PARTLY ANIMALS - Tex Napalm & Dimi Dero (Spooky Records)
Whatever they became, the Beasts of Bourbon were once the ultimate country-swamp party band, an alcohol and stimulant-charged amalgam of good time grime with a penchant for getting under their audience's skin. German-Franco duo Tex Napalm and Dimi Dero have studied the Beasts, and a few other unhealthy Australian influences, and apply what they've learned with devastating effect.
French percussionist-noisemaker Dimi Dero is known to Australian audiences after tours with his now defunct Dimi Dero Inc and a string of worthwhile releases. He's also manned the traps for Penny Ikinger Inc, in Australia and Europe. Tex Napalm is a lesser-known but no less lethal commodity, an arresting vocalist and adept swamp guitarist. They're touring the musical bolt holes of Melbourne as I type, with the erstwhile Brian Henry Hooper filling bass duties.
This album was recorded in Europe sans Hooper and released on CD by Australian label Spooky. I'm expecting the indomitable Beasts Records to unleash the vinyl version any tick of the clock. It's 14 songs of murky magnificence - and a killer follow-up to their first platter.
"Temptation" might be one of the best songs the Beasts never recorded. Napalm's country licks are borrowed from "The Axeman's Jazz" and Dero's clattering feel could have been beaten out by James Baker. The good news is there's plenty more where that one came from. "Just LIke Glass" beats out a forceful tattoo as a wall of noise pushes the sing ahead. There's enough industrial-strength brooding ("Life Is Fine"), pulsing Cajun menace ("Feed Me") and rumbling grind ("More Guitar") to maintain momentum over the album's 45 minutes. The ghost of Rowland S Howard lives here, too. Check out the skeletal hymn "I Lied" for proof.
It's a song like "Farewell" that makes you realise why Tex and Dimi are spending their time plying their wares in Melbourne's venues and giving Sydney a miss. It might lack Saint Nick's bluster but there's a streak of the Bad Seeds running through the middle of this one (musically speaking and in a good way) that stamp them as a natural to be welcomed with open arms by the southern city. Sydney's too busy killing of five venues via disinterest and wouldn't get them.
"Partly Animals" isn't all dank and murk. "Cigarettes & Cheap Red Wine" is a playful shuffle with vibraphone lifting the mood. "Let a Poor Boy Ride Your Train" sounds like Beefheart wrestling his way through curtains of guitar. When in Melbourne, do as Melburnians, so shouldn't that be "ride your tram"? - The Barman
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STICKY SINGERS - Tex Napalm & Dimi Dero (Beast Records)
Swampy, rank sounds from the flood-prone back-blocks of some burned-out European town, this collaboration (cool aberration?) between Frenchman Dimi Dero and German Tex Napalm sounds like "Sour Mash" era Beasts of Bourbon.
The principals are well-credentialed to unleash this sort of intense brooding. Parisian Dimi fronts his own Dimi Dero Inc, a masterfully dirty rock 'n' warped blues band that swept through Australia not so long ago and rubs shoulders on the road with people like The Drones. Dimi moonlights as drummer in Penny Ikinger's European band. Tex's other band is Iron Cobra Orchestra from Dortmund in Germany, and they came to notice in these parts on a Stagger Records tribute to Rowland S. Howard.
The pair are staggeringly good multi-instrumentalists who play everything that moves in the studio, while being helped out live by people like Brian Hooper, Lisa Barrel and Mark Steiner. They're some hired help.
When you see the word "everything" in connection with instrumentation, you can take it to mean guitars, drums, bass, a saw, vibes, percussion and an electric drill. All of which they need to deconstruct the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" or a dozen originals, most of which sound dark enough to hide Michael Jackson's medical records.
Napalm has a vocal thick enough to cut air with a hunting knife while Dero nails the beat like nails into a coffin lid. The rhythms are just deft enough to lift the tunes clear of the swamp-floor, whileTex's fuzz-smothered guitar work is usually dirty enough to take them right back down there.
These guys do know how to mix it up. "Gone Too Long" shudders like a freight train derailment and "Drunkard Sweetheart" has a fucked-up Stones groove that makes it pretty well irresistible. While the graveyard groan of "He Has Risen (Gonewana)" won't make my list of light listening anytime soon, the opening triple punch of the acrid "Much Much More", the four-on-the-floor overdriven "Civilized Man" and the blueswailin' "Stomp That Thang!" would send Jeffrey Lee Pierce reaching for his heart tablets.
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