Howlin’ Threads - Howlin’ Threads (Meinshaft Records)
The ability of rock and roll bands to shed limbs that regenerate themselves is a thing of eternal wonder. From the The Undermines, out of Canberra - and many years prior, The Fools, from Newcastle - spring Howlin’ Threads, a no-nonsense guitar band from the Wollongong and Canberra regions, packing a self-titled debut EP.
These “Howlin’ Threads” are yet to play a show - they were supposed to debut in June in Wollongong before The ‘Rona had other ideas - but clearly have their shit together in the studio. Their music ticks boxes familiar to any I-94 Bar patron. It’s flashing back to high-energy Sydney, circa the late ‘80s with nods to all the usual suspects, but a notch above the imitators that abounded back then.
A Kick in the Gulags - The Dry Retch (Stalingrad Records)
A six-song EP with five of the tracks being Stooges songs never committed to tape in a studio? What are we gonna say if they're done well?
The Dry Retch come from Liverpool in the UK and they ain’t The Beatles. They are two guitars, a kicking engine room and a truckload of dirt. They are committed Stooge-ophiles (a previous line-up released an EP with the title “Plays The Stooges”.)
Principal member John Retch (vocal and guitar) grew up in Australia where he was exposed to high-energy sounds. He played in a stack of local UK bands and this 2019 EP revived The Dry Retch with a tweaked line-up. Stooges apart, the band's other listed influences are Chrome Cranks, The MC5, Mudhoney, Radio Birdman, Destroy All Monsters, Thee Hypnotics, Cosmic Psychos, the New York Dolls and the Brian James Gang. As Sir Les Paterson would say: "Are you following me, son?"
West Coast Highway Cosmic - Datura4 (Alive Natural Sound)
From the opening title track, Datura4 roars into life like a modern-day Steppenwolf. They’re all Hammond organ, vintage synths and a rock band, intent on making a statement.
Datura4 employ a massive wall of sound that departs from Dom Mariani's preferred '60s space into late '60s-early '70s, Deep Purple shtick - without the overindulgence of Ritchie Blackmore. Datura4 still displays its garage roots, but is a blend of Arizona desert rock a la early Alice Cooper... albeit updated with modern sounds.
Menacing Smile - The On and Ons (Citadel)
It’s an EP with six tracks of primo rocking powerpop from Sydney’s arch exponents. Two albums into this caper and The On and Ons sound like they own the space.
Short story: “Menacing Smile” is lined with wall-to-wall hooks and harmonies. Glenn Morris writes impeccable pop tunes and the band delivers them like they were born to do so.
ManArays - ManArays (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Considering they've been around since the start of last decade, Brisbane’s Manarays have a minuscule online footprint. Consider this a Public Service Announcement to alert you to their presence, as well as an album review.
The ManArays - vocalist Chris Fletcher, guitarist Adrian Carroll (aka Killer Guitar Carroll) and drummer Micky Scott - come from turn-of-the’80s Sydneysiders The Splatterheads, so it’s no surprise to hear them tackle these 13 songs with a similar attack.
Not Your Average Country Band - Dave Favours and The Roadside Ashes (Stanley Records)
It doesn’t take many dots to join the lines between rock and roll and its forebears, country music and blues. Sydney’s Dave Favours and his band The Roadside Ashes do It better than many.
“Too rocking for country purists and too country for the rock crowd” is a familiar descriptor and it’s one that Dave Favours grips in a bear hug without any concession to social distancing. Hie says his music owes as much to Hank Williams as The Clash and that’s one reason you rockists (guilty as charged) may want to give it more than a cursory listen.