There are more musical and cultural references in the latest Dave Graney album than a shelf-full of fourth year undergraduate sociology theses. Over a baker’s dozen songs, “ZIPPA DEEDOO WHAT IS/WAS THAT/THIS?” - we’ll call it “ZIPPA” for short - is a wander through the backblocks of Graney’s singular musical mind.
It’s self-described “classic rock” but don’t expect Journey or Van Halen to spring out of the speakers. “ZIPPA” is in-the-pocket, pop-rock played by a well-drilled ensemble. Drumming national treasure Clare Moore, consummate bassist Stu Thomas and jazzy guitarist Stuart Perera have been in more trenches together than the cast of “Hogan’s Heroes” and Graney’s respect for stylistic boundaries is on a par with Nancy Pelosi’s affection for Donald’s pipe-dream Wall.
Opener “Baby I Wish I Could Have been a Better Pop Star” is classic Graney: There’s more piss being taken here than in the bathroom of a highly-paid Macquarie Street urologist, and you don’t have to wait for the results from the lab to know who Dave’s talking about.
Americana is a term that excuses all sorts of sins. It’s so sweeping as to be meaningless - and it’s been homogenised to the point of dross - so let’s not speak of it again.
Some folks call Pat Todd “Americana” and it doesn’t remotely cover what he and his Los Angeles-based Rankoutsiders play. They’ve been tagged “Mellencamp with the Les Paul turned right up” by one reviewer, which is a bona fide compliment if you ignore the stuff that charted in Australia…
So, the fifth Rankoutsiders album, “The Past Came Callin’”, is rootsy and muscular rock and roll, an amalgam of rock, country, blues and everything in-between, and a contender for their best yet.
What makes the 14 tracks on “The Past Came Callin’” stand out? The songwriting, for one. Pat Todd doesn’t do mawkish sentimentality and writes from the heart. These are a mix of old and new songs, stories about relationships and crimes - which we all know are sometimes one and the same thing.
The surging, urgent guitars of Nick Alexander and Kevin Keller are another distinctive plus. Like Thunders with a clear head or Keef with a new-found dose of inspiration and less noodling, these guys make you take notice of every lick and steamrolling riff.
A conundrum for you: If douche is a word for “an obnoxious or contemptible person” why don’t these guys suck harder than a top-of-the-line Dyson vacuum cleaner near a split beanbag?
The intent is obvious from the song titles and long before you first drop that stylus into the groove. The Douches want to wind music back to Flintstones days, stripping it bare until there’s just fuzz left on the bones. Thirty-somethings on drums, bass and two guitars. What you see in their artfully posed cover St Kilda Beach photo is what you hear.
Zappa rhetorically asked if humour belonged in music and the answer’s right here. Eight songs and there’s a droll dad joke in most of them. What’s not to love about the “primordial cordial” chorus in the song of the same name, especially when it’s about going on a bender?
Sonically speaking, Prehistoric Douche are Melbourne’s equivalent of Sydney’s Crusaders without masks and playing a little slower. The playground they’re both in is familiar but each brings something of their own to stand out from the rest of the kiddies.