The Barman’s Best Albums of 2021, in reverse order of release.
1. Back For More – The On and Ons (Citadel)
Perfect rocking powerpop from Australia’s most consistent exponents of the art. If you haven’t heard them yet, shame. Start here and track backwards.
2. Snake Pit Therapy – Sonny Vincent (Svart)
New York punk’s (almost) last man standing bounces back with his best-sounding and arguable most well-rounded album ever. Sonny has been hidden in plain sight for the many for far too long.
3. You’re Class, I’m Trash – The Monsters (Voodoo Rhythm)
Beat-Man and his buddies have made trash an art form like few others before them. This record should make a junkie of you.
X singer-guitarist and solo artist in his own right, Steve Lucas, has selected 10 X songs that fit with a COVID-19 theme.
- Where Did I Go Wrong?
- The Feel.
- At Home With You
- Suck Suck
- Home Is Where The Floor Is
- I Don't Wanna Go Out
- Hate City.
Steve: "Titles and lyrics cover the whole pandemic, to my mind at least. Merry Xmas!"
How best to remember Melbourne graphic Martin Harris who left the world a week ago?
The Barman has asked a few of us to write about our Top Tens this year. Well, like most of us, I didn't go out much, and didn't listen to much either. However, one thing which has dominated this year is depression and its many variants.
What has this to do with rock and roll? Plenty. If you don;t agree, you can't have been listening to the greats, Ozzy Osbourne, Johnny Cash, New Order, Amy Winehouse...
See, I've always thought the impulse to create rawk is only a single manifestation of what I call 'the creative imperative'. This imperative is stronger in some than others, of course. But if you would take the imperative to success on a gigamax scale, you not only need luck, you need determination, hard work AND more luck.
Queen, for example, were so determined to succeed that before they were gigamax they rehearsed in their stage gear. They worked hard for their success. Ask any musician: songs don't just drop from trees, fully formed. Some folk are stupidly talented, but with most creatives, genius rarely spontaneously happens.
Anyone reading “Get in the Van” gets an idea of how determined Rollins has been to succeed. What do P.G. Wodehouse, W.E. Johns and Dick Francis have in common? They wrote at least a book a year (Johns sometimes churned out three or four per year). But not only did they each have a lot of luck, they all worked damned hard. (Alright, so PG had several flops and weathered two gigantic, very public (and bloody funny) scandals but even so).
Seas on Fire – East Coast Low (Crankinhaus Records)
The promise of their first recordings (an album and a promotional EP) has been realised and “Seas On Fire” showsEast Coast Low has the requisite rock and roll cojones to take on all comers.
A five-piece with most of its membership drawn from the matter-of-fact city of Newcastle, a couple of hours north of Sydney, East Coast Low is a product of its home-town: Nothing is overly dressed up and most of the songs get straight to the point, with no fucking around.
This is a well-travelled band. Grizzled, if you like. High rotation on the national youth network doesn’t beckon (though we all know they don’t program anything with a hint of ageism about them.) The Low formed in 2015 with members playing in Newy bands like The Fools and No Reason. The influences are myriad, although the ‘70s punk lineage is strong.
Get Back Peter Jackson (dir) Disney Plus
Disney plus. Shit. I'm still waiting for Disney Plus to cast on the television.
I was waiting for a mission but, when I got one, I'd never want another.
"Do you remember that film 'Let it Be'?"
The voice in the corner was passive. It was as if the answer didn't matter, only how I phrased my response.
"That hour-and-a-half piece of wank with the Beatles bitching at each other? They end up playing on the roof? Yeah. I've seen it."
The long-rumoured and exhaustively researched biography of iconic Australian musician Spencer P Jones is out tomorrow.
Hard on the heels of the James McCann-compiled tribute double album, “All The Way With SPJ”, “Execution Days - The Life and Times of Spencer P Jones” is being published by Love Police and can be ordered here.
“Execution Days” was written by Melbournite Patrick Emery, who whose work has graced The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Beat, The Brag, Time Off, X-Press, Mess and Noise, Faster/ Louder, “1001 Albums You Must Hear” and the I-94 Bar.
Patrick carried out 150 interviews with friends, relatives and bandmates of the late Spencer, as well as the man himself.
With a career spanning over 40 years, Spencer’s resumé is vast, deep and eclectic, ranging from the wild cowpunk of The Johnnys, to the garage swamp of Beasts of Bourbon to the rugged beauty of his solo albums, to cameos with Ian Rilen, Paul Kelly, Maurice Frawley, Rowland S. Howard, Renee Geyer, Mudhoney and Violent Femmes. He also toured Europe with Sonny Vincent’s Shotgun Rationale.
“Execution Days” traces Spencer’s life from his childhood in New Zealand to his evolution as a musician in Australia to his profound impact on those around him. Along the way there are stories of irreverence and excess, of frustration and heartache, of friends loved and lost.
Like the escapees from lockdown prison that they are, Melbourne’s Swedish Magazines are setting a frenzied course for New South Wales now the gates are again open, and will land at Marrickville Bowling Club on Friday, November 26 for their only Sydney show, presented by the I-94 Bar.
The reformed early 2000s high-energy outfit will be packing a new best of collection, ”I Wish Life Could Be…”, on LP and CD.
And lending a hand as special guests are the re-animated Leadfinger (poised to release their own new record very soon) and the psychedelic Sabbath-meets-Dictators crunch of Jupiter 5, hauling their own vinyl and CD single. Tickets are on sale here.
I Wish Life Could Be… - Swedish Magazines (Rubber Records)
Underground rock on Australia’s East Coast really needed a well-organised interstate exchange program in the 2000s.
Despite a smoothed-out Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney making long-haul road-trips safer and a flood of cheap airfares, the flow of bands between the two big smokes slowed, largely in part to Sydney’s declining number of live music venues.
After all, bands can’t do reciprocal deals to play in each other’s cities if one hometown has 20 venues and the other has four. If the balance had been more equitable and audiences less fragmented, it’s a fair bet that Melbourne’s Swedish Magazines would have household names across the nation in the mid-00s and not juist in Melbourne.
You’re Class, I’m Trash – The Monsters (Voodoo Rhythm)
Two weeks to write, a fortnight to record - cynics would doubt both claims - and the eighth album from these Swiss lunatics is testament to what you can achieve when you set out to annoy the living shit out of audiences.
“You’re Class, I’m Trash” is unadulterated fuzz guitar abrasion, a boil on the arse of commercially safe and bland music, with occasional diversions into sonic weirdness. And it sounds fucking great.