U – The Undermines (self released)
Bands that echo, without imitating, the sound of Radio Birdman and its precursors are always welcome around these parts. Canberra’s Undermines made an impression with their “Tenzeroeight” album a few years ago and do so again with “U”.
“U” is a five-track CD EP recorded at Infidel Studios in Queanbeyan and positively drips guitars. Understandable, given the band’s lineage, which is drawn from local legends Hell Yes (home to future The Eastern Dark bassist Bill Gibson), Newcastle’s renowned high energy machine The Fools, and local contemporary British Invasion and garage enthusiasts, Il Bruto.
Set Yourself Easy – Kent Steedman (self released)
Adjust your expectations. This is not a collection of Celibate Rifles-styled pyrotechnics -although some (notably, “Lockdown Shuffle” and the title track) could have worked for them.
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Kent Steedman has never been just about flamethrower rock. His work outside the Rifles has spanned the oblique, avant noise of Crent, the proto-boogie blues of Jim Moginie and the Family Dog, sonic adventurism with the Deniz Tek Group and live shows using Tibetan singing bowls.
At Least We’ll Always Have Rock n Roll to Fall Back On – Drugs in Sport (Outtspace)
Effervescent and tough guitar rock-pop from Newcastle, Australia, will not be the Next Big Thing for the nmatiomnal yewf network Triple J. But it can be in your own listening space, and here’s the proof.
Drugs in Sport do cranked-up guitar pop exceedingly well. It’s a genre that’s been milked and relegated to the mainstream’s back blocks in favour of sanitised, autot-uned pap. Anthony (bass), Errol (vocal and guitar), Geoff (guitar) and Jez (drums) apply their own twist. You can’t beat humans playing real instruments, especially (even if) they’re, ahem, older chaps or lasses.
Bugmantis – ViviKit (self released)
Back in the dim, dark past of Sydney’s nascent underground music scene, a band called the Thought Criminals stood out like the proverbial dog’s. They were so unlike all the other spotty kids on the inner-city block.
Nineteen-seventy-seven (the time of their birth) was the Year of Radio Birdman. The Thoughties, with their jagged rhythms, blaring keyboards, political lyrics and highly-strung vocals, sounded nothing like them. They were post-punk before punk had ended.
Feed The Dog – Bored! (Fantastic Mess Records)
The original album came out in 1991 and showed off a new, lean and still mean version of Bored!. “Feed The Dog” was an instant classic. Thirty years later, its guitarist, vocalist and driving force Dave Thomas is no longer with us, but be thankful that this fearsome, re-mastered version is.
If you were immersed in the Australian underground scene in 1991, you’ll know that the international name on everybody’s lips back then was Nirvana. Their debut album “Bleach” was making its mark and the over-ground success of “Nevermind” was just over the horizon. Bored! also could have gone on to huge things.
Chasing Chocomel – The Celibate Rifles (self released)
Don’t let the fact that these are cassette dubs of live-to-air radio recordings deter you. A bit of compression never hurt anyone. This posthumous 22-track collection from Europe and Australia is prime-time Celibate Rifles from the “Roman Beach Party”/“Blind Ear”/”Heaven on a Stick” period, and it burns like a kerosene spill on a barbie.
As a fan of the Rifles from the get-go, I thought it was “Roman Beach Party” that showed they’d really come to grips with the studio. Foot-to-the-floor Rifles got the crowds shaking live, but sometimes the wry observations were buried under all that Sturm und Drang. You had to listen hard to appreciate what they were saying on the early records too. From here on in, you could hear Damo’s words - loud and clear.
Seas on Fire – East Coast Low (Crankinhaus Records)
The promise of their first recordings (an album and a promotional EP) has been realised and “Seas On Fire” showsEast Coast Low has the requisite rock and roll cojones to take on all comers.
A five-piece with most of its membership drawn from the matter-of-fact city of Newcastle, a couple of hours north of Sydney, East Coast Low is a product of its home-town: Nothing is overly dressed up and most of the songs get straight to the point, with no fucking around.
This is a well-travelled band. Grizzled, if you like. High rotation on the national youth network doesn’t beckon (though we all know they don’t program anything with a hint of ageism about them.) The Low formed in 2015 with members playing in Newy bands like The Fools and No Reason. The influences are myriad, although the ‘70s punk lineage is strong.