James McCann leading The New Vindictives in Europe. JUXE photo.
1) The Damned @ 170 Russell St, MelbourneI’ve always loved The Damned: the rush of energy of their first few singles and albums. My wife is a big fan and she educated me on all things Damned. I missed them last time around so I was pumped to see them finally, to say the least.
I didn’t want to be disappointed so I did my homework and watched recent live shows on YouTube and read recent reviews. By all accounts the band was on fire , so I was ready for it and they didn’t disappoint.
They are still Punk Rock weirdos at heart and it was side splitting when Captain Sensible talked about Kurt Vile playing before them at Golden Plains: “It used to be Phil Collins and Paul Weller , but I’ve found a new one KURT Fucking Vile , what a fucking tosser “ It's true so much contemporary underground music is middle of the road , like Bread in the 70’s or LRB , this shit is still the enemy, even though I’m sure Kurt Vile is a lovely guy.
Dave Kettley and Rob Younger marshalling the New Christs at Marrickville Bowlo on Saturday night..
Sydney, you’re such a contrary beast with this live music thing. And you fucking know it.
A year ago, this same bill of the New Christs and Melbourne’s James McCann and The New Vindictives pulled close to a full room at Marrickville Bowlo. This Saturday night, the place isn’t empty by any means but the head count is much lower.
Was it the cold weather? HTFU! It’s winter. Maybe a spot of fatigue with great rock and roll shows seemingly happening weekly? For sure, we’ve been spoilt. It was also the third New Christs appearance in these parts in as many months. if you were one of the waverers that stayed home, it really was your loss.
Noise for Heroes Complete 1980-83 Vol 1Noise for Heroes Complete 1988-91 Vol 2Noise for Heroes Complete 1991-2004 Vol 3Edited by Steve H. Gardner
Imagine a decade like the 1980s without zines. For the uninitiated (because they weren’t born then) zines were self-produced magazines, often photocopied and sometimes hand-drawn, focused on subjects that the authors were passionate about. More often than not, the topic was music.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of zines in a pre-Internet world. Along with college radio, they powered the American underground music circuit. In Australia, they connected underground bands, and fans across a country of disparate cities and gave insights into scenes overseas in a way mainstream music papers could never reflect. In Europe, they were oxygen for a culture considered low brow that fought to find an audience.
Zines were lapped up by people into punk, high-energy and left-of-centre music that didn’t manage to gain exposure elsewhere. They were the epitome of DIY culture, making the passion of others tangible. You’re “consuming” the digital equivalent of one right now.
One of the best was “Noise for Heroes” from San Diego, USA. The very lanky Steve Gardner kicked it off with some like-minded friends in 1980. It initially had a focus on punk rock. In its second life, it moved onto the Aussie and Scandinavian underground scenes with Gardner its writer rather than editor. Steve drummed in bands, ran his own record label, NKVD, and had a mail order music business.
In the early 1990s John Foy found himself in the eye of the storm enveloping the music industry.
Foy’s independent record label, Red Eye, had done a deal with Polydor, the Australian arm of multinational company Phonogram. A sold-out at show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in 1991, headlined by Ratcat and featuring English band Rideand Red Eye bands The Clouds and Falling Joys, had awakened major labels to the commercial potential of the independent music scene. Other Red Eye bands like The Cruel Sea would surf the independent wave into the late 1990s, even after Foy withdrew from industry machinations.
Thirty years later, Foy looks back on those heady days with fondness. But even as he trawled through his archive of posters, ticket stubs and memories for his “Snaps Crack Pop!” visual collection cum autobiography, he’s not dwelling on what he should have done back in the day. Foy has always lived in the moment, for better and for worse.
Sometimes you get all philosophical. The penny dropped on Saturday night, after a succession of $14 jugs of beer with a mate, that the New Christs are probably the band that I’ve experienced live for the longest number of years.
Of course there have been so many line-ups that a statement like that becomes very elastic. But the wrist stamps don’t lie...
And they go right back to 1984 when a loose and limber Rob Younger bounded onto the stage of Sydney’s Capital Theatre, fronting the band’s first live incarnation, in support of Iggy Pop.
That line-up of Chris Masuak, Tony Robertson, Mark Kingsmill and Kent Steedman (the Rifle later to be subbed by a Spider, Richard Jakimyszyn) might have been equalled by the “Distemper” one (Charlie Owen, Jim Dickson and Louis Burdett/Nick Fisher) but never bettered. The former had a brutal edge, the latter a bluesier, expansive feel with jazzy inflections.
The current configuration of Dickson, Paul Larsen, Dave Kettley and Brent Williams measures up nicely in the history of the New Christs, probably sitting at level-pegging with the late-‘90s line-ups. They’ve all served up differing sounds and brought something different to the stage, with the one constant being Younger’s undeniable presence and bitter-sour song-writing.
“Emotional Jihad” and “Word Salad” are terms that others have used down the years to describe Younger’s lyrical vision. You can’t do much better than that.
Emmy Etie photo.
The New Christs are playing their last gigs for some time, with Rob Younger going back on active duty with Radio Birdman, and they’re going out with a flurry that includes two interstate gigs.
Friday, July 6 finds them fronting up for two sets at Beaches Hotel at Thirroul in New South Wales for free. On Saturday, July 7 they’ll return to the scene of their Marrickville Bowling Club triumph with James McCann and the New Vindictives almost a year ago with precisely the same bill.
On Saturday, July 14 they’ll play a rare Melbourne show at the Cherry Bar, again with James McCann and the New Vindictives plus Penny Ikinger. And Saturday, July 21 finds them headlining the Fly By Night Musos Club in Fremantle, Western Australia, with The Volcanics and The Shakeys supporting. This will be the New Christs' first-ever WA show.
It’s a well worn path that The Volcanics tread but they’re not afraid to stretch out and take a slight detour on this, their fourth album. For the most part, however, “Oh Crash…” finds the Perth band doing what it does best: Delivering straight-up, guitar rock and roll.
Yes, the reference points are all obvious - at least to these ears. They include latter-day Asteroid B612, mid-period MC5 (without the tinny production) and the New Christs (in their sullen moments.) Vocalist John Phatorous has that steely edge and lets slip the occasional guttural utterance that conveys that he's not a man to be fucked with - at least on stage. He can sing the shit out of this sort of music, too.
It’s a truism that many bands from Europe rock but don’t rock and roll. It’s not their fault, of course, it’s just a matter of cultural conditioning. Rock and roll is not their first musical language and the “high art” the place is steeped in suffocates that "low art", like any other form of musical expression, into submission.
So when you find a Continental band that “gets it”, you better latch on to them, tight.
Some of us are (ahem) old enough to remember a French band called Fixed Uo, who were on Sydney’s Citadel label, and made it to Australia to play and record in the mid 1980s. Rob Younger and Jim Dickson produced an album for them. Soulful garage rock was their stock in trade. They “got it”.
It’s taken me a little while to get to this one, and I wish I’d got here sooner.
There’s 12 tracks, nine by guitarist Dylan Webster, three by other guitarist Jason Sharples. With your bass by Dave Lundquest, drums by Serge Ou (no, really, that’s what it says here) and vocals by Michael Preiss… we’re looking at a band capable, if we read the back of the CD right, of constructing and delivering the twin guitar assault.
My oath they do.
Divine Rites – New Christs (Citadel Records)
Not so much an album as a compilation of singles, “Divine Rites” stands the test of time. Just 45 minutes long and spanning a dozen songs, it was released in Australia in 1988 as a mini-album and CD – a holding action while the newest line-up of the band worked up its debut full-length album, the stunning “Distemper”.
The New Christs materialised after Rob Younger took a lengthy lay-off from performing. The Other Side, his first post-Radio Birdman group, had disintegrated without committing anything to vinyl. Pity. The Other Side live were brutal, founded on a plundering of the ‘60s punk and early ‘70s Alice Cooper vaults and fueled by the take-no-prisoners guitar of Charlie Georgees. The band (Younger, Georgees, Clyde Bramley on bass and Mark Kingsmill/Ron Keeley on drums) worked up some fantastic originals, some of which would be played by the New Christs.
1. Do The Pop! Festival, October 2022 - Port Campbell, VIC. One of the best rock n roll experiences I’ve had since the glory days of the Big Day Out in early-to-mid-1990s. A good sized, easy going crowd, all (mostly) attending for two good reasons: beer and rock 'n' roll. An exceptional line-up featuring a range of established and up-and-coming bands. Big thanks to Mick Simpson of Grindhouse and friends for organising what will go down as one the great inaugural festival events. No question this is my Number One pick for 2022.
2. Howlin’ Threads EP "Of The Sea"(Meinshaft Records)It was great to self-release this 4 x track EP featuring contributions from a wicked array of Australian rock n roll legends, including Penny Ikinger (Wet Taxis) on vocals, Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman) and Kent Steedman (Celibate Rifles) on lead guitar, James McCann (Harpoon) on slide and harmonica, and Brent Williams (New Christs) on keys. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to work with all these amazing people. For those keen to own one, a few Deniz Tek autographed copies are available here.
Blink and you’ll miss them. The Wollongong band that got away, The Mutated Noddys, are playing one reformation show at Jane’s Cafe in their hometown on December 23.
With their roots firmly planted in the Detroit and ’60s punk scenes, the Noddys blazed away for the best part of a decade in the 1980s and early ‘90s, playing many high-profile supports and recording an EP and an as yet unreleased album with producer (and fan) Rob Younger.
Apart from a one-off in Sydney in 2010 to support GBH, the Noddys haven’t been sighted since and have no plans to play any other gigs due to one member living in the USA. Crapulous Gee Saw and Oceedeecee (yes, that’s a Ramones tribute band) will support there, Tickets are a bargain at $5 on the door and Jane’s is at 40 Flinders Street in North Wollongong.
Many people have tried to make a Radio Birdman documentary. For a variety of reasons, only one has succeeded.
And it would have been so easy for Jonathan Sequeira to fuck it up.
Don’t worry. He hasn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
“Descent Into The Maelstrom” was screened to a select audience of band members, followers, media and other hangers-on in Sydney last night. The venue was the Chauvel Cinema, deep inside – ironically enough – Paddington Town Hall, the scene of the definitive Radio Birdman line-up’s last Australian stand.