Not to labour the point, but we live in troubled times. Terms like "hardest working band in Australia" are an irrelevance, a relic of the days when Oz Rock ruled our roost and beer barns were places of worship that were embedded in every town and suburb across this wide, brown land. Bands could, and did, play as many as eight shows in a week. Then it all faded away.
In spite of their name, The Vaginabillies don't play cuntry rock - most of the time. What they do commit to disc defies easy categorisation. Think of this album as the rantings of that drug-damaged cousin from the disowned side of the family at the Christmas party late at night after someone cracks your best bottle of whisky. He's never on the invitation list because it's never pretty.
The Vaginabillies are fronted by Andrew Leavold, formerly the operator of Brisbane's best and only emporium of trash culture videos and DVDs. He's currently raising money to finish a movie about Weng Weng, the two-foot-nine tall James Bond of the Philippines. He's surrounded by a band that's as comfortable swapping musical styles as some senior Catholic clerics are slipping into drag. In other words, if you let these guys put their tongue in a cheek, make sure it's not your own.
"Wide World Of Water Sports" sets some sort of pace from the outset, rolling out of the speakers like heavy psych rock with its fly undone and its paisley shirt hanging out. There's a corrupted Donovan cover ("Atlantis") that could only end up as a singalong, played live. I'm betting another showstopper is "Welcome To Prison", a cautionary ode to life behind bars. Lyrics like "Say hello to the warden/Say goodbye to the cherry you've been hoarding" are there because that's how The Vaginabillies roll, punk. They even lapse into "Let It Be" - just to make sure you're listening.
If you're a lyrics person, you should experience love at first slight (sic) when you wrap your lugs around "Hot Monkey Woman", a country-fried garage stomp that expresses carnal passion for somebody's mother:
I was sitting in a trailer
That's when I saw your mum
She was swinging from the ceiling
I swear I almost come
You'd swear parts of "Le Donkey Punch" have been swiped from "Rhinestone Cowboy" - until the girl vocals, brass and flute (!) kick in. Glenn Campbell never did come to grips with songs about being loved from behind. The country-soul of "Dachau Baby" proves The Vaginabillies have a doing to upset almost everybody.
Is that Dragon's "Rain" being put through the mulcher? Yes indeed and hearing guitarist Robert Lee churn the chords like a mechanical wheat thresher should put the current greatest hits incarnation of that band to shame.
Achtung! If the name Walter Lure doesn't ring bells, jump right out of the steeple, ya heathen. Taken from a German show in 2007, this is the liveliest of live records. No surprises but no prisoners taken, either.
I ain't owned that beautiful Nina Antonia book about Johnny Thunders for years-poor people can't have nice things - ya always have to sell it all to eat and smoke. "Everything is in the pawnshop", you dig? But all those swanky Heartbreakers photographs are etched forever in my mind.
Shoot me with a ball of my own shit if Brisbane-via-Melbourne-and-back-to-Brisbane's Hekawis weren't the best and most ignored garage rock band on the Australian continent. Irreverent, off-beat and driven by Screamin' Stevie's quirky keyboards and down-home vocals, they churned out a slew of inspired singles and albums while almost no-one was looking. Let's hope Screamin' Stevie's new band The Credit Union and their debut album don't suffer the same fate.
One man's Mantovani is another man's "Theme From M*A*S*H*" so I just want it known that Bob Short's review below is a tad harsh. "Just Want To Be Friends" isn't as good as "Four Flights Up" but it ain't a pile of steaming donkey turd either.
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