It’s a fatalistic notion, this idea of Real Rock and Roll as a dinosaur, a dying life form stalking the planet in search of an audience with only a few remembering its heyday. The reality is that lots of us remember, but this beast won’t come to us and we have to search it out. We all need to travel deep through the jungles to find real Rock and Roll.
As far as the sterile, Lost World of the Australian nation’s capital, Canberra, where grim, Stalinist architecture and endless roundabouts posing as intersections struggle with fenceless cul de sacs and frost-scarred bike tracks in a pointless competition to be the most memorable feature. The rarefied atmosphere of this godforsaken, soul-less place isn’t conducive to Real Rock and Roll. Or so we thought.
Cue: The Undermines, a band in the finest traditions of what we (in Sydney, at least) used to call Detroit Rock.
The best re-issues are a reminder of how great an album was the first time around. “Turn On With” is exactly that - 11 songs of prime garage pop, exhumed and revived after 15 years.
The Stoneage Hearts started as a vehicle for drummer Mickster Baty (Finkers, Pyramidiacs, Crusaders) to play with some mates and collaborate on writing some spiffing tunes after he moved from Sydney to Melbourne. It was also the first CD on his own Off The Hip label and 160-plus releases later it’s still going strong. There have also been several incarnations of the band, with Dom Mariani a notable member. Another version of the band lives on today.
It sneaks up on you. “Broken Blues” kicks off modestly enough with “I Don’t Mind”. It sounds like a sparse blues and winds up sounding like a monstrous fuzz workout, in the vein of Midwest duo Left Lane Cruiser. From then on in, the ride gets better.
Evil Twin set a high bar with the 2014 debut “Kill The Funk” and set out to record a follow-up EP. When he heard the new songs, label boss Mickster Baty suggested something more substantial. (He probably had a Cooper’s in his hand at one of the bacchanalian fests that pass for an in-store at his shop, and he’s one bloke you don’t argue with when he’s got beers on board.) So “Broken Blues” came into full bloom.
You’d be hard to please if you couldn’t find lots to love here. A whopping 93 tracks spread over four CDs - and it’s all yours for the price of three (large) beers in your local watering hole. Playing it might help you forget that your pub’s now a shiny, yuppy brasserie these days, without a trace of loud music or beer-soaked carpets, and serving food on wooden boards.
Let’s start with the obvious. It's a collection of music that can be labelled "punk" in the broadest sense of the term. Yet, there’s not one selection by the Sex Pistols or The Clash. It shouldn’t faze anyone. If you’e not familiar with their output, are you reading the right e-zine? Rhino couldn’t get the Pistols to play ball for their “No Thanks!” box and nobody shed too many tears. Joe Strummer’s “other” band The 101’ers do get a guernsey. Omitting the obvious leaves room for names that aren't as well known.
The St Morris Sinners must have had a lot of fun recording this. They’re one of those bands who, like the Butthole Surfers on their first 12”, have released a disc so uniquely different you could be fooled into thinking you’re listening to several bands. That’s a good thing, of course, because it implies that there’s a broader palette just waiting to be applied.
It’s rated five bottles, although depending on your taste, you’ll likely be putting this one into the obsolete technology in 20 years. ‘Songs about Insects’ is a big restless, itchy slab of mucky stuff and St Morris Sinners have a narky, deceptive approach all their own.
If I told you this was worth four bottles, and probably more, you’d probably go out and get it. If I told you the truth, which is that I’ll still be turning this little ripper on in 20 years time if I’m spared, it’s a six bottle disc and you can’t live without this one … what will you do? Look. Dave Graney would dig this. I reckon Ed Kuepper would too. And Ed Clayton Jones, Hugo Race, Charlie Marshall and a host of others.
Imagine. It’s the early 1980s, and you live in New Zealand, far, far from the tumbling new wave and alternative bands falling out of everywhere. There’s a New Zealand scene which you love, but which almost everyone outside the country is ignorant of: indeed, the question many New Zealanders get asked is, “What language do you speak?”