He wears more hats than an international milliner’s house model but prolific UK musician/artists/poet Billy Childish keeps making idiosyncratic, vital music. Here’s his latest - and of course there’s a back story.
Childish put his band Musicians of the British Empire (MBE) on hiatus a couple of years ago so wife and bassist Nurse Julie could have a baby. CMTF is the reformed MBE and this four-track EP apparently announces a return to live shows.
Mighty little Melbourne label Buttercup has taken up the cause of split singles by some of its home city's finest that Infidelity Records was rolling out when they shut their doors. The concept is an A side from a headliner backed with a couple of bands covering the lead-off band on the flipside. Putting The Meanies, Digger & The Pussycats and The Double Agents on the same slab of seven-inch vinyl is an inspired idea.
The Meanies are as much a Melbourne institution as that odd football game they follow and the venerable Tote Hotel. Their song, “Gravity”, is a particularly sticky piece of ear wax with a catchy vocal line and sharp guitar solo. The vocal harmony fade out will have you reaching for the turntable tone arm to play it again, even if your name isn't Sam.
Flip the 45 over and the explosive cover of “Gangrenous” is typical of the musical hand grenades that duo Digger & The Pussycats have lobbed in pubs and cafes from Geelong to Lower Europe. Bratty and brilliant and at 1min43sec it’s over before you can get bored.
The other cover song by The Double Agents is (as far I know) posthumous and only a touch over a couple of minutes long, But what quality minutes they are. The groove on “Cock Rock Lips” sounds like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hitting high-gear in their tour van on a boozy road trip through the wilds of St Kilda. Too good not to hear again.
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This is bright folk-pop from a reformed New York City garage scene band that recorded but never released an album of new material a decade ago.
The Optic Nerve put out a couple of jangle-pop albums in the ‘80s (on Screaming Apple and Get Hip) and A side “Penelope Tuesday” is in the same folky vein. When Bobby Belfiore (lead vocals) and guitarist Tony Matura lock together harmonically, it’s sunny enough to make you reach for your sunglasses. Think of The Optic Nerve as the opposite of most of the wave of revival '60s garage rock. They owe more to The Charlatans than the Music Machine.
The flipside “Here To Stay” is more downbeat with Byrds-style vocalising and Bay Area six-string jangle that makes way for a nice tremolo lead break. It's like the early Haight-Ashbury got sold and transplanted to Brooklyn. You'll find a copy on State Records where all the best freakbeat and garage rock 45's live.
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The blurb says this split-single is by Sydney’s two best purveyors of cowpunk and who's going to argue? Anyone who’s had prior live exposure to Spurs for Jesus or the more rarely-sighted Deadwood 76 will know both as a soundtrack to an afternoon of wearing beer goggles and raucous fun. It’s been that way for a couple of decades.
Spurs claim the honours on their “Landslide” side where twin guitar and lap steel attack from Matt Alison and Martin Martini cuts a swathe. Musically, it’s edging towards tough beat rock than straight-up country twang. No Liverpuddlian accents here, however, and Kane’s insistent phrasing and Spats' lap steel ensures the song stays on the rough shoulder of the road. Killer engine room, too, and the smarties among us will know there’s no show without that beat.
Deadwood 76 mines the rich alluvial vein that’s known as Outlaw Alt-Country with “Pearl Cadillac”, a boozy tale that’s told from the waist down. The lap steel cuts through with venom and the guitars have a matching edge to their twang. Good guys wear white but this song has a black heart.
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This single from a Brisbane trio is saying something: "If you don’t like homemade fuzz pedals you can fuck right off." Like their entomological namesakes, Stink Bugs aren’t pretty but once their smell gets in your nostrils they’re pretty hard to ignore.
Stink Bugs play distorto psych. Acrid guitar at stun volume and lumbering rhythms dominate both A and B sides. The maudlin vocals are almost subsumed by the fierce wall of fuzz. There’s not a lot of room for wry social commentary lyrics or fetching melody lines. This stuff is toxic.
Stink Bugs grew out of the Hekawis, Shutdown 66,the Jennys and Leftwaffe and are The Mantis (guitar), Cactoblastis (drums) and Tigerbug (bass and vocals.) Their’s is the sound of a blender full of human remains. The single deserves to be played at painful volume levels. Repeatedly.
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There’s a fair chance I’m not the only one who lost track of the Dee Rangers, a Swedish band who swept through the late ‘90s and early part of the 21st century with a slew of singles and half a dozen albums of infectious garage pop-rock. They and The Strollers were two of the I-94 Bar favourites from the revival of the garage sounds in Scandinavia back then. This four-track vinyl EP is a reminder of their greatness.
“Take Me Home” is the lead-off and a better slice of ‘60s-influenced pop-rock you’d have to travel a long way to hear. “Everyday” is a rougher garage rocker that does the business with two guitars in its two minutes and moves on. “Rebound Guy” is the melancholy heartstring-tugger with a cascading melody line that hits home. Per Nostrum brings it home with a strong vocal. “Powerslam V” is an instro rumble with choppy chording and bouncy feel.
It’s all in punchy mono and comes in a hand-numbered run of 350 copies. Try any European mail orser rplace or ask the band for directions on Facebook.
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