Similarities and contrasts from Sydney and Melbourne
Space Travels - Sonic Garage (self-released)
Welt – I Am Duckeye (self-released)
Sydney's Sonic Garage have produced a fine rock'n'roll album. Victoria's I Am Duckeye have produced a brutal, beautiful fucking monster. The fiorst bvand is from Sydney, the latter from Melbourne.
There are similarities to both records - Sonic Garage dedicate their album to Luke Lovelock. Duckeye dedicate theirs to one, Matt Browne. And both have striking covers; Sonic Garage show us Saxon Wyatt's bonnet art (it's got that 1970s and Eric Von Daniken vibe which all Hyundai cars should have), while Duckeye found a roadkilled bird which had then been half-painted over by a careless road-line marker.
Their back cover is very boganista - a bunch of beery customers you can barely see as most of a very smashed guitar goes sailing over someone's adjoining breezer block wall.
Sonic Garage are a very Sydney band, to the point where I can't imagine a group sounding like them emerging from anywhere else except Spain. See, there's a particular niche styling which was honed to a 'T' in Sydney, and every now and then someone goes back to it, gives it a kick to see if the tyres will inflate (they do) and then get tinkering to see if the old dragster will roar up on its hind legs and produce a cloud of stinking smoke.
Now, I have to confess I know Sonic Garage’s Phil Van Rooyen because I also love another band he's in - The Chickenstones. Phil's a lovely man and if you met him, you'd like him too. It grieves me I cannot in all conscience give this LP a bigger bottle-count, but perhaps it's the stylisation which I find difficult. I'll know next year, ask me then. I enjoyed their predecessor, Circus Chaplains (even managed to see them once, no mean feat for a poor Adelaide boy) very much and it was a damn sad day when I learned that Luke Lovelock had died.
I'm told that because Pete Bourke had songs left over from the end days of the Circus Chaplains, so he put the band together with his old friend Pete Trifunovic (ex-Mushroom Planet). Then, after a six-month break and missing Phil and his take-no-prisoners front-man passion Pete Bourke brought him in.
After auditioning drummers they found Ronny Welsh fit like an old boxer's hand in a favourite glove. Of the songs, Phil wrote “Asteroid”, “New Horizons”, “Cold Outside”, and “Rossi” (I don't think it's about the boot-makers but you never know); while Bourke wrote “Psycho Lover”, “Streets on Fire”, “Run'”and “21st Century Man”; needless to say the rest of the band put their musical paws in as well. As with the Circus Chaplains and The Chickenstones, vocals are shared with each writer singing the song they wrote, a technique which also serves to round out a band more fully.
“Space Travels” was recorded at Zen Studios by Geoff Lee (the same chap who did the Circus Chaplains) with some extra keyboards by Russell Parkhouse (Riptides). So like I say, here we have a fine LP which I understand has been getting a bit of attention lately, especially on the radio.
I won't go track by track, but “Asteroid” is a stand-out opening track; Phil's love for his friend Luke, and the pain of watching him go inside himself and along his chosen trajectory, is plain. There's grief, anger and deep frustration. I did find myself wondering if there wasn't a bit of deja vu for Phil in this song, partly as an older man with experience of young folks on bad pathways; “See you dancing downstream/Inside the asteroid”.
Perhaps similarly, “New Horizons'”is very much about the mortality of his friends and family, but the song itself is an uplifting chug which you'll find yourself singing along to; “Cold Outside” is similarly punchy and grief-laden. Phil's last track here, “Rossi”, is also clearly about Luke.
But we all make dreadful decisions, unless we're either very smart or very lucky, as “Psycho Lover” demonstrates. There's a lovely little lick lifted straight from an AC/DC hit (different key, I suspect) but it's immaterial - the result is a driving, jarring rock song which you'll be - again - happy to sing along with.
Comparisons? Well, if you must you'll doubtless hear the Stooges' influence, but there's plenty of others. Easybeats, mebbe? You'll hear quite a few other things, of course, but that's not the point. We have a fine, well-balanced LP here; Pete Bourke's songs are vividly drawn sketches of a big life (check out the chorus in “Run” of “they're gonna crucify me”). Phil's are extraordinarily personal, almost introspective, and “Space Travels” is all the better for it. Russell Parkhouse's keys add a damn fine breadth and punchy overbite to the LP, and Geoff Lee has done a great job.
Petition Sonic Garage to play your town when the stupidvirus abates somewhat. But ban the “freedom protesters” from attending, okay? They'll only get in the way, breathing every harmful, dangerous bug known to humanity all over you, and call it “their right”. Buy the album here and read another review here.
Back to I Am Duckeye. Now, a worse confession: while I live in Adelaide, and there have been gigs aplenty for some time, I simply haven't been able to get out as much as I'd like. So, I've never seen Duckeye (and I have a feeling they've played here, and not just once either). After hearing this, I absolutely must see them, even if I have to hop a bus to do so (yeah, I know, when the stupidvirus has abated).um,
This is I Am Duckeye's 11th release if their Bandcamp site is accurate and “Welt” is their fifth album, so it looks like I need to open my wallet again.
Why am I so excited? The first song, “Sifting” has me from the first. Starting with the kind of jangle that Peter Buck would admire, we're then hammered with a very fuzzy bass and a driving beat and a brutal vocalist who was presumably weaned at Cannibal Corpse. “Sifting” has several shifts and changes, and on the evidence of this song alone, you need this LP.
“Mango Tree” follows. Another song (one of many here) which I suspect was constructed to bludgeon a hapless audience. The construction here is beautiful, original approach to guitar (so spiky) and rhythms, and this singer is fucking great. Superb range from whiplash to reluctant romance.
If there are specific band comparisons to be made, they won't be from me. I'm pleasantly reminded of the early 1980s USA underground, where bands like Big Boys and Really Red, Husker Du and Minutemen, tried - and succeeded - in wrenching punk into fantastic new shapes for a generation of disaffected to discover. Perhaps I should say that Duckeye don't sound like the usual arty band from Melbourne; far, far too heavy and uncompromising for that. Apparently their last LP, “Puce”, was heavier and less melodic than “Welt”, but hey, I'm not arguing. I reckon they'll send me broke, though.
No, I won't take you through the whole LP track by track. You deserve to hear this yourselves. It's too early for me to single out favourite tracks. The whole LP killdozers over you, but you'll be able to relate to these songs.
The bass is a fucking monster, great lines too. The guitar is a tense series of rippling electricity wires. The drummer is something else, lots of stuff going on here. I can't imagine what they'd be like live. Looks like I gotta get out of the house.
Let's be fair here, no-one sounds like I Am Duckeye, and probably never will. “Welt” is a classic, and you need a copy in your house and car. Yeah, and at the office, too. But it here.
- Sonic Garage yes indeed.
- Duckeye. Holy fucksticks.