Blowers – 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.
Born in the Suburbs – Suburban Urchins (Aeroplane Records)
The concept of “let’s get the band back together” isn’t new. Not by any stretch. And the thought of yet another obscure ‘80s garage rock crew reassembling and trumpeting how good they were/are doesn’t automatically fill anyone with confidence.
Of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. If only every band’s midlife crisis sounded this good.
Suburban Urchins were a mid-‘80s band from Hobart, the epicentre of a small but fevered Tasmanian underground music scene that notably spawned The Philisteins, with whom they shared stages.
Deritend – Cult Figures (Gare Du Nord Records)
If pressed to name a heartland for rocking hard pop you don’t normally nominate Birmingham. Call it the loudmouthed opinion of an Aussie who blew in once to drink some warm pints, but its Industrial Revolution décor and shitty weather makes it more of a Black Sabbath kinda place.
Of course the West Midlands of England has pumped out its share of pop (Duran Duran, anyone?) but, musically speaking, if you’d heard of Cult Figures you wouldn’t put them be among that crew. (Fun Fact: Roger Taylor drummed for them for one show.)
Right Now Baby – Thee Minks (self released)
Philadelphia is a place that’s always punched above its weight. Bill Haley, Todd Rundgren, Hall and Oates (yikes) and Pink are among musical offspring of the City of Brotherly Love. And for the fourth year in a row, Philly has more homicides than New York City, a place four times its size, and currently ranks second on the USA per capita Murder League Table.
So here’s a recommendation if you’re a fan of rough ‘n’ ready, no bullshit garage rock and roll: Look up Thee Minks. Hook into this album like there’s no next week. Go to their Bandcamp and plonk down your credit card number or Paypal handle. Do it right now, baby. Thank you. You’ve been a great audience. I’ll grab my hat and coat.
Destiny Street Complete – Richard Hell and the Voidoids (Omnivore)
Reports that “Destiny Street” had been re-recorded and was being pressed on vinyl in 2004 were alarming. The late Robert Quine was five years gone and his wired, highly-strung guitar-playing was an essential and revered element of just about anything the Voidoids did. This was surely an act of madness, if not sacrilege.
Its prime creator, Richard Hell, had never been happy with “Destiny Street”, the 1982 follow-up to “Blank Generation” that was recorded in troubled circumstances. Hell was debilitated by a drug habit and absent for much of the sessions. His penchant for intravenous coke to counter his reliance on smack had left him fried and unable to leave his apartment for long periods of time. His attempt to make his mark while largely AWOL was to summon up guitar overdub after overdub.
Good Morning Blues – Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle (Voodoo Rhythm)
In case you never noticed, this place often celebrates the weird and non-conformist end of the rock and roll spectrum, and it doesn’t come much stranger than Swiss band Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle.
Resident on the Voodoo Rhythm label (“Music to Ruin Any Party”) since it first released this, their debut 10-inch mini-album, back in 1996, its mix of bass-less, guitar distort-skronk and megaphonic vocals sounded fucked up then and sounds fucked up today.
It’s worth adding context: “Good Morning Blues” was unleashed on a world full of techno and the Real Rock and Roll landscape was a wasteland. Major labels still roamed what a musical Jurassic Park, looking for underground bands from which they could extract blood and turn into mainstream melange. A dead dog’s scrotum had more chance of being signed than Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle.
Lockdown Holiday – TV Smith (Easy Action)
Write about the things you know, the critics say. And when songwriters do, they run the risk of being taken down in a hail of journalistic bullets for crimes like inauthenticity, awkwardness or bandwagon jumping.
There’s no risk of TV Smith suffering that fate with his latest album, “Lockdown Holiday”, a stark and compelling take on his own experience with the dreaded COVID clusterfuck.
The ex-Adverts punk is still standing after 50 lives dates were cancelled - a fate shared by many in these fucked-up times. - but his own experience was enlivened, somewhat, by him and his partner being mowed down by The Plague. following close contact with an infected roadhouse patron in the early stages of the pandemic.