a headlining act. Natalie initially continued acting on Neighbours, but left the show to devote her attention to the group. So far, they're continuting to take over the UK and according to the MySpace homepage, plan to strike the U.S. this winter. I'm really excited. :)
Watching You (Dirty South Vocal Mix) - Third Australian single, second UK single. It samples "My Sharona", but you can't really hear it from this remix. This sounds more electro than the original. Like a lot of their songs, it pumps you up. Check out this rockin' performance of the album version from the MTV Australian Music Video Awards, which seem far cooler than the past several years of American VMAs. It even features Aborginal-looking inspired drummers (get it? Here come the drums!)
Way To Go! (TV Rock Remix) - One Australian dance act remixed by another Australian dance act. It was the second Australian single, but was skipped in the UK. I understand because it's my least favorite of their singles. It's still good, though. Like "Watching You", this has spoken/'rapped' verses with sung choruses, but it doesn't sound at all stupid or wannabe "ghetto". Once you get the cadence down and can listen to the lyrics, they're pretty satirical. This mix is more typical dance fare, but it's pretty cool.
Believer - Kicks off the album in style. Similar to some of their other tracks, but not a clone. And the riffs are brand-new! ;) Out of many tracks on the album, this is single-worthy. Honestly, the only songs I wouldn't release are "Casting Aside" (because James sings that one and a large segment of the public would be stupid enough to be confused), "White Lightning" (it annoys me to be honest...I could see it kicking ass in concert, but on CD it hurts my ears), and "Change the Channel" (because it's a 30 second interlude).
We're Coming Home [Live at Adelaide Skyshow] - 4th Australian single. Not quite as successful as their others, probably due to the fact that the album had sold so well already. It's actually one of my favorite songs of theirs. It still has the electro-rock sound, but is even more driving and propulsive, and might actually be one of the greater possibilites of success in the U.S. This b-side live version stays true to the album version while actually being live. Natalie's live vocals are impressive, which is somewhat of a surprise given my recent dissapointments viewing live performances of some others.
Voodoo Child (12 inch mix) - The big hit single, just extended. It's a dance-rock single and a pop single all at once. It samples an Elvis Costello song I don't recognize. In some places, Rogue Traders have been criticized for being unoriginal, but who can fault being able to put your own spin on a track like this?
World Go Round - This song brings down the speed a little bit. It's more mid-tempo than a lot of their other songs, but still bears the signature hallmarks of their sound: guitars and beats.
We're Coming Home (James Ash Remix) - Just because I love this song so and imported the single, here's another electro influenced rework. James is lucky because he gets to reinvent these songs in several ways; he helps to craft the original album version's sound, and then works on a completely different-sounding remix for each single.
In Love Again - The piece de resistance of their catalog, a lovely electropop number that could be compared to the ballad-type songs on Rachel Stevens' Come and Get It. Except it's better, and I love that friggin' album (sorry Kirkland!). It's etheral and opens up slowly, before becoming slightly faster. Pure '80s inspired, and a departure from their general sound. It's the first Rogue Traders song I heard and the song that got me into them in the first place. Due to fan response, the record label decided to put it out as the 5th and final single from the album, before their next CD comes out next year. Unfortunately, they're planning to make it a download only track, which means that although remixes have been commisioned, only Australian residents will be able to buy them.
This amazing performance puts a different spin on it, with an acoustic beginning and great live singing.
Note on mp3s: Unfortunately zshare is screwing it up at the moment, so i'm back to rapidshare for now (at least it has those nifty multi-upload features). Sorry for the inconvenience. i'll try to find another free file host soon.