How Green Was My St Kilda Day or Mr Brown Goes to Melbourne

powerline sneakers adbtgThe Powerline Sneakers at The Day By The Green. Noni Dowling photo. 

Well hello fellow I-94 Bar abusers! I took my skinny white bum down to Melbourne on the Friday morning – a 5am bus from the Farmhouse here in Dimboola, only a lazy 1000ks there and back - but folks, if they rock, I will travel. And A Day by the Green, the next day, was well worth it. Some call this long-running mini-festival “a day on the green”…well, it is held in St Kilda, after all.

They had a fabulous line-up, led by Melbourne rock royalty in John Nolan (ex- Powder Monkeys), in his most awesome band, The Powerline Sneakers. Also on the bill: River of Snakes, The Pro Tools, Seedy Jeezus , Cold Harbour, The Fiction, Me Graines and a couple of other bands that I missed (my bad.) I’ll be early next time.

SO FUCK DID IT RAIN. LET’S JUST GET THAT OUT OF THE WAY. Inside the dry setting of The St Kilda Sports Club, there were about 150 punters there when I made my grand entrance. No-one noticed, of course, because The Me Graines were pumping out a fine set of tunes, with a new drummer and a couple of well-chosen covers. They were right on the money - a $20 entry fee – and I got my money’s worth right there. And it’s only gonna get better.

Big Attraction/Giddy Up - Amyl and the Sniffers (Homeless Records)

amyl and the sniffersThis may well be the only review of the Amyl and the Sniffers LP that makes no mention of mullets, sharpies, bogans or moles.

(I must mention, however, that one of the best mullets I have ever seen is the bass player from the mid-period line up of The Angels as seen in the film clip of that "No Way Get Fucked" song...although he is no match for Bob Spencer who in the same video has no hair and a monster rat's tail! Awesome!)

Amyl and the Sniffers are a young Australian punk rock band from Melbourne...and they play like they really mean it. Unlike some fake punky rockers over the past 40 years who, despite having the right shoes, clothes, haircuts and an obscure Killed By Death seven-inch that sells for $800 on eBay,  were just trendies with no guts, heart , soul or songs. 

Vol 10 - The Heartbrokers (Off The Hip)

heartbrokersThere’s no long history for this band apart from the collective curriculum vitae of the Melbourne people involved and the obvious fact they have an affinity for each other’s playing. It was recorded in a suburban shed on an oppressively hot day in 2014. It also grooves and rocks like the proverbial.

There are no Volumes 1-9 or even an 11. The Heartbrokers are Van Walker (Tasmanian-born singer-songwriter) on guitar and vocals, bassist Cal Walker, drummer Ash Davies, roots-rocker Jeff Lang and rockabilly-country pianist Ezra Lee. Plus friends like Jack Howard (sax).

Names can confuse and so can genres. Just as they toy with their title, these guys confound pigeonholing with their broad range. More (early) Seger than (doomed) Thunders but maybe a little Petty in terms of borrowing some sounds from Americana, The Heartbrokers defy categorisation other than good, old-fashioned, boogie and blues-based rock and roll.

One of Those Fine Days - Guy Littell (AR Recordings)

guy littell coverWhen you take your surname from a character in a James Ellroy book, you nail your colours to the mast as a fan of most things American. Naples-born Guy Littell might be as Italian as pizza with a cappuccino on the side, but his music is drenched in Americana.

Littell’s biography mentions his links to Steve Wynn (of The Dream Syndicate and a long solo career) on whose next album Guy guests, and the impact of hearing Neil Young and Mark Lanergan. “One of Those Fine Days” shows those influences writ large - plus a deep dish serving of Matthew Sweet. 

Littell might not have the pipes of Sweet - who does? - but he and his band tackle these 10 self-penned songs with a similar measured, rock-pop aplomb.

Head Undone: 1982-1988 -Buick KBT (Buttercup Records)

buick kbt coverYou have to admire record labels like Buttercup who dig up decades-old sounds from Australia’s music underground, chuck a new coat of paint on those mouldy old tapes and offer them up for a cash consideration to nerdy record collectors who crave those obscure Australian sounds.

A cynical person would file this Melbourne combo under “'80s Smack Rock”…and of course I’m a cynical bastard. But, hey, being inspired by The Birthday Party or the Bad Seeds isn’t a bad thing. Those groups wrote their own rule books and went where no bands has been before them and if you’re going to be inspired by somebody it may as well be by the greats.

I’m sure Buick KBT shared cups of tea with The Wreckery, The Moodists and The Sacred Cowboys.  They certainly shared stages with Venom P.Stinger, Go-Betweens, X , The Laughing Clowns and Dead Kennedys.

Why? - Ich Ben Ein Esel (Pitshark/Swashbuckling Hobo)

ich bin ein esel foldoutNearly six years after it came out on vinyl, French label Pitshark has re-issued this unpolished gem from deepest, darkest Brisbane on CD in a fold-out seven-inch single pack.

Back then we opined that "Why?" was "equal parts wrecking ball guitar, sledgehammer bass and drums and can't-give-a-fuck punk slop" and there's no reason to resile from that.

We also said that "Ich Bin Ein Esel ("I Am An Ass") will sit you on your arse quicker than a six-pack of Coopers Pale Ale drunk through a straw on a stinking hot day", so if the rest of this lazy review reads like you've heard it all before, then you have...

Magical Thinking - The Dangermen (Swashbuckling Hobo)

magical thinkingBeing 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.

Negative Fun - The Fiction (Off The Hip)

negative funIt 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.

Cordyline Australis - Michael Canning (Ghostjogger)

cordylineLooks 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.