edwina preston - The I-94 Bar
Adelaide-based writer, editor, and sometime-musician Robert Brokenmouth took the time, during lockdown — well, lockdown for us non-South Australians, at least — to reflect on his literary and musical trajectory. It’s a curious bundle of projects and interests that Brokenmouth juggles — the war buff and the punk music-buff occupy the same territory (no military pun intended) without apparent contradiction.
Brokenmouth’s published achievements include his chronicling of Melbourne’s punk scene in the 1996 book “Nick Cave: The Birthday Party and Other Epic Adventures” as well as editing‘fictionalised’military histories such as Australian WWII navigator Ray Ollis’s 101 Nightsand air gunner John Bede Cusack’s “They Hosed Them Out”.
For Brokenmouth, war and punk have one thing in common, perhaps: both are opportunities for adventure, in very different shapes and forms, but adventure nevertheless.
With COVID-19 limiting opportunities to meet for an interview, Robert kindly responded to my questions via email — and though you might not getting him talking so prolifically in real life, it’s clear that when he puts pen to paper, or finger-pads to keyboard, he’s got a lot to say, and a rollicking history all his own.
I’ve pulled out some choice tidbits from Robert’s life and career to give you a sense of the Boys’Own, Boys Next Door fan.
Harry Howard and Dave Graney - Trish Nacey photo
The Metro - November 22, 2012
It's been over two years since I've seen Harry Howard and the NDE live and I feel a bit like a kid with too much red cordial and wedding cake sloshing around inside. So I'm on the lemonade tonight.
Arriving at the Metro a little late (it's Friday night and we've been home to feed, listen to the band do a sterling four songs and interview on local radio 3D, guzzle red cordial and cake, change and dash back out) I catch a few songs of the St Morris Sinners ripping up a rug and am dragged just outside to breathe the same air as half the smokers in Adelaide.
Harry Howard and The NDE at The Facory Floor. Lyndal Irons photo
Many years ago when Sydney was full of thriving, original music venues, Friday night for me was always a combination of either playing gigs or checking out new bands.
There was never a shortage. I grabbed my copy of "On the Street" on the Wednesday, eased into my chair and sat there with my red pen. After reading the odd review, I would scrawl and circle names of bands to see in the “What’s On.”
Every now then I would get to the Lansdowne, Evening Star, Hopetoun and many others and be happy with just finding a new band. Well, times change. Nothing remains the same. Seeing a new band is a rare night out these days.
"Yeah, I don't care if you throw all the ice in the world. You're payin' 5 bucks and I'm makin' 10,000 baby, so screw ya!"
It won't won't cost you five bucks, actually, and it probably won't remotely resemble "Metallic KO" but do we have your attention yet?
Acclaimed Adelaide writer/filmmaker/journalist/musician/I-94 Bar reviewer Robert Brokenmouth will be doing a very special reading from his latest work "101 Nights" at the Lyrebird Lounge in Melbourne on Saturday, February 4, accompanied by Michael Plater and Nick Spaulding.
Also performing will be Duet (Harry Howard, Edwina Preston and Craig Williamson), Michael Plater, and Cabin Inn.
Atom have been playing around Melbourne for several years, and this is partly the result. I say 'partly' because I know they have other songs up their sleeves (and a few deft covers), and also because they're most engaging live, drawing you in like a nurse soothes a muscle-man pretending he doesn't have a fear of needles.
Those of you alert to the ways of the musical underground will recognise at once that this is another brainchild of Harry Howard and Edwina Preston. With the first track, 'Run Out', we're right there in that cut-up era Harry and Ed have created for themselves (somewhere between 1958 and 1989, it seems). In a different place and time, they'd have John Peel thrashing Atom's every B-side while turfing The Cure and The Mission sessions into the archives.
This one gets seven bottles. Seven. Harry Howard and Ed Preston have excelled themselves in the most extraordinary way.
Right, I’ll calm down and try and explain. First, both HHNDE records have been natural progressions, with damn fine songs, and plenty to bounce around the room to. Memorable in every sense.
In 2016, it seems that times have changed. Time was when the “third album” was perceived as “difficult’; that a band found it difficult to develop onwards from their initial impetus and squirt to stardom. The Ramones’ third LP was written at the same time as their first, so no problem there. I suspect much the same could be said of the Stranglers, whose live sets in 1977 featured 90 minutes of ugly hits. However, these are exceptions.
If the '90s and early '00s were the era of young folk aping the look of punk junkies (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the Twenteens will be remembered as the era of OI! BEARDFACE! YOU! FACE THE FUCKING AUDIENCE! You are PERFORMING! YOUR BACK DOES NOT PERFORM! YOU FUCKING TWAT!
Kid Congo and the NDE
Curtin Hotel, Melbourne
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Alex Lianeris photo
It's said John Curtin (whose name was taken by tonight's venue) used to get on the sauce a lot, back before he became Australian Prime Minister and took on the mantle of one the Labor Party-endorsed accolade of "Australia’s greatest ever wartime Prime Minister".
In truth, there’s not much competition: Bob Menzies was only PM long enough for his Country Party colleagues to politically knife him, and back in the heady days of World War I, Billy Hughes’ leadership style made him less friends than a Metwurst merchant in downtown Paris.
Anyway, I digress. Curtin cleaned up his act, got the PM gig in 1941 and dropped off the twig four years later, two months after Russian tanks had barrelled through Berlin, and a month before the Enola Gay put a brutal end to the war in the Pacific.
Kid Congo used to do a lot of shit, a lot of bad shit that probably should’ve killed him a few times over. His band mates and friends haven’t fared so well; some years back Kid realised his own habits were suffocating his love of music, and his punk rock attitude, so he quit the juice, the sauce, the gear, the candy, the rock, the powder, the stuff and the snuff.
Harry Howard had his own near-death scare; indeed, his health was so dire his doctor still reminds him how close he came to mortality (the scare provided the inspiration for the title of Howard’s band – NDE (Near Death Experience). Indeed, one of Howard’s NDE members, Dave Graney, got his own rude awakening some years back when he coughed up blood on the Paris Metro.
Kid is back in Australia for the fourth time in under five years, coinciding with the launch of his old friend Kim Salmon’s new biography. The Pink Monkey Birds have stayed home, so Kid’s picked up a local backing band in the form of Harry Howard and the NDE. It’s a neat synergy – back in the day Kid Congo moved in common circles with Howard in Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls, and with Dave Graney and NDE drummer Clare Moore during The Moodists’ UK tenure.
Tonight is Kid’s only headline gig at the (John) Curtin Hotel. It’s a packed crowd, squeezed in the Curtin’s sometimes sub-optimal confines.
Kid is as iconoclastic as ever. He’s wearing a middle-age man’s wig that probably deserves its own flammability warning, his face contorts into a myriad of deranged expressions last seen on the 11.34pm train to Hurstbridge and his arms flail around like a psychedelic praying mantis. When Kid tells a story, it rambles like your eccentric uncle telling a story about his latest entrepreneurial plot, seems like it’s getting to a notional conclusion than ambles out to pasture. But no-one cares.
Dave Graney is as sartorially impressive as ever, the combination of brown bowler hat and pencil moustache suggesting a devious banker on the sidelines of ‘Peaky Blinders’ (and special mention of Dave’s periodic bass guitar swipe across the front of the crowd – that man knows moves). Harry Howard churns out those chunky post-punk chords that makes his band so good, and Edwina Preston could be playing the phone book and it’d still make the band even better. Every band Clare Moore has ever played in has been shit hot – and that’s more than simple coincidence.
|The set starts in Pink Monkey Birds territory ("LSDC", "I Found a Peanut", "Black Santa"), then slides into some NDE ("The Only One") and back in time to The Shangri-Las ("Sophisticated Boom Boom"). The band sounds just like you might think it should – dirty and garage but in a post-punk sort of way. "New Kind of Kick" is intense without intimidating, and the cover of Suicide’s "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" provokes shit-eating grins across the crowd.
Then it’s back to NDE territory and a call and response between Kid and Ed Preston on "She Doesn’t Like It", before rounding out the first bracket with The Gun Club’s "Sex Beat".
The encore starts with a Bowiefied cover of Spencer P Jones’ "When He Finds Out", and we remember that Spencer’s last ever appearance on stage was alongside Kid, 18 months earlier. Age shall weary Spencer no longer, tragically for all who knew and loved him. Then we get The Cramps’ "Garbageman", the ultimate trash song in more ways than one. We’re all garbage in a sense, waiting to be put out when the time comes. But until that happens we’ve got Kid Congo to remind us why life is worth living.