Tougher Pucker - Shandy (Contra Records/Longshot Music)
It's hearsay but I’ve got this on good authority: Being on the end of a kicking from one of Australia’s Sharpie gangs at the end off the ‘60s or start of the ‘70s was never have been as much fun as going to a show by Brisbane band Shandy.
For the uninitiated, a shandy is an Australian beer with lemonade added. Truly a relic of the ‘60s and, personally, there’s no reason to commit a crime like this unless your grandmother is really insistent and has a doctor’s certificate to prove she’s dying from thirst. Shandy, the band, on the other hand is less offensive by a factor of double figures. Shandy rocks.
The Sharps were a uniquely Australian brand of street gang that roamed the suburbs of Sydney and especially Melbourne 50 years ago. They liked their music raw and guitar-infested. Glam and boogie were the go. You can read more about it in this review of "When Sharpies Rules, the landmark compilation that came out in 2015.
But back to the band at hand. Shandy is the brainchild of Brisbane punk rocker JJ Speedball (vocals and guitar) and takes its inspiration from the Sharps culture of his adolescence. Two guitars, bass and drums, Shandy plays boogie-glam music that’s rocking in a light way and highly effervescent. Singalong choruses and beaver boy backing vocals. Charge your glass. Put the lemonade to one side and this is great drinking music.
While songs like “Go You Good Thing” betrays a Ramonic heritage, “Dig Deep and Deeper” nails the Sharpie musical ethos brilliantly. “Beards and Banjos” is a musical beating for hipsters. “Boogie Woogie” is a lyrically clever homage to mindless ‘70s fun.
“Hey Sally” is spunky buzz-pop glam with ‘70s chord changes and “Dance” is both simple and inspired. No need for many lyrics when the tune is good.
The production is uncomplicated and clean - maybe a little too so as there are parts where some extra '70s glam crunch could have been applied to the drums and guitars.
The universal appeal of Shandy is evident when you realise the band’s taken its music to Europe twice now, recording one of these tracks in Belgium. What the Euro-rockers made of a patently Australian song like “Kookaburra Sings” (it refers to a look-out keeping a watch while other gang members go about illicit business) with a JJ birdcall as the central motif is a good question. I figure the answer is that they danced. Hard.