James McCann and The New Vindictives - James McCann and The New Vindictives (Beast Records)
Tags are annoying to most musicians but even James McCann must acknowledge he gets to wear the ‘veteran’ badge when he arrives at the company Xmas party by now. There at the earliest days of The Drones and Nunchukka Superfly, he’s been one of those “best kept secret” solo artists Australia seems to bury for more than a decade, making a name for himself in his adopted home of Melbourne (and in France) but deserving much wider attention.
“James McCann and The New Vindictives” was a couple of years in gestation with French label Beast Records taking its time to squeeze it into their schedule. Contrastingly, the band and the recording came together with spontaneity very much the name of the game.
McCann dissolved his long-running Dirty Skirt Band in Melbourne to form The New Vindictives with an entirely new bunch of players. Drummer Helen Buckley (Suzy Stapleton) only had a couple of rehearsals to learn the material, while bassist Kim Volkman (X, Ian Rilen and The Love Addicts, Whiskey Pries) and guitar partner Tim Deane (Ron Peno Band, The Hired Guns) are the other members.
This record was committed to tape fast and with a minimalist production ethos and sometimes it shows. The drums occasionally red-line and there are couple of other quibbles but the playing and songs transcend any shortcomings. These guys (and gal) are a gutter rock unit and if producer Aaron Cupples had polished their sound it would have been a mistake, but it would be have been nice if some benefactor plonked down a bucket of cash to spend in the studio.
“Ambition” hurtles out of the speakers with nasty intent to open the record. Dirty, scuffed guitars push against the surging, almost industrial rhythm. “Don’t Grow Old” vaguely recalls the Rifles' “Back On The Corner” but with McCann’s rich vocal centre-stage, sounding a touch Dylanesque. ”If You Dare” flicks the switch back to dirty blues rock, tempered by McCann’s ear for a melody. Musicality is never far from the surface and James McCann writes killer songs.
Where you really win is with the loose-tight groove of the engine room and the meshing of McCann and Deane on guitars, with Cupples throwing in an occasional assist.There are some stellar moments as the six strings weave in and out of songs.
“Take You Down” is one of those cinematic break-up songs that McCann does so well; “Slippin’” is a dirty mid-tempo rocker with an undulating melody line. “Play Your Part” seems to telegraph its punches with a tightly-wound guitar figure and slips into a rueful rocker. McCann savers one of his best for last with the haunting “A Man Called Song”, where his enigmatic lyrics swaddle themselves in guitars.