Greetings from Warsaw, Poland! I don't know how many of these Barfly Top 10s will be from folks outside of Australia, but I'd wager a year's salary that mine will be the only one from a former Eastern Bloc country. Here are Top Seven things I enjoyed in 2018:
1) Starting a record label2018 was the year a long-dormant dream became flesh. All the planets had aligned just right: some good local bands had appeared on my radar, I had a steady income that allowed for occasional extravagance, and the label name had been bouncing around my head for months, inspired by an Action Swingers tune.
And thus in July, Heavy Medication Records was born, and it's been a most-rewarding learning experience since Day One. I got turned on to a lot of cool bands, networked with like-minded labels and music fans, and even got some exceptional reviews that convinced me I wasn't wasting my time. The damage so far: three releases in the can, another three in the works, and a bunch more on the horizon.
I must admit, I didn't listen to many 2018 releases, outside of the ones I put out myself. It's rare that I feel the urgency of snatching up a band's new record as soon as it comes out. There were a few notable releases that caught my attention however...
This re-issued gem on Polish label Heavy Medication is by a band led by an Australian expatriate based in Germany. It was originally released in Europe on vinyl in 2014 and it’s odd-on that if you weren’t in the know back then and you come from outside Europe, you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Dave Thomas is the Australian vocalist and guitarist in Bella Wreck and, no, he’s not the Dave Thomas from Geetroit legends Bored! For one, he’s about a metre taller. He also has strawberry blond hair down to his arse.
This Dave Thomas lived colourfully for a while in New York City and was a member of Sydney bands Flame Boa and The Crisps. The Crisps included Hoody from The Johnnys and Stuart Wilson (New Christs and Lime Spiders) on drums.
Well Cooked! - Wild Zeros (Heavy Medication Records)
To say there’s anything new in the rock and roll zoo is simply a crock. Recycling is de rigeur but that doesn't equate to a negative. Dig in the right places and you’ll find stuff to light you up good and proper, even if it's been worked over like a re-birthed Renault. Here’s a case-in-point.
French band Wild Zeros are your basic punk rock trio with a bit of musicality. They proffer a bunch of rough-edged riffs and ragged melodies - in the style of The Devil Dogs and the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. They don’t do anything especially new, but what they do is good and they make their own mark in their own way.
“We're the most underground, underground band out there,” says Loren Molinare of the Detroit-born-and-bred early L.A. punk veterans The DoGs, whose second LP “Hypersensitive” from 2012 will finally be released on vinyl via prestige Polish punk ‘n’ roll label Heavy Medication Records on September 1.
“We’re really proud to reissue this ‘lost classic’ for the first time on vinyl,” says Heavy Medication president Derrick Ogrodny. “We're honored to work with such protopunk legends and think it’s about time these DoGs had their day.”
“We're one of the last bands with original members that actually sound like a proper Detroit rock band,” continues Molinare, the man Ogrodny calls “the Pete Townshend of punk rock.” “And yes, I mean some things never change. We carry on that tradition. That's what we do.
“We're just kind of picking our spot. We're white trash Detroit rock ‘n’ rollers about the same age as the old black blues men who were out doing it before they died. A lot of our peers have passed away, and we do not take it for granted.
Defiled! A Heavy Medication Tribute to New Bomb Turks - Various Artists (Heavy Medication)
Can’t profess over familiarity with the back catalogue of New Bomb Turks.Nothing personal, mind you, it’s just that when they were at their busiest back in the ‘90s, there was so much else around. Their potency can’t be disputed.
These Ohio high-energy punks churned out nine (yes, nine!) studio albums until life got in the way and ushered them into semi-retirement, and this tribute record from Polish label Heavy Medication testifies to their take-no-prisoners reputation.
Rember when tribute albums were all the rage, back before the Interwebs became fully embedded in our heads via vaccine-encased 5G chips? They grouped bands of a common mindset and showcased sounds you might not have otherwise heard. Like Spotify without ridiculously microscopic royalties.
Mess You Up – JJ and The Real Jerks (Heavy Medication Records)
The lines are so blurred these days that you can’t guess where most bands applying a defibrillator to rock and roll’s ailing heart come from. So-called scenes are fragmented and the means of production rest in many sets of hands, thanks to technology and the information democracy of the Internet.
Wind back the clock a couple of decades and JJ and The Real Jerkscould be from snowed-in Sweden or inner-city Sydney rather than sprawling Los Angeles.
This 12-inch, eight-song EP is razor sharp, fun garage rock and roll in the style of The Hivescrossed with Dead Boys.Big twin guitars and occasional sax punctuate the songs, which throw up plenty of hooks.
Parallel universes of like-minded underground music scenes exist all around the globe but Poland has to be one of the lesser-known outposts. Poison Heart from Warsaw just appeared on my radar and they might be candidates to pop up on yours.
The Scandi Rock wave of the ‘90s gave high-energy rock and roll a much-needed injection of spirit just as the rippling after-shocks of grunge were making everything bland and homogenised. Poison Heart soaked it all up and “Heart of Black City” makes obvious nods to the Hellacopters and Gluecefier.
Is that a Warsaw Turbojugend logo on your CD slick or are you just happy to see me?
You Might Be Through With The Past, But The Past Ain’t Through With You b/w Ruby Baby – Pat Todd and The Rankoutsiders (Heavy Medication)
Ex-Lazy Cowgirlsleader Pat Todd makes records that his contemporaries wish they could. If you ever see an album by Todd and his band The Rankoutsidersin the wild, just grab it. Get your hands on this non-album track 45 on Polish label Heavy Medicationas well.
“You Might Be Through With The Past…” is a prime slice of Americana-via-Chicago-blues goodness with blazing blues harp, bristling guitars, a willing engine room and the knowing vocal of Mr Todd dishing it all up with a side of punk rock attittude. It’s the same crew that brought you “…there’s pretty things in Palookaville…” (on Hound Gawd! Records), one of the best records of 2021 bar none.
Flip it and you get a good-time take on the Leiber and Stoller song “Ruby Baby”, a standard that’s been done to death by evertone from The Beach Boys to Dion. In the hands of Todd and Co, it’s spraypainted with a liberal coat of rough ‘n’ roll charm to sound damned near brand new. Raucous and righteous! Don't walk, run, the purchase link is below.
Michael Passman photo.
Pat Todd is one of the greats of American music in recent times. I say that not just because he has one hell of a set of pipes on him, and is an incredible songwriter, but because he’s also combined elements of garage, punk and country all into one mix. I can’t think of anyone that has done that as long as he has, or has done it so well.
Todd makes music that I find hard to believe anyone could dislike. He’s one of the great American songwriters. Todd formed his latest outfit The Rankoutsiders in the mid-2000s and they pick up where his legendary group the Lazy Cowgirls left off. Their latest release “…….there’s pretty things in Palookaville”is up there with his best work, but every LP he does is brilliant and it’s hard to pick a standout “classic”.Pat spoke to me from his Los Angeles homebase via Zoom, where Rankoutsiders guitarist Nick Alexandergreets me before Pat comes on.
Diggin’ It! – Wild Zeros (Heavy Medication/Adrenalin Fix/Beast)
Scuzzier and nastier than your usual French garage rock, “Dig It!” is three tracks of furious punk fun.
First impressions count for a lot and on the strength of their 2019 seven-inch compilation on Heavy Medication, “Well Cooked”, Wild Zeros are a singles band, in that they’re equipped with succinct, catchy songs that do their business and get out of the way. This 45 does nothing to dispel that.
The title track skids along like a Renault with no brakes with a distinct Devil Dogs flavour. There’s a nagging chorus and room for a brief guitar break before the thing shudders to a halt. “Tough Job” doesn’t have many lyrics aside from the title and probably doesn’t need them. “Did You Dig It?” is a raw and rhetorical question that's served with a side of raw six-strings.
The whole shebang has as many chords as it has songs and is delivered with a ragged sense of l’ espirt that’s invariably fuelled by a case of those Kronenbourg 1664 green bottles.
What did we say about it being high time for a tribute to New Bomb Turks? Just when you think it’s safe to put your PayPal password away, here’s a second collection from Poland-based Heavy Medication.
Label owner and expatriate American, Derrick Ogrodny, first laid ears on the Turks in 1992 and has been loving them ever since: “Almost 30 years later, we’re still finding traces of the Turks’ flamethrower DNA in hundreds of other bands.
“So it’s in their honor we put together an international tribute of bands interpreting their songs, from garage-punk to motorpunk, from speedrock to action rock — and a few surprises too!”
Pre-orders for vinyl or CD editions are open now and here’s the line-up which includes Aussies Aberration and Howlin’ Threads:
Hell Nation Army– “Point A to Point Blank”Poison Heart – “Snap Decision”Aberration – “Rat Feelings”Doojiman & The Exploders – “Automatic Teller”Red Crap – “If I Only Could”Randy Savages – “Leaving Town”Howlin’ Threads – “Professional Againster”Ville Fantome – “Born Toulouse-Lautrec”Flash House – “I’m Weak”Dog Toffee – “Id Slips In”The Satanic Overlords Of Rock ‘N’ Roll– “Tattooed Apathetic Boys”Smalltown Tigers – “Girl Can Help It”Puffball – “Never Will”Moron’s Morons – “Wine & Depression”Jack Saint– “Grounded Ex-Patriot”Tongue Action– “Telephone Numbrrr”Hell Nation Army– “I Want My Baby… Dead ?!”Jet Boys – “Killer’s Kiss”
Reap What You Sow – Jack Saint (Heavy Medication)
The blurb says it’s more “individually distilled” than the last album and maybe that’s why it took time to latch onto what “Reap What You Sow” is about.
The debut “Jack Saint” was a lot more obvious in its display of influences like the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club, while “Reap” seems in the thrall of Jon Spencer without being able to completely divorce itself from early pre-Warren era Nick Cave.
Watch Out! Look Out! - Doojiman & The Exploders (Heavy Medication)
Dunno about you but Scandirock was thicker on the ground in these parts in the 1990s than dandruff at a record collector fair. Doojiman & The Exploders are from Sweden and use a simple recipe of punk guitars from the garage, a sackful of strong songs and buckets of phlegm to attitude to rock the house down.
You gotta to be good to steal the title of a Stooges outtake as the name of your band and Doojiman & The Exploders are. There are traces of The (early) Hives, a less metal-ly Gluecefier and the venerable ‘Copters, sans six-string histrionics, on this 45rpm, nine-track slice of vinyl.
The Dividing Line – The Primevals (Heavy Medication/Triple Wide/Ghost Highway)
It’s 40 years after they formed in the no-nonsense Scottish city of Glasgow and If you haven’t worked out what The Primevals are on about three songs into this, their latest and 14th album, you need to have a wee dram and a good, hard look at yourself.
Admittedly, a band that dates from 1983, worked the European circuit on the back of a French New Rose Records deal, disappeared and resurfaced to start a second life a decade-and-a-half ago and has undergone considerable member churn could be a hit or miss proposition, but The Primevals keep delivering.