Even's album for the ages

reverse light yearsReverse Light Years – Even (El Reno)

This double album features Even at their creative best – a beautifully crafted 17-track, 81 minutes with something for all tastes. It provides a definitive, seminal record for long-time fans and will certainly open the door to new legions.

Ash Naylor is arguably the hardest working “stop and go man” in Oz music. He, (Wally) Roderick Kempton II (bass) and Matt Cotter (drums) make a formidable three-piece. And a durable one.

Double vaxxed ain't nothing until you're double bugged

stinkbugs double meaningDouble Meaning – The Stinkbugs (Swashbuckling Hobo)

Drop the needle in the groove. Ready? The pedigree tells you a lot: Hekawis and Shutdown66 among prior convictions. So does the opening track, “Atom Bomb”: Extreme fuzz guitar and basic, almost primal production. But don’t lay a bet, just yet...

Just as you have The Stinkbugs pegged and, suddenly, the sound’s stripped right back for two songs, “Don’t Want Me Around” and “Fly”. It’s like someone sucked out all the mid-range with a straw.

Dirt on the tracks

high times more crimes cvrHigh Tides, More Crimes – MD Horne (Outtspace/FOLC/La Villa Nova)

Only a shit stirrer would start a review of an album with the rhetorical question: “How do you know you’re getting old? You start listening to bush bands”. Guilty as charged – on the shit stirrer charge, that is. Lock me up.

Yes, the second solo album from Sydney’s MD Horne contains mandolin, didgeridoo, his own bass, a sprinkling of bush balladry, and even a sea shanty of sorts but, thankfully, no lagerphone. It’s also damned good.

Make mine an Undermine

u coverU – 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.

An elf who won't stay on the shelf

set yourself easy cvrSet 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.

This Sporting Life

drugs in sport cvrAt 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.

Echoes of past thoughtcrimes but ViviKit is here and now

bugmantisBugmantis – 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.

We're living on dog food

feed the dog cvrFeed 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. 

Collection captures Rifles firing on all cylinders

chocomel cvrChasing 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.

East Coast Low's coming of age

seas on fire cvrSeas 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.

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