Refusal of service never felt so good

rsa bluesRSA Blues - White Knuckle Fever (White Knuckle Fever)

Some explanation is in order - especially for those not watching at home: “RSA” stands for Responsible Service of Alcohol, an Australian rule that puts the onus on bar and pub staff to stop plying punters with booze when they’re as full as a fat lady’s boot. To continue service is to risk a draconian fine and imprisonment in a gulag.

While it’s true some Aussies can’t handle their grog, they’re a minority. That’s OK. We always legislate for the few. If only we were Europeans and could be trusted…

Now you’re wised up, “RSA Blues” is the lead song on a four-track, double seven-inch vinyl effort from White Knuckle Fever, the formidable - and fucking funny - psychobilly blues rock duo from Sydney, Australia. Celia Curtis (vocals, blues harp and burlesque behaviour) and Ross Threekshort (guitar and programming) are one of the best nights out this side of a Scientology building burning down. 

Archival cache of Paul Collins hits the spot

another world paul collins beatAnother World (The Best of The Archives) - Paul Collins & The Beat (Alive Natural Sound)

Paul Collins must be a hoarder. Probably a bit of OCD in there too, if you’ll excuse the long-distance and unqualified psychoanalysis. It goes with the pop songwriter turf. And this collection of previously unreleased recordings attests to it.

These songs are from Collins' sock drawer and they go all the way back to 1980. Don't let the demo quality of some of them deter you. There's more than the occasional fleck of gold among the 18 tunes. In fact, it's a rich vein. For example, "Hey DJ" outstrips the previously released version - by a long way.

Plastic fantastic

twisted plastic section Twisted - Plastic Section (Outtaspace)

Two salient points need to be made:

If you're going to tap a source, go back to the original.

And there ain’t nothing plastic about this Melbourne trio's sound.

Think Flat Duo Jets, the early White Stripes, Link Wray & The Raymen and BBQ to name a few. While you're at it, you can throw in that catch-all descriptor "Crampsian". In a big way...

Thirty years late, Lovergrinder births an album

lovegrinderLovegrinder The Album – Lovegrinder (self released)

There’s a popular theory - perpetuated by a few fans of Junkie Rock from Australia’s southern state's capital city – that the so-called salad days of Sydney underground rock and roll were a farrago based on an overdose of second-rate Radio Birdman copyists. 

Call it a typically defensive Sydney response but while the "Detroit" handle became a tag of convenience, most of the Harbour City’s bands of the 1980s/early ‘90s had tenuous musical links to the Birdmen. There was a handful of short-lived clones, but for the vast majority it was the energy and undeniable fuck-you-we’ll-do-what-we-want attitude of the Radios that were the hand-me-downs, and not their unique, impossible to replicate mutated musical mix.

Which brings us to Lovegrinder, yet another in the long line of Sydney bands that never progressed higher than the lower support rungs of the very crowded local live scene ladder. Not that there’s any great shame in that. For many, headlining the Tivoli or Selina’s wasn’t the goal because they had no interest in being on the rosters of the omnipotent Dirty Pool, Nuclear or Harbour booking agencies. Playing music was more about knocking around with their mates, consuming beers (or something illicit) and having a good time.

A Sunnyboy will be alone with you on the final Monday Evening Gunk

The season finale of Monday Evening Gunk is this Monday. Point your browser at the MoshPit Bar Facebook at 7.30pm Sydney time on November 23 to catch Richard Burgman of Sunnyboys, ther Saints, Weddings Parties Anything and many more talking to broadcaster-author Stuart Coupe and ex-Trilobites bassist Scott Leighton. A live set from Freaksd of Nature (a near Trilobites reunion) will take us out. You can catch-up for the replay here on Tuesday.  

Boomer conceits can't bury a good story

i ll be goneI’ll Be Gone: Mike Rudd, Spectrum and How One Song Captured a Generation

By Craig Horne (
Melbourne Books)

Craig Horne’s biography of New Zealand-born musician Mike Rudd comes with a lofty sub-titular proposition: "How One Song Captured a Generation". That song is Spectrum’s chart-topping 1971 hit, "I’ll Be Gone".

Horne’s biography is a valuable contribution to Australasian musical history. While Rudd’s trajectory as a musician and songwriter is common to many musicians, Horne’s methodical research and oral history charts the highs and lows of Rudd’s career in impressive detail.

Save for a few cursory mentions in John Dix’s chaotic history of New Zealand music, “Stranded in Paradise”, Rudd’s Christchurch r’n’b band, Chants (or Chants R’n’B), the frenetic band whose parochial popularity provided the basis for Rudd’s move across the Tasman in the late 1960s, is largely absent from the pages of musical history.

Rudd’s tenure in Ross Wilson’s Party Machine, covered previously in Horne’s biography of Daddy Cool, is recounted from a more nuanced, Rudd-oriented perspective. Spectrum rises, plateaus, recalibrates and fades away. Ariel teeters on the edge of commercial success, only for the record company to lose interest.

The Six Strings That Drew Blood

TGBTRSHThis Guitar Belongs to Rowland S. Howard
Edited by Harry Howard (Ledatape)

This is one of the best books I've bought all year.

Why do people buy books about musicians? For the sex, of course. And the glamour and excess. And to get the dirt. Or to try to understand a bit more about the tortured muse. Or because they're a completist. 

What makes a music book crap? If it's not about someone you're interested in, if it's badly written, if it's not factual, if it's (Cardinal Sin Alert) boring. 

Forget the words for the moment. "This Guitar Belongs To Rowland S. Howard" is one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen (and I've worked in an antiquarian bookshop for over 20 years).

These streets are paved with dirt

rough and tumbleRough And Tumble - The Dirty Streets (Alive Naturalsound)

They might not realise it but Califonian label Alive Naturalsound have cornered the market in hirsute bands playing psych-laced, Southern fried boogie rock with a dash of soul. The Dirty Streets might be the label's archetypal flag-fliers.

They lack the massive guitar jam excesses of Radio Moscow, the rustic dryness of the early Black Keys or the home-grown stoner full-tilt boogie strut of Left Lane Cruiser (all of them label mates, past or present) but The Dirty Streets share the same zipcode.

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