Sympathy For The Rebel

 

old habits die hardOld Habits Die Hard - Junkyard (Acetate Records)

It ain't no easy gig being a rock 'n' roll singer.

I'm re-reading that old hardback Steven Tyler book I bought second hand at a thrift store for two dollars, 10 years ago, for entertainment purposes right now. When I'm not busy doing stuff, because I'm at that time of year where every stray dime must go towards providing the impossible Santa haul for kids brought up in a capitalist culture of insane competition and peer pressure and mandatory conforming to the never ending juggernaut of acquisition and updating and unboxing and having the latest special edition gizmo and gadget and sports celebrity running shoe.

A baker's dozen of memorable powerpop

dromana ramaDromana-Rama - Little Murders (Off the Hip)

Forty years ain’t a bad innings for a band. By any measure. Sure, Little Murders spent patches of that time on hiatus - and the band is essentially a “brand” for leader Rob Griffiths, its only constant member - but a few of the current personnel are long-termers, and its sound has remained intact throughout.

Name a band that hasn’t changed membership over a period of decades? If you’re a fan, the best you can hope for is that a collective has remained true to its spirit, usually defined over the course of a brief purple patch of two or three records, and doesn't serve up a dud. Little Murders has stayed the course and for considerably more than a handful of albums.

Guerillas don't monkey about with labels

equation of lifeEquation of Life - Urban Guerrillas (MGM)

Ever been in a position where you didn't know what to expect when a disc landed in the CD player? That’s often a good thing. My preconceptions of Sydney’s Urban Guerrillas as inner-city, squat-dwelling, agitprop punk preachers are somewhat passe, and almost abandoned after a couple of spins.

The UG sound is more folk-pop than punk rock these days, and the concerns of the seven tracks on the “Equation of Life” EP are mostly universal. Not that the band was ever stuck in one sound. There’s a splash of Celtic pipes in “Divine Image” (a William Blake poem set to music) and “What I Wish For” sets out a societal manifesto with a stab of mandolin in its mix.There’s also enough chugging guitar and urban angst in “Claustrophobia” to light up a street-full of terrace houses in Erskineville.

What they did on their holidays

la banda en espanaLa Banda en Espana - Leadfinger (self released)

What does an Australian band that’s revelling in Spain’s delights (not the least of which is the populace's love of Real Rock and Roll) do on a day off from a European tour? Go into a studio and slap down some tracks, of course.  

This six-track EP, committed to tape/hard drive in 2017, is the result of that and represents the first stirrings from the Leadfinger camp for more than a year, following band leader Stew Cunningham’s successful fight against cancer.. Fuck, it’s great to have him - and them - back.

“La Banda en Espana” sounds like the band was having a ball. It's not meant to be too serious. It's not going to make them rich. 

Dark charms on display from Sydney veterans

yesterday repeatingYesterday Repeating - The Smart Folk (self released)

There’s a treasure trove of slightly backward-looking, beat and mod-based pop by veterans coming out of the UK on a coterie of labels like State Records and Damaged Goods right now. Aussie band The Smart Folk would be right at home on either of them. 

It doesn't have the explosive pop brashness of The Embrooks or the raw swagger of Graham Day or CTMF, but “Yesterday Repeating” displays its own slightly darker charm.

Born out of a mod revival duo in Sydney six years ago, these old codgers have become a staple on their hometown’s small but tenacious live scene. “Yesterday Repeating” is their debut full-length album and it’s reflective of the quartet’s stylistic starting point without being limited by it.

It's a fact that you should dig The Fiction

ramona the fictionRamona - The Fiction (Off The Hip)

Simple songs simply done is a time-honoured formula often born out of necessity rather than choice. So it was in the beginning for The Fiction, a Melbourne punk band that sprang up 40 years ago, burned briefly and fell apart before spawning International Exiles and Little Murders. 

Only around for a year, The Fiction was fuelled by the nascent songwriting talents of frontman and expat Englishman, Rob Griffiths, and guitarist Rob Wellington.

Their influences were what was coming out of the UK punk scene in the ‘70s, as much as Melbourne visitors Radio Birdman and the Saints. The important point-of-difference between the UK and Australia back then was that the local standard of living made it hard to get too angry at anything much, relatively speaking.