Stranglers head Down Under

thestranglers
Seminal stars of the ‘70s Brit-punk movement The Stranglers are making their way to Australia in 2016, celebrating more than 40 years of raising hell.

Winding around Australia to all mainland capitals, The Stranglers will play hits and much loved tracks from their extensive back catalogue, from 1977's acclaimed debut “Rattus Norvegicus” through to 2012's return to form “Giants”.

Forming in 1974 in small-town England, The Stranglers are now revered as one of the most exciting, credible and influential bands to have emerged from the British punk scene. 

Landslide - Spurs for Jesus b/w Pearl Cadillac - Deadwood 76 (Stanley Records)

spurs deadwood splitThe blurb says this split-single is by Sydney’s two best purveyors of cowpunk and who's going to argue? Anyone who’s had prior live exposure to Spurs for Jesus or the more rarely-sighted Deadwood 76 will know both as a soundtrack to an afternoon of wearing beer goggles and raucous fun. It’s been that way for a couple of decades.

Spurs claim the honours on their “Landslide” side where twin guitar and lap steel attack from Matt Alison and Martin Martini cuts a swathe. Musically, it’s edging towards tough beat rock than straight-up country twang. No Liverpuddlian accents here, however, and Kane’s insistent phrasing and Spats' lap steel ensures the song stays on the rough shoulder of the road. Killer engine room, too, and the smarties among us will know there’s no show without that beat.

Deadwood 76 mines the rich alluvial vein that’s known as Outlaw Alt-Country with “Pearl Cadillac”, a boozy tale that’s told from the waist down. The lap steel cuts through with venom and the guitars have a matching edge to their twang. Good guys wear white but this song has a black heart.

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Stanley Records on the Web

Levitating Churches - Levitating Churches (No Squares Or Hippies)

levitating churchesAdelaide is known as the City of Churches but don't let the name distract you: Levitating Churches have their feet placed firmly in Melbourne, the home of Australia’s live music scene and a magnet for similarly-minded underground acts. This, their self-titled debut long-player, is enough to make the rest of Australia jealous that they can’t lob down to their local music dive and regularly soak up this stuff live.

Their name and cover art summon preconceptions of a meeting between Steve Kilbey and Co and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators (the band moniker apparently derivies from a mis-heard Roky lyric) but there’s a rough and ready undercurrent to Levitating Churches’ music that comes straight from the Aussie pub rock scene of the ‘70s.

The band dives into psychedelia on the swirling “Time Machine” but harks back to sterner stuff on “1973” and the blues-chugging “Levitating Boogie” and most of their LP rocks rather than floats. If rocking rows your boat don’t approach with trepidation.

Below The Belt - James Leg (Alive Naturalsounds)

below the beltThere’s a place where dirty blues, soul and gospel intersect that many aim for but few get near. That James Leg lands in the middle drop-zone with the precision of a BASE jumper on a million dollar bet says you most of what you need to know about his latest solo record.

James Leg - aka John Wesley Myers of the Black Diamond Heavies and The Immortal Lee County Killers - is the bona fide son of a preacher man from Port Arthur, Texas. Armed with a baritone that could knock down a brick wall from 20 paces and a Fender Rhodes, he’s unleashing his third solo album (the last with label mates Left Lane Cruiser in tow.) It’s in similar vein to what’s gone before, but this time with a touch more variety.

A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind): The Wizards of Oz - Various Artists (Warner)

MonstrousPsychedelicBubbleCan you define psychedelica? Behind punk, it’s probably the most over-used term in the musical genre lexicon. That won’t change with this sprawling two-disc exploration of Australian psych, past and present.

Mixing ‘60s and ‘70s tracks with contemporary ones is an approach that could have gone horribly wrong.The wonder of this is how well the old tracks blend seamlessly with the new. Compilers Gaz Cobain (aka The Amorphous Androgynous) and Brian Dougans have done a splendid job of unearthing lost, forgotten and current nuggets and the mastering is great. It’s the fourth edition in a global series.

Mainline Honey - Babeez (Buttercup) & Rules No One - Broken Talent (Florida’s Dying)

babeez singleReissues of obscure 1970s and ‘80s worldwide punk rock are not uncommon.  It seems that not a week goes by that some little-known band from the era getting a reissue of their rare $600+ single.

Sadly, IMHFO, most of the bands were pretty ordinary at the best of times…lacking guts, originality, style or any other characteristics that can make olde time punk so great.  These two releases here are the minority. If you call yourself a punk grab these pronto.

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The Babeez 7” is brought to by Melbourne label Buttercup Records who have also issued titles by The Meanies, The Chosen Few and Deathwish. The Babeez were one of those great Melbourne punk bands from 1977 whose three-song single “Nobody Wants Me” is right up there with Razor, Rocks and The Leftovers in the Aussie ‘70s punk gold stakes.

This three-song single includes two early versions of songs from the first 45 and to hear them in this even more stripped down sound is a treat.  It sounds like a well-captured four-track recording. The guitars are not as prominent as the versions on the first 7” but it’s great to hear the vocals as clearly as this.

Vale Ron Cooke, bassist for Sonic's Rendezvous Band and Mitch Ryder's Detroit

early lineup with miguel mike martinez and ron cookeMuch-traveled Michigan bassist Ron Cooke has passed away, his wife Pam announced on Facebook earlier today.

Although replaced by Gary Rasmussen before Sonic’s Rendezvous Band’s "classic" period (the one which produced "City Slang"), bassist W.R. "Ron" Cooke was there from the very earliest days, when Fred "Sonic" Smith was searching for a musical direction following the MC5's 1972 implosion.

Ron is pictured in an early publicity shot at right, and is second from the left. 

Cooke was also a member of the Johnny Thunders-Wayne Kramer collision that was Gang War, an idea that the principals agreed looked good on paper but lost direction as old habits took hold.

And Ron had plenty of Detroit rock'n'roll history under his belt before then, most famously with Mitch Ryder's Detroit, whose killer version of Lou Reed's "Rock and Roll" was a classic slice of Motor City Rock Action that even the song's author agreed was "the way the song was MEANT to be played."

Ken Shimamoto talked to Ron from his home in Ann Arbor in early October 2000 as part of the research for this history of SRB. Here are Ron’s verbatim recollections.

BellRays live in Australia

bell rays rickIt’s late in Adelaide, I got work tomorrow, and I didn’t expect to be writing this. So why am I?

When you’ve seen a band who so effortlessly lifts your spirits, who convince you that you matter, and that they give a damn for the people they’ve come several thousand miles to entertain; when you see that band put out truckloads of energy, effervescence, fizz and smarts, fronted by one of those extraordinary showmen who make it all look so damn easy you want to form your own band … yeah, well, I owe them.

Who? 

The BellRays.

Never heard a song before tonight.

Mainstream entertainment world don’t know they exist. Across the road from The Gov is the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, lighting up the sky with a multicoloured display and one of those shifting electronic billboards advertising Neil Diamond, Elton John and Mrs Brown’s Boy and that Russell excrescence.

That’s where The BellRays should be playing. I once saw James Brown there. The BellRays may not be the same thing, but pound for pound they’re just as entertaining, and a damn sight more intimate and friendly.

 

Pic by Rick De Pizzol

Brisbane rock community getting behind baby Phoenix

kylieBass player, gig facilitator and festival roustabout, Kylie Lovejoy, is considered rock royalty in her hometown of Brisbane, Australia. She recently made headlines around the world with the unexpected and dramatic arrival of her son Phoenix, who arrived three months premature while Lovejoy was holidaying in Hawaii with her partner Brendan Wright and brother, renowned record producer, Jeff Lovejoy.

Baby Phoenix Koa Wright Lovejoy was born at 26 weeks gestation and weighed just 1115 grams (2.75 pounds) at birth.

Idyllic location aside, the delicate nature of such a premature birth has placed Kylie in a position of financial hardship with Phoenix needing round-the-clock care in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Honolulu until he has reached full term age.

Kylie will be residing in Hawaii for at least three months, until Phoenix is strong enough to fly home to Australia. Whilst some of the extensive medical expenses look likely to end up being covered by the US version of Medicare, the family must still meet the costs of Kylie's living expenses whilst she is staying in Hawaii. She currently has no income and is wading through a mountain of insurance company red-tape.

A group of Kylie and Brendan's friends and supporters have banded together to help raise funds for little Phoenix and his family in a loving attempt to meet these expenses.

A crowd-funding page (http://www.youcaring.com/kylie-lovejoy-and-family-382944) has been set up for immediate donations, and a benefit concert has been organized at The Triffid in Brisbane's Newstead for Sunday October 11, from midday.

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