newcastle - The I-94 Bar
Cultural Treason - Moot (Riot Records)
The sleepy resort town of Forster on the New South Wales Mid Coast might be an unlikely place to find a punk band, but never forget that Jello Biafra grew up as Stanley Boucher in nondescript Boulder, Colorado. Moot have a little Jello in the musical DNA on their debut EP - plus a whole lot more.
It’s said mainstream Americans don’t “get” sarcasm. Aussies do and Moot is dripping in the stuff. “Fake News” is a blast of bile with lots of dynamics, directed at you-know-who. "I Hate Hippies" channels a show at The Grand Hotel in Sydney in 1980 with its nod to Johnny Dole and the Scabs and is a punked-up attack on hipsters. Simple and simply effective.
Seas on Fire – East Coast Low (Crankinhaus Records)
The promise of their first recordings (an album and a promotional EP) has been realised and “Seas On Fire” showsEast Coast Low has the requisite rock and roll cojones to take on all comers.
A five-piece with most of its membership drawn from the matter-of-fact city of Newcastle, a couple of hours north of Sydney, East Coast Low is a product of its home-town: Nothing is overly dressed up and most of the songs get straight to the point, with no fucking around.
This is a well-travelled band. Grizzled, if you like. High rotation on the national youth network doesn’t beckon (though we all know they don’t program anything with a hint of ageism about them.) The Low formed in 2015 with members playing in Newy bands like The Fools and No Reason. The influences are myriad, although the ‘70s punk lineage is strong.
Let’s get the clichés out of the way; the show business myths that promise that the cream rises. That living fast and dying young will ensure immortality. It’s all bullshit. Too many artists fall through a crack in the Earth whilst laurels crown the insipid and the banal.
How many great albums and films have vanished to land fill? How many books are lost because libraries can’t afford the storage on their back catalogues? How much blood, sweat and tears has evaporated into the ether? Forgotten whilst the over culture lets us eat dog food. Here is your chance to right that wrong.
Loathing, Self And Others – Moot (self released)
They’re from Mid Coast New South Wales (that's be north of Newcastle) and this seven-song CD is as old school protopunk as you’re going to find in those parts - or almost anywhere else these days. Moot don’t tell it like it is as much as speak it as it should be. In other words, their language is straight-up, rocking and simple.
Record Collector Scum call this sound KBD (“Killed By Death”) after the ‘80s bootleg series of the same name that documented the burgeoning American punk scene. Most of it was uncompromising, politically charged and energetic, but with a sense of musicality. Moot has it nailed but they pack their punch in a variety of stylistic gloves and add a decent whack of Aussie sarcasm for good measure.
Monkeypig covers a lot of ground in the space of its 10 punk-pop songs. An entirely self-sufficient and self-produced band now based in Newcastle, north of Sydney, it’s the vehicle for front-of-house operator and band-member-around-town, Christian Ryan.
“March of the Jack Boots” was recorded in a home studio in the bushy Sydney suburb of Engadine. No offence to Engadine, but it’s an unlikely well-spring of musical creativity. Ryan recorded, mixed, mastered, sang lead vocals and played almost all the instruments. He wrote every song except one (a co-write). The label is his own. Considering the record’s humble origins, he must have a good ear because the album sounds great.
Mick Medew and The Mesmerisers bring their killer brand of rocking powerpop to New South Wales in March for just two shows.
Catch them Friday, March 27 at Marrickville Bowling Club in Sydney and Sunday, March 29 at Mayfield Bowling Club in the Hunter.
The only Sydney show pairs them with Peter Simpson and his Vanity Project, the rock machine par excellence led by Peter Simpson of The Dubrovniks and his hand-picked line-up.
Opening proceedings will be local psychedelic-garage rock super-group Jupiter 5, with members of Psychotic Turnbuckles, Buffalo Revisited and Sheek the Shayk. Tickets are on sale here.
It’s 4pm doors at Mayfield where the supports are Imaginary Things, The Stoids and The Perils. The Mesmerisers hit the stage at 9.30pm.
“Open Season” is the latest album for Mick Medew and the Mesmerisers (on I-94 Bar Records) and it’s full of clever, hooky song-writing, a soulful engine room and driving guitars.
And of course there’s the unique voice of Mick Medew, front-man for the Screaming Tribesmen, the Brisbane-born and Sydney-bred pop-rock legends who topped independent charts in Australia and the US in the ‘80s.
The Not Nots – The Not Nots (Outtspace)
Saw this Newcastle, NSW, band of older hands at a gig in their hometown and they impressed with their economic, garage-y tuneage after a shaky start hampered by minor sound problems. The venue shut down the headliners early thanks to a non-communicative dickhead from a booking agency but that's another story. It's fitting, therefore, that this EP crams six of songs onto a slice of seven-inch vinyl.
The Not Nots are a trio of Anthony Dean (guitar and vocals), Blake Doyle (drums) and Chris Ryan (bass and vocals) and (like the venue operatots that night) they are fans of brevity.
“Hey Hey Hey” is a minor key opener that reeks of grunge. The staccato “Give It Away” throbs with energy and recalls the post-punk sounds of the UK when the first and second wave of punk had receded. Muffled guitar gives the Husker Du-like “What You Don’t Know” a strangled demo feel that works in spite of itself.
Flip it over and “Default” sounds like Fugazi without that band’s tension. “Small Children (Are The Apocalypse)” surges along with grim chord-age leavened by a surprising “ooh-la-la-la” chorus. “The Little Time We Have” has a chord progression that sounds like it was swiped from Bob Mould when he got airplay. There’s not much of it but what there is sounds good before it runs out of runway. Another winner fromn the folks at Outtaspace.
Riding to Newcastle to catch the first show of Radio Birdman tour is the obvious choice. Didn’t quite seem like it, trying to get outa Sydney on a Friday arvo. I took a quick spurt up the footpath a few times to relieve the tension. Then we hit the freeway and Jenny gave me that tap on the left hip that means ‘slow down’ but I was doing 90mph through one of the tighter curves and slowing down wasn’t the point. Nor possible. Can’t brake a motorcycle unless it’s reasonably upright.
1982, the first time I really heard Radio Birdman was the 1976 2JJ show at midnight on a Monday. Used to be a lot of good movies on late back then, ‘Vanishing Point’, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, ‘Five Easy Pieces.’ One night I walked into my little bedroom at the back of the house, flicked on the radio and my life changed.
Every friend and lover, every beautiful terrible moment, it all started then. It’s been one hell of a ride and the road rolls ever on.
The Parade EP – Howlin’ Rats (Hiss and Crackle Records)
Doing anything new with the blues is a tough task. Doing something interesting is another matter. Newcastle, Australia, guitar-harmonica-drums trio The Howlin’ Rats, do just that on their debut five-song EP.
Opener “The Parade” is a harp-fuelled boogie stomp, an instrumental that serves to break the ice without busting any new ground. “MVII” is where things get interesting.
It’s an arcane slow-boiler that’s reminiscent of early ‘70s psych. Hobbit Harry’swinsome harp and a haunted vocal swim against waves of distorted slide guitar while drummer Tom Fairlie sits behind the beat and stirs the pot. It’s six minutes of splendour. Grass is optional.
Guitarist Dylan Webster from Newcastle band The Fools
In the early ‘90s, raw and tough rock and roll was supposedly being re-birthed. Grunge had ushered in The Year That Punk Broke and the mainstream was finally embracing music that wasn’t safe and bland. Yeah. Right.
In reality, Real Rock and Roll was still fighting. The tidal wave that was the MP3 was about to arrive in earnest but the only game in town, as far as The Industry was concerned, was Grunge, a sludgy offspring of heavy metal and punk that promised little and (mostly) delivered less.
Too harsh? A lot of fine and worthy bands were trampled under the rush by major labels to sign any act with tuned-down guitars wearing flannelette shirts. It didn’t matter if their songs mostly remained the same; the big label A & R men couldn’t see past their own shaggy fringes.
Like Newton used to say, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. In Australia, a fresh wave of high-energy acts like Powder Monkeys, Asteroid B612, Brother Brick, the YesMen and Bored! were kicking against the pricks and doing things their own way. A lesser light from the industrial port city of Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney, created their own ripples.
At Least We’ll Always Have Rock n Roll to Fall Back On – Drugs in Sport (Outtspace)
Effervescent and tough guitar rock-pop from Newcastle, Australia, will not be the Next Big Thing for the nmatiomnal yewf network Triple J. But it can be in your own listening space, and here’s the proof.
Drugs in Sportdo cranked-up guitar pop exceedingly well. It’s a genre that’s been milked and relegated to the mainstream’s back blocks in favour of sanitised, autot-uned pap. Anthony (bass), Errol (vocal and guitar), Geoff(guitar) and Jez(drums) apply their own twist. You can’t beat humans playing real instruments, especially (even if) they’re, ahem, older chaps or lasses.