It’s four albums into the game for French band Guttercats and it’s with an almost entirely new line-up. Vocalist Guts Guttercat is the sole original member. Before you ask, he sings in English - and with more than a little sense of drama in his delivery.
Not to be confused with the UK Gutter Cats (punks) or their L.A. counterparts (sleaze-glam), both contemporaries using the two-word form of the name, this crew cites The Only Ones, Rowland S. Howard, Nikki Sudden, Chris Bailey and Gun Club as influences.
That’s a varied bag and so is their music. It runs the full gamut - from Bohemian semi-acoustic, dark pop to garage-style rock rave-ups. I’d throw the Bad Seeds and Dream Syndicate in there, too, or even final days Johnny Thunders.
Of the four albums by The Painkillers since 2006, this is the first to feature a full band. It also reprises five of its nine songs from earlier recordings.
The Painkillers were formerly a duo - guitarist-singer Joe Bludge, a bluesman, and drummer James Baker, a man who surely needs no introduction.
Coming from Perth (yeah, yeah, the most isolated capital city in the world) kept them a secret from the rest of Australia. I remember rushing across town one Saturday night, after an opening spot by Wrong Turn at The Empire (RIP), to catch a rare East Coast Painkillers show at Sydney’s Excelsior Hotel (RIP again), and finding the band barely outnumbered by punters.
Vocal melodies and rippling guitars never get old. “Into The Sun” originally came out in 2000, on the ubiquitous US-Australian label Zip Records and has been re-issued by Off The Hip, 18 years later.
It sounds fresher than a couple of teenagers in the back row of a movie theatre on a first date sponsored by Colgate and Listerine, and could have been recorded a week ago.
Some context: Danny McDonald is only a little bloke but he’s a towering talent of Aussie powerpop. After doing his best to crack the mainstream charts while leading P76 and the preceding Jericho, as well as 18 months as a hired hand for Oscarlima, he took a step back, to life in rural Victora, and raise a family. And record and release three excellent albums under his own name.
If you could bottle the brashness on the five tracks from this EP by The Jenkinses you’d have a product to bring lasting peace to the Middle East, send a man to Mars and restore hair to Peter Garrett’s head. All considered impossible before now.
The Jenkinses are a two-guitar four-piece from Brussels, full of grizzled veterans from Belgian bands like Contingent, Nervous Shakes, Vice Barons and Wild Ones. Only Nervous Shakes are familiar to me and they were great. The exception to the grizzled descriptor is guitarist Juliette Drumel, who’s the other guitarist-vocalist James Neligan’s better half. Juliette gets her own picture on the inside of the digipak. Happy wife, happy life, right James?
“Langered” - that's an Irish term for drunk - see, I like ‘em already - is the band’s second release, the first eponymous EP presumably being physical product when it came out four years ago, but now only available digitally. So how's it sound?
Their legacy was just two LPs and a stack of singles but Fixed Up’s punky and soulful garage rock touched people in their native France and all the way around to the other side of the world in Australia.
A lot’s been made about the Sydney-Detroit connection, mainly through Radio Birdman and its now fading local musical legacy. The irrefutable fact was that Birdman and its associated influences ruled the Sydney roost in the early 1980s. As true as that was, you can make a strong case for the affinity between Australia and France being almost as important, once the Sydney underground scene started to diversify and expand.
The Franco-Ausstralian link was made when John Needham, chief of seminal Sydney label Citadel Records, started dealing with the likes of Sonics Records in France. Suddenly, there was a pipeline for Australian bands to have their music heard on the Continent - meaning outside the UK where the perpetually jaded music press briefly adopted Aussie arty pop, junkie rock and the swamp sound for a time.
Don’t judge a book by the cover, they said. They were right. The contents of ”Love Hypnotic” leave its quirky artwork for dead.
Descriptor? Somebody said “acid washed garage goodness” and that’ll do. Respect. That one can’t be topped. There’s an almost effortless drift to this Sydney band’s sound that makes it click. Wafting melodies and dreamy vocals jostle with rustic guitars to create an alluring soundscape.
I know. You’re dying to know if there is an actual Jim Mitchell and the answer’s Yes. There’s the man - on vocals and guitar - who's evidently the creative multi-instrumentalist, and his band. And they are a band. They even play live and tour - a lot by contemporary standards.