hollywood albumHollywood – The Fiction (Off The Hip)

Much water has passed under the bridge since 1978 when The Fiction was one of a handful of struggling punk rock bands in the womb of a nascent Melbourne underground music scene.

Like a spark, The Fiction came and went. Some of their songs made it into the setlist of mod-flavoured pop-rockers Little Murders, which has become as much a brand as a band for vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Rob Griffiths, its only constant member.

Griffiths (vocals) and Rob Wellington (guitar) remain from the original band and although the passage of time may have buffed off the sharper edges, the reconstituted Fiction still trades in high-energy pop punk.

“Hollywood” is the third album since Griffiths and Wellington re-united in 2017 to support the release of a 1978 rehearsal tape, “Negative Fun”. The other album is the also excellent "Ramona". Rounded out by ex-Blue Ruin bassist Adam Learner, Cold Harbour’s Rusty Teluk on second guitar and Alan Murphy on drums, playing live around Melbourne was fun enough for everybody to keep going.

A Japanese tour had Off the Hip honcho Mickster Baty filling in on the skins.

“Hollywood” presents a band that’s unashamedly more pop than punk – think Buzzocks with less fuzz and songs that are delivered in an accent that’s more London than Manchester. (I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest these guys should be in the box seat to be the support to the Pete Shelley-less Buzzocks when they tour Australia late in 2024.

As befitting a band with origins in punk, there’s brevity in the songs (most clock in at just over two minutes long) with a big bunch of melodic hooks.

English-born Ron Griffiths’ genuinely warm and authentically Pommy vocal resonates throughout. If you love Little Murders, chances are that you’ll also take to The Fiction.

Yes, the lines between the two can be a little blurry at times. There’s a drier edge to the production on “Hollywood” and a sharper edge to the guitars that distinguishes the latter, and the pace never lags.

All of this is apparent if you’ve seen both bands live. In either setting, Griffiths’ songs are first-class.

The album was preceded by a seven-inch single and “Almost Dead in Hollywood” and “La Dolce Vita” are killer inclusions. The raucous “The Girl Belongs To Yesterday” is classic Griffiths with its withering melody line. “Tomorrow’s Girl” bounces along like a teenager with ADHD who’s been over-prescribed their dexy’s.

Opening track “Are We Happy?” asks a question that’s easily answered by the time the rumbling closer “Negative Fun” comes around with its stabbing guitars and tearaway tempo.

“Hollywood” snuck out at the close of 2023 with little fanfare so no there’s no shame if you blinked and missed it. You can correct that oversight - and try before you buy - at Bandcamp.  


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