We don’t have pop stars in Australia any more. In their place, we have reality TV-manufactured, milksop product whose fame is carefully designed to meet a demographical need and is disposable as the songs somebody else writes for them. Just as the tag “R & B” has been diluted beyond recognition, these people aren’t pop stars in the true sense of the term.
You might know him for an infamous TV fist fight with a shock jock (and, hey, that was almost one lifetime ago) but back in the 1960s, Normie Rowe was one of Australia’s first bona fide pop stars. There was no need to manufacture stars back then – the media certainly was complicit but they largely just appeared – and the good looking Rowe inspired teen adulation on the back of a string of national hits.
There are few survivors from when New York City’s rock and roll world revolved around a few seedy nightspots in a now unrecognisably gentrified district called The Lower East Side who are still musically active. Joey Pinter is one of them, making spirited, raw guitar music on their own terms, and this is his debut solo album.
Transplanted to Los Angeles and now living in Chicago, Pinter is best known as Walter Lure’s guitar foil in his killer post-Heartbreakers outfit, The Waldos. These guys should have been huge but labels kept their distance and Walter had a career in stockbroking that clipped their touring wings. Their solitary album, "Rent Party", was recently re-issued and kicks arse.
Pinter played in a host of other NYC bands, most notably with Max’s Kansas City regulars The Knots whose solitary 45 “Heartbreaker” b/w “Action” is highly collectable. So he has lots of form.
A couple of listens in and it’s evident why Paul Collins recruited the core of this band to back him on his Australian tours. The On and Ons play classic guitar pop in the mould of The Plimsouls, the Flamin’ Groovies in their Beatles-besotted era and Collins’ own The Beat.
This is a band that walks down the pop side of the street. If lineage counts, The On and Ons start with a considerable advantage over many others. The members’ rap sheets include the early Hoodoo Gurus, the latter-day Screaming Tribesmen, Kings of the Sun, The Barbarellas and The Stems. To paraphrase Lou: Their powerpop day beats your year.
Heads up: Get your wallet out. Both of ‘em belong in your collection and should be playing on your battered lil machine right now. I’m going to give both FIVE BOTTLES, and that means…the review is irrelevant.
But you want your entertainment anyway, don’t you? The Voice and The X-Factor can only “discover” what fits a format. And that format is, for the most part, bereft of meaning. The jokey aspect of Eurovision Song doo-dah means that brilliance can sneak in, because the format is to “make a splash” as well as fit the format. Keays and Race load their music with meaning, relevance and immediacy.
If there was a formula for a famous rock musician, it sorta goes like this: “An outsider kid, akin to the Holden Caulfield character with a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" in his hip pocket. With either a military father, or better still a clergyman.
“He moves around a lot, from town to town, because of his father’s occupation. He buys vinyl and buys even more vinyl. He purchases a guitar, learns a few chords and then finds other folk who fit into the formula of rock musician. He forms a band and writes an amazingly significant song, or songs, and for one week is the spokesman of a generation, appearing in Melody Maker or Rolling Stone.”
Of course if fate does not serve him well, the prospective rock musician just ends up in his 40’s as the geek who's brought into the local pub by his mates because he’s the one who’ll get all the music triva questions right.
But if this formula was applied to a music geek who can write - and I mean really can write - they travel the world and theur byline appewars in some of the most important rock magazines on the planet.
Welcome to the world of Sydney-raised Andrew Mueller.
Before late ‘70s punks The Chosen Few (the Australian version - not the Michigan band containing Ron Asheton and James Williamson) there was Deathwish, a party band that festered in a barn on a family farm on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular. The Chosen Few would go on to make a mark on the Melbourne underground scene, releasing a particularly collectable EP, but here’s where it all began.
The album's named for the beer that fuled the band and these are rehearsal tapes from 1976-77. No polish, lots of covers and some amateurishly played. But for all the rough edges, you can hear there was certainly something there. The back story’s also pretty good and is told in guitarist Ian Cunningham’s liners.
This single from a Brisbane trio is saying something: "If you don’t like homemade fuzz pedals you can fuck right off." Like their entomological namesakes, Stink Bugs aren’t pretty but once their smell gets in your nostrils they’re pretty hard to ignore.
Stink Bugs play distorto psych. Acrid guitar at stun volume and lumbering rhythms dominate both A and B sides. The maudlin vocals are almost subsumed by the fierce wall of fuzz. There’s not a lot of room for wry social commentary lyrics or fetching melody lines. This stuff is toxic.
Stink Bugs grew out of the Hekawis, Shutdown 66,the Jennys and Leftwaffe and are The Mantis (guitar), Cactoblastis (drums) and Tigerbug (bass and vocals.) Their’s is the sound of a blender full of human remains. The single deserves to be played at painful volume levels. Repeatedly.
Swashbuckling Hobo on the Web
There’s a fair chance I’m not the only one who lost track of the Dee Rangers, a Swedish band who swept through the late ‘90s and early part of the 21st century with a slew of singles and half a dozen albums of infectious garage pop-rock. They and The Strollers were two of the I-94 Bar favourites from the revival of the garage sounds in Scandinavia back then. This four-track vinyl EP is a reminder of their greatness.
“Take Me Home” is the lead-off and a better slice of ‘60s-influenced pop-rock you’d have to travel a long way to hear. “Everyday” is a rougher garage rocker that does the business with two guitars in its two minutes and moves on. “Rebound Guy” is the melancholy heartstring-tugger with a cascading melody line that hits home. Per Nostrum brings it home with a strong vocal. “Powerslam V” is an instro rumble with choppy chording and bouncy feel.
It’s all in punchy mono and comes in a hand-numbered run of 350 copies. Try any European mail orser rplace or ask the band for directions on Facebook.
Dee Rangers on Facebook
The fifth and final chapter of the Hard-Ons re-issues of all their pre-sabbatical releases on Citadel Records is upon us and it’s a bumper crop.
1992’s “Too Far Gone” was the last Hard-Ons record before they broke up (temporarily) in ’93 and remains one of their most off-the-wall and adventurous offerings.
In the spirit of previous re-issues, Citadel is packaging it as a two-CD set with a whopping 53 tracks.
The original 14-track album is complemented by outtakes, live cuts and demo’s in a six-panel fold-out wallet.
We could go on at length but can’t do better than the media release (Click MORE):