Menacing Smile - The On and Ons (Citadel)
It’s an EP with six tracks of primo rocking powerpop from Sydney’s arch exponents. Two albums into this caper and The On and Ons sound like they own the space.
Short story: “Menacing Smile” is lined with wall-to-wall hooks and harmonies. Glenn Morris writes impeccable pop tunes and the band delivers them like they were born to do so.
Australian underground elder statesman and co-founder of The Stems, Richard Lane, has passed away in Fremantle. An announcement has been made via The Stems’ Facebook page.
Richard had lately been a member of The Painkillers, the hard-rocking garage outfit formed by James Baker, and rehearsed with them last Saturday.
Richard and Dom Mariani formed The Stems in 1983 and went on to have a fruitful if tumultuous musical partnership. Lane was a driving musical force behind the band’s early garage sound, epitomised on their early singles. He also played guitar and keyboards on the debut album “At First Sight Violets Are Blue” and the 2007 reformation record, “Heads Up”.
The band dissolved in 1987 but has reformed a couple of times. Richard was not a part of the line-up that was reconstituted in 2013.
Richard spent time living in Perth and Sydney. He formed a small record label, Idaho Records, in Perth in the 1990s and played in a number of other important bands including The Chevelles, The Rosebuds and The On and Ons.
Richard founded Penny Lane’s Music Workshop in Fremantle in 2003 as a community-based outlet to teach music. He is survived by second wife Cathy and daughter Penny.
ManArays - ManArays (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Considering they've been around since the start of last decade, Brisbane’s Manarays have a minuscule online footprint. Consider this a Public Service Announcement to alert you to their presence, as well as an album review.
The ManArays - vocalist Chris Fletcher, guitarist Adrian Carroll (aka Killer Guitar Carroll) and drummer Micky Scott - come from turn-of-the’80s Sydneysiders The Splatterheads, so it’s no surprise to hear them tackle these 13 songs with a similar attack.
St Valentine’s Day Massacre - Baby MachineVee Bees (self released)
The pairing of Wollongong’s female tearaways Babymachine with Queanbeyan-via-the-Gong-and-inner-western-Sydney yobs The VeeBees for this three-song, 10-inch EP fell out of a Lemmy tribute bill a few yars ago on which both bands appeared. It’s a match made, not in heaven, but the back bar of the Sunset Strip's Rainbow Bar and Grill.
Taking a leaf out of the book written by Motorhead and Girlschool, “St Valentine’s Day Massacre” mixes the bloodlines, if not the bodily fluids, of two bands with a similar spirit. The result is a song by each act and one joint effort. Babymachine tackles “Bomber” while the VeeBees put paid to Girlchool’s “Emergency”. The A side, “Please Don’t Touch”, is a lesser-known Johnny Kidd and the Pirates number.
John Dowler (second from he left) and his Vanity Project.
John Dowler concedes that the name of his solo project, John Dowler’s Vanity Project, is tainted with irony. But, Dowler adds, “a friend of mine did tell me that all bands are vanity projects in one way or another – certainly all of mine are. So I just owning up to it”.
On the basis of his longevity in the rock’n’roll caper, Dowler has cause for at least a modicum of be vanity. Add into the equation the fact Dowler was four bars ahead of the rock’n’roll curve when his contemporaries were still mimicking Beatles chords, and the guy should really have his name in lights somewhere.
Not Your Average Country Band - Dave Favours and The Roadside Ashes (Stanley Records)
It doesn’t take many dots to join the lines between rock and roll and its forebears, country music and blues. Sydney’s Dave Favours and his band The Roadside Ashes do It better than many.
“Too rocking for country purists and too country for the rock crowd” is a familiar descriptor and it’s one that Dave Favours grips in a bear hug without any concession to social distancing. Hie says his music owes as much to Hank Williams as The Clash and that’s one reason you rockists (guilty as charged) may want to give it more than a cursory listen.
Yeah Yeah Nah Nah - VeeBees (Ocker Records)
Rob Younger once opined that he hated lyrical references to local landmarks in Australian songs. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to sing about Parramatta Road. Have you been down Auto Alley lately? Fair call.
On the other side of the ledger, it’s also been said that bands should write songs about things they know. The VeeBees sing about Wollongong, suburban Canberra, drive-through bottleshops in Sydney's inner-west, drinking, cars, girls and pubs, ad infinitum. There must be a message in that.
And of course “Bulli Pass” rhymes with “arse”.
Outlaws - Rose Tattoo (Cleopatra Records/Punktured Media)
On which the current, immaculately qualified Tatts pay tribute to the heritage created by a late and much missed past line-up, with mixed results.
Dispassionately assessing a re-recording of Rose Tattoo's classic 1978 self-titled debut album is a tough assignment for any fan of the original work. It was a unique record.
A masterful blend of blues-boogie-rock with massive bottom-end swing. It was laced with punk's confrontational edge and delivered by true outsiders with a gang mentality - when both of those qualities were real and mattered.
Foreign Insurgence - Lethal Mercenaries (self released)
Once you get past the homespun production, “Foreign Insurgence” is a handy slice of garage punk Rock Action.
It’s a mini-album by Lethal Mercenaries, a band formed seven years ago by Charlie Lethal - aka Sydney musician and onetime I-94 Bar scribe Simon Li - and some local underground luminaries.
Simon is Hong Kong-born, Melbourne-raised and Sydney domiciled, so his influences are varied. He’s also a product of Melbourne’s musical training ground, Rock and Roll High School, and a slavish devotee of that city’s late rock royalty, the Powder Monkeys.