It’s a truism that most record labels take a few releases to find their feet and assert their character and Patrick Boissel’s LA-based Alive-Naturalsound is no different.
Starting life as the Bomp-associated imprint Alive-Total Energy in the early ’90s with a deep dive into Detroit Rock, it’s reached extensively into garage, soul and power-pop territories to be a home to The Black Keys, Swamp Dogg and Paul Collins, among others.
But it’s in the area of hard-edged, ‘70s style guitar rock that has Alive has most recently found a happy niche, with the likes of Americans Buffalo Killers (semi-pastoral crunch) and Radio Moscow (Hendrix-tinged psych jams) especially standing out. They’ve now been joined by Datura4 from Fremantle, Western Australia.
The term Oz Rock is a catch-all phrase that’s scope is broader than a Queensland cow cocky’s accent but there’s something inherently recognisable about the music. The best of it is urgent and full of dynamics.
Once upon a time it was forged in year-long tours of a vast circuit of massive beer barns; nowadays it’s as much a creation of the odd gig in small-ish, grungy bars and digitally-assisted backshed studios.
Which brings us to Melbourne band The Vendettas and their second album. This isn’t a bad record but it’s very much music made with eyes on the prize. While that target isn’t going to be mainstream airplay in their home country, it could be a contract with a label in a bigger market. Many are called but few are chosen. The Vendettas might just do the business in Europe like Airborne or follow The Lazys to Canada.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is back with a brand new album and Australian tour in August 2015. “Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015” is the album name and reputed to be a product of spontaneity.
Rehearsed and polished in a string of secret gigs and unannounced opening slots in New York City theatres, hotel bars, and dives (often under assumed names), and recorded at the legendary Daptone House Of Soul in Bushwick, “Freedom Tower” is described as “a document of New York City, a chronicle of grit and terror and love!”
A while ago a mate gave me the thumbs up about Blondie Drummer Clem Burke's new band Empty Hearts. I figured anything Burke's involved in is gonna be top shelf stuff - and how right I was this time.
The Hearts formed in early 2014 as a supergroup of sorts, comprising Chesterfield Kings bassman Andy Babuik, Elliott Easton (The Cars) on guitar, Burke and Wally Palmer (The Romantics) out front on vocals.
"90 Miles Down a Dead End Street" kicks things off at a frenetic pace with some focussed intent, lots of “na na na's added in. Easton's killer riff helps blast-off single "I Don't Want Your Love" off. A chorus you only dream about follows.
This is Wire’s most across-the-board album. It’s lush, glorious, dirty, savage, sublime, clever in a street-smart way, jagged in a crying-jag way, it builds and grows and gathers you up and crushes and … and ‘Wire’ is just way, way too good for a band who’ve been touring and recording since 77. Five bottles. At least. So don’t bother reading any further, right, order it here. Then, when the bastard arrives, PLAY LOUD.
See, I come from an era where BOF meant Boring Old Fart, and that meant, not so much anyone over 30 (although that was often the case) but anyone shoving out lazy LPs, with maybe two or three half-decent songs on them. Ill-considered, slothful slush. If you can’t recall offenders from those days, I can bet you can name offenders from today.
“Wire” is way, way too good for old fuckers. If a band in their 20’s presented this to any major record company they’d be signed to a 20-year deal with the Fuck You Up and Rip You Off International label in no time flat.
Well, Boris in Adelaide on Sunday night were brilliant. Who are they?
Boris have been around since 1992, put out their first CD ‘single’ in ‘96, and have released 23 more LPs of their own songs (including three this year, and two last year) and 12 collaborative LPs, not including three collections of rarities and live material. They’re not huge in their home country of Japan, or indeed anywhere else, really. But those who know them cannot get enough and are total addicts.
I first heard them in 1996, when a mate, Paul, came back from Japan with “Absolutego”, put the bastard on and left it playing. After 45 minutes, and my third “Paul, which track is this..?” I got the same answer: “Oh, still the first one.” I demanded to see the disc. The song went for over an hour, and was (and is) fabulous. Lots of changes, altered states, tempo alterations…the lot. It’s like a long LP which keeps returning to its central theme which, not speaking Japanese, I have no idea of whatsoever. But you keep returning to it.
There should be a law against small record companies punching above their weight. And against brilliant rock’n’roll bands showing up all the mainstream slags as ugly, dull, leaden and tedious beyond belief. Why people listen to radio at all when they have bands like Movie Star Junkies to make their mixtapes steam like kids on the backseat.
Ten songs, 36 minutes. I like that. So I won’t spend too long here, other than to repeat what I’ve said before, Voodoo Rhythm do records and CDs which should fill your collection. And “Evil Moods” is another one you need to have.
As you may or may not know, I dislike, and am deeply suspicious of, political causes. Usually they’re poorly thought-out (with unforeseen consequences which should have been foreseen, if you know what I mean) or are laden with the usual ‘elect me’ agenda.
This one isn’t.
It started publicly with Facebook, as many things do these days, as we’ve lost our newspapers. A chap called Nathan May posted at 8.25pm on 11 May:
“So tonight I was supposed to receive an award from the University of Adelaide for my contribution within the Music Faculty but I rejected it. The reason why I rejected it is because the course I did for the last three years in risk of getting cut. If it wasn’t for CASM I would not be in the place I am today, CASM is family.”
Seems not so long ago (and in fact, it was the late 1980s) that the shadow of a still breathing, although not always fully-functioning, Johnny Thunders was almost everywhere you looked. His records filled the racks and every second person in a band wanted to look like, if not be, JT. As in buying the T-shirt with no need to tap a vein.
It was P.I. (Pre-Internet) so we didn’t have the same visual options that YouTube and Torrenting now offer, but you had to wonder how someone whose wasted pictures and sound defined the term “fucked-up” so convincingly could continue to make music.
Of course, way down in Australia we got our answer when an at least partially cleaned-up Johnny toured, with the ever-present legend Jerry Nolan on drums and a real live Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock, on bass. That had to be the year I was overseas, but by all reliable reports The Man and His Band were both lucid and great.
His music tends to be overshadowed by the fact that Thunders was a hardcore junkie for the second tw-thirds of his career, at first by choice and then, over the years, by necessity. You might argue that he also milked that reputation for all it was worth, to the point that it was a marketing tool as much as a cross to bear.