I LOVE MY TRACTOR - Cosmic Psychos (Pitshark Records)
If you've seen them you'll know exactly what to expect from a live album by Cosmic Psychos. "I Love My Tractor" is chockablock full of cranky guitars, yobbish vocals, a big backbeat and all-pervading bass.
If it's a history lesson you need, go and Google. Suffice to say that the Psychos are an institution in their home country plus many others and, like the Ramones, their dumb charm is timeless. Line-ups have shifted, members have moved or passed on, but Ross Knight remains the constant, a leering, beer-consuming tour de force on bass and vocals. Their sound is brutal. Fuzz bass and wah-wah guitar are their stock in trade.
These 18 tracks were put down at the Tote in Melbourne in 2012 and you can almost feel the sweat dripping off the venue roof. You won't hear a better live recording and that's undoubtedly down to long-standing producer Lindsay Gravina having a hand in the mixdown and mastering. The band sounds like they might even have rehearsed before this show. What might have been a recording mistake means "Hooray Fuck" is reduced to a fragment but the job's done before then.
Everybody has their favourite line-up (truth be known, the Psychos haven't had that many, down the years) but this recording reflects what you get these days. Which is pretty good. Any concern that the band's energy levels have subsided are put to rest. Mad Macka McKeering's searing guitar work is an expansive delight and Dean Muller from Hoss is as good a drummer as any the band's had.
The track selection pretty well runs the gamut, dipping into recent albums ("Nice Day To Go To The Pub", "Enmore Backender") and reaching right back ("Lost Cause", "Go The Hack", "Custom Credit".) You'd be hard to please if there wasn't something here to bring a smile to your dial. Fuck knows what anyone overseas will make of Knighty's between-song rant about Australian football.
The recent albums have shown a band treading water and a live record's not going to change anyone's mind - but that's also a redundant criticism. The Cosmic Psychos aren't going to change and their fans don't want them to.
Explain the lyrics to "David Lee Roth" at a parent-teacher night? I think not.
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GLORIUS BARSTEDS - Cosmic Psychos (Missing Link)
What's the difference between Cosmic Psychos and your grandad's dick? They've both done lots of miles but Cosmic Psychos still have lead in their pencil. "Glorius Barsteds" (who said spelling was their strong point?) finds the Psychos in fairly lethal form. There's still nothing pretty or all that surprising about what they do, but something would be seriously awry if there was.
Band members might come and go but Ross Knight remains, the last man standing at 4.30am at a footy club social. His Mack truck fuzz bass and cast-iron, fuck-you songs are at the heart of the band. Unbending, unchanging.
Having said that, there are a few moments of unorthodoxy. Knight's 60-second, a-cappella intro to "Battlewitch" makes you think he's drunk himself to an early emo grave before the familiar grinding attack kicks in. The chanting in "Hate, Drunkenness, Vandalism, Demolition" sounds like an end-of-term wrecking party at a English-As-a-Second-Language school in Germany, and "Tossing The Kaber" works bagpipes into a fairly rote punk rock tune.
This line-up is as good as any Knight has had. John "Mad Macka" McKeering did his Yob Rock apprenticeship in The Onyas and wipes fuzz and wah-wah all over the album like a kid smearing Vegemite on a sandwich. Hoss drummer Dean Muller has been with the Psychos for two albums and his powerhouse rolls suit to a tee.
These are a bunch of terrific songs but the album drifts a little towards the end. "Nude Sheilas On Motorbikes Drinking Beer" is a great title but the tune's a throwaway.
Opener "Nice Day To Go To The Pub" is the classic here: Dumb as dogshit lyrics about going to the pub (what else?) and having a schnitzel, riding a hugely beery singalong wave, with grenades lobbed in along the way that contain stinging guitar. "Hoon" is as deep as the sociological observations go but it's unclear whether the Psychos come to praise or bury them. You might die thinking. If you're insulted by the political incorrectness of "Enmore Backender" and "Please Sir (Can I Have Some More)" you probably need to harden the fuck up, but the last one also feels like it's trying too hard.
If you haven't been near a Cosmic Psychos album since the heyday of "Blokes You Can Trust", the kicker might be the bonus 15-song disc reprising the first two-thirds of the history of the band. A mini greatest hits effort that parallels if not reproduces "15 Years, A Million Beers", it's full of gold-plated stuff like "Lost Cause","Pub" and "Dead Roo."
Suck this up. It's good for you.– The Barman
DUNG AUSTRALIA - Cosmic Psychos (Timberyard)
Australian trio the Cosmic Psychos is fast filling the yawning void of relentless punk rock consistency left vacant by the Ramones' departure. Which isn't to say they're a replacement for Da Bruddas, by any means, but If The Song Ramones the Same, then Psychos Never Sleep. Expect no quantum leaps with "Dung Australia", their first long player in a year, and you'll be happy as a pig in, er, dung.
In fact, you could just as easily put on any of the band's output since "Self Totalled" (the one where they really came to grips with their own studio sound) and be hard pressed to work out which song belonged where. That's reassuring in one respect 'cos no-one else is doing this strand of punk rock so well. (I'm avoiding the Yob Rock tag because it's lazy.) Bottom line is that the Psychos are what they are and are too fucking old to change. So no flute solos or prog rock.
Of course things other than the music have moved on since 2005's "Off Your Cruet", the album that marked the band's reactivation after nine years of no recordings. Guitarist Robbie Watts has tragically passed away, leaving vocalist-bassist Ross Knight the last man standing. Mad Macka from the Onyas has slotted in a treat on guitar, mining the same stylistic ground but retaining his own sound.
Speaking of stylistic ground, Knighty still growls like a thirsty drinker at chucking out time in an over-regulated country pub, and when that fuzz bass starts blurting away on "20 Pot Screamer" like your grandfather's spinchter the morning after an all-night nursing home laxative party, you know this is a Cosmic Psychos record.
"Follow Me Home" is a treacle-thick bowl of guitars and good old Aussie vernacular ("She's looking beaut/Maybe a root/There's a swag in the back of me ute") guaranteed to flummox anyone from outside Terra Australis. At least they'll make sense of the wonderful, uncurling Mad Macka solo. If fact, those solos are on almost every song so if they like that one, there's plenty more to enjoy. "Goin' To Hell" and "20 Pot Screamer" are pretty well par for the course Psychos rave-ups, which means they're not pretty to listen to but pretty effective. Fans wouldn't have it any other way.
The Psychos have always had a soft spot for an Oz rock cover and they do a ball-tearing job with Buffalo's alpha male anthem "I'm a Skirtlifter Not a Shirt Raiser" (complete with Robbie Watts solo - obviously recorded when he was alive for those asking the question.)
Part of me always wants the Psychos to move on. Another shrugs and realises that it isn't possible. So, no surprises here, and if you like it be warned there's another album apparently mostly in the can. The more things change....– The Barman
OFF YA CRUET - Cosmic Psychos (Timberyard)
Putting on a new Cosmic Psychos album is like finding a pair of your flatmate's skid-marked undies in your washing basket - it's disturbing, you worry that they might have soiled your good going-out shirt, but it's something that you have to deal with, even if it means fetching lead-lined gloves and a pair of industrial tongs to minimise your exposure.
The Psychos are an ugly sounding band - maybe more so than most of their contemporaries. They lack the primal force of X at their peak, or the reckless trajectory of feedtime - and scarcely bear comparing to all those smack blues bands that used to populate Melbourne pubs and the Evil Scar in Sydney - but there's a consistently focused edge in what the Psychos do that makes them sound more than a little wired and seriously unhinged. When Ross Knight sings about sending a former drummer to meet his maker ("Kill Bill") by severing his head, you just know he means it.
While the band (not unexpectedly) contends that 1997's "Oh What a Lovely Pie" was their best album to date before "Cruet" popped its ugly head out and copped a slap on the arse from the doctor for its trouble, I don't buy that. "Pie" seemed a warmed-over version of the one that went before,"Self Totalled" (1995), and suffered from a lack of songs. No such criticism this time out. You might gasp in disbelief but the band have managed to write some tunes this time around, without tempering the intensity of their attack.
That attack's alive as ever on "Panic Song", where the insanity that X summoned up on "Going Crazy" similarly leaps out the speakers and bashes its head against the walls of the rubber room. How can you not like a song with a title like "Drinking With the SAS"? A guitar-simulated Blackhawk approach yields to a martial drumbeat and a huge wall of sound that's archetypal Psychos. Lyrics like "Last round/Man down/Hands and knees/Bucket please" make every post a winner.
Knighty's fuzz bass runs rampant on "Last Round" and "Mortician", while "The Shed" comes across like the Tatts on a country bent with Robbie Watt's slide carving a whole in your head. "Letter to My Liver" possibly doesn't live up to its illustrious title, but I might just have to have a drink, think about it and get back to you on that.
Watts' guitarwork is always cool and he comes into his own on the closing "Nevere Give In", which could grow into an anthem to rival "Come On Cunt" (if you're new to this band, I'm not joking with that last song title).
Production isn't a million miles away from "Pie", although the fuzz bass being toned down on a few tracks might upset some purists. (If you have to take exception, quibble with drummer Dean Muller's tinny snare sound but, really, it's a minor bitch). On balance, Lindsay Gravina's work behind the desk is fairly spiffing.
One of my fave moments in the last 15 years of gig going was to sit in the VIP area at Eastern Creek Racetrack in Sydney and see the Cosmic Psychos absolutely lay waste to headlining megabores Pearl Jam (hey, if the ticket was free you would have gone too). On the album front, it's been nearly a decade between drinks. Who would have thought? Do us a favour guys, and don't leave it so long. – The Barman