Being a punk rock institution in Brisbane and six bucks might buy you a banana thickshake in Brunswick Street Mall. Reality is that you’re as likely to lock ears with the harsh blare of techno as dirty rock ’n’ roll in today’s Fortitude Valley.
That’s why you have to admire the underground rock and roll scene in the capital of Australia’s sub-tropical north, for its quality as much as its resilience.
Which nicely segues to The Dangermen, whose 17-year existence must qualify them for rock and roll’s version of seniors cards. Which, along with their Brisbane Institution status, should at least get them that thickshake at a discount.
It could have been called “Short Lives Of The Poor and Obscure”.
Like Reals, Negatives, Young Charlatans and News/Babeez, The Fiction is but a footnote in Melbourne punk’s earliest days, briefly existing from 1978-79. They released a posthumous EP under the name Little Murders, kickstarting that enduring brand and the career of its leader, Rob Griffiths. They also enjoyed the patronage of the rightly-lauded Melbourne punk mover and shaker Bruce Milne and Pulp, the zine he ran with Clinton Walker.
The Fiction had a loose affiliation with those glam-sheep- in-punk-wolves clothing, La Femme, sharing a practice space and a manager. Musically, The Fiction seems to have been drawing more from bands like The Who and the Small Faces, although there’s undoubtedly a bit of Bowie in there, too.
Looks like I was premature the other week when I listed my fave ten or so for 2017. “Cordyline Australis” should have been there.
And I have to say I envy all of you - you haven’t heard this yet. The first listen - if you put aside the hour and turn it on - you’ll be damn impressed. This is one hugely groovy disc.
You don’t know Michael Canning from a bag of chops, of course; he’s on Facebook as Michael Sea, and I did a review of his band’s last EP, “Mass Spectrometer”; I should also point out that Canning has released one earlier solo LP, and a slew of other music with other bands. Hassle the man on FB, but also go here.
You know exactly what he’s gonna say: Sydney reviewer gets pissed off at the excess of musical talent in rival city Melbourne. Gets all angsty and laments The Good Old Days when Sydney more than held a candle to Melbourne. You’re partly right.
Cutting to the chase…Claire Birchall IS one of those uber talents from “down south” who grew up in the fertile Geelong scene and now lives in Melbourne. She plays everything from beatbox-backed pop to lean and mean rock. Genres are just a vehicle for the songs. “Nothing Ever Gets Lost” is a gnarly, blues-rock album.
The purple and blue cover art deceptively looks like one of those “Back From The Grave” acid punk compilations. The music, however, is fuzzy and warm and glows from the inside. There’s a great sense of dynamics and Birchall’s voice resonates with character and a world-weary charm.
Alternative title: "He Gets by With Some Help From His Friends".
Producer-guitarist Bruce "Cub" Callaway assembled a stellar cast for this, his 2013 return to recording after a lay-off, and it shows.
John Hoey (Died Pretty), Warwick Gilbert (Radio Birdman), Paul Larsen (Celibate Rifles), Clyde Bramley (Hoodoo Gurus) and Julie Mostyn Gilbert (Flaming Hands) all played roles. Lesser-knowns Ian Johnson, Louis Callaway and Harry Rothenfluh also contributed drums.
No introduction needed for the onetime spiritual leader of the MC5 so here’s a personal note about meeting John Sinclair:
It was on a night off during a business trip that involved a flying visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 2000s. Sinclair was in town for that city’s annual Hash Bash and had just played a show at The Blind Pig. I’d been drinking at the Eight Bar Saloon with some locals, including Scott Morgan who did the introduction.