Going Underground - The Light Brigade (Full On Noise)

going undergroundRock and roll's fascination with the doomed is a story well told. From the members of the 27 Club of Janis and Jim to Johnny Thunders, Amy Winehouse and beyond, it's a love affair that's been going on a very long time. 

On the other hand, you don't have to die to be an occupant of Rock's Pantheon of Lost Causes. It's much larger than any physical graveyard and my mate Bob Short is a proud tenant.

It's not that "Going Underground" or its makers are going out of their way to sell no copies or that its investor (Bob) wants to finish deeply in the red side of the ledger. Not when there are more guitars to buy.

Even Bob knows that "recouping" is not another word for a re-constructed chicken enclosure. He's also a realist who knows the sweet, abrasive sounds of this collective will never grace the airwaves of a commercial radio station.

Red Church - Marilyn Rose Veil (Marilyn Rose Veil) and Afloat - The Near Jazz Experience (Sartorial Records)

red churchI had these two on, over and over, back to back while I was cooking, driving and then again the other night. And then again, and again. There's a cool groove about both; and while I prefer "Afloat" to "Red Church", my tastes ain't yours (thankfully).

"Red Church" is nothing like "Afloat", when each finishes, the start of the next is a bit like getting to the top of a staircase and trying to climb another step which isn't there. A bit startling. Could be dangerous.

The seven songs on "Red Church" all favour Veil's huge voice; and here she must owe a debt of thanks to the very talented guitarist Henry Hugo, the ex-Argentinian New Australian (via Switzerland - and no, he's not a banker or a money lender in his spare time).

Most of Hugo's songs he recorded in Zurich, with overdubs and mixing by Hugo and Dugald Jayes (who adds an air of brash mystery to the proceedings) in Melbourne. Mark Steiner helped by recording Gunnar Motland's drums on a couple of tracks. Lyrics and vocals ... this is where "Red Church" comes to life.

Egomania - Hank Van Hell (Sony)

egomaniaMost people outside of his native Norway would think it’s been a long time between drinks (or other substances) for Hank von Hell, The Artist Formerly Known as Hank von Helvete of death-punters Turbonegro

Lifestyle issues twice rendered him an ex-member of his old band and he finally pulled the pin on them in 2010. A second spell in rehab (via a conversion to Scientology) put him back on his feet. Since then, he’s been a radio host, starred in a film, written an autobiography, appeared as a judge on Norwegian Idol, married a model and fatheried a daughter. All of which proves that fact is stranger than fiction when you consider Hank kick-started his career singing about having an erection..

Hank had a number-one hit in Norway as a solo artist in 2009 and fronted the post-Turbonegro supergroup Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult for a time. He’s now back on the boards in his own right with the release of “Egomania”, a record that might be a concept album themed loosely on the pitfalls of performing.

RocknRoll Machine - Turbonegro (SLR/Burger Records)

rocknrollmachine tbngrConsensus is that Turbonegro peaked with 1998’s “Apocalypse Dudes” and have been delivering ever-diminishing returns since then. There might be some truth to that but since “RocknRoll Machine is the band’s fifth studio album since then, that’s a lot of backsliding over 20 years. 

Let’s cut the Denim Demons some slack here. “Dudes” was a masterpiece, a clever and visceral cop of many of rock’s great moments, unashamedly woven into a punk-glam merkin and proudly worn in public. You liked “Ass Cobra” better? Buy yourself a sailor hat. 

“Self-parody” is a term many reverred acts have had thrown at them - often by critics who can’t abide a band playing to its own strengths, or not knowing that a purple patch of three or four consecutive great albums is a rarity for a long-running outfit. Just ask the Ramones- if you can find one still living) - or the Cramps (although they did morph into something approaching a conventional rock band.) 

Rotting Out - Black Heart Breakers (self released)

rotting outOnly an old fart would start a review with the statement: "Everything old is new again."

But it is really just to say that way back in the early ‘90s - when big festivals like the Big Day Out involved more people playing musical instruments than laptops - there was a rash of Californian bands pushing a brand of punk rock crossed with powerpop and ska that dominated stages and airwaves.

The Offspring were inspired by seeing Social Distortion at a school dance, The Bay Area’s 624 Gillman Street scene spat out Green Day and Rancid occurred after someone from Operation Ivy watched too many Clash videos. You know the rest.

Cabaret of Daggers - Tav Falco (ORG Records)

cabaret of daggersTav Falco is one of rock and roll’s outliers who sits in a unique musical space and time of his own creation. “Cabaret of Daggers” is a mix of traditional American, lounge, jazz and rootsy blues-rock songs that nobody else on the planet could have made.   

Tav continually dips back in time and cherrypicks music to place into his own setting. That setting being his Italian version of Panther Burns. “Cabaret of Daggers” was recorded in Rome with vocals tracked at Sun Studios. It will be a LP run of 750 copies released on Record Store Day on November 23.