Mighty little Melbourne label Buttercup has taken up the cause of split singles by some of its home city's finest that Infidelity Records was rolling out when they shut their doors. The concept is an A side from a headliner backed with a couple of bands covering the lead-off band on the flipside. Putting The Meanies, Digger & The Pussycats and The Double Agents on the same slab of seven-inch vinyl is an inspired idea.
The Meanies are as much a Melbourne institution as that odd football game they follow and the venerable Tote Hotel. Their song, “Gravity”, is a particularly sticky piece of ear wax with a catchy vocal line and sharp guitar solo. The vocal harmony fade out will have you reaching for the turntable tone arm to play it again, even if your name isn't Sam.
Flip the 45 over and the explosive cover of “Gangrenous” is typical of the musical hand grenades that duo Digger & The Pussycats have lobbed in pubs and cafes from Geelong to Lower Europe. Bratty and brilliant and at 1min43sec it’s over before you can get bored.
The other cover song by The Double Agents is (as far I know) posthumous and only a touch over a couple of minutes long, But what quality minutes they are. The groove on “Cock Rock Lips” sounds like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hitting high-gear in their tour van on a boozy road trip through the wilds of St Kilda. Too good not to hear again.
Buttercup Records on the Web
This is bright folk-pop from a reformed New York City garage scene band that recorded but never released an album of new material a decade ago.
The Optic Nerve put out a couple of jangle-pop albums in the ‘80s (on Screaming Apple and Get Hip) and A side “Penelope Tuesday” is in the same folky vein. When Bobby Belfiore (lead vocals) and guitarist Tony Matura lock together harmonically, it’s sunny enough to make you reach for your sunglasses. Think of The Optic Nerve as the opposite of most of the wave of revival '60s garage rock. They owe more to The Charlatans than the Music Machine.
The flipside “Here To Stay” is more downbeat with Byrds-style vocalising and Bay Area six-string jangle that makes way for a nice tremolo lead break. It's like the early Haight-Ashbury got sold and transplanted to Brooklyn. You'll find a copy on State Records where all the best freakbeat and garage rock 45's live.
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His latest album might have more guests than an open bar at the Playboy Mansion but there’s a consistency to the music that Peter Blast makes on “Painting Without Canvas” that makes it a worthwhile trip.
Blast is a Chicago native, onetime associate of Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators and one of the first people to bring punk rock to the garish glow of the Las Vegas Strip, but he charts a path for the heart of Americana on this one, while never shaking off his Stonesy roots.
In short, “Painting Without Canvas” is like a dinner where Blast’s guests-of-honour are Keef, Gram Parsons and Nicki Sudden.
Dig it: “The Spirit” is a five star album and Hugo Race and the True Spirit will be touring it through Europe, from West to East, from October 2015 onwards. There will be a second record from the recording sessions (not featured here): “False Idols” will appear in October. When you get the vinyl of “True Spirit” there’s a CD included; hell, that’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned.
Brace yourselves, Europeans. Buy tickets - and Hugo’s back catalogue. You’re in for a treat. No gig will be the same: “Each time we play one of our songs the interpretation changes because of the sound - the sound is always morphing, it’s always coming through us and we’re changing all the time and open to the fact that we’re channeling music as much as we’re playing it. Performance blurs those lines…”, Hugo explains.
Well, here we are with another pair of CDs, both with a minimum of five bottles. Bag ‘em, folks, and you’ll find you suddenly have a yen for heading to the Sartorial Records site and loading up that shopping cart.
You know ‘mixtapes’, that modern nonsensical term for a compilation CD? You know how you used to make ‘compilation tapes’ yourself? Partly we did this so we could take some of our favourite songs and put them alongside those rarities like flexidiscs or 7”s so our original vinyl discs wouldn’t get worn out, and partly, of course, for the same reason then as now: radio is mostly rubbish.
Unless the Barman wishes to alter my remunerative package (i.e. I don’t get to wipe the glasses), I don’t tend to investigate the background of a performer. I prefer to let the songs speak. “Big Hearted Lovin’ Man” is a four-star CD, and if the music were more to my taste I’d be saying more.
Short review: Glistening golden guitar married to Dan Brodie’s transcendent voice is a match in heaven. Even better, Dan can write fine lyrics. Some leap out a little more than others; “Prescription Chemicals’”and “Lower Me Down” are particular favourites.
Brian James hasn’t done a lot of looking back since parting ways with The Damned after writing and playing on their first two albums.
Sure, there’s been the odd reunion tour with Vanian and Co and he’s reprised some of his own songs from back then, but it’s his spells with The Lords of the New Church and a string of other projects - including separate bands with the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Iggy Pop and Rat Scabies, plus his own Brian James Gang - that have kept him busy. This solo album continues the trend.
This album’s title is apt. Its 10 tracks reek of stinging, searing guitar. As a member of the stillborn-in-rehearsals London SS, James took his lead from the MC5 and the “Raw Power” Stooges and it shows. You can still make a case for him as playing one of the angriest guitars since James Williamson.
Japanese guitarist Kawaguchi Masami has a reputation for heavy riffage and dreamy soundscapes in his long string of bands, but in solo mode he leans heavily towards the latter. “The Mad Guitar Sings” bears more than a reference in name only to Syd Barrett’s post-Floyd stuff but is perhaps even darker in its tone.
Masami has been in bands like Miminokoto, New Rock Syndicate, Los Doroncos (with Doronco of Les Rallizes Denudes), Aihiyo (with Keiji Haino), LSD March and Broomdusters, all of which are just names to me but well regarded by those grounded in Japanese heavy rock and psych.
Emmy Etie photograph
He's been dubbed The Godfather of Australian Stoner Rock for his work with ultra-heavy '70s band Buffalo and Dave Tice is re-visiting his revered outfit's legacy with a series of select shows.
Tice has assembled a new line-up under the banner Buffalo Revisited to focus on the earliest of the original band's five albums.
Buffalo Revisited is presenting the music of Buffalo at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Leichhardt on Saturday, November 27 with supports Arrowhead and Bitter Sweethearts. Pre-sale tickets are on sale here.