Four Flights Up - Screamin' Stevie and The Credit Union (TurkeyNeck)
Shoot me with a ball of my own shit if Brisbane-via-Melbourne-and-back-to-Brisbane's Hekawis weren't the best and most ignored garage rock band on the Australian continent. Irreverent, off-beat and driven by Screamin' Stevie's quirky keyboards and down-home vocals, they churned out a slew of inspired singles and albums while almost no-one was looking. Let's hope Screamin' Stevie's new band The Credit Union and their debut album don't suffer the same fate.
A good half of these songs featured on past Hekawis records but don't hold that against them. Stevie writes a great beat-psych tune and is obviously reluctant to let the best ones go. Self-produced with the assistance of Brad Davies, "Four Flights Up" resonates with a "don't fuck with it if it ain't broke" ethos that lays down an uncluttered soundscape with a beefy bottom end. Screamin' Stevie handles most of the vocals and his organ's mixed up front. Anthony Lay sings two songs and he and Bruce Graham turn in some ace guitar.
"In The Band" is back in what I'm guessing is its third recorded guise, and while it's slicker than any that have gone before it retains the hand-made charm and offbeat paranoiac streak ("Don't smoke marijuana/In the band") that's always made it memorable.
Speaking of, drugs play a lyrical role in the acid-infused opener "4 Flights Up" which is an almost perfect mix of Stevie's drawl, poppy backing vox, greasy harp and meaty wah-wah. Handclaps and swirly organ cut through the re-made "Tribute To Dell" to give it a special groove. Stevie's vocal twists it just nicely to take it out.
By contrast, "If You Don't Care" and Anthony Lay's mellow vocal renders a straight-up pop song with loads of naive charm. Proof, if it were needed, that this Credit Union builds its rating with the markets on a diversified investment portfolio.
If there's a pattern of my-baby-don't-love-me songs, "Black Negro" breaks the mould with a string of tributes to rock and roll's inventors. There's a delight in Stevie's opening "Heeeey! Allright!!" that's born of the sheer delight of preaching a righteous rock and roll sermon with couplets like ""And you want to know what turns me on/"Well it's Rufus Thomas singing 'I'm Walking The Dog' ", delivered in a growl that keep things firmly anchored to the garage floor.
The smooth Lay vocal and restrained piano backing on "Still Life" had me doing a double-take three-quarters of the way through and wondering if the fucking Whitlams had invaded the studio during mastering. This one I initially avoided but it's grown to the point that I like it - even if it could easily slip onto commercial radio playlists in most capital cities (till the programmers realised it wasn't on a major and wasn't accompanied by a salad bowl full of coke.) An oddity for sure but also a grower. Most of the material is firmly rooted in the garage and owes more to The Seeds than Sinatra.
This album finishes on a strong note: "What The New Breed Say" is a Question Mark and the Mysterians-inspired rocker while the closer "Who Told All The Lies?" is a drawn-out, psych pop piece with groovy piano and lyrical curve balls.
Did I mention Bruce Graham's lead guitarwork throughout is worth bottling?
Accessible, rockin and still quirky. Contender for Aussie album of the year.