off-the-hip - The I-94 Bar
Fifteen years ago, talented Victorian songwriter Danny McDonald told me that Little Murders was THE great lost power-pop band of Australia’s halcyon musical underground days of the 1980s. They were defunct at the time and an Off The Hip re-issue of their early material - and another reformation - were away off in the future.
Of course, Danny was right. He’d grown up with the band’s songs and they’d left a permanent mark. Little did he know that in 2015 he’d join Little Murders for their fifth and latest studio album “Hi-Fab!” - or that it might be the best thing they’ve ever recorded.
There was a time when everybody wanted to be in the Cramps and Voodoobilly was a thing. As is the nature of trends, some excelled and many bands were terrible at it. Generally speaking, harking back to rock and roll’s earliest roots (which is all the Cramps were doing in their own extreme way) was a good thing to do because it opened up so many ears.
It’s all in the beat and although Papa Pilko and The Binrats want to bury themselves deep in a swamp they sound like they’ve washed up on the shores of Lake Michigan, somewhere near the Windy City. Not that this is a bad thing. Chicago Blues is cool to revel in and this Sydney six-piece immerse themselves deep. Remember, it’s all just labels anyway and there’s even a lashing of outlaw country stirred into the musical mix.
Just coming off a scorching Los Chicos’ set on a cruise in Sydney Harbour and looking like a man who had just met God, I hit the concession desk and picked up a copy of this disc. I showed it to The Barman and asked him if he’d reviewed it yet. He had but suggested I did too. So this means a bit of an experiment in reviewing. Without reading the Barman’s review, how different will our opinions be?
Melbourne songstress Crystal Thomas has woken up in too many emergency ward beds for her own good. Next time you or I do the same, let this album be playing in the background.
For a musician who spends many of his recording hours in a bedroom, Brat Farrar is more Punk Rock than you or I will ever be. This is the second album of short and snappy homemade songs from Melbourne-via-Europe Sam Agostino (one-half of Digger & The Pussycats) and it delivers in spades.
There’s a lot to love about “Brat Farrar II” if only because it sounds like “Brat Farrar I”. In fact, you could interchange many of these songs on an iTunes mix playlist (or something similar) and be hard pressed to pick what came from where.
Look, it's a punk rock record with some funny little new wave songs thrown in. You were expecting prog rock? It's also a bedroom album by Dean Agostino, one-half of Digger and The Pussycats, so that should tell you right there that it's pretty fucking good, OK? DIY rules!
A West Indian, a Frenchman, a Japanese, a Welshman and a Mexican walk into a bar…it might sound like the opening of an old joke but it's more likely just King Salami & The Cumberland 3 turning up for a pre-gig soundcheck. The London-based five-piece (names can be deceptive) are are a frat band version of the United Nations - only not useless - with enough recycling going on to start a chain of environmentally-friendly chain stores.
This mob seem to come from Perth, a town which seems to live in several weird time warps all at once. The convict past and the glorious fuck-you-we’re-suddenly-rich '80s, and all the other sorts of odd pockets of Australiana you can imagine.
One Thousand Years sound like they’ve spent that accumulated amount of time listening to their dads’ record collections. And exactly why is that a bad thing? Rock and roll’s grim hold on the collective consciousness is eroding by the day so if bands like this West Australian quartet are going to fly the flag, who are we to complain?
Guitar pop like this has no equal. Rob Griffiths has been writing and playing it longer than anyone can remember. Little Murders are a Melbourne institution and the current line-up is the longest serving. Each of these facts is connected.
Freakbeat doesn’t swing much more than than this. Perth’s High Learys are children of the ‘60s, metaphorically speaking, from their meticulously ruffled haircuts down to the pointy tips of their winkle-picker boots. If such retrofitting offends your sensibilities, leave now.
Fuzz garage trash rock's best-kept secret is a multi-headed, twin-drummer-driven thing that eats the frail and aged and comes from Switzerland. The aptly-named Monsters have three albums ("Birds Eat Martians", "I See Dead People" and "Youth Against Nature") to their credit, and this compilation on Australia's busiest underground label compiles their best, adding a couple of exclusive bonus recordings.
Not to labour the point, but we live in troubled times. Terms like "hardest working band in Australia" are an irrelevance, a relic of the days when Oz Rock ruled our roost and beer barns were places of worship that were embedded in every town and suburb across this wide, brown land. Bands could, and did, play as many as eight shows in a week. Then it all faded away.
The re-birth of the Stoneage Hearts sounds like a sequel to “High Fidelity”: Three guys walk into a record store at various times, buy the new Red Kross album from the owner and they all decide to form a band. They rehearse at nights in the shop, record an album, tour together and achieve global success.
Apart from the last bit about the worldwide success, the story is true. Not that global domination isn't possible, but more on that later.
This is the third incarnation of this Melbourne garage-pop band and apart from a stack of classic garage and powerpop influences, drummer Mickster Baty is the only constant. Previous line-ups were fronted by Danny McDonald (P76) and Dom Mariani (The Stems, DM3) with Ian Wettehall (Seminal Rats, Phillesteins, Freeloaders) on bass then and apart from guest Farfisa organist and Mickster, this one is populated by relative unknowns. Not that it matters a jot. They’re up to the mark and this is a great record.
Although the singer in the more famous band's favourite tipple doesn't extend much further than a glass of fine wine these days, there's something irresistible about the line describing Melbourne six-piece Mesa Cosa as "the Stooges walking into a tequila bar". Revelling in a critic's assessment that you're very good at losing your shit, sonically speaking, is one thing but on "Infernal Cakewalk" Mesa Cosa do a good job of proving the tag right.
You thought "the New Invincibles" was a tag invented for the Aussie cricket team? Think again (especially after the Ashes loss). It’s the dying days of 2005 and this debut album from a Perth, Western Australia, four-piece - which came out a few months previously - almost slipped through the cracks. Almost. Thank the punk rock gods and pass the ammunition.
Just a few bars into "Listen Closelier" it's evident that The Frowning Clouds are so far out of step with what passes for popular culture that they're in danger of being deported to a musical Antarctica. This is music that existed long before pitch adjusters, vocoders and dry machines, so if they had to live in exile you could safely bet that, food and water apart, the only other thing close to the top of The Frowning Clouds' list of essentials would be amplifier valves.
It's easy to rave about things being unjust and how universally lauded a band would be if the world was different. Green Circles not only struggle with the fact they're domiciled in Adelaide, a remote and near geographically featureless Australian city that makes Sydney look like a happening musical town, they're existing 40 years too late.
Here it is folks - this is the sound the “cool kids” make these days. “Cool kids” being what the wearers would dismissive as a totally pejorative term, but essentially being a title for whatever constitutes a “scene maker” in these musically fractured times. “Scene” being another pejorative word.
It’s hard to keep up with contemporary music once you pass a certain age - even when you’re consciously trying to cock an ear to what seeps out of cracks in the footpath and shuns daylight. Of course it’s a given that you shouldn’t pay attention to just about ANYTHING that makes it to commercial radio airwaves, but in this case "contemporary" means the underground shit, maaan. And Los Tones are under the commercial radar by any measure.
With a band lineage like The Eastern Dark, the New Christs, Orange Humble Band, Happy Hate Me Nots, Lemonheads, Pyramidiacs, The Scruffs and Eva Trout among others, you’d have high expectations and “Rx”, the debut album for Sydney supergroup Loose Pills, matches the label on the bottle.