spooky records - The I-94 Bar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
What Would I Know? - Brian Henry Hooper (Bang! Records)
Brian Henry Hooper was a remarkable man. I first encountered him when he was part of Kim Salmon's band, The Surrealists. I had no idea what to expect, and the huge shattering sound, the big horror-show songs, and Kim's howls backed by two droogies from an abbattoir... my mouth was flat on the floor. Magnificent.
It was many years later that I met Brian for the first time, more or less by accident at a different gig, when I used a rather unpleasant local term which Brian immediately picked up on - "That's a real Adelaide term, isn't it?" Brian was always interested in the world around him - I recall him also relating how beautiful Adelaide was as the aircraft came in to land... come in the right way to land, I suppose, and even...no, that's not right. I knew what he meant, the place can be damned pretty.
No, really. Brian liked Adelaide.