Sonic Seducers - Intercontinental Playboys (Off The Hip)
There's a lot of competition but this might just be one of the best Australian releases of 2005, certainly in the (self-imposed) sub category of Voodoo Psych Garage. Think multi-layered fuzz guitar entwined around chunky organ chords and you're in the neighbourhood. As good as their debut EP "Ladies May We Introduce Ourselves" was, "Sonic Seducers" is a quantum advance with the songs sounding more rounded, and the band much more in control.
Given their past penchant for live Cramps covers and their reconfiguration as a bass-less four-piece (with Michelangelo now full-time on the keys), the comparisons to the institution that is Lux and Ivy and a revolving cast of supporting players are almost inevitable. But imposing that label would be lazy. Sure, they're mining common ground (although the Playboys mention the Barracudas and Stooges in the same breath), but one of the strengths of the Cramps in their glory days was their ability to nod to precursors while simultaneously applying colours from their own palette. The Playboys do the same, sounding sassy, smart and rocking in the same breath.
Where the Cramps are intent on getting fucked up (or fucking) in as many ways as possible and telling everybody about it, these enigmatic Sydney gents are more demure. Men of the world they may be, but they're still wrestling with the usual problems of relationships ("Baby Hang Up"), how to have a good time ("Downright Right Down", "The Bedroom Analyst") and what to wear when doing so.
The songs are so great here, it's hard to know where to start. The opener "Voodoo Delight" puts the fuzz credentials firmly on the table while "The Erotic Circus of Torment", "Death Row Tango" and "Journey to the Centre of My Dirty Mind" all manage to make their point without bludgeoning or putting the pedal to the figurative metal. Seductive stuff.
Considerable effort's gone into making "Sonic Seducers" sound just right and to this end, guitarist Benedict has woven a heady sonic fabric with all manner of fuzztones embedded into the stitching. His guitar stylings are outstanding and as distinctive a feature as Tommi's idiosyncratic vocals. The keyboard basslines are thick enough to stir a martini on and amply fill the bottom end, allaying fears of bass-less wimpishness. This is an album that resounds with a rock sensibility in all but its slinkiest moments.
Tougher than its predecessor but at the same time more sweeping in its ambitions, "Sonic Seducers" is on the money. Not many bands doing this stuff as well. Hopefully, this will be the catalyst to get the Playboys overseas.