Johnny Streetlight - Chickenstones (self released)

johnny streetlightGood god, what a fucking racket.

“Johnny Streetlight” is four-and-a-half bottles of joyous, fresh-faced old school rock’n’roll, soaked in piss and substance abuse and if you treat it right you’ll lose part of your hearing (just don’t eat the worm at the bottom). There’s no bad songs on “Johnny Streetlight”, they’re all good for gold. If this band had been around in the mid-‘80s they woulda been huge.

The inner sleeve pic by Leif Alan Creed makes the band look positively criminal (one gentle soul makes up for his lack of pupils by wielding a rather lethal saw).

Old-school Sydney rockers will wipe a manly (or ladylike) tear from the eye as they recognise the plethora of influences winking at them from these 10 cracking songs; there’s the Dictators, there’s the MC5, there’s Birdman, a snatch of Stooges (spot the Stooges in the title track) and that’s not the half of it. They’re tight, well-organised and make me wonder what they’re like live; I particularly like the way Phil van Rooyen and Doc Ellard slot their guitars into place. .

Thing is, when a band wears their influences on their sleeve, they run the risk of falling into the trap of mimicry. Thankfully that’s not the case here. What the Chickenstones do (BTW what a great band name, eh?) is to immerse themselves in their mutual love, I mean, to say, they marinate the steak for as long as hygiene will permit before searing the bastard for 60 seconds per side.

We get to eat it.

“High Street” sounds like it’s a lost track from the last incarnation of the Stooges (that is, the 1974 mob) crossed with classic Stones. In fact, if you’re one of these satanic folk who don’t rate the Deetroyt scene, if you’re into the Stones, Chickenstones will do nicely, thank you.

“Nasty Disposition” rumbles along with a deep, crunching rhythm; coupled with a vocal style which reminds me of Aerosmith (I really am going to have to check those old A’smith lps of mine again) the mixture is pretty lethal. Which follows for every song. Strange Dreaming is well groovy, with a nasty metallic taste in the mouth. Actually, I’m gonna stop right here: every damn song here gets you up and crashing into furniture, digging a trench in the carpet. Is that the phone? Suitably encouraged, we pick it up and holler Fuck off! and hang up.

Dumping the phone into the fish tank suddenly seems like a good idea. Wha-hoo!

I love the way this outfit lurch and pace themselves just right; the structure of the songs is loose and tight and wound up, ready to burn rubber in the carpark.

As I’d never heard of the Chickenstones before I can only surmise I’ve had my head up my backside for some considerable time (and I’m sure there will be plenty of Sydneysiders nodding their heads wisely at this). “Johnny Streetlight” merits, therefore, a similarly considerable time on your turntable. You may need to consider improving your home insurance, however.

Full disclosure: in reviewing “Johnny Streetlight” I discovered the cd is excellent for driving while annoyed as it aids pedestrians, animals and other wastes of space to get (well, bound) out of your way. Well, that’s what happened the first few times I played it. I may need to replace the brakes, too, so “Johnny Streetlight” is good as a brake predictor as well.

Aw, fuck, I know I gave “Johnny Streetlight” four-and-a-half bottles, but really, I’m being an old lady with cold ankles fuss-budget. You know you need this album. - Robert Brokenmouth

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It’s been an couple of years between drinks - or more correctly, albums - for Sydney’s Chickenstones but time hasn’t tempered a sound that comes straight out of a swamp somewhere near Narrabeen Lagoon on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Chickenstones are a cross between rootsy blues-rock, the bally end of alt-country and that good old Aussie pub sound so you know they don’t often put a foot wrong. They’re all well-traveled players and the band’s in its ninth year so they’re well and truly in the black as far as dues payments go.

“High Street” opens the record and you’ll need to do a lot of listening to hear a raunchier bar-room rocker this week, with sideman Russell Parkhouse’s keys adding an Ian Stewart touch. “Good Times” is a bona fide Stonesy rocker, circa their “Exile” period, with guitarists Doc Allard and Phil Van Rooyen mixing it up again and throwing in some country licks. Guest blues harpist Big Blind Ray chimes with the blueswailin’.

“Nasty Disposition” sounds like its name says it should with a deep trough of fuzz guitars summoning down thunderclouds.

“Old Dogs” is an old-time boogie-shuffle and features primo Big Blind Ray harp and some killer guitar interplay.

Ellard’s rough-house vocal recalls Ian Rilen’s rasp on “That’s How It Goes” and he pushes the boat out a touch further on “Roads For Riding”, a drinker’s lament. You could slice a butternut pumpkin with the slide guitar break on this one.

It’s on CD and you can hit up the band via Facebook to score your copy or do the digital thing and download it from all the usual places. - The Barman

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Tags: blues, swamp, sydney, chickenstones

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