For every band that “makes it” there are hundreds, if not thousands, that never get past thefringes of a scene. Sydney’s Hunchbacks were one of the many runners-up in the mid ‘90s. Despite patronage from the likes of Asteroid B612 (whose main man John Spittles produced them), they never cracked the big(ger) leagues.
That the hard blues edge of The Hunchbacks is apparent on The Fringe Dwellers’ debut album “Hook Down Easy” should be no surprise: Vocalist Carl Ekman (on bass) and guitarist John South from that band are leading lights. They’re joined by sometime I-94 Bar scribe Simon Li (drums) and Damien Smith (vocals and guitar.)
The sound of “Hook Down Easy” drips Sydney’s underground music scene circa 1986. It’s in the driving, hard-edged sound and sparring guitars that do it. That’s where the band’s roots are and there’s no escaping them. I’m guessing that won’t be a drawback for many reading this.
“Noise annoys,” said the Buzzcocks and although they took a more melodic bent than most of their contemporaries, you knew what they were on about. “Ugly music for ugly people” was the apt review tagline for the self-titled Kim Salmon and the Scientists album, many years ago.
This confronting record from electro-punk duo Ace Killers Union is a bit of both. If their music doesn’t make a mark, stick in your craw or drive you to reach for a stiff glass of Suntory whisky after a couple of listens, you’re just not paying attention.
Ace Killers Union - ACU for short - is Hiroshi The Golden Arm and Mr Ratboy with their guitars and a whole slew of machines. From the impossibly fast title track and opener to the low-fidelity, speed pulse-attack of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (yes, that one) this is an abrasive melange of noisy, gutter rock skronk.
There’s a temptation to hail this record as the last gasp from a dying breed. After all, it’s 24 years since the last Waldos studio album, the wonderful “Rent Party”, and a lifetime since Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers last staggered onto a stage.
Walter Lure is almost The Last Man Standing from what’s erroneously generalised as “the New York punk scene”. There was a scene but it was more than just punk (whatever that is or was) and it was pushed to the margins by the dual forces of Disney and gentrification.
Walter has lived his share of the nine lives that his old band was gifted, and maybe then some, so if the temptation proves too much not to tag “Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo” as a lowering of the curtain on a long-gone era of Lower East Side guitar sleaze, cut me some slack. A handful of other people still wave that flag.
There are a dozen songs on “Wacka Lacka…” and most contain more raunch per ounce than you can squeeze into a digital back catalogue of Strokes records. This is as you’d expect: Walter Lure – “Waldo” to his stockbroking mates – was the guitar foil to Johnny Genzales in the post-Dolls Heartbreakers, and they were the band that made the template for street-level, pharmaceutical-fuelled, bad boy, four-chord goodness. (Yes, Keef did it first but he could afford not to mix it with the masses who were copping on Norflok Street, hence the term “street-level”.)