prison columnFake is Forever - The Wreckery (Golden Robot)

Yes, I've heard the Beatles’ new old song. 

No, I didn't know what to expect, and as it turned out I enjoyed it. Loved the piano and John's voice. Naturally, not their best work, and tinged with (insert emotion here) the loss of two of the band's four corners.

Yes, the Internettery is awash with characters pissing on it, for the most part dissing it for not being a light cheery pop song, or not like “the Stones” - whoever they are.

Strange how one expectation can trigger a predictable response, isn't it? “The Beatles song” is certainly aimed more-or-less in the direction the band would have taken, I think, had not that cowardly spit Mark Chapman decided he so much resembled Holden Caulfield that he could get attention LIKE THIS. Disappointed with real life - as so many of us are - Mark Chapman was a weasel who seemed to have been looking for a hook on which to hang his identity/ notoriety hat. I suspect he enjoys being known for that one dreadful, stupid thing.

Indeed, so many of us need a hook to hang our identity on. Some of us discovered the creative arts as something being a lot closer to our inner self, because, let's face it, accountancy or compiling workplace rosters isn't for everyone (any more than sex and drugs are the right fit for one of those peculiar wonks who enjoy compiling bus and train timetables).

Eerie how heroin chic even became a thing, but it did, and it's as stupid as another of Morrison's excuses (Jim or Scotty). Yeah, some people did great work while “experimenting” on the one or another variant of the poppy stuff - some call it “mainlining dreams”. Look, I've always suspected Coleridge's line about how Kublai Khan never got finished had less to do with a “bloke at the door” than the fact that his opium had run out and he had to get more and ... the dream wouldn't come again ... 

But let's reverse it. Don't we all deserve a little respite from the everyday bollocks? Sure. And why not smack? Sure. Whatever you choose, is your choice. But you know. This ain't the late '60s, you ain't Jim Morrison, and the ACT is known as a hotbed of public servants and heroin abuse. Not that there's anything wrong with being a public servant, of course. I often wonder which drug causes more damage amongst its slaves: wages, heroin, or alcohol.

Aaahh, but I mean, come on. Some things never mix well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but wouldn't you rather have good intentions than be a feral oik who enjoys hurting people like that excremental, self-righteous self-important prick at my old school who delighted in strapping boys and making them shiver in fear? There's far too many of them about these days, and our world has lost a lot of shame...hell, the real truth about Godzilla is that the trope reverses reality: we're all small blokes with a huge bonkers radioactive dickhead inside us.

To The Wreckery, an '80s band whose music gripped and polarised audiences in Melbourne and Sydney. No, not THAT '80s, the “other” ‘80s.. The underbelly ‘80s, where sophistication and intelligence rubbed shoulders with grimy chancers and criminals. 

Here's an ugly reminder of the top 50 singles in 1988 in Australia. It's like dipping your snout in pure saccharine and iron filings. Dunno about you, but I struggle to come up with four from that list that I'd like in my collection. So, returning to music instead of pontificating away ...

Back then, you either dug The Wreckery ... or you didn't. My memory reports back that there weren't that many folks who “didn't mind them”, OK? As a consequence The Wreckery sold out big halls in the main cities. Yet ... their records and CDs ain't currently in print: realistically, they should be. Hell, look at the slop which seems endlessly available and in print. 

After hearing The Wreckery on the radio, I was puzzled that they were still in Australia. Europe, even the USA, seemed like a natural cemetery for them to haunt. They were sophisticated, intelligent, played high-quality music very much ahead of its time (or at least heading diagonally away from the Zeitgeist). 

Pretty much everyone who has Wreckery records are still clinging to them, so ownership of them is down to dead men's boots, you know? And today, criminals aren't criminals, and whatever criminal behaviour the suits did, it wasn't them and they don't care. What a difference 30-what years make, eh? The name Morrison springs to mind once more, I can't think why. And Christian thingummy, you know the sweaty cove who was once accused of rape. 

So, uh, there might just be a few weeny expectations of The Wreckery's first LP in 30-what years. Those of you who were around at the time - fans or otherwise - will doubtless already have your opinion before you've heard a note of “Fake is Forever”. The press release hints at what might have been at the time, regretting that “yet another great and dangerous rock'n'roll band...became a danger to themselves”.

Fake Is Forever

Overall, “Fake is Forever” is a mature, measured, powerful yet understated record, and it's not what you expect it to be - with a perfectly chosen running order. Nor is it what you might want it to be. “Fake is Forever” might not grab you at first listen, but as it plays, it definitely continues to get your attention, drags you away from whatever else you thought was important and suddenly realised isn't remotely important. 

I find myself wondering how many people will “get” this LP. I mean, there's a compacted, compressed tone to it, entirely due to the mix of personalities in the band, and while similar in many respects, it's very different to the band's earlier incarnations. Which brings us back to The Beatles - can you imagine what they'd be making today ..? Would they have ended up sounding like the too-squealy-for-me ELO? (Dear god, remember ELO? No wonder aliens stick probes up our arses).

That said, it's obvious that The Wreckery were enjoying themselves. A solo Hugo Race LP this ain't. For a start, the emotional landscapes are somewhat different; sure, the deserted Melbourne streets inhabited by characters from the underworld is a place we all know, I guess - Melbourne noir?

Anyway. There are a few firsts here; four of the nine songs were written by Hugo Race and Alannah Hill, which should prove of more than passing interest; Hill's mostly noted for her huge success in the fashion industry - as a designer and fashion icon. Sod “influencers”, Hill trumped the lot of them simply by adopting her own dynamic take on femininity; her brand Louise Love is striking and fun, glamorous and practical...and…these four songs are another glimpse into the head of this most extraordinary woman - and, because her writing style is more direct than Hugo's, their songs are more poppy than old-stage Wreckery fans may be prepared for. 

But you know. Expectations. Old-school wankers will, I'm sure, be rending their garments and rubbing ash into their hair (much the same as the blues purists aghast at bands like The Animals and The Who). So, fuck 'em.

Bass player Nick Barker (of Reptiles fame) and guitarist Ed Clayton-Jones each contribute one song and co-write a third, with the other two songs written by Hugo. 

The first song, “Smack Me Down”, is a laid-back groove of disgust and beat rage, bound to get people's attention by the simple use of the word “smack” in the title - an acknowledgement of the band's past, and the expectation any such reunion would weigh under. Cue Ginsberg pontificating? No, ridiculous. People change. Well, some do. 

Alright, I doubt that that dingbat Mark Chapman's changed much. On the other hand, since the Trump family all seem pretty much of a muchness, morally speaking, maybe we should thrust a copy of J.D. Salinger's 1951 classic teen angst bible “Catcher in the Rye” into Mark's hands and point him in the direction of 721–725 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. I'm sure he'd find gainful employment there.

And if not actual employment, I'm sure he'd find something to do more worthy of his talents.

The Wreckery Press shot

“Smack Me Down” is an understated throb of a piece with the most spectacular guitar solo I've heard in about 15 years (another first, I think), and is followed by “The Devil In You” is a graceful pressure cooker, a lovely piece of despair and helplessness. These two songs place The Wreckery in a sort of bleak 1950s noir - but for real rather than with all the dumbarse confectionery it's usually associated with. That confectionery hides a multitude of intolerance, poverty and moral imbalance. A tragedy at night is a tragedy at night. (And back we go to “Catcher in the Rye”, and the narcissism of youth ...)

Charles Todd's saxes offset the dry intensities of such songs as “Get a Name”. Oh, sure, there's a droll humour about it, as with “Smack Me Down”, with the (I think) Mellotron providing a septic background. Robin Casinader balances the whole LP rather magnificently, providing a lush velvet casket...

“Stole It From Alpha Ray” is another one of those songs which yearn for mainstream airplay - I always thought the band deserved it far more than so many of the crap outfits infesting the charts at the time. 

“Whistle Clean” is probably my favourite song so far, with “Get a Name” another one of these extraordinary poppy savages. Clayton-Jones' “Evil Eye” is a disgusted stalk back to the eighties, complete with bruising riffs, squalls and squeals.

“Garbage Juice” had me sniggering into my morning cuppa, the sheer brutality of some of it.

“Dragonfly” is a magnificent stone blues stomp, and should be the next single. Hell, it should be in the charts. ‘Nuff said.

“Young People” is another groovy piece, slow waltzing around...expectations...and of course, it's Race and Hill talking to their younger selves...

Oh, and the concept of what is fake being “forever” is as drolly Orwellian a concept as you're likely to see this decade. 

I asked Ed Clayton-Jones what his favourite songs on the LP are:

It’s a big jump from 1988. I probably like 'Get a Name' for the fun of playing it, but I like 'Whistle Clean' a lot. Hugo wrote four songs with his girlfriend Allanah, who is a straight shooter so it reveals him a bit more. There’s some real ‘tunes’ here, like actual melodies that stick with you. My offerings were pretty old-school, which was the original brief. Nick's song 'Dragonfly' is good too, I like the premise of the 'Dragonfly' being a witness. He’s a dab hand for writing...

 Then I got nosy, and asked, were there any moments of sheer bloody magic as you were setting all this up?

Magic? The fact that we’re all still alive is a helluva trick. The magic is that despite the ocean of time past, the chemistry we made in our youth has survived the rigours of time and space. There’s been so many moments in this project where I felt like we’d warped time. The humour, the depth of our collective experience, it’s just mind-blowing.

Overall, "Fake is Forever" grows on you like weeds in a drain. Take another look. Weeds give beauty and perspective to the ugliness which surrounds us. And a lot can be eaten...“Fake is Forever'”is a hell of a return to form.

For my taste, “Fake is Forever” is a fine album, one I can go back to over and over. Me being me, I'm curious to see what they feel like live, and whether they dare go back into the studio again... Also, this Race/Hill combo is deeply intriguing...

Now, if we can only redirect other expectations and stop the pointless and stupid slaughter of the innocent in the (cough)“holy land”.