spooky records - The I-94 Bar
Spooky Bootleg Tapes Volume 2 – Various Artists (Spooky Records)
Bats get a bad rap. They’re part of nature and humans – some of the stupider members of the human race, at least – feel an idiotic desire to tame nature. Nature will always win; unlike humans, nature plays the long game.
There’s a local politician whose electorate covers the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised inner-eastern Melbourne suburbs where the local population can barely rub two four-wheel drives, a private school education and an annual ski trip together. He doesn’t like bats, probably since he had an involuntary bowel movement after reading “Dracula” at school.
He wants the bats out of the trees in Kew. Dirty, filthy, disease-ridden pests, he reckons. Plus, they might have conspired to unleash COVID on the world, working in cahoots with devious foreign governments, copies of Mao’s “Little Red Book” stashed under their wings…
You might not get it first listen. You almost certainly will if you see them.
Remember when you used to follow a local band? Thought the world of them, and they took you all over the city, into dark corners you’d never normally go? Pubs filled with sad, bitter old men?
Everywhere The Braves go around Melbourne, there’s a crew of their fans who follow them. So even out in the tedium of the bored burbs, when The Braves play, the dancefloor is filled with dancing shapes. And the locals get it, and join in. And when The Braves go back, there’s more people.
That Mr Barman fellow, of I-94 Bar notoriety, has graciously once again asked me to pen a brief diatribe on the music I heard this year that breached my inherent tinnitus (this being a persistent “ringing” that originates in the ear rather than in the environment.)
The noise heard by people with tinnitus may be a buzzing, ringing, roaring, whistling, or even a hissing sound and is often associated with hearing loss.
As I'm a fellow of balanced research, and YouTube had offered a viewing of their "2017 Rewind" collection. I felt it important to have a listen to the Boobtube wares in case it informed me of important musical/cultural creations that I had possibly missed over the past 12 months...
Lo and behold it did !! Instantly I discovered that the roaring, buzzing, whistling or hissing of tinnitus can INDEED originate in the environment, contrary to what was taught during my medical schooling. What's more, that the associated hearing loss was a relief !!
Fortunately, the remedy was simple. I turned the bastard off and wondered what parallel universe of musical endeavour had led to my sudden selective deafness as it righted itself.
So, as usual, I shall make an opinionated mention of songs/releases/bands that crossed my bows during the stated period, though the pushing of record buttons, mixing and the mastering may have occurred a little before. To me, the release was when I got my sticky hands on the product, played said product and was then taken by the throat....
Shifting Sands are partly comprised of members of SixFtHick and Gentle Ben, whom you may have heard of … and quite a number of Shifting Sands’ songs are ludicrously radio-friendly.
No, I mean FM radio cross-over, cover of Cosmo friendly; "Boyfriend" and "Other Girls" are the tracks suggested; but that’s not where the band always hang. My favourites include "New Flame", "Dead Memory" and "Airway", the latter being a rather clever inversion of your expectation. In fact, the majors should be sniffing around right now.
I Won't Bend For You - Brian Henry Hooper (Bang! Records/Incubator)
First, it's a damn good LP, the kind you put on repeat all day when it lands in the letterbox. Second, it's so damn moving you'll find yourself tearing up in decades to come. Third, there are songs here which you'll put on at parties and have people scampering up, eyes wide, 'Who THE FUCK is this? It's brilliant!'
This has been a difficult last few years. The stupidvirus has not, of course, helped, but as far as I'm concerned it's just a gentle reminder of what awaits us all, one way or another. One dilemma which confronts some of us is - how best to remember the creative? A novelist, well; in George Macdonald Fraser's case, because he'd left the manuscript in a very prominent place, his family arranged for his very first book to be published. In a musician's case - what have they left for us?
Another day, another of those astonishing records from Melbourne label Spooky. The Braves, now on either their fourth or fifth LP, show no signs of that "running out of ideas" thing which so many bands suffer. On the contrary.
In fact, you might not like The Braves. Face it, you play what you're used to, or variations of it. Partly, I accept, because what's common on the mainstream formats is such awful rotten sludge, but partly because... you're all used to the ordinary.
Not my fault you no longer have an adventurous bone in your body, you old fart. And as for you young 'uns who haven't yet worked out that just because it's new doesn't mean it's any good...
You might hear a better Australian album this year but I’m not sure I will. “Crystal Cuts” doesn’t have the immediate, dark pop rush of “Beach Coma” but that’s only by a matter of degrees. It works its way into your listening psyche through much more subtle means.
That’s not to say “Crystal Cuts” shouldn’t be occupying airwaves and taking up streaming bandwidth, worldwide. It manages the rare trick of being commercial (whatever that is) and subtle at the same time. Shit, I’d settle for hearing “Would’ve Killed Each Other” over “Hotel California” on the supermarket PA system, as I forage the health and beauty aisle of Coles for razor blades. Safety ones, of course…
The vocal combo of Geoff Corbett and Izzy Mellor makes for a rare treat. Yin and yang. It’s the gnarly, weather-beaten Serge matched with the darkly alluring, slightly diffident Jane. They’re like a Sarah Lee supermarket cake (remember the TV ad with the annoying line about “layer up-on layer up-on layer”? – me neither until now) with a serve of sugar icing atop a crusty old base.
On what would have been his 65th birthday, the late Spencer P Jones has been paid tribute by way of a double LP of his own songs played by some of his friends. French label Beast Records and Melbourne imprint Spooky Records have released “All The Way With SPJ Vol 1” as a unique international tribute to the New Zealand-born, Australian rock'n'roll cult hero and underground icon.
Spencer died on 21 August 2018 at the age of 61 and was a noted guitarist and singer-songwriter, known for his work with the Beasts of Bourbon and the Johnnys as well as wider associations with artists including Rowland S. Howard and the Drones.
Right, when I heard this for the first of what will be hundreds of times, I thought, fuck me, “Grandular Fever” is a career highlight. The thing is… I reckon they can match this over and over without breaking wind. And fuck, Loki Lockwood must be spitting. A record this fucking brilliant and it ain’t out til October (I won't tell you when I initially wrote this).
Every now and then an CD comes along which makes me love the privileged position I sometimes find myself in. And right now… EIGHT BOTTLES. And after several months of addictive listening, it's still eight bottles.
Comic b/w No God - Velatine (Spooky Records)
You need this gritty, honey-dipped red platter of imminent death and vaulting beauty on your turntable now.
And when I say “now”, you need to get your skates on. 150 were pressed, and Spooky has less than half left. This single is pure, powerful Euro-class with tinges of Dead Can Dance, Laibachand Depeche Mode...but with the kind of darkly angelic singer that spotty teenage boys top themselves over.
Have you heard Velatine's first few long-player releases yet? “Store Atmospherics” and “The Trap” (both on Spooky in 2020). Mean, moody and magnificent. Remember that soundtrack to “Twin Peaks”? Well, imagine a similar series set in the Alphabet City, the midnight Gotham of our souls - Velatine slide right in. You can even wear your leather biker jacket. These songs were the result of, as the media release says: "Loki Lockwood delving deep into the world of electronica in an unconventional way, combining a love of cinematic, industrial and pop".
The Trap - Velatine (Spooky Records)
Store Atmospherics - Velatine (Spooky Records)
Well, pop tarts, you're all wondering what the fuck to do during lockdown (apart from fucking, fighting, boozing and drugging), so here I am to sprinkle sparkles of hope and joy...
This is my first and probably last music review for 2021. So this will be short, but sweet.
As I may have reflected, we live in a golden age of music, where the vast majority of what is popular is unbelievably smug and gittish.
Unlike, to take one label by way of example, Spooky Records (sometime home of such mainstays as The Beasts of Bourbon, 6 Ft Hick, Sun God Replica, Shifting Sands, The Braves, Spencer P. Jones, Brian Henry Hooper, Lost Talk, Harry Howard and the NDE, and a host more), whose releases are exciting, curious, intriguing and often downright addictive.
Blowers – Blowers (Spooky Records)
There was a moment during last year’s Victorian lockdown, probably early September when shit was at its worst. The bleakness of the climate - cold, grey and crappy, in the way that Melbourne does it - matched the desolation of public spirit, provoking in me a desire for old school punk rock attitude and resistance.
Not resistance in the form of conspiratorial wingnuttery nor the specious proclamations of human rights and freedom imported from a dying empire, but just anything resembling a deviation from the obsequious adherence, self-adorned piety and moronic retributive attitude which seemed to have descended upon the state.
Sitting out in my shed one Saturday night I decided to play the angriest records I could find in my collection – Bikini Kill, Dead Kennedys, Bits of Shit, DOA,Kill Rock Stars compilations, Crush, X. It didn’t make any difference, really, but it was cathartic and energising.
We Mainline Dreamers - Garry Gray and Edward Clayton-Jones (Spooky Records)
Top-drawer stuff from the Sacred Cowboys frontman Garry Gray and the wicked guitar sidemagician best-known for his work with The Wreckery and The Bad Seeds, Edward Clayton-Jones.
Hasten thou to the magic credit card...
In the next few weeks I shall be taking a sabbatical from reviewing for most of a year. However, I must unzip myself first. "Full disclosure" as The Barman says.
First, I've eaten salt, broken bread and shared a jug of wine with both culprits (and I've written songs with Garry).
Second, while I have a tendency to get very excited over new music, when it's closer to home, when reviewing I am if anything more restrained. Also, there's always that slight anxiety before I start listening: will this be crap?
This is rated six bottles. Seven if you were at this gig and still have your hearing. What we know so far is that Lost Talk's first LP, "Symbol/ Signal" was released last year on Spooky Records. When I heard it I lost my shit.
"Selfless Shame Promotion" is a cassette-only physical release (and yes, you can get it on download so you can burn it onto CD and play it in your car and give the pedestrians a headache) released to remind you what the band are like, prior to a new LP and presumably gigs in your town.
The track list, in case I get lost, is A: Cheap Crimes/ Thin Skin/ Shoe Shine/ Igloo/ Annie; and B: Chrome Alone/ Spotless Temperament/ Enter the Muskrat/ Jesus-Centaur
Burning dive bars like bridges Brisbane’s inconsolable Shifting Sands erode into Marrickville’s Factory Floor in Sydney on Friday, July 3.
Sprinkling their trademark downbeat alcho-aesthetic, one part piano bar depresso-core and one part island funeral, Shifting Sands play all the hits from their stunning debut long-player “Beach Coma” – one of the albums of the year for ours.
Support comes your way from Devotional, who level it drenched and panoramic, and new project for Yvonne Moxham and Cec Condon (Mess Hall), Roadhouses. Buy your tickets here. There's a film clip after the MORE link.
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.
BBQ Haque - BBQ Haque (Spooky Records)
There’s a term we’ve been debating at home recently: Disassociative. Apparently it describes a state of existence where consciousness is disassociated from physical and ordinary psychological presence.
Some drugs are disassociatives; not sure what the others are (associatives?). According to a friend, if you have a series of late nights, coupled with a day job, you can become disassociated. I thought that was just being over tired, but never let critical assessment get in the way of a specious pseudo-medical term.
I’d describe Melbourne instrumental-psych-garage band BBQ Haque as transcendental; maybe they’re disassociative. Either way, you can get lost in BBQ Haque. But you’re not really lost, you’re just on a different plane. It’s a plane with a dusty spaghetti western edge ("Chilangos de los Chios’" and mesmerising beats and psychedelic chants. You’re dragged in, wide-eyed, devoted to the cause, if only you knew what it all meant.
Holy fucking god. WHAT THE FUCKING SHIT IS THIS?
Relentless, deafening, well-structured jabbing, poking scratching rock'n'roll. It's bestial. It's feral. “Symbol/Signal” is not remotely predictable. And it's not so much “these young people have something to say” as
“THIS FUCKING WON'T FUCKING WAIT!”
(Cue: multiple series of detonations).
Execution Days: The Life and Times of Spencer P. Jones
By Patrick Emery (Love Police)
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Melbourne writer Patrick Emery’s exhaustively researched and engrossing biography of the late Spencer P. Jones is that it found a publisher.
Thanks to the internet, book publishing is a low-margin crap shoot. But Aussie publishing houses were already renowned for their lack of imagination and reluctance to take risks on books about anyone who’s not mainstream, middle-of-the-road or, ahem, National Living Treasures. Even those imprints that are outgrowths of universities, our bastions of free thought.
If you haven’t received a formal rejection letter from a friendly Aussie publisher after shopping a musician’s autobiography, you haven’t lived. The stupidity of not keeping and framing a letter that read, in part, “there is no market for this because Radio Birdman fans can’t read” is regrettable in hindsight – it should have gone straight to the pool room - but, fuck you, anyway, self-important publisher twat. You deserve to be shot by a ball of your own shit.
Patrick Emery suffered his share of similar fools while trying to place “Execution Days”.
Whisper Park b/w One and Only – Velatine (Spooky Records)
Damn, “Whisper Park” is dark and groovy. Just listen to that rippling rhythm, those soaring cadences..and Maggie Alley's louche, almost deadpan vocals. By god, she's got a voice on her.
Band member/producer Loki Lockwoodhas shot another sterling ICBM into an uncaring stratosphere, look out Shen-zen, here comes detonation... and yes, Velatine do provoke that effect. At least on me. A graceful, deadly shot into the air, where it lands, god won't help you.