Diamond Afterlife - Blue Stratos (Off The Hip)
Don’t be put off by the band name, appropriated as it is from a cheap ‘80s men’s cologne, or the inside cover shot of the group members that drips unadulterated hipsterism. Stripped back Melbourne garage duo Blue Stratos pepper “Diamond Afterlife” with enough primal gems to dazzle the most demanding fencer of stolen jewels.
Guitarist-vocalists Aaron Cobra (also drums) and Del Spence call what they do “garage pop” but the real clue lies in it being recorded in a shed. Working with a limited instrumental palette that’s only expanded past guitars by a Farfisa organ and a Tonka truck, they do enough over the course of 13 songs to demand attention. The tunes are simple and direct with Cobra and Spence more duelling as much with their voices as their guitars.
Anyone with the good sense to cover The Oblivians and The Real Kids merits a listen but it’s their own songs that work best. From the shaky “Good Times” to the psychedelic-edged “Diamond Afterlife” and urgent foot stomper “Black Snakes”, this is strident stuff.
Duos playing garagey blues can become samey after continual exposure. There’s plenty of light and shade, however, and Cobra is a pretty fair drummer into the bargain. “Uptown” has a genuine swing in the feel and some sharply serrated guitar. “Kick Your Ass” (their Oblivians cover) is a killer version but the real surprise is the steaming surf-tinged “The Dozens” which sounds like Link Wray on acid.
You’ll find very little about Blue Stratos (the band) on the Web. That they’d emerge seemingly from nowhere onto the healthy Melbourne scene, fully-formed and kicking shit, is a tribute to what’s going down in Australia’s music capital.