A sonic baseball bat...with love from France.

on the runOn The Run - Badass Mother Fuzzers (6tone Records)

"On The Run" is a relentless barrage of garage fuzz. Like a carpet bombing squadron of B52s heading out on a mission over Cambodia, the record moves into formation, sweeps over its target and drops its payload.

Badass Mother Fuzzers hail from Toulouse in France and have a single-minded devotion to the task at hand - hitting listeners and audiences in the face with a sonic baseball bat. The Swedes didn't monopolise this stuff.

The Kid is alright

alexLianeris.binicKid Congo and the NDE

Curtin Hotel, Melbourne

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Alex Lianeris photo

It's said John Curtin (whose name was taken by tonight's venue) used to get on the sauce a lot, back before he became Australian Prime Minister and took on the mantle of one the Labor Party-endorsed accolade of "Australia’s greatest ever wartime Prime Minister".

In truth, there’s not much competition: Bob Menzies was only PM long enough for his Country Party colleagues to politically knife him, and back in the heady days of World War I, Billy Hughes’ leadership style made him less friends than a Metwurst merchant in downtown Paris.

Anyway, I digress. Curtin cleaned up his act, got the PM gig in 1941 and dropped off the twig four years later, two months after Russian tanks had barrelled through Berlin, and a month before the Enola Gay put a brutal end to the war in the Pacific.

Kid Congo used to do a lot of shit, a lot of bad shit that probably should’ve killed him a few times over. His band mates and friends haven’t fared so well; some years back Kid realised his own habits were suffocating his love of music, and his punk rock attitude, so he quit the juice, the sauce, the gear, the candy, the rock, the powder, the stuff and the snuff.

Harry Howard had his own near-death scare; indeed, his health was so dire his doctor still reminds him how close he came to mortality (the scare provided the inspiration for the title of Howard’s band – NDE (Near Death Experience). Indeed, one of Howard’s NDE members, Dave Graney, got his own rude awakening some years back when he coughed up blood on the Paris Metro.

Kid is back in Australia for the fourth time in under five years, coinciding with the launch of his old friend Kim Salmon’s new biography. The Pink Monkey Birds have stayed home, so Kid’s picked up a local backing band in the form of Harry Howard and the NDE. It’s a neat synergy – back in the day Kid Congo moved in common circles with Howard in Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls, and with Dave Graney and NDE drummer Clare Moore during The Moodists’ UK tenure.

Tonight is Kid’s only headline gig at the (John) Curtin Hotel. It’s a packed crowd, squeezed in the Curtin’s sometimes sub-optimal confines.

Kid is as iconoclastic as ever. He’s wearing a middle-age man’s wig that probably deserves its own flammability warning, his face contorts into a myriad of deranged expressions last seen on the 11.34pm train to Hurstbridge and his arms flail around like a psychedelic praying mantis. When Kid tells a story, it rambles like your eccentric uncle telling a story about his latest entrepreneurial plot, seems like it’s getting to a notional conclusion than ambles out to pasture. But no-one cares.

Dave Graney is as sartorially impressive as ever, the combination of brown bowler hat and pencil moustache suggesting a devious banker on the sidelines of ‘Peaky Blinders’ (and special mention of Dave’s periodic bass guitar swipe across the front of the crowd – that man knows moves). Harry Howard churns out those chunky post-punk chords that makes his band so good, and Edwina Preston could be playing the phone book and it’d still make the band even better. Every band Clare Moore has ever played in has been shit hot – and that’s more than simple coincidence.

|The set starts in Pink Monkey Birds territory ("LSDC", "I Found a Peanut", "Black Santa"), then slides into some NDE ("The Only One") and back in time to The Shangri-Las ("Sophisticated Boom Boom"). The band sounds just like you might think it should – dirty and garage but in a post-punk sort of way. "New Kind of Kick" is intense without intimidating, and the cover of Suicide’s "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" provokes shit-eating grins across the crowd.

Then it’s back to NDE territory and a call and response between Kid and Ed Preston on "She Doesn’t Like It", before rounding out the first bracket with The Gun Club’s "Sex Beat".

The encore starts with a Bowiefied cover of Spencer P Jones’ "When He Finds Out", and we remember that Spencer’s last ever appearance on stage was alongside Kid, 18 months earlier. Age shall weary Spencer no longer, tragically for all who knew and loved him. Then we get The Cramps’ "Garbageman", the ultimate trash song in more ways than one. We’re all garbage in a sense, waiting to be put out when the time comes. But until that happens we’ve got Kid Congo to remind us why life is worth living.

Road Animals who celebrate the blues

john steele bam festival hengeloYou know the drill by now, surely? The Animals and Friends is the official title, and while many of us might wish to transport ourselves back to 1964 to see The Animals as they once were, that's a tad awkward. Not least because one founder member, Eric Burdon,  lives in the US, and the other (who was in the band which Burdon joined with later became The Animals) lives in the UK.

Not wishing to misrepresent what they do, drummer John Steel's Animals has an official title, but really, aside from Burdon's special voice, this is as close as you'll get. 

The Animals must be on their fourth or fifth tour of Australia. They consistently pack out. Because they're damn good, entertaining and great fun, real and natural and the songs are powerful, still, and resonate like slow sonic booms.

John Steel is a co-founding member of the Tyneside group that changed its name to the Kansas City Five, and then (via several permutations) to The Animals in 1963 after Eric Burdon joined. Together with Mick Gallagher (replacing Alan Price in 1965 -Gallagher was the band's second keyboardist), Danny Handley on guitar and vocals and Roberto Ruiz on bass and vocals. Live, they're a royal hoot, Steel is clearly still enjoying playing live and touring.

A little perspective: Steel is 78 and, unlike most 78-year-olds, is busy cramming a dozen 90-minute gigs into 18 days, which seems a punishing enough schedule for young bands these days. He's a cheerful man, and our conversations are punctuated with laughter.

Hogs, chickens and horses

scarth hogNot As Bad As It Could've Been - Scarth Hog (self-released)
Mystery Train - Chickenstones: (Crankinhaus Records)
Away from the Sun - Majestic Horses (Kasumuen Records)

Yes, dear reader, I too wondered what a scarth was. Well, Scarth is a family name, and 'is of Anglo-Saxon origin and came from when the family lived in the county of Yorkshire, where they held the manor of Scarborough. This place-name was originally derived from the Old English Skaroisburg, which was brought into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066.'

But Scarth is also Yorkshire dialect for a rough, bare rock. No-one ever said Bill Bostle (whose band this is) ever lacked a sense of humour.

I used to know Bill a little, back in the days when 205 was a conglomeration of interweaving bands rather than a street number, and when Bill played (drums) in King Snake Roost with, among other interesting ingredients, the late Charlie Tolnay. I recall one visit to his house (in a quiet inner Adelaide ‘burb) during which he boasted of being “the loudest bastard in the street” which, given that he had the Grateful Dead on 11, was patently obvious.

On the crazy train with visionary blaster Billy Tsounis

warp delights"Warp Delights" - Billy Tsounis (self released)

I think I may have heard "Cow Lands Plane Eats Pilot" before, or maybe it was just in a dream, I've been having pretty heavy heady, horizonless dreams lately and me and Billy Tsounis are sometimes tuned in to some of the same static-y frequencies.

I dunno why it makes me think of aliens and toasted pop tarts on space saucers, but it's possibly something to do with my Valter Longo intermittent fasting regimen and this infinitely sentimental time of year. I like "Serene" space rock invested with swirling sensuality and delicate little wing kozmic blues sound rituals.

Billy Tsounis is from Cali via Boston via Greece with the Milky Way still in his untamed stare. He's still got that get down like they don't know how in this ghost town. I find his music very therapeutic and uplifting, he transcends every definable genre , space and time. He brings on the machine gun compound crackling speaker bullhorn manifesto and the magic carpet ride away to Morocco or Marrakesh or wherever it is that rich rock stars may still retreat from gentrified iPhone society to smoke hash or sit at the feet of Jamaican holy rollers and receive their crystal visions in silky opium dens, like decadent emperors. He does not really belong to any one religious practice or musical discipline. He is not here to please yo mama's easily digested tv programming sensibilities.

Smiles a mile wide as Shonen Knife puts the fun into art's home

shonen knife sydneyCraig Norman photo. 

Shonen Knife
New South Wales Art Gallery, Sydney
Wednesday, November 7, 2019

In which we discuss the topic "can art be fun?".

Most young New South Welsh men and women encounter the Art Gallery of New South Wales but once on school excursion.  Packed off in buses to pay respect the big historical back drops and listen as the dead beat teacher saw the modern stuff and hear them proclaim they could have done that.

Of course they didn't.  They wouldn't be teaching mongrels like us if they could.

New Jersey vets bring the '60s pop hooks

million reasonsMillion Reasons - RGD (Serious Machines Records)

You know what? Right now there are probably more music bands than at any other time. I could be wrong, of course. But I doubt it.

The music industry isn't as interested as it used to be. More fool them.

I recall hearing REM's first LP, "Murmur", back in 1983.

God, what an old coot I am.

We used to wear an onion on our belt back then, it was one of those things you did, like riding a chopped bicycle decorated with annoying plastic things.

Brutality can be beautiful

so i could have them destroyedSo I Could Have Them Destroyed – The Hard-Ons (Music Farmers)

We need to talk. Oh, yes, we do.

There were doubts about this one. I’d seen the songs played live. Whether it was unfamiliarity or just an off night, to these ears the set didn’t gel. It cried out for more light and less shade. Ease off that pedal-to-the-metal thing, baby. Not in a greatest hits way, but maybe with the odd well-chewed pop bone thrown in. It wasn’t bad. Just not earth shattering.

Then the album arrived and hit the disc player.

Fark.

If you make mine a bucket of Brains to go that would be Groovie

Flamin Groovies Between The Lines Hi resFresh from unleashing a volley of Scientists and Radio Birdman/Stooges offspring material, re-born Australian label Grown Up Wrong has a pair of Flamin’ Groovies releases in the wings to whet the appetite of even casual fans of the band.

Arch-Groovies acolyte and label head David Laing has compiled “I’ll Have a…Bucket of Brains”, which is eight tracks from the tapes made for United Artists in the UK in 1972. Mostly recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales with Dave Edmunds, this release captures the Groovies transitioning from punky R&B artists to flashy Stones types – en route to aspiring to be the new Beatles. It’s the Groovies album that never was, with four of the tracks instead being released on singles.

Expanded packaging and a speed-corrected take of the Groovies’ classic “Shake Some Action”, this collection was previously available as “The Rockfield Sessions” but has been long out-of-print.

The other offering is “Between The Lines: The Complete/Wilson Songbook ’71-81”, which compiles, for the first time, all original songs written by Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson in the classic second version of the band.

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