Lou’s semi-lost period of the mid-‘70s - post-“Coney Island Baby” and before “Street Hassle” - gets a lot of bad wraps. Not without reason. A big part of why is “Rock and Roll Heart”, an album in the Reed canon that receives little love.
Why? Maybe it wasn’t seamy enough, maybe the production was so-so. The songs seemed weak. Lyrically, it was wishy-washy. The list could go on. Maybe Lou talked everybody out of listening to it when he thoroughly dissed “Coney Island Baby” for being commercially successful. My own take is a little of all of the above. Second-guessing Lou is pointless - and not just because he’s dead.
So you might approach this double CD live release from the esteemed UK label Easy Action with a degree of trepidation. Rest easy. It’s not the born-in-Detroit, Wagner and Hunter-fuelled thunder-and-lightning of “Rock ’n’ Roll Animal”, or the boozy, coked diatribe fest of “Take No Prisoners”, but it’s not without its own considerable merits.
What do you get when you mix two veterans of the SoCal punk rawk scene with a couple of its UK equivalent’s most storied names? This here disc, guv’nor, and a fine slice of rockin’ psych-tinged pop it is.
Sometimes worlds collide in the best way possible and here’s a prime I’ll-have-one-thin-and-crispy-with-the-lot-and-don’t-forget-the-anchovies example. Genres are less a restrictive tag than a challenge for these guys.
Alfie Agnew (a real-life maths professor) and Sean Elliott (he’d be the madman) are the US-based principals in Professor and The Madman. The pair played together in D.I., a long-running off-shoot of the Adolescents and Social Distortion, the former being from where Agnew came.
Rat Scabies, of the (stillborn but legendary) London SS, The Mutants and of course The Damned, was co-opted as a recording member after guest-playing “Smash It Up” with Agnew and Elliott at a US show. The hook-up with Paul Gray - surely the best bassist The Damned ever had (and he’s back with them now), whose prior form includes Eddie & The Hotrods and UFO - came via Facebook.
Lovely LP. Ugly, too.
The Tall Grass is Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss) and Peter Fenton (Crow). Never heard those two bands, but I gather "Down the Unmarked Road" is a notable departure for both of them. Like Rheyce O'Neill's "Ubermensch Blues", they've focused on the meaning of the songs to create a bittersweet landscape rich in Australiana.
"Ubermensch Blues" is a damn fine LP. Big and moving, it's not a simple thing. Lots of space within the melodies and complex? You'll be returning for repeat listens. Remarkable given that almost the entire work was recorded and played by Sydneysider Rhyece; such LPs don't usually work in my opinion. And what's that title?
Overman Blues. The Nazis thought they were ubermensch; the Japanese and Chinese still know they are. Hell, ever try to talk one-on-one with an Indian of "high caste"? You're way beneath them - the British retain vestiges of their old caste system, but it started to be demolished just over a hundred years ago.
"Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago...."
JUNKYARD STILL GOT IT IN SPADES!
Back when I still thought Axl Rose was a could do no wrong, a rebel hero who had courageously escaped a hellish small-town disreputable dishwasher fate, not unlike my own, the misunderstood, fucking innocent, ginger haired, rural Mike Monroe from the corn-fed Midwest, I recall him wearing an old school Junkyard t shirt in all those "Circus" and "Hit Parader" pinups I had taped all over the walls of my first shoebox bachelor apartment that the totally New Wave love of my young life had helped me paint purple.
I really thought I'd arrived! We had a promising basement-show punk band, in those days, but we still lived in a shitty, dumb, nothing to do, farm town straight out of the saddest Bob Seger songs. I never liked the bigoted, cross-eyed rednecks at the veterans halls, the musclebound, bullying suburban jocks in the Camaro's, the racist history teaching wrestling coaches, the sports-bar drunkards with the barbecue stains, the Izod shirted country-club conformists, nutty extremist church crazies, or dickhead fratboy cops. I never liked their bullshit hierarchy, kneejerk customs, hazing rituals, or boot camp drill sergeant, behavior modification tactics, not to mention, their senseless cruelty and complete lack of style.
Copies of these four songs have been circulating for years and two have surfaced on compilations. The balance were re-recorded by members’ subsequent bands. But don’t kid yourself that you don’t need this vinyl only 12-inch EP.
The 31st started when future members of Died Pretty (Ron Peno and Chris Welsh), the Screaming Tribesmen (MIck Medew) and the Hitmen/New Christs/Screaming Tribesmen (Tony Robertson) started playing shows in a strip club and anywhere else that would have them. Evidently, they played no one style of music - which must have been confusing for the Brisbane punks, boogie-heads and blues fans to pin a tail on.
The 31st were a future supergroup before those things were called that in Australia. They kicked around the undergrowth of Brisbane’s downtrodden music scene in the early 1980s, and fell to pieces before anyone outside of it saw or heard them.
Future Hoodoo Guru Brad Shepherd was to briefly become a member although he's not on these recordings.