Step Into The Light – Paul Berwick’s Magnetic Quartet (self released)
At the risk of damning with faint praise, Paul Berwick made an indelible mark with the shoulda-been-huge Happy Hate Me Nots in the 1980s and ‘90s and he and his new band, The Magnetic Quartet, have much to live up to. This four-track EP “Step Into The Light” is a good start.
Sydney’s HHMNs developed from punk-pop to bona fide power-pop contenders over their first existence but never quite broke out into the mainstream. Another run in the 2000s after the sad loss of bassist Christian Houllemare tried but never scaled the same heights.
Berwick is a talented songwriter with a sharp ear for a melody and has assembled a superb band of old hands in Matt Galvin (guitar), Jim Dickson (bass) and Nick Kennedy (drums). Berwick fills out their sound on acoustic guitar. COVID has limited their live appearances to a handful of well-received gigs, so the question was would their recordings do them justice?
John Kennedy and the New Originals - John Kennedy and the New Originals (Foghorn/MGM)
Brisbane-raised English expatriate John Kennedy patented the Urban and Western genre after he transplanted himself to Sydney 40-something years ago and found underground success. It’s been a long (and winding) road since.
There’s been a decade living overseas in Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Holland and Hong Kong. Kennedy on paper’s had what appears to be a revolving cast of backing bands - J.F.K. And The Cuban Crisis, John Kennedy And The Honeymooners, John Kennedy's '68 Comeback Specialand John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong.
Reality is that there’s been an intermingling of players in those bands and the line-up’s been stable in recent years, but perseverance has been a by-word.
It’s tempting to do as the marketing does and label Joeys Coop’s “Service Station Flowers” as an outlet for Died Pretty guitarist Brett Myers. His distinctive sound is all over this album, like sunscreen and a rash-shirt on a redhead in summer, but this really is a record that’s more than just a billboard with all-star billing for one.
Singer Mark Roxburgh conceived Joeys Coop a couple of years ago, after the implosion of the reformed Decline of the Reptiles, and his vision was simple: He wanted to play with people whose work he’d long admired and to find an outlet for his own songs (something that Decline clearly was not.)
Collaborations from Stustustudio – Stu & The Connections (Crankinhaus)
Vaguely new wave-sounding pop from a combo led by well-credentialled Sydney drummer Stu Wilson (Loose Pills,Hammerfish, Aberration and ex-Lime Spiders, New Christs, Chris Masuak & The Harbour City Wave Riders,and the Soul Movers) and it’s damned good. Six tracks - one a stripped-down alternate version – that showcase some adept song-writing and a disclination to be pigeonholed.
Stu’s one of the rare breed of drummers who sing - and that even rarer strain of drummers who sing well. He’s in the upper register and writes pop songs to suit. Wilson gets a bit of assistance – Sienna Egan,vocalist for his other current band The Rivers is prominent among a list of notable collaborators that includes bassist Andy Newman (ME-262, The Visitors). Matt Galvin (Barbarellas, Happy Hate Me Nots) and Ryan Elsmore (Loose Pills).