THE PLOW - Hieronymous Bogs (self released)

the plowFirst time I laid my tired eyes on the impactful, dark, visually striking, elemental art work of Hieronymous Bogs, I knew he had come to some of the same conclusions about life and death as I had.

Like a candle flickering in the dark, his prophetic folkart, found object assemblages, and iconic religious alters are invested with a compassion and humility one seldom sees, nowadays. His multimedia sculptures and paintings are filled with visceral, primordial, intimate terror and sadness, gratitude and grace, and his music has that same kind of rawness and naked vulnerability, beat poet bravery, and Cohen like melancholy.

If you see him in his big hat, hitch-hiking on the side of the lonesome highway, with a crow on his shoulder and bluebirds nesting in his beard, pick him up, and he will humbly regale you with vividly spun, purplish tales of poignant observations and quiet awakenings.

The Severance – Blaney (YERRR/ BMG)

the severanceLouder than War gives this album from Ed Blaney, the onetime latter-day member of The Fall, a rating of nine-out-of-ten, but sod that, it's a seven bottler out of five if I ever heard one.

Sass, bounce, beat, humour (of the kind that warms those mysterious cockles on a winter's night), well-crafted songs somewhere between pop, rock and wiggle yer butt, all the while dragging your sorry ageing carcass onto the dancefloor. Except for a couple of quiet ones, but you'll be listening hard to those. Sucked in? Deep inside!

Right, let me get my breath back. You don't hear much of the kind of pop made in “the ‘60s” anymore, do you? Well, alright, it's not the ‘60s anymore, that's one reason. And another is ... the music industry lost its innocence long, long ago, but found it again in the '60s, or appeared to.

Plays The Devil’s Music – Lubricated Goat (Sorcerer)

plays the devils musicOnce upon a time, a review of the first album from Lubricated Goat could have used the line: “There’s something here to offend everyone” and left it at that. In these days of live-streamed jihadi beheadings, jaded millennials and older people with permanent confected outrage, however, you have to do better than that.

Most people will recall The Goat from their appearance on the Australian national broadcaster, nude and lip-synching a song called “In The Raw”. Yes, they flashed their wedding tackle. A media meltdown followed.

Of course the raison d’etre was to outrage. To go to a Lubricated Goat show in Sydney in the late ‘80s at Max’s Petersham Inn or The Evil Star you had to be severely disconnected from the rest of society, chasing the band’s offer of free beer for turning up naked or on smack.

The Garden - NQR (Kasumuen Records)

NQR tape coverThe website says that NQR is the "new band for Kristian Brenchley (from New York City’s WOMAN and Degreaser, the latter with fellow ex-pat Tim Evans), Denis Leadbeater (S-Bahn) and Maureen Gearon (Baby 8) with the indomitable Ruth McIver (C**ting Daughters) very much out front and centre on vocals."

It comes as a six-track cassette or CD. 

The title track opens and it's a kick in the guts, just over two-and-a-half minutes of bitter pop stuffed into a woodchipper.

And the singer gets out:

No more conversation
Time spent
Digital
No more 
Conversation 
No more chaperones

"Bi-Coastal Blasphemy" – The Ringleaders (Hound Gawd Records)

bi coastalOnce upon a time, in the relatively genteel state of Virginia, there was a self-destructive punk rock band called The Candy Snatchers. Named after a trashy crime flick, they spilt beer and bled all over American stages before their guitarist prematurely shuffled off this mortal coil a decade ago, and they promptly fell apart.

L.A.-based The Ringleaders have Larry May of The Candy Snatchers on vocals and for that reason, among others, you need to pay attention.

The rest of the band – Hans Molnar (the Hellbenders) on guitar with Tim Bender (Death by Stereo) on drums and Mark Ho (Hollywood Hate) on bass – are similarly well-credentialed. Fully cranked, they sound like they’re heading to Hell in a Honda while out of their heads on glue.

Chico Purito! - Hey Honcho and The Aftermaths (Hound Gawd Records)

chico puritoIt’s fashionable to label Spain as rock and roll’s last remaining outpost, and if you live there or you’ve visited for more than 10 minutes you’ll know why.

The Spaniards didn’t throw off the yoke of Fascist cultural oppression until 1975, so they came late to rock and roll. Partying hard, however, is in their genes and they’ve been making up for lost time.

So say “Hi!” to Hey Honcho and The Aftermaths, a band from Oveido in the country’s north who their label says have a sound that’s typical of Spain’s garage punk scene.

The Aftermaths are ex-members of Los Ass-Draggers, Amon Ra and Electric Children – bands whose profile will be negligible outside of Spain (but don't let that stop you.) They had an EP out before singer Von Gustopher (aka Hey Honcho) joined.

Modern Rural - Marsden Williams (Marsden Williams); Mythologies - Michael Plater (Reverb Worship); Far From Grace - Tim Hudspith and Goldentone (Dead Letter Records)

michael marsdenEach of these requires repeat listening, possibly with a bottle of red, one or two glasses and (in my case) a hanky.

A couple of weeks ago we went out in Adelaide to see these folks play the Hades Hula Hut, and the next night The Metro. Both Marsden and Tim rather rashly pressed their offerings into my paw, not knowing that I am trying desperately to cut down on my reviews.

Seeing them all play, of course... yeah, and here I am, listening to Marsden's little cassette on my little boombox in my cold little room. So this will be a quick overview...

The Island Years - Ultravox! (Caroline International/Island)

Ultravox The Island YearsIt's rated five bottles. What's so good about Ultravox!? 

Really simple. First, great songs, unique construction and clever use of synths; second, powerful, heady stuff. Pretty much essential. My favourite is the middle LP, but I have always loved the other two.

You could argue that, given that the band was riddled with elements of what would become electronica and dance, but with dub reggae, glam and funk also welded into place, Ultravox! offered a step forward, beyond punk, yet before punk had even happened. 

They're not just a fucking important band, but they're a damn fine band.

There are box sets and there are box sets. If you don't have anything by Ultravox!, or, if you like, you found the “Vienna”-era band a tad gooey on the nerves, this set brings their first three LPs together plus an extras disc. 

Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 - Wire (pinkflag)

pink flagCertainly the deluxe edition re-issues are part of their time. Can't help that.

You know what they say of the younger fans of Green Day, on the occasion of their first listen to The Clash? "Golly, they sound just like Green Day!" ...

One of the weirder things is revisiting old men's records and realising that their leaps forward 40-odd years ago did the spade-work for mega-selling buttonhead bands by the hundred. I mean, come on. The late '80s and mid-'90s Britpop thing owes a huge debt to Wire.

What is astonishing here, apart from the vibrant inyerfaceness of the pre-"Pink Flag" demos (recorded between May and August 1977), is that, like The Buzzcocks and The Clash, or Siouxsie and the Banshees around this time, how broadly creative Wire were over such a short space of time. Like The Clash and the Banshees, Wire were part of the punk burst, but didn't rely on its DNA.