Guerillas don't monkey about with labels

equation of lifeEquation of Life - Urban Guerrillas (MGM)

Ever been in a position where you didn't know what to expect when a disc landed in the CD player? That’s often a good thing. My preconceptions of Sydney’s Urban Guerrillas as inner-city, squat-dwelling, agitprop punk preachers are somewhat passe, and almost abandoned after a couple of spins.

The UG sound is more folk-pop than punk rock these days, and the concerns of the seven tracks on the “Equation of Life” EP are mostly universal. Not that the band was ever stuck in one sound. There’s a splash of Celtic pipes in “Divine Image” (a William Blake poem set to music) and “What I Wish For” sets out a societal manifesto with a stab of mandolin in its mix.There’s also enough chugging guitar and urban angst in “Claustrophobia” to light up a street-full of terrace houses in Erskineville.

What they did on their holidays

la banda en espanaLa Banda en Espana - Leadfinger (self released)

What does an Australian band that’s revelling in Spain’s delights (not the least of which is the populace's love of Real Rock and Roll) do on a day off from a European tour? Go into a studio and slap down some tracks, of course.  

This six-track EP, committed to tape/hard drive in 2017, is the result of that and represents the first stirrings from the Leadfinger camp for more than a year, following band leader Stew Cunningham’s successful fight against cancer.. Fuck, it’s great to have him - and them - back.

“La Banda en Espana” sounds like the band was having a ball. It's not meant to be too serious. It's not going to make them rich. 

Dark charms on display from Sydney veterans

yesterday repeatingYesterday Repeating - The Smart Folk (self released)

There’s a treasure trove of slightly backward-looking, beat and mod-based pop by veterans coming out of the UK on a coterie of labels like State Records and Damaged Goods right now. Aussie band The Smart Folk would be right at home on either of them. 

It doesn't have the explosive pop brashness of The Embrooks or the raw swagger of Graham Day or CTMF, but “Yesterday Repeating” displays its own slightly darker charm.

Born out of a mod revival duo in Sydney six years ago, these old codgers have become a staple on their hometown’s small but tenacious live scene. “Yesterday Repeating” is their debut full-length album and it’s reflective of the quartet’s stylistic starting point without being limited by it.

It's a fact that you should dig The Fiction

ramona the fictionRamona - The Fiction (Off The Hip)

Simple songs simply done is a time-honoured formula often born out of necessity rather than choice. So it was in the beginning for The Fiction, a Melbourne punk band that sprang up 40 years ago, burned briefly and fell apart before spawning International Exiles and Little Murders. 

Only around for a year, The Fiction was fuelled by the nascent songwriting talents of frontman and expat Englishman, Rob Griffiths, and guitarist Rob Wellington.

Their influences were what was coming out of the UK punk scene in the ‘70s, as much as Melbourne visitors Radio Birdman and the Saints. The important point-of-difference between the UK and Australia back then was that the local standard of living made it hard to get too angry at anything much, relatively speaking. 

A sonic baseball bat...with love from France.

on the runOn The Run - Badass Mother Fuzzers (6tone Records)

"On The Run" is a relentless barrage of garage fuzz. Like a carpet bombing squadron of B52s heading out on a mission over Cambodia, the record moves into formation, sweeps over its target and drops its payload.

Badass Mother Fuzzers hail from Toulouse in France and have a single-minded devotion to the task at hand - hitting listeners and audiences in the face with a sonic baseball bat. The Swedes didn't monopolise this stuff.

Hogs, chickens and horses

scarth hogNot As Bad As It Could've Been - Scarth Hog (self-released)
Mystery Train - Chickenstones: (Crankinhaus Records)
Away from the Sun - Majestic Horses (Kasumuen Records)

Yes, dear reader, I too wondered what a scarth was. Well, Scarth is a family name, and 'is of Anglo-Saxon origin and came from when the family lived in the county of Yorkshire, where they held the manor of Scarborough. This place-name was originally derived from the Old English Skaroisburg, which was brought into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066.'

But Scarth is also Yorkshire dialect for a rough, bare rock. No-one ever said Bill Bostle (whose band this is) ever lacked a sense of humour.

I used to know Bill a little, back in the days when 205 was a conglomeration of interweaving bands rather than a street number, and when Bill played (drums) in King Snake Roost with, among other interesting ingredients, the late Charlie Tolnay. I recall one visit to his house (in a quiet inner Adelaide ‘burb) during which he boasted of being “the loudest bastard in the street” which, given that he had the Grateful Dead on 11, was patently obvious.

New Jersey vets bring the '60s pop hooks

million reasonsMillion Reasons - RGD (Serious Machines Records)

You know what? Right now there are probably more music bands than at any other time. I could be wrong, of course. But I doubt it.

The music industry isn't as interested as it used to be. More fool them.

I recall hearing REM's first LP, "Murmur", back in 1983.

God, what an old coot I am.

We used to wear an onion on our belt back then, it was one of those things you did, like riding a chopped bicycle decorated with annoying plastic things.

On the crazy train with visionary blaster Billy Tsounis

warp delights"Warp Delights" - Billy Tsounis (self released)

I think I may have heard "Cow Lands Plane Eats Pilot" before, or maybe it was just in a dream, I've been having pretty heavy heady, horizonless dreams lately and me and Billy Tsounis are sometimes tuned in to some of the same static-y frequencies.

I dunno why it makes me think of aliens and toasted pop tarts on space saucers, but it's possibly something to do with my Valter Longo intermittent fasting regimen and this infinitely sentimental time of year. I like "Serene" space rock invested with swirling sensuality and delicate little wing kozmic blues sound rituals.

Billy Tsounis is from Cali via Boston via Greece with the Milky Way still in his untamed stare. He's still got that get down like they don't know how in this ghost town. I find his music very therapeutic and uplifting, he transcends every definable genre , space and time. He brings on the machine gun compound crackling speaker bullhorn manifesto and the magic carpet ride away to Morocco or Marrakesh or wherever it is that rich rock stars may still retreat from gentrified iPhone society to smoke hash or sit at the feet of Jamaican holy rollers and receive their crystal visions in silky opium dens, like decadent emperors. He does not really belong to any one religious practice or musical discipline. He is not here to please yo mama's easily digested tv programming sensibilities.

Brutality can be beautiful

so i could have them destroyedSo I Could Have Them Destroyed – The Hard-Ons (Music Farmers)

We need to talk. Oh, yes, we do.

There were doubts about this one. I’d seen the songs played live. Whether it was unfamiliarity or just an off night, to these ears the set didn’t gel. It cried out for more light and less shade. Ease off that pedal-to-the-metal thing, baby. Not in a greatest hits way, but maybe with the odd well-chewed pop bone thrown in. It wasn’t bad. Just not earth shattering.

Then the album arrived and hit the disc player.

Fark.