Tamara, Richard and Stacey on-stage at the Tote. Matthias Baratheon O'Meara photo
It has now been six years since was lining up at the Excelsior Hotel in Sydney when Jim Dickson (New Christs and Radio Birdman bass-player) told me about this band from Brisbane that I had to check out. Knowing Jim for three decades from his time selling Indian food down at Max’s in the late ’80s, I had never heard him express how blown away he was by a local band.
It’s 25 HITS gigs later for me. I’ve been seeing them from a time when only about five of us living outside their home of BrisVegas were convinced that they could be the greatest exponents of dirty, street-level rock ’n’ roll in this country.
Nowadays, HITS are the band on everyone’s lips. That’s why I am flying down from Sydney to to see my favourite Aussie band to play The Tote in Melbourne, not long before they’re due to embark on their second tour of Europe.
For six years at the cusp of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, Hellmen rode the skatepunk-surf wave better than most Sydney bands. Now Melbourne’s Buttercup Records reminds everybody what the racket was all about. Hellmen were explosive and slammed out song after song with not many longer than three minutes - exactly like this release.
"Mutant Surfer" is a four-track seven-inch EP with two scuzzy rehearsal songs, an outtake and a previously released track. The title cut opens and is an especially potent example of what these guys sounded like live. “Don’t Do It” rocks like the proverbial but pales next to closer “Stone Rock”, left off “Electric Crazyland”. “Skate To Hell” is a cover of a Gang Green song that seems very familiar, even to a non-skatepunk fan. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellmen back in the day (something about them being from enemy territory like the Northern Beaches maybe?) but this makes me want to track their old stuff down. It's all due for a re-issue and this is a taster for a Buttercup LP of some sort.
Art is by the mega-talented band member Ben Brown and there’s even a temporary tattoo in the packaging. It’s a limited run of 300 copies - a precursor to an LP - so don’t delay.
Buttercup Records on the Web
It’s a pairing of the music of two legendary Australian underground legends, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Sydney in 46 years: Tamam Shud and Buffalo Revisited are playing a double-headliner show at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Leichhardt on Friday, September 9.
Regarded as Australia’s true progressive, surf and psychedelic music pioneers, Tamam Shud recently celebrated 45 years with the release of a new album, “Eight Years of Moonlight”.
Buffalo is held in the same high regard and was recently lauded as the Australian “inventors of heavy metal” by UK magazine Classic Rock, which said they’d paved the way for scores of hard rock and stoner acts.
Forming in 1971 and releasing five albums in six years, Buffalo dissolved after making their mark as a live act despite a lack of commecial radio acceptance. They’d left a potent legacy before bass player Peter Wells went on to form Rose Tattoo.
Archetypal bad boys, Buffalo’s early albums “Dead Forever”, “Volcanic Rock” and “Only Want You For Your Body” have been reissued numerous times and original copies change hands for hundreds of dollars in collector circles.
A year ago, following constant approaches from fans, Dave Tice assembled a line-up to re-visit the original band’s legacy. They’ve since played a handful of select gigs, including a 40th birthday celebration for iconic Brisbane radio station 4ZZZ.