TENZEROEIGHT - The Undermines (self released)
It’s taken me a little while to get to this one, and I wish I’d got here sooner.
There’s 12 tracks, nine by guitarist Dylan Webster, three by other guitarist Jason Sharples. With your bass by Dave Lundquest, drums by Serge Ou (no, really, that’s what it says here) and vocals by Michael Preiss… we’re looking at a band capable, if we read the back of the CD right, of constructing and delivering the twin guitar assault.
My oath they do.
The first three songs come belting out of the speakers like a dishonest politician chasing forgiveness from a spineless PM, and then they give us a bit of a breather before generally punching us up and down the halls of Kiribilli House. I rather prefer the second half of “TENZEROEIGHT”, partly because you can hear the development of the band, who are anything but a one-trick pony. Take ‘Shelf’ for example… here’s a couplet: ‘Gon’ put my heart on the shelf/ ‘Cause its bleedin' out, beyond use’. Simple.
But the twin guitars don’t work unless you have a killer rhythm section.
My oath they do.
And the singer knows his way around delivery. I’d like to see ‘em live.
Though they’ve have been around a while in other outfits “TENZEROEIGHT”, their first CD, has smarts, structure and is not a million miles from the kind of Sydney rock’n’roll which once revitalised Australian music.
So, since the Barman has already ripped his tab on this one, I thought I’d harass the band to ask a few nosy questions about “TENZEROEIGHT”.
Dylan unwisely raised his hand.
“TENZEROEIGHT” is the sum of diverse influences. It’s cool to be measured against the benchmark set by other bands, but we’re not trying to mimic anyone. Like writing an essay, referencing others is fine as long as the substance of your writing is original.
“The LP is the arrangement of the live set order we’ve developed over time. We’ve dropped some songs along the way and shelved a few that will get another look further down the track.
“We’ve been together for about 18 months. It took time to get the right people onboard. Serge (drums) and Dave (bass) are the perfect rhythm section for these tracks. Fortunately they like the style I write and they put everything they have into it. The energy they deliver live and in the studio really pushes the band.”
What made you go overseas for the mastering?
“It was great value and quality.”
How hard is it to get attention in Sydney - for years the hard rock capital of
“Not sure yet. It’s still early days for us.”
But you have form, don’t you?
“I started writing material in early 2014 and chose the name UNDERMINES. It took a while to get this line-up together but it was worth the wait. We’ve played The Factory Floor a few times, once with New Christs and Hoss and later supporting Deniz Tek’s "Mean Old Twister" album launch. To date we’ve only ventured as far as Newcastle (supporting Deniz Tek) and Wollongong (with Dark Clouds and The Dry Spell).”
Undermines songs are engagingly simple, short and potent. Here’s an entire lyric;
Get Down (Or Lay Down)
What happens overseas, stays overseas,
They got the want, you got the need\
There’s nobody you gotta please,
What happens overseas stays overseas
Gotta get down, or lay it down
Gotta get down, or lay it down…Or
Went down to the Newmarket
Record stores on the way
So high, trams to the city,
Guide me all the way
If it happens, let it happen. With me yet? Now take this verse (one of about two) from "Stay":
I’d give it up if I wanted to
I get what I want when I wanna do some
Take what I want, when I want it
So don’t bring it on if you ain’t got it
Now this, folks, is borderline Dee Dee, isn’t it?
Undermines. Check ‘em out. You’ll be glad you did. - Robert Brokenmouth
It’s a fatalistic notion, this idea of Real Rock and Roll as a dinosaur, a dying life form stalking the planet in search of an audience with only a few remembering its heyday. The reality is that lots of us remember, but this beast won’t come to us and we have to search it out. We all need to travel deep through the jungles to find real Rock and Roll.
As far as the sterile, Lost World of the Australian nation’s capital, Canberra, where grim, Stalinist architecture and endless roundabouts posing as intersections struggle with fenceless cul de sacs and frost-scarred bike tracks in a pointless competition to be the most memorable feature. The rarefied atmosphere of this godforsaken, soul-less place isn’t conducive to Real Rock and Roll. Or so we thought.
Cue: The Undermines, a band in the finest traditions of what we (in Sydney, at least) used to call Detroit Rock.
The term’s a knock-off, of course, penned to put a label on Radio Birdman and the countless pretenders to their throne that followed. It flowed from their spokesman and main writer being a Michigan expat and, truth be known, probably reflected a little of that good old Aussie cultural cringe. Americans living in Australia were a little bit of a novelty in the ‘70s.
But this is a digression. Think of Detroit Rock, at least the Aussie variant, as high-energy guitar music full of doom-laden, minor chords, gruff male vocals and fiery six string lead breaks, all peppered with dark and mysterious lyrics. Doom and foreboding ran deep.
The Undermines nail it well. Mick Priess bellows in the best Rob Younger tradition. Guitarists Dylan Webster and Jason Sharples have their Tek-nique down pat - no shock there as both were members of Newvcastle’s late, great and lost ‘90s band, The Fools. The rhythm section of Dave Lundquist (bass) and Serge Du do their job extremely well.
The Undermines are seriously good - with emphasis on the serious. What’s missing is the levity, the lighter touch and sometimes obscured humour of Radio Birdman in their first few incarnations. The stuff that came to light on “Living Eyes”. For all the brashness, bravado and whoa-yeah/yeah-hup ramalama present in that band, they were a complex organism and a sum of many unique parts. And there was a grim humour hiding behind the laser-beam, thousand yard stares.
We really shouldn’t expect any band that follows to live up to what they did. Nor do The Undermines overtly try. While their influences are proudly on display (including classic US garage rock), they carve their own path. There are some great songs on “Ten Zero Eight” that stand up in their own right.
Webster and Sharples wrote all 12 songs (it’s a 10:2 split) and are a stellar combo on guitar. They’re full of lyrics about rejection and revenge, betrayal and redemptionThe title track, “Shake It”, the relatively poppy opener “Get Down (Or Lay Down)”, “Long Gone” and closer “Transcontinental” will all get your hips moving and fist shaking. . Even if you’re on your couch or in a walking frame.
The production’s a low budget job but doesn’t detract from the spirit. It is, after all, a bunch of mates firing out a dozen of their own songs without the benefit of a major (or minor) label bankroll. Such is the way of the world in these post-Real Rock days. I could have done with some colour (where’s Dr Gonzo’s individualistic keys when you need them?) and some separation on the guitars but that’s no biggie.
If it wasn’t for this sort of music, this e-zine wouldn’t exist and, by default, none of you would be reading this. So if Real Rock and Roll is your bag and you like the obvious influences - or have ever cocked an ear to the likes of Italy’s The Loose and the A-10, New Zealand’s The Henchmen or France’s Holy Curse - you’ll dig The Undermines. The link below is where to buy it and it's cheaper than your last girlfriend. - The Barman