What it's cracked up to be
A Crack in the World - Brando Rising (Crankinhaus)
“A Crack in the World” is an utter cracker, and if any of you lot had recorded anything half as good as this you'd have heads as big as prize-winning pumpkins.
I mean to say, Jesus wept, lads. “A Crack in the World” gets your attention as surely as if someone has heaved a box of tinned tuna at your head.
Doesn't matter what mood you're in, put this in your slot (oo-er, missus, fnaar fnaar etc) and you'll feel like a character in a 1950s Warner Brothers cartoon who has rashly “just added water” to a mysterious sachet.
Instantly, you will recall the worst crank you've ever snorted and the worst beer (I'm told it's Emu Beer but I could be wrong) and, while your inhibitions slip away and your shirt comes off with a whirl and plink of buttons (and your girlfriend hurries away, yet again deeply embarrassed), the glorious tank which is Brando Rising rides roughshod over whatever sensibilities you thought you had, leaving your trousers on the street because next-door's pooch is beginning to look fetching.
Oh, dear. Right, well, I think this is the fourth disc I've reviewed this year featuring the indomitable Ripley Hood on vox (and quite a few featuring the maniac Kelly Hewson) and I'm astounded to comment that they're all bloody good, but this... this new Brando Rising EP is extraordinary.
First, a shout out to Dugald Jayes, whose production has delivered this juggernaut, and captured a band which barely seems able to stay together, so ferocious is its trajectory. Mr Steve Whan's drums slug together with Mr Peter Le Chapelain's bass in a dream rhythm section which any mainstream band would kill to poach, the kind of scaly creature which neatly pauses its fire-breathing of innocent civilians plucked from windows to give the camera a grim wink, and with a flash of wings and a gout of flame soars over to the next valley to wreak havoc over there.
Mr Kelly Hewson is - like Mr Hood - an escapee from Adelaide, and as such still commands a certain footprint in his hometown. Former outfits include Gun Control, Hot Tomatoes and Glen & The Peanut Buttermen. But that, folks, tells you nothing. Hewson's guitar rocks like no other bugger rocks, and it screams, scythes and pokes pointed sticks into you. The perfect foil for Whan and Le Chapelain's stampeding bull elephants, the music alone on this EP has you gasping for air (or rye whiskey).
Then there's Mr Hood, consummate showman (whose obvious vocal influences include Iggy, Billy Idol and American gangsters with tommy-guns). He's got enough chutzpah not to bellow all through a song, which gives oxygen to the heaving trio of musicians, but comes in at full bore to set up both narrative and toppling morality.
I spoke to Ripley Hood, face-puller and vox-in-chief:
Well, chaps, it's a bit intense, isn't it? What on earth got into you?
RH: We've been eating our Weeties.
Regular as well as vocal. Rip, would it be fair to say that vocally, you share elements of Iggy, Billy Idol and American gangsters with tommy-guns?
RH: Billy Idol?! How dare you, sir... It's because of the bleach blonde hair, isn't it? But seriously, whilst I do enjoy some early Generation X material, I'm not sure where you're getting the Billy Idol bit from. As for Iggy and American gangsters with tommy-guns, well, of course! But my vocal inspirations are many and varied, and range from Sinatra to the Sex Pistols.
Er, okay. Now, I don't discuss the meaning of the songs in my review - feel like telling me a bit about them, how you came to them?
RH: No. Certainly not. It's a secret... Oh, alright then... If you're referring to this new and first official Brando Rising release, well... You'd have to ask Kelly what "Sonora" is about. He'll explain it better than I because he wrote the lyrics for that one.
"F Is For Fake" is basically about betrayal. Betrayal by someone you called friend. It's an ode to narcissistic psychopaths and is "based on a true story"... Heh. But it could be about anyone really, because there's plenty of them out there.
The track "Sell Out" is a resurrected number from the old Gun Control/Funhouse days that Kelly & I always wanted to record properly. And the EP's closer, "Show Me", is a little ditty about the need for a new music revolution and is a bit of a finger-up to the more commercial side of radio that seems to be either stuck in a time warp or obsessed with promoting the current trend of soulless, largely synthetic music. If you can call that stuff music!
Also, Brando has been working hard, I can see, and the shift in gears seems tremendous? What are you all snorting? Dragon blood?
RH: Well, basically the shift in gears was a result of the band having now found itself. When you're starting a brand-new group from the ground up, it's always going to take a bit of time before it comes in to its own.
Kelly and I had always wanted to work together again and after well over 30 years, we're finally doing it. I moved from Sydney to Melbourne where Kelly has been residing for some time, and we basically sat down and began nutting out some songs while searching for the right kind of rhythm section.
During that period, I met drummer Steve Whan and bassist Peter Le Chapelain, and we'd been jamming in a '60s garage punk cover group with bassist Julian Matthews from The Stems on guitar. Julian is a family man and business owner, so when The Stems suddenly decided to reform, he had to pull the pin due to time constraints and I nabbed Steve and Pete for Brando Rising.
Kelly and I only had about half a dozen originals at that time, so we went to the studio we'd been rehearsing at and recorded a cheap demo to place online for the purpose of getting gigs. The demo had its moments, so we ended up throwing 4-5 numbers on a CD to flog at shows.
Since then the band's sound has been hugely refined and the song writing matured, especially with added input from the rhythm section lads. Along with the benefit of playing gigs around Melbourne, Brando Rising has now become what you hear on this new and first official release. It's almost a different band entirely from the one heard on that demo CD. "A Crack In The World" was recorded live at Soundpark, one of Melbourne's best studios.
So, I asked some questions of Kelly Hewson, guitar bomber.
KH: We've been working hard and everything just magically came together ... Well, a few years ago when we did the Gun Control reunion, I had to learn a lot of old songs which actually probably took me around six months to recapture the feel and work out what the hell I had played, plus how I got the sounds. It was sort of an epiphany for me where I morphed into both myself now and my 20-year-old self.
Suddenly I was right back into which guitar, pickups, new pedals, amp sounds, strings and playing. It washed away the complacency and laziness of the muso and made me the double of what I was. I am still into it, still looking for that new sound and riff I can come up with.
Working with Rip has reawakened my song writing; I can now write seemingly ridiculous lyrical combinations and themes and he can somehow pull them off. We have worked hard on our sound and the songs. We went through the bass and drum sounds in depth, working with the players, bought new equipment and gave everything a tune-up. It's also become more of a team effort where the "new guys" can now see where we are going and why. Also they have had a bit of input with songwriting etc, which helps throw the course into unexpected directions.
Tell me about "Sonora"?
KH: Well, "Sonora" is pretty much about being able to stop your internal dialogue and exist with a strong sense of yourself within the natural world and the struggle to get there. It also acknowledges that we are connected to where and how we live and we have some choice into how this affects us and whether we can control our own destiny. Or I could just say that I have read a lot of books of all kinds including, when I was younger, every book ever written by Carlos Castaneda and even Tasha Abelaar. Haha - or not.
"A Crack in the World" is only four songs but I'm wrung out from dancing and twitching and being deafened. I need to see Brando Rising, and so do you.
Sometimes I enjoy telling you how each song progresses, or what they're about, but not today. Put on "A Crack in the World" really fucking LOUD and be amazed how it yanks you away from the day to day and into a world you forgot existed.
Buy it here