After the Sun - The Dark Clouds (self released)
When I got “After The Sun” in the mail about six weeks ago, I wondered whether the Barman (whose review follows this but was published first) had it right.
Doesn’t seem to matter these days about influences, except to the sad bearded bastards desperate to appear interesting, and besides, I particularly enjoy listening to a CD cold, without the hype and boosterism. But … if you like rock’n’roll, and have ever kicked yourself (like me with Leadfinger) that you weren’t on the ground floor of a band on the elevator heading up fast to the 99th floor…
In one sense the Barman has it. But “After the Sun” is a five bottle CD (if not more) and it got heavy rotation in the car (excellent drive-like-hell-through-heavy-traffic-to-the-northern-suburbs stuff) and I don’t think I caused any accidents. Well, maybe some people had to slam on the brakes a bit. Well, often. Maybe. I’m not telling. Long drives, volume loud.
The Dark Clouds are one hell of a refreshing, spiky, mesh’n’wings rock band who promise … a long, crush-kill-destroy career. They’re forceful, sound like they’re having a blast and don’t care if you don’t like it. They’re the kind of band the neighbours come round to complain about the noise of their rehearsals … and then start drinking and dancing. Pretty soon the whole street is involved, including the snarly, gritty old bat at the end. No-one’s seen her smile before, not ever. But she is now, and she’s had so much to drink, she tells you, “that she’s anybody’s”…
I can’t say I know the joint (Wollongong) the Dark Clouds hail from. But I’ve known the most amazing people somehow surviving in assorted toilets or rust-belts from hell, making incredible things which only a few of their friends will get, and, tragically, these hidden genius’ will probably never get out of town.
The Dark Clouds are right up there; their songs are complex, dark, humorous, with sing-a-long bits aplenty, and all of this means they have, surely, more than enough to cross over onto FM.
Mind you, FM needs a few drums of Drano too.
So. “The Study of Ill Vex” comes barging out, the Dean’s gorgeous, soaring, sometimes gargling voice backed by yes indeed - another twin guitar assault, poised, dynamic, considered, grabs you and makes you dance and dance again. ‘Peace, Love and Rock’n’Roll/ The study of Ill Vex’…
“Mother Earth” has magnificent handling of ‘leakage’ propped up against tuff fuck fat chords … and the Dean’s glorious voice. It helps - a lot - that all of The Dark Clouds’ lyrics sound so natural, you’d swear you’d heard these songs before, and loved them like a favourite old Alice album…”I’m coming home to you…”
There is, of course, throughout all of “After the Sun”, more than a nod to everyone’s favourite twin guitar assault outfit who, back in their heyday, released and performed some seriously influential songs. They don’t do that anymore, sadly; but by god you used to be able to dance to them… I mean, The Dictators should’ve been huge, too, shouldn’t they? And the New York Dolls should’ve taken Manhattan … Armand Schaubroeck, oh god, don’t get me started...
Dark Clouds’ other main influence, Midnight Oil (I only like a few songs off “Surfin’ with a Spoon” - was that the title?) and was monumentally unimpressed thereafter) - I mean, if I can hear aspects lurking in the background and love it as well, I’m sure you will too.
The third song, “Miley”, is just brilliant. “I hope your mom is proud of you”…brilliantly sardonic and retro and conservative and force-feed-you-chunks if you get me…sorry, can’t type, dancing.
Ah, that’s better. Nope, I’m gonna play “Miley” again. I can’t get the volume high enough, I need a new stereo. Hang on.
There. If the Dark Clouds were playing in the late ’70s, they’d be gods by now.
“Lilac Dress’”is the fourth track (after an inspiring vocal intro) … see, this is just surfing, these glorious waves of chopping chords, with the Dean telling you like it is. Name any useless AOR rock band who use chords and the stadium roars like they’ve never heard a powerchord before … useless turds to a man. Come on, where are the fucking majors?
“After the Sun” follows, bellowing and bashing you over the head with kindness and a four-be-two … like “Miley”, I had to play it again. I imagine seeing this band and making an utter idiot of myself bounding about at the front, not for the first or last time.
The other songs are equally fabulous. But I don’t have any more superlatives and I’ve burned the thesaurus and it won’t speak to me anymore.
“The Letter G (Barrie)” (which reminds me of BB King and Bo Diddley for some reason), “Soul Man” (which reminds me a bit of Lou Reed) and “Little Devil”, which is as good an LP closer as it would be an opener, and it’s hell to pay.
I may not have made myself clear. ‘After the Sun’ is an essential purchase. Most rock bands would kill to produce songs a quarter as good as this, and with this much genuine delight; the production is right on. If they’d opened for Alice and Muttley Croup, Alice would’ve hired them as support for the next year. As it is, they could tour the USA now (with their new drummer, Gerry Presland) and utterly take the dump.
We all have guilty secrets. What LPs we put on late at night at volume with the headphones on when we’re a bit ‘flat’. I’ve got certain Kraftwerk LPs, Joy Division, The Runaways, as well as the inevitable Stooges and Ramones. And now, The Dark Clouds joins a hallowed circle.
Actually, although I wish I got paid for reviewing CDs, it’s such a fucking delight to listen to wonderful bands like the Dark Clouds who wipe the misery of life away … I didn’t just listen to the album once while doing this review. Four times. On repeat, in between repeating individual songs. You should know what that means.
And the fuck of it is, far more of my readers are lucky enough to see the Dark Clouds than I am. Don’t miss ‘em. Sell the kids for parts, swap the missus for a fan-forced oven and a large freezer if you have to, but don’t miss seeing the Dark Clouds. They’re using the band to get a lot of stuff out, and they’re ferociously good fun, intense, powerful, infectiously danceable.
I’m exhausted. - Robert Brokenmouth
Postscript: Sam “the Lightning” Galloway is no longer with the group; Jay Ellen. A local lad, has joined.
and five years for armed robbery
Old-fashioned, gnarly hard heads making energetic, rocking guitar music. In an age where there’s no luxury or compulsion to absorb more than a morsel of information at a time, there’s your review, right there. But you want more, don’t you? As you should…
The Dark Clouds are a two-guitar rock band from the relatively nondescript Australian city of Wollongong. The “nondescript” tag is meant in the nicest possible way. The 'Gong used to be a rough and ready, blue-collar, rock and roll town. (I know, I used to hang out there.) Now the heavy industry is mostly gone and it’s being gentrified. A few rough edges remain, but its status as a fertile rock and roll breeding ground is being steadily chipped away.
The short geography lesson is important because it goes to the heart of why bands like The Dark Clouds are important. No matter how much blandness and homogenisation is foisted on us, how many live music venues are shut or emasculated or how many mind-numbing reality TV talent shows are injected into our lives, we need to hang onto the remnants of things that matter. The Dark Clouds will remind you that rock and roll is one of them.
The Dark Clouds play hard rock anthems in work boots. They’re hippies at heart with lyrical call-outs to environmentalism and social justice, and their weapons are stringed and amplified.
The Dark Clouds are obviously fans of the Dictators. The New Yorkers' sound is prominent in the sinewy work of lead guitarist, The Thunder, and his rhythm accomplice, The Lightning, and even more obviously in the untitled snatch of spoken word leading into “Lilac” (“We don’t care who you are. Ebenezer or Mother Theresa. You’re all going under the thunder”.) It's unashamedly copped from The Man Amongst Men aka The Handsome One. If you're gonna steal, take from the greats.
Built-for-comfort frontman, The Dean, wraps his vocal around the songs like a wrestler putting his paws around an opponent’s throat - just like Handsome Dick. He can shout ‘em out (“Mother Earth”) or lay on a rock blues croon (“Soul Man”) with the best of ‘em.
The songs are A Big Thing. The Dark Clouds are at home with rifferama sing-alongs (“Little Devil”) as more mannered chorus laden tunes (“Lilac Dress”.) Any band that name-checks the Flamin’ Groovies has to get a listen around these parts.
The Clouds don’t mind telling the young ‘us to watch their Ps and Qs, either, with the smile-inducing “Miley” a winner in the Wake The Fuck Up To Yourself Stakes. This record’s so good I’ll (almost) forgive them the Angels song name references in the title track.
“Meat and potatoes” gets thrown around as a put-down; it’s often nothing of the sort. There’s plenty to get your teeth into on “After The Sun”. The gravy is the sharp guitar-playing and the hooks that sneak up on you. Of course it all starts with a quality engine room in rock and roll, and Ronny “The Deluge” Van Dyk on bass and Nick “The Rain” Pillarelli (he’d be on drums) easily fill the bill.
If you want a copy, drop the band a line through their Facebook or try Wollongong's only real rock and music store, Music Farmers. It hadn't yet made it onto their website at last view but the email link works. - The Barman