punk - The I-94 Bar
Brattish as fuck and more highly-strung than a cosmetically-enhanced girlfriend’s bra strap, “Bite Your Tongue” proves lightning strikes at least twice. This second offering from this Melbourne band is a case of “second album, just like the first”, sonically-speaking, and that’s no bad thing.
Spacejunk operates in that hard-to-pigeonhole musical space that’s vaguely described as “psychedelic punk rock”. It equates to loud, fuzzy guitars, left-field sonic touches and a barely-controlled energy. Mark E. Moon’s lerry, acid-flecked vocal is the crowning touch.
Their influences couldn’t be more obvious if they’d stamped the words: ‘AC/DC’, ‘Dictators’ and ‘Joan Jett’ on their heads with a branding iron. If you like this hard rock outfit from Arizona, the good news is that there are two more recent albums with which to assault your senses.
Listen up, punks and noiseniks: The Canadian band’s fifth album in 17 years is inarguably their best. It rocks like fuck; It scratches like a rabid kitten. It’s tuneful and noisily offensive at the same time. All of which should tell you something about The Ex-Boyfriends even if you’ve never heard of them.
The Ex-Boyfriends come from Calgary and I’m willing to bet they’re the best-in-breed in that neck of the woods. If Calgary’s music scene is half as fractured as anywhere else, it takes a lot of balls to be a rock and roll band. Big ones if you play noisy punk rock. Shamefully, I’d forgotten they were around until a notice about this heavy-diuty chunk of vinyl landed in the post box.
For six years at the cusp of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, Hellmen rode the skatepunk-surf wave better than most Sydney bands. Now Melbourne’s Buttercup Records reminds everybody what the racket was all about. Hellmen were explosive and slammed out song after song with not many longer than three minutes - exactly like this release.
"Mutant Surfer" is a four-track seven-inch EP with two scuzzy rehearsal songs, an outtake and a previously released track. The title cut opens and is an especially potent example of what these guys sounded like live. “Don’t Do It” rocks like the proverbial but pales next to closer “Stone Rock”, left off “Electric Crazyland”. “Skate To Hell” is a cover of a Gang Green song that seems very familiar, even to a non-skatepunk fan. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellmen back in the day (something about them being from enemy territory like the Northern Beaches maybe?) but this makes me want to track their old stuff down. It's all due for a re-issue and this is a taster for a Buttercup LP of some sort.
Art is by the mega-talented band member Ben Brown and there’s even a temporary tattoo in the packaging. It’s a limited run of 300 copies - a precursor to an LP - so don’t delay.
Buttercup Records on the Web
You’d be hard to please if you couldn’t find lots to love here. A whopping 93 tracks spread over four CDs - and it’s all yours for the price of three (large) beers in your local watering hole. Playing it might help you forget that your pub’s now a shiny, yuppy brasserie these days, without a trace of loud music or beer-soaked carpets, and serving food on wooden boards.
Let’s start with the obvious. It's a collection of music that can be labelled "punk" in the broadest sense of the term. Yet, there’s not one selection by the Sex Pistols or The Clash. It shouldn’t faze anyone. If you’e not familiar with their output, are you reading the right e-zine? Rhino couldn’t get the Pistols to play ball for their “No Thanks!” box and nobody shed too many tears. Joe Strummer’s “other” band The 101’ers do get a guernsey. Omitting the obvious leaves room for names that aren't as well known.
Psssssst…..don’t tell anyone but The Monsters may just be the wildest, most uncompromising manic high priests of unhinged and trashy garage rock in the world, or at the least Switzerland. There are a lot of names you can throw up in opposition (Guitar Wolf the most prominent) but I simply won’t believe it until my own abused and bleeding ears tell me so.
Raw garage rock ’n’ roll in the Australian pub rock tradition, with an obvious nod to ‘70s hard rock and the “Pebbles” collection. A record made distinctive by the classic Aussie twin-guitar attack. Those were my first thoughts on this CD from a band made up of members of Psychotic Turnbuckles, Sheik the Shayk and Buffalo Revisited.
It was recorded in Zen Studios, the capital city of Sydney’s inner-western Garageland region, by Geoffrey Lee over seven years, and what hit me straight away is that none of the live intensity has been lost. It captures a raw and live garage/pub band warts, belching and all…I can see a bloke over there who once drunkenly spilt beer on me and that other idiot that pushed me over in the mosh pit. And then I’m lifted up by another and patted on the back…
Hard-Ons and Nunchukka Superfly bass player, chatterbox and all-round nice guy, Ray Ahn, has been telling entertaining yarns on his Facebook feed for eons.
They've irrevent, rollicking tales that have taken on a life of their own lately, generating a big following and constant comments to the effect that Ray should write a book.
He's done the next best thing and is putting his stories into a blog. You can read it here.
Melbourne songstress Crystal Thomas has woken up in too many emergency ward beds for her own good. Next time you or I do the same, let this album be playing in the background.
Fucking brilliant. Primitive. Slightly awkward. Like bad early Nirvana, but with decent lyrics. Ugly, nasty stuff. But brilliant. Brave - particularly since this is an EP and no-one in Australia is buying fucking them now. So who are these idiots?
Blimey. You wait years for a great new British punk band to appear, then two arrive at once. Hot on the heels of the scorching Heavy Drapes debut EP, New York’s Tarbeach Records drops another essential release by a Scottish punk band.
Reaction first formed in Airdrie, Lanarkshire at the tail-end of the original UK punk explosion and embarked on a chaotic career trajectory that embraced drunken gigs, mayhem and (for at least one band member), some serious scrapes with the law. The only thing Reaction didn’t do was record any songs.
Gothenburg isn't snowed-in for 11 months of the year but I have it on good authority that it gets pretty grey and grim for long chunks of time. It's a nice place but it's no Costa Rica, meteorologically speaking. Plus, beer is expensive. So what can a poor boy do but play in a (punk) rock and roll band? Apa State Mental obviously subscribe to that view - and play their music with enough energy to melt a medium-sized glacier.
Let's be blunt: The problem with being simplistic and sticking to a formula is that you can disappear up your own arse after a while. Sweden's Apa State Mental know this only too well and deftly manage to sidestep that problem by never sitting still and, er, probing new areas.
Dirty-ass R&B twisted into their own nasty, digging thing.
It's awarded five bottles of beer. Maybe more. I’m too busy listening and dancing and making the car dodge those gigantic Woollies trucks.
Fuck this is fun. There’s only two of the buggers, a drummer and a guitarist and yeah, I know. The White fucking Stripes. Boy they were over-rated, weren’t they? Yeah. They were. But The Bonnevilles are the genuine crumbly biscuit, all warm and fuzzy from the hearth. Hearth?
If you're wondering how a Fairfisa-and-fuzz garage combo hails from a place like Wigan in darkest north-western England, you're not alone. Madchester, these guys are not. The Shook Ups sound more authentic than most of the '60s punkers from whom they derive their influences. In this case, that's a distinct plus.
Folk and punk may seem a bizarre match, but they're a perfect marriage. They're both about belief, emotion and bags of power. The Bad Shepherds make it all look easy; I know damn well it's not.
Even though it's nothing like sleepy London Town there's still not more a lot more to do in financially-strapped Greece these days than sing in a rock and roll band. Even the olive trees are out of work. Bazooka hails from that place (Greece, not London) and plays a rumbling, surly brand of lo-fi rock and roll that sits perfectly in the formidable Slovenly Music stable.
Hardcore is an odd beast. Visceral energy is its stock-in-trade. All too often it paints itself into a corner and whatever it has to stay is lost in a blur of downstrokes and angry intentions. Then somebody works out that you can play with dynamics and (shock!) melodies.
Perth band Leeches! stand out because they can do both. “Blurred Visions” is compelling, surging punk rock that seethes and burns - but also surprises with its no-nonsense harmonies and skilful playing. It reminds of Massappeal’s more creative stuff or even Off! That’s no faint praise.
This album title should be filed under the Don't Try This At Home Kiddies label. Everyone knows cheap booze + cheaper speed = a killer hangover. Played at volume, the amphetamine rush of The X Rays is likely to have the same effect. This is English gutter-punk, turned up to 11.
There's nothing subtle about these 26 songs. Each one is cranked out at extreme volume and pace. The effect is as bracing as it is tiring. The attack is incessant and bruising, the product of too many beer-soaked nights spent on heaving stages in Europe, supporting the likes of New Bomb Turks, Gas Huffer, The Motards and anyone else who'd have 'em. All but one song is the product of 10 singles issued in the '90s, the closing "Drinkin' For My Baby" being from a recent session by the reformed X-Rays. That last one is a keeper, by the way.
You know what to expect but you might not anticipate the sole cover, a take on the Saints' sublime "Erotic Neurotic", to be as distorted (or good) as it is. "Recording quality varies from cruddy to better than OK. Audiophiles, The X-Rays are not.
A third of the songs are presaged by a blast of white noise feedback. The rest simply lurch out of the speakers at you, unannounced and reaching for your throat. With titles like "Arrogant Fucked Up Shit", "Drahstrip Killer", "2 Bit Whore" and "PCP", it's punk rock in the Killed By Death genre, which if you don't know is the seamy under current that erupted all over the US of A without the straight edge affectations or extreme violence of hardcore.
Look, you're might have to be in the mood to be belted around the ears like this. There's precious little in the way of a saving grace like a melody line or a slow song. This is raw and insistent music to get blasted with. Judged on that basis, it works a treat. - The Barman
High Noon Records
Flash House are from London and play thrashy but articulate gutter punk. The Scandis and various bands from Australia and the American Midwest perfected this style in the early ’90s. They just weren’t as hirsute.
Sometimes you wonder why the English didn’t achieve more prominence in the trash-punk field while grunge was cutting a swathe, but they were buried under all that Britpop nonsense. Fuck me, I mean, Oasis were less a band than a series of Beatles songs masquerading as headlines. Flash House and their ilk are making up for lost time.
In these times of limited attention spans and information overload, every band needs a tagline. A way to be noticed. Flash House’s is: “Rock ’n’ roll dystopia. Fast songs played by slow minds”. It fits like a thumb in your bum.