Vale Stems co-founder Richard Lane

richard lane ripAustralian underground elder statesman and co-founder of The Stems, Richard Lane, has passed away in Fremantle. An announcement has been made via The Stems’ Facebook page.

Richard had lately been a member of The Painkillers, the hard-rocking garage outfit formed by James Baker, and rehearsed with them last Saturday.

Richard and Dom Mariani formed The Stems in 1983 and went on to have a fruitful if tumultuous musical partnership. Lane was a driving musical force behind the band’s early garage sound, epitomised on their early singles. He also played guitar and keyboards on the debut album “At First Sight Violets Are Blue” and the 2007 reformation record, “Heads Up”.

The band dissolved in 1987 but has reformed a couple of times. Richard was not a part of the line-up that was reconstituted in 2013.

Richard spent time living in Perth and Sydney. He formed a small record label,  Idaho Records, in Perth in the 1990s and played in a number of other important bands including The Chevelles, The Rosebuds and The On and Ons.

Richard founded Penny Lane’s Music Workshop in Fremantle in 2003 as a community-based outlet to teach music. He is survived by second wife Cathy and daughter Penny.

ManArays emerge from the shadows

manaraysManArays - ManArays (Swashbuckling Hobo)

Considering they've been around since the start of last decade, Brisbane’s Manarays have a minuscule online footprint. Consider this a Public Service Announcement to alert you to their presence, as well as an album review. 

The ManArays - vocalist Chris Fletcher, guitarist Adrian Carroll (aka Killer Guitar Carroll) and drummer Micky Scott - come from turn-of-the’80s Sydneysiders The Splatterheads, so it’s no surprise to hear them tackle these 13 songs with a similar attack. 

A massacre that leaves no man or woman standing

baby machinevee beesSt Valentine’s Day Massacre - Baby MachineVee Bees (self released)

The pairing of Wollongong’s female tearaways Babymachine with Queanbeyan-via-the-Gong-and-inner-western-Sydney yobs The VeeBees for this three-song, 10-inch EP fell out of a Lemmy tribute bill a few yars ago on which both bands appeared. It’s a match made, not in heaven, but the back bar of the Sunset Strip's Rainbow Bar and Grill.

Taking a leaf out of the book written by Motorhead and Girlschool, “St Valentine’s Day Massacre” mixes the bloodlines, if not the bodily fluids, of two bands with a similar spirit. The result is a song by each act and one joint effort. Babymachine tackles “Bomber” while the VeeBees put paid to Girlchool’s “Emergency”. The A side, “Please Don’t Touch”, is a lesser-known Johnny Kidd and the Pirates number.

Oz powerpop pioneer's return carries a hard edge

john dowler and bandJohn Dowler (second from he left) and his Vanity Project.

John Dowler concedes that the name of his solo project, John Dowler’s Vanity Project, is tainted with irony. But, Dowler adds, “a friend of mine did tell me that all bands are vanity projects in one way or another – certainly all of mine are. So I just owning up to it”.

On the basis of his longevity in the rock’n’roll caper, Dowler has cause for at least a modicum of be vanity. Add into the equation the fact Dowler was four bars ahead of the rock’n’roll curve when his contemporaries were still mimicking Beatles chords, and the guy should really have his name in lights somewhere.

Of course it contains carrots...

yeah nah yeah nahYeah Yeah Nah Nah - VeeBees (Ocker Records)

Rob Younger once opined that he hated lyrical references to local landmarks in Australian songs. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to sing about Parramatta Road. Have you been down Auto Alley lately? Fair call. 

On the other side of the ledger, it’s also been said that bands should write songs about things they know. The VeeBees sing about Wollongong, suburban Canberra, drive-through bottleshops in Sydney's inner-west, drinking, cars, girls and pubs, ad infinitum. There must be a message in that. 

And of course  “Bulli Pass” rhymes with “arse”. 

Mercenaries calling

lethal mercenariesForeign Insurgence - Lethal Mercenaries (self released)

Once you get past the homespun production, “Foreign Insurgence” is a handy slice of garage punk Rock Action.

It’s a mini-album by Lethal Mercenaries, a band formed seven years ago by Charlie Lethal - aka Sydney musician and onetime I-94 Bar scribe Simon Li - and some local underground luminaries.

Simon is Hong Kong-born, Melbourne-raised and Sydney domiciled, so his influences are varied. He’s also a product of Melbourne’s musical training ground, Rock and Roll High School, and a slavish devotee of that city’s late rock royalty, the Powder Monkeys.

Disregard the Law of Averages and do yourself a Favours

not your averageNot Your Average Country Band - Dave Favours and The Roadside Ashes (Stanley Records) 

It doesn’t take many dots to join the lines between rock and roll and its forebears, country music and blues. Sydney’s Dave Favours and his band The Roadside Ashes do It better than many.

“Too rocking for country purists and too country for the rock crowd” is a familiar descriptor and it’s one that Dave Favours grips in a bear hug without any concession to social distancing. Hie says his music owes as much to Hank Williams as The Clash and that’s one reason you rockists (guilty as charged) may want to give it more than a cursory listen.

There's no Remedy for re-making a classic

outlaws rose tattooOutlaws - Rose Tattoo (Cleopatra Records/Punktured Media)

On which the current, immaculately qualified Tatts pay tribute to the heritage created by a late and much missed past line-up, with mixed results.

Dispassionately assessing a re-recording of Rose Tattoo's classic 1978 self-titled debut album is a tough assignment for any fan of the original work. It was a unique record.

A masterful blend of blues-boogie-rock with massive bottom-end swing. It was laced with punk's confrontational edge and delivered by true outsiders with a gang mentality - when both of those qualities were real and mattered.

Punk's spirit shines through

party of shineParty of Shine - Party of Shine (Swashbuckling Hobo)

If this passed you by when it landed on Brisbane label Swashbuckling Hobo in January, you’re not alone. It’s the debut album for former Jason and the Scorchers bassist Jeff Johnson and his band, and follows a single for the same label.

Ignore the shiny cover art. Party of Shine plays dense, mid-tempo punk rock. Their sound is thicker than treacle with abrasive guitars a rumbling bottom end. Johnson plays guitar. The other guitarist David Harvard's gruff growl imparts an undertone of sullen menace. There aren't any uplifting gospel songs here.

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