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.

Just two Suburban boys

urchinsBorn 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.

Cultured pop-rock from an unlikely place

cult figuresDeritend – 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.)

Thee Minks deliver that killer Philly garage sound

right now baby coverRight 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.

Complete Hell ain't a bad place to be

Hell Destiny Street CompleteDestiny 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.

Voodoo Rhythm reprises Roy and the Devil's Motorcycle's noisy birth

good morning bluesGood 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.

Don't adjust your TV. Normal programming will not be resumed soon

lockdown hoiidayLockdown 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.

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