Familiar and still fun, The Fleshtones deliver again

face of the screeaming werewolfFace of the Screaming Werewolf – The Fleshtones (Yep Roc)

The Fleshtones always were always out of step with the rest of the pack . Rarely acknowledged in the same breath as the rest of the Class of CBGB partly because they didn’t pander to tastemakers and partly because they arrived from out of town and were slightly late, they were as guilty as any of their peers for washing up on the barren shores of over-indulgence at the expense of mainstream success. So it is that they’ve remained in their own universe for decades now. But they still deliver.

The Fleshtones really do exist on their own terms. They live for the road. They make great records with a touch of eccentricity. They’ve always soaked up classic influences (British invasion, blueswailin’ R&B, garage rock, soul and more) like a sponge to spit them back out like they invented them. There are other bands doing the same thing but few so it so well, or deliver a show.

Psychedelic savagery, deadpan destructions and grooviness

days of swine and rosesDays of Swine and Roses – Pigasus (Pigasus)
Cautionary Tales - Tim Hudspith and Goldentone (Dead Letter Records)
Dirty Paws - Swamp Kitteh (Swamp Kitteh)

All of these folks take me to that small area around Grote Street near Victoria Square in Adelaide, where so much of my life has been spent. Right near the Central Market, Her Majesty's Theatre (where I still remember Willner and Mingus's production of “Tommy” - the stage door was across Pitt Street from my boss's old shop); the Antique Market (where I alternately froze and steamed in amongst the pigeons and dusty volumes for nearly 20 years, formerly Wiggy's Auction Rooms); the recently established Broadcast Bar and the Metro, where I've seen all of the above bands.

All of these place’s are within a stone's throw. You'd think I'd be sentimental.

Not a bit of it.

These three CDs could be the veriest trash, fit only to throw at lepers (and my goodness, our current PM seems to have a collection of those in his Cabinet these days, doesn't he...)

Igneous rock

ultramafic coverUltramafic – Sonny Vincent (self released)

 Ultramafic: An igneous rock with a very low silica content and rich in minerals such as hypersthene, augite, and olivine.

This is a short run of 12-inch vinyl, each copy with its own bespoke, hand-painted artwork. They were put together for a series of art exhibitions in Switzerland, New York City, Holland, Germany and France about 10 years ago. It will look great on your wall and sound devastating on your turntable.

The music was recorded by Sonny Vincent and various bands from 1976 onwards – much of it in tiny studios while on endless tours of Europe and the USA. Some of it has been heard in other versions.

The line-ups include Vincent’s Max’s and CBGB staples, Testors, as well as members of Rocket From The Crypt, Sonic Youth, The Damned, the Stooges, Dead Boys, the Velvet Underground. There’s even an appearance by Ernie Knapp, a guy who drummed for Charles Manson as well as the Beach Boys (I shit you, not.)  Don’t expect polish. It’s all uncompromisingly raw, but always passionate.

Exhumation of an album gone wrong casts new light

always the bridegroomAlways the Bridegroom – John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong (Foghorn)

This 1987 album was a much-maligned chapter in Sydney artist John Kennedy’s back pages. For a few understandable reasons. The first long-player for Kennedy and his then-band, Love Gone Wrong, got a mixed critical reaction. Its sonic character rankled the band leader, and it presaged the line-up’s dissolution.

The story’s all there in Kennedy’s breezy liner notes (“The Album That Killed My Career”) and a few things stick out: The band was a relatively new line-up and lacked confidence. They’d tried too hard in preceding demo sessions that failed to raise interest from major labels, and the studio approach for the album’s recording killed any prospect of a vibe by using a click track to guide drummer Vince Sheehan.

There's logic in this meeting of Doom and Punk

caveman logic the limitCaveman Logic – The Limit (Svart Records)

Trust me on this if you haven’t heard the evidence first-hand: Sonny Vincent’s music punches harder than just about anyone else in the same space.

When those histories of New York punk are written, he and his late-’70s band Testors are never mentioned. Testors didn’t play well with others, in the “industry” sense, and never climbed off the lower rungs of the Max’s-CBGB ladder. History gets written by the few and it’s the way that Vincent has kept the torch of dirty, street-level, rock and roll burning since that really deserves credit.

For 40 years, Sonny’s been punk rock’s ultimate networker, working with members of The Damned, the Stooges, MC5, the Velvet Underground, The Replacements, Dead Boys and too many more to count, always with a vision that’s equal parts visceral power and lingering melody.  

Punk that doesn't blow

the blowers coverBlowers – Blowers (Spooky Records)

There was a moment during last year’s Victorian lockdown, probably early September when shit was at its worst. The bleakness of the climate - cold, grey and crappy, in the way that Melbourne does it - matched the desolation of public spirit, provoking in me a desire for old school punk rock attitude and resistance.

Not resistance in the form of conspiratorial wingnuttery nor the specious proclamations of human rights and freedom imported from a dying empire, but just anything resembling a deviation from the obsequious adherence, self-adorned piety and moronic retributive attitude which seemed to have descended upon the state.

Sitting out in my shed one Saturday night I decided to play the angriest records I could find in my collection – Bikini Kill, Dead Kennedys, Bits of Shit, DOA, Kill Rock Stars compilations, Crush, X. It didn’t make any difference, really, but it was cathartic and energising.

I-94 Bar