England's (bad) Dreaming

just a bad dream box set“Just A Bad Dream: Sixty British Garage & Trash Nuggets 1981-89”– Various Artists (Cherry Red)

While most of us in Australia in the ‘80s and ‘90s were obsessing with the US resurgence in trashy ‘60s garage rock, the Brits were having a wild old time with the same sort of stuff. This stellar three-disc, clamshell box set lifts the lid on what was going on behind the Warm Beer Curtain, in cracking fashion.

Flash back to the dawn of the 1980s: Boxed in by the constraints of punk rock - which had morphed into a fashion parade by then - and repulsed by the rise of New Romanticism, a good many Brit bands made like it was still raining German V2’s and headed deep underground.

To be fair, you can also blame the Cramps for much of this, although the Poms were arguably able to tap their own deep, local wellspring. We Aussies, on the other hand, got locked into our own US ‘60s punk trip, thanks to our own tastemaker bands, and those buyers for local record stores who spent most of their time in the States.

This French band's EP is one Sweed ride

thee sweedersThee Sweeders - Thee Sweeders (Let’s Sweed Records)

No idea if there’s a decent garage rock “scene” of any sorts in Annency, France. The French tend to do to rock and roll what Australia's backpacker killer Ivan Milat did to tourists, both using a place called a shallow grave, but if there is, it’s lucky to have Thee Sweeders as part of it. This release is six tracks on vinyl of fine, hard driving punk rock and roll.

Comparisons are often odious and best avoided but let’s pause and consider a couple:

The Murder City Devils gave equal prominence to keys and guitar and produced some of the best Stooges-in-the-garage skronk to come out of Seattle, Washington, in the wake of grunge in the ‘90s.Thee Sweeders peddle a similar style, with Oliv’s swirling electric piano mixing it with Cuibs’ chunky guitar. Sweeders vocalist Gilles approximates Spencer Moody’s uncivil yowl - and probably speaks better English.

The Tribe has spoken

mark enbatta tribe Mark Enbatta’s Tribe - Mark Enbatta’s Tribe (Bam Balam Records)

Way back in the early ‘80s, The Vietnam Veterans were the first French psychedelic band to grace a turntable in the I-94 Bar. It was their debut ,"On The Right Track Now" LP, and the wigged-out faux '60s atwork and cover of Roky's "I Walked With A Zombie" (reprised, even) were as attractive as its bargain price tag as it sat in the Phantom Records rack. 

It was weird stuff and out of left-field for someone then on a strict listening diet of Citadel Records post-Birdman fare. Over the course of six albums, until dissembling in 2009, the Vets carved a niche for themselves and toured extensively around Europe.

Like KISS, the Eagles and various other outfits whose names I can't believe I typed, let alone throught of, it was one of those splits that really wasn’t one. Various members played together under different names - most notably as The Gitanes and Vietnam Chain. Founding Vets member Mark Enbatta was the glue in those collaborations an d now ropes in two of his comrades for this, his second album under the Tribe moniker. Keyboardist Lucas Trouble is absent because he passed away in 2016, and it’s to his memory that the album is dedicated.

Sunnyboys notch 40 not out

sunnyboys 40 small40 - Sunnyboys (Rocket)

New Sunnyboys studio recordings: They were long rumoured, but what they constituted and whether they’d see the light of day remained well-kept secrets. Now they’re here, they prove to have been worth the wait. 

There’s no need to recount the rise, fall and reincarnation of the Sunnyboys here. Let’s make the point that their second career is on a vastly different trajectory to their first. The pressure of being a major label money-maker on an endless treadmill is gone. Jeremy Oxley's health is good but he still needs to manage himself. It’s a measured gait for these Sunnies in 2019 - at least until they walk onto a stage - as befits four gentlemen of, ahem, enduring existence. 

Just like riugby league, the “40” record - a mini-LP, really, as it’s eight tracks long - is a game of two halves. Side one comprises the four songs released on the band’s self-titled “yellow” seven-inch EP on New Year’s Eve in 1980. The original vinyl version sold out in a couple of weeks, to be re-pressed in a re-mixed 12” version soon after, but this is the first time that the original mixes have made it to CD.

Ex-Harem Scarem bluesman gets under the skin

The Dog Beneath the SkinThe Dog Beneath the Skin. Rare and Unreleased - Christopher Marshall (digital release)

Chris Marshall's “The Dog Beneath the Skin” collection serves as a welcome reminder that the blues is a broad tapestry indeed. I repeat what I said above, my record collection does not have much modern blues. I do have some Harem Scarem, however, because they crash along a rough road twining hellish skronk and sweet blues.

There's a killer version of “Figurehead” here, and a fine version of “Dogman” (featuring the late Chris Wilson on harmonica); there's also unreleased performances of “Hard Rain” and “My Town” - the latter a band staple that was co-written with brother Charlie, but never otherwise recorded, with Christopher on lead vocals.

Like his fellow bandmate, the late Chris Wilson, Marshall's voice is quite extraordinary, and you can pretty much pick your own favourite blues-esque vocalist to compare him to.

Compellingly sweet blues from a modern Animal

danny hadley epTwo Hundred and Ten - Danny Handley (digital release)

"My demon's always been a chancer/ Get up and don't get caught"

Danny Handley is the guitarist and compelling singer in The Animals and Friends. They're on tour around Australia at the moment. If you get even a quarter of a chance, go see them. They're great fun, and right now, what with half the country either still burning or about to burn, I'd say that (aside from grieving) the one thing which will lift your spirits is music, and The Animals & Chums do that.

Danny Handley is a huge frontman. He's been gifted with an immaculate, easy-to-conjure voice, a relaxed and engaging personality, the confiding air of the practised showman. Oh, the bastard has one of those effortless talents on the guitar, too. Not that I'm jealous (oh, no).

His style is a bit more modern than the original Animals, with distinct shades of sweet blues - and I should explain that I usually detest this style. In person, in Danny Handley's hands, these blues are absolutely beautiful.