The Kid is alright

alexLianeris.binicKid Congo and the NDE

Curtin Hotel, Melbourne

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Alex Lianeris photo

It's said John Curtin (whose name was taken by tonight's venue) used to get on the sauce a lot, back before he became Australian Prime Minister and took on the mantle of one the Labor Party-endorsed accolade of "Australia’s greatest ever wartime Prime Minister".

In truth, there’s not much competition: Bob Menzies was only PM long enough for his Country Party colleagues to politically knife him, and back in the heady days of World War I, Billy Hughes’ leadership style made him less friends than a Metwurst merchant in downtown Paris.

Anyway, I digress. Curtin cleaned up his act, got the PM gig in 1941 and dropped off the twig four years later, two months after Russian tanks had barrelled through Berlin, and a month before the Enola Gay put a brutal end to the war in the Pacific.

Kid Congo used to do a lot of shit, a lot of bad shit that probably should’ve killed him a few times over. His band mates and friends haven’t fared so well; some years back Kid realised his own habits were suffocating his love of music, and his punk rock attitude, so he quit the juice, the sauce, the gear, the candy, the rock, the powder, the stuff and the snuff.

Harry Howard had his own near-death scare; indeed, his health was so dire his doctor still reminds him how close he came to mortality (the scare provided the inspiration for the title of Howard’s band – NDE (Near Death Experience). Indeed, one of Howard’s NDE members, Dave Graney, got his own rude awakening some years back when he coughed up blood on the Paris Metro.

Kid is back in Australia for the fourth time in under five years, coinciding with the launch of his old friend Kim Salmon’s new biography. The Pink Monkey Birds have stayed home, so Kid’s picked up a local backing band in the form of Harry Howard and the NDE. It’s a neat synergy – back in the day Kid Congo moved in common circles with Howard in Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls, and with Dave Graney and NDE drummer Clare Moore during The Moodists’ UK tenure.

Tonight is Kid’s only headline gig at the (John) Curtin Hotel. It’s a packed crowd, squeezed in the Curtin’s sometimes sub-optimal confines.

Kid is as iconoclastic as ever. He’s wearing a middle-age man’s wig that probably deserves its own flammability warning, his face contorts into a myriad of deranged expressions last seen on the 11.34pm train to Hurstbridge and his arms flail around like a psychedelic praying mantis. When Kid tells a story, it rambles like your eccentric uncle telling a story about his latest entrepreneurial plot, seems like it’s getting to a notional conclusion than ambles out to pasture. But no-one cares.

Dave Graney is as sartorially impressive as ever, the combination of brown bowler hat and pencil moustache suggesting a devious banker on the sidelines of ‘Peaky Blinders’ (and special mention of Dave’s periodic bass guitar swipe across the front of the crowd – that man knows moves). Harry Howard churns out those chunky post-punk chords that makes his band so good, and Edwina Preston could be playing the phone book and it’d still make the band even better. Every band Clare Moore has ever played in has been shit hot – and that’s more than simple coincidence.

|The set starts in Pink Monkey Birds territory ("LSDC", "I Found a Peanut", "Black Santa"), then slides into some NDE ("The Only One") and back in time to The Shangri-Las ("Sophisticated Boom Boom"). The band sounds just like you might think it should – dirty and garage but in a post-punk sort of way. "New Kind of Kick" is intense without intimidating, and the cover of Suicide’s "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" provokes shit-eating grins across the crowd.

Then it’s back to NDE territory and a call and response between Kid and Ed Preston on "She Doesn’t Like It", before rounding out the first bracket with The Gun Club’s "Sex Beat".

The encore starts with a Bowiefied cover of Spencer P Jones’ "When He Finds Out", and we remember that Spencer’s last ever appearance on stage was alongside Kid, 18 months earlier. Age shall weary Spencer no longer, tragically for all who knew and loved him. Then we get The Cramps’ "Garbageman", the ultimate trash song in more ways than one. We’re all garbage in a sense, waiting to be put out when the time comes. But until that happens we’ve got Kid Congo to remind us why life is worth living.

Smiles a mile wide as Shonen Knife puts the fun into art's home

shonen knife sydneyCraig Norman photo. 

Shonen Knife
New South Wales Art Gallery, Sydney
Wednesday, November 7, 2019

In which we discuss the topic "can art be fun?".

Most young New South Welsh men and women encounter the Art Gallery of New South Wales but once on school excursion.  Packed off in buses to pay respect the big historical back drops and listen as the dead beat teacher saw the modern stuff and hear them proclaim they could have done that.

Of course they didn't.  They wouldn't be teaching mongrels like us if they could.

Do you want to be in my Gang? Oh yeah.

andy gill rick de pizzolJohn 'Gaoler' Sterry. Rick de Pizzol photo.

Gang of Four
God God Dammit Dammit
Lion Arts Centre, Adelaide
November 5, 2019

Gang of Four are touring Australia and New Zealand and played Adelaide earlier this week. They were fucking brilliant. Exciting. Brutal. Gigantic. Fun, too. But ... pointed and magnificent.

It's a no-brainer. Go see them while you can.

Right, well. A little context. When I was asking a few friends if they were going, one said, 'they sound like every other band' ... well, no they don't. See, the thing is, over the last 40 years a lot of other
bands have picked up on their style, which is now familiar.

Last man standing Waldo brings "LAMF" to London

lure 100 club

Walter Lure plays LAMF
100 Club, London

August 10, 2019



Walter Lure has had a storied career, duelling with Johnny Thunders in the Heartbreakers, recording with The Ramones, burning up stages with his own Waldos and in working in the markts on Wall Street. 

Of the Heartbreakers, Lure is the last man standing after the passing of Thunders and Jerry Nolan in the '90s and the departure of Billy Rath in 2013, and he has done gigs showcasing the Heartbreakers debut "LAMF", most notably in New York City with a fairly stellar cast including Wayne Kramer and Clem Burke.

Damned great show by punk rock trailblazer

brian james 100 club

Brian James
De Rellas
100 Club, London
Friday, August 23, 2019

While the Damned are busy touring Oz, Brian James, the band's co-founder and architect of their "Damned, Damned, Damned" album, is playing a solo band show at the 100 Club.

Now there’s too much academic analysis over who invented punk. Some people refer to The Sonics from mid ‘60s America as the first punks, or The Ramones; some (well from Australia. anyway) will plump for Birdman or The Saints. Who issued the first single is beyond debate. The Damned's “New Rose” was the first punk single. 

From the Cradle to the grave

cradle of filthCradle of Filth
+ Hybrid Nightmares
The Gov, Adelaide
September 4, 2019

It's fair to say that most people who rock up to these shows won't be bumpkins like me, who completely missed all the advances and shifts in the metal throughout the 1990s and onward.

Almost certainly there were few folk attending who didn't know the latest LP backward. The friend I'm going with, Azhurn, knows the bloody lyrics. Now, we ain't talking Ramones here. We're talking pieces which don't repeat phrases, no choruses except musical ones, and a narrative series closer to a somewhat demented storyteller. Dani's voice is simply astonishing, shifting several times within a single phrase, and occasionally it appears he's singing two notes at once.

Here's some of the press release (slightly amended):

"When you talk about classic albums shaping genres 'Cruelty and the Beast' by Cradle of Filth sits proudly and menacingly at the top of the tree for extreme music. In 1998 'Cruelty and the Beast' showcased the band's hybrid of brutality and macabre romanticism, crafting a concept album based on the life of Hungarian mass murderer Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who tortured and murdered hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries.

“'Cruelty and the Beast' was both bombastic and grandiose, inflected with gothic touches, yet unquestionably rooted in black metal. In addition to the feral bludgeoning and the slower, more melodic keyboard passages, 'Cruelty and the Beast', featured three haunting, elegiac instrumentals filled with chiming organs, horrified screams and synthesised orchestra parts that enhanced the drama and split the presentation into three acts. No other band would have been capable of creating such an opus. As a concept album, it is executed with perfection … creative, intelligent, shocking, written brilliantly and played expertly."

Memories are made of this sort of Sedition

ed paddoEd Kuepper leads his Aints! through their final show for a while.  

Sedition 2019
The Aints!

The Flaming Hands
Shy Impostors
The Professors
Paddington RSL, Sydney 
Saturday, August 31 2019

It could have been an exercise in nostalgia for its own sake. It was anything but.

On paper, a bunch of bands digging into their own back pages is a fraught exercise. Things can never be what they once were; voices age and players who were at one time singularly focused on the musical here and now inevitably drift on or find new interests. Some pass on. Others fall out with each other.

Each of these bands come from a special time and a place that can’t be re-captured. Each was leaning, to some degree, on their back catalogues tonight. All were doing their best to be true to their own legacy without getting hung up on it.

With The Damned, you just can be happy today

the damned factory

The Dammed
The Factory Theatre, Marrickville
Thursday, August 20 2019
Photos: Monique Simmons

Culturally, Britain was so different to the USA in so many ways in the ‘70s, and that had much to do with distance.  The US is a vast place with all sorts of cultures and entrainment influences. The south was different to the west coast and out was again different to the east. And that really showed in the disparate pockets of music that sprang up everywhere.

On the other hand, England was more centralised. Long before the ‘70s dawned, it had the ingrained tradtiion of music halls as its historical DNA.

Music halls were everywhere. At one time there were more than 200 theatres in London alone. They hosted events running for four hours and ranging from comedy, clowning, horror to serious  drama. For more than a century, popular theatre was a staple for the working man and middle class alike. 

Well, you may ask, what has this got to do with The Damned appearing live in Sydney on a Thursday night? I say, everything.  A Dammed gig is like a trip through classic British pantomime and theatre, full of drama and packed with wit and slapstick. 

Foul mouthed yobs: Adelaide "punks" in pub ban fury

Sarah telling Hermann not to swear
Sarah telling Hermann from Fear and Loathing not to swear. 

Fear and Loathing
The Filthy Gypsies
Lucy the band
Swamp Kitteh
The Federal Hotel, Semaphore, Adelaide
August 24, 2019
Photos: Wayne Ridley

What a pack of bastards. The folk in the bands, I mean. I wasn't going to review this gig, partly because the sound wasn't as good as it could have been, I missed most of the first act's set (and they were damn good and deserve a better review), one of the bands was using a stand-in bass and extra guitar player and... well, I hadn't gone with the intention of reviewing anyone, just a couple of brews and some friends. And the bastards have asked me to review the thing. 

If I could claim to have been too drunk, I would.

Oh, yeah, "full disclosure" as the Barman says on occasion, I know a lot of these folks. But you, I-94 Bar reader, may rest assured that I would never review a band unless I thought them worthy of your attention. All I will add is that I wore my latest and current favourite Chickenstones T-shirt.