By Request - Steve Lucas & Friends (SL Express)

by request vinylThis four-song single and accompanying 10-track CD is a labour of love, a mission completed at the request of the late Chris Wilson, the celebrated Melbourne singer and X collaborator who was claimed by cancer in 2018.

Steve Lucas is backed by a San Diego band on the single, and augmented by Melbourne players on the rest. The majority of instrumentation is by Lucas, The CD includes the vinyl tracks so you're good to go in whatever format you please.

This is the X singer as you haven’t heard him - unless, of course, you’ve been to one of his thoroughly entertaining solo shows where he does away with stylistic boundaries and sings whatever takes his fancy. Mostly-acoustic, largely recorded live but augmented by sympathetic players, it resonates with raw spontaneity.

“By Request” has a distinctly Americana mood to the music. That should not surprise - the EP tracks were recorded with Mexican musicians in America, as Chris Wilson asked. Their number includes Hector Penalosa of The Zeros but they are all accomplished local players.

You Will Not Be Spared b/w Late - Beast Bones (Iceage Productions)

beast bones singleDon't listen to Beast Bones if you have a hangover. Genuinely disturbing, eerie and quite quease-making, "You Will Not Be Spared" comes from Aussie label  Iceage Productions (who brought you the mighty Monolith ... what? you must have this CD. No? Get on it), and a slew of other underground musics which can be found here.

Over the years Iceage has released "music by Arthur Cantrill, Primitive Calculators, Robin Fox, Bonnie Mercer, Ollie Olsen, Ernie Althoff, Mad Nanna, Shane Fahey, Matthew Brown and Sean Baxter amongst others"; and describe their label as "specialising in electronic, experimental, noise, drone and industrial music from all over the globe" - which I suppose is true enough.

The Sound of My Broken Heart b/w Do The Harold Holt/White Rabbit - Dead Rabids (Full On Noise)

sound of my broken heartDead Rabids main man Bob Short was a member of seminal Sydney punks Filth before he fucked off to England to become a goth and live in abject poverty. He’s also penned the odd vituperative review for the I-94 Bar. So now it’s your turn. Do your best.

There’s no hint of hyperbole in you being told that the A side is a fantastic song. A stone classic. Dead Rabids are no more and never pulled a lot of people when they were a going concern, but don't let that stop you plonking down your hard-earned virtual cash and picking up a copy before it goes out of print. 

The pathos runs deep on "The Sound of My Broken Heart" and it sounds like something the early Saints would have turned out in one of their more reflective moments. Put away any sharp objects and lock the medicine cabinet.

Flip the single and switch the mood to bathos: "Do the Harold Holt" is an old Filth song (I think) and you can imagine singer Peter Tillman spitting out its message for poliical leaders to jump into the sea three times and surface twice. A resuscitated classic. The Rabids' abbreviated take on "White Rabbit" sounds positively doom-laden and there's a harsh beauty in its acrid chords. Feed your head some squat food.

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Russian Spy b/w Many Secrets - The Neighbourhood Strange (Strange)

russian spyThe latest in a spate of singles. Just when you'd pegged these veterans as a freakbeat-psych band, the A side has a vaguely surf sound to the guitars; the B side is ’60s-infused pop with a reedy keyboard texture and a slightly dark edge. Welcome to the sound of The Neighbourhood Strange, the English quintet from Salisbury.

“Russian Spy” references the Skripal poisoning scandal that put their home town in the news in a way that the Druids never could. Marcus Turner’s elegant yet edgy vocal gives the song a touch of cool reserve while the guitar lines play tag. “Many Secrets” takes a couple more spins to make an impact and then makes itself right at home. The guitarwork is a stand-out.

There’s a CD edition that adds three bonus tracks: “Mary Mary” is a moody chugger. “Walk on Water” is a lost love tale with spacey guitar and an impassioned, out-of-sorts vocal. “Desert Sand” is a rambunctious near-instrumental and the pick of the bonuses. With this sort of variety, you have to wonder where the album will land. 

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Night Creature b/w Roll Over Lay Down - Deathwish (Fantastic Mess)

night creatureIt's a single by Deathwish, precursors of The Chosen Few (the Aussie punks - not Ron Asheton's early band) on new label Fantastic Mess, an independent spin-off of Buttercup Records. This recording is liver than you'll ever be, both sides from a gig in a hall in country Victoria in December 1976.

"Night Creature" is light on for lyrics but well-refined in its proto-punk intent; future Chosen Few engine room of Cal McAlpine (drums) and Ian Cunningham (bass) lock into a serious groove. The song hinges on a repeated guitar figure and sounds like Link Wray on Melbourne Bitter.

Status Quo never rowed my boat even before they sold out to the Red Right Hand of an Australian retail giant, but Deathwish's faithful rendition of what was then a Top 40 hit once more underlines that the considrable punch The Chosen Few packed didn't develop overnight.

Of course this one won't last long and naturally it comes in five editions. Drop Scotti a line at his label's online HQ to procure.

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Stainless b/w Real Love? - Fast Cars (Method Music)

stainless fast carsA taste of the forthcoming new album, this double A-sided single single puts Fast Cars in a place of their own. It's elegiac dream pop with an edge and a long way removed from their mod and powerpop beginings.

Those Sussex Hotel days are long gone. The band is now a core duo of Sydney multi-instrumentalist Fabian Buyrne and UK-domiciled vocalist-guitarist Di Levi. The songs are children of the digital age, worked up in disparate studios and assembled across the Internet.

"Stainless" is pop song of sharp contrasts with sarcastic lyrics ("nothing sticks to you") elegantly rendered by Di Lev,i atop a bedrock of flint hard, buzzing guitars. There's plenty of space in the production.

"Real Love?" Is instantly sunny, thanks to chiming guitar, Di's lilting vocal and a lusher backing. Piano and a pulsing bass-line, buried deep in the soundscape, round things off nicely. It's a song about being alive while savouring your surroundings. Pop with a capital 'P'.

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