Leadfinger and guests. Shona Ross photo
It’s just not fair. They couldn’t just be content with releasing “Friday Night Heroes” - a record that’s on the (very) short-list for Aussie Album of The Year. Those unassuming Leadfinger blokes went and put on a live show to launch their record that was as good as Real Rock and Roll gets.
You can dismiss the above statement as hyperbole and never hunt down their music but it would be your loss. If Sydney’s live music scene replaced half its acts with bands as good as Leadfinger, we’d be Melbourne. Venues would magically re-open. People would go out again. It’s that simple.
The dilemma in Sydney is that gig-goers who used to consume live music regularly now conserve their funds and energy for something special or familiar. That indirectly pushes down the quality of bands – except, maybe, on a subterranean level , where the kids go – and that makes punters less likely to take a chance. Ergo, The Law of Diminishing Returns collides with Cultural Fragmentation. Hello: Cover Bands and Heritage Acts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at the right time and place, but if it wasn’t for originality, we’d have no history to chase down.
And you worry about minor shit like Trump getting his hands on the thermonuclear launch codes…
Tamara, Richard and Stacey on-stage at the Tote. Matthias Baratheon O'Meara photo
It has now been six years since was lining up at the Excelsior Hotel in Sydney when Jim Dickson (New Christs and Radio Birdman bass-player) told me about this band from Brisbane that I had to check out. Knowing Jim for three decades from his time selling Indian food down at Max’s in the late ’80s, I had never heard him express how blown away he was by a local band.
It’s 25 HITS gigs later for me. I’ve been seeing them from a time when only about five of us living outside their home of BrisVegas were convinced that they could be the greatest exponents of dirty, street-level rock ’n’ roll in this country.
Nowadays, HITS are the band on everyone’s lips. That’s why I am flying down from Sydney to to see my favourite Aussie band to play The Tote in Melbourne, not long before they’re due to embark on their second tour of Europe.
For six years at the cusp of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, Hellmen rode the skatepunk-surf wave better than most Sydney bands. Now Melbourne’s Buttercup Records reminds everybody what the racket was all about. Hellmen were explosive and slammed out song after song with not many longer than three minutes - exactly like this release.
"Mutant Surfer" is a four-track seven-inch EP with two scuzzy rehearsal songs, an outtake and a previously released track. The title cut opens and is an especially potent example of what these guys sounded like live. “Don’t Do It” rocks like the proverbial but pales next to closer “Stone Rock”, left off “Electric Crazyland”. “Skate To Hell” is a cover of a Gang Green song that seems very familiar, even to a non-skatepunk fan. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellmen back in the day (something about them being from enemy territory like the Northern Beaches maybe?) but this makes me want to track their old stuff down. It's all due for a re-issue and this is a taster for a Buttercup LP of some sort.
Art is by the mega-talented band member Ben Brown and there’s even a temporary tattoo in the packaging. It’s a limited run of 300 copies - a precursor to an LP - so don’t delay.
Buttercup Records on the Web