New On and Ons bring a big smile

menacing smileMenacing 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 emerge from the shadows

manaraysManArays - 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. 

Disregard the Law of Averages and do yourself a Favours

not your averageNot 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.

Of course it contains carrots...

yeah nah yeah nahYeah Yeah Nah Nah - VeeBees (Ocker Records)

Rob Younger once opined that he hated lyrical references to local landmarks in Australian songs. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to sing about Parramatta Road. Have you been down Auto Alley lately? Fair call. 

On the other side of the ledger, it’s also been said that bands should write songs about things they know. The VeeBees sing about Wollongong, suburban Canberra, drive-through bottleshops in Sydney's inner-west, drinking, cars, girls and pubs, ad infinitum. There must be a message in that. 

And of course  “Bulli Pass” rhymes with “arse”. 

There's no Remedy for re-making a classic

outlaws rose tattooOutlaws - Rose Tattoo (Cleopatra Records/Punktured Media)

On which the current, immaculately qualified Tatts pay tribute to the heritage created by a late and much missed past line-up, with mixed results.

Dispassionately assessing a re-recording of Rose Tattoo's classic 1978 self-titled debut album is a tough assignment for any fan of the original work. It was a unique record.

A masterful blend of blues-boogie-rock with massive bottom-end swing. It was laced with punk's confrontational edge and delivered by true outsiders with a gang mentality - when both of those qualities were real and mattered.

Mercenaries calling

lethal mercenariesForeign Insurgence - Lethal Mercenaries (self released)

Once you get past the homespun production, “Foreign Insurgence” is a handy slice of garage punk Rock Action.

It’s a mini-album by Lethal Mercenaries, a band formed seven years ago by Charlie Lethal - aka Sydney musician and onetime I-94 Bar scribe Simon Li - and some local underground luminaries.

Simon is Hong Kong-born, Melbourne-raised and Sydney domiciled, so his influences are varied. He’s also a product of Melbourne’s musical training ground, Rock and Roll High School, and a slavish devotee of that city’s late rock royalty, the Powder Monkeys.

Punk's spirit shines through

party of shineParty of Shine - Party of Shine (Swashbuckling Hobo)

If this passed you by when it landed on Brisbane label Swashbuckling Hobo in January, you’re not alone. It’s the debut album for former Jason and the Scorchers bassist Jeff Johnson and his band, and follows a single for the same label.

Ignore the shiny cover art. Party of Shine plays dense, mid-tempo punk rock. Their sound is thicker than treacle with abrasive guitars a rumbling bottom end. Johnson plays guitar. The other guitarist David Harvard's gruff growl imparts an undertone of sullen menace. There aren't any uplifting gospel songs here.

MD Horne heads down the road less well travelled

red dirt bitumanRed Dirt Bituman - MD Horne (self released)

This is a clever stripped-down blues-rock album, a stark and personal journey full of evocative twists and turns and as grittilyAustralian as its wilfully mis-spelt title suggests. 

“MD Horne” is Mark Horne, Sydney bassist for many bands but most notably the brutal 300 st claire and Johnny Casino and the Secrets. Mark recorded it on a sojourn to Spain, where his mate Johnny is domiciled. MD handles acoustic guitars and vocals, and Señor Casino plays everything else.

“Red Dirt Bituman” is Horne’s debut solo album and its title plays on the dichotomy of a man torn between his connections to the city and the bush. Truth be told, most Australians cling to the coast like limpets on a tin boat and wouldn’t be seen dead on a dirt road. M.D. Horne, has travelled plenty of dirt tracks and blacktops and his music speaks of both.

A Cult classic revisited

40 boc40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016 - Blue Oyster Cult (Frontiers Records)

And you’re asking, Why? And possibly with good reason. For starters, it’s 2020 and that makes the anniversary four years late, right? And surely these guys aren’t still going?

They are - albeit with just two original members. Australia was lucky enough to host them a few years ago. The last studio album was “Curse of the Hidden Mirror” 19 years ago (and it was pretty good.) There’s even a new studio record pending. This live celebration is a valid addition to the BOC catalogue, even if most of the appeal will be for rusted-on fans.

I-94 Bar