Urban Nature - Blaney featuring Mark E. Smith (YERRR Records)

blaney featuring mesYou may recall I reviewed Blaney's most recent album, "The Severance" (pay attention at the back, you) and I have no qualms about not changing my seven bottle verdict. 

"Urban Nature" is Blaney's third LP featuring Mark E Smith; I don't have the other two, ("Smith And Blaney" and "The Train Part 3"), both on the (defunct?) Voiceprint label.

No, me neither. but on the strength of "Urban Nature" I've ordered both. One wonders aloud whether there's a definitive collection of Smith/Blaney in the works; if not, there should be. Why?

Plenty of Soap - Speedboat (Tom Stehlik) and Love In Other Diminsions - Go Go Sapien (HQR)

plenty of soapIf you enjoyed the Laughing Clowns and their slightly wonky, soaring horns, and which Hunnas later wielded to equally great effect, you're in for a treat. Speedboat (from Adelaide) supported both bands and, I can attest, to great effect. While LC and H&C certainly influenced Speedboat, one wonders if the influence was all one-way. 

If you don't know Speedboat, what they were about came from many unlikely sources (their name apparently springs from an Elvis movie), and I'm not giving away the joy of Tom Stehlik's liner notes).

Liner notes? Do Speedboat rate that? 

By fuck they do. 'Plenty of Soap' holds the equivalent of four LPs plus a fistful of singles and b-sides, Stehlik's liner notes actually tell the story of the band. Frankly, most bands - especially a band held in such high regard as Speedboat (and all without a recording contract) - fuck up entirely. 

Brando Rising - Brando Rising (self released)

brando rising coverThere’s an element of impending doom and high drama about the songs of new-ish Melbourne band Brando Rising on this self-released six-track EP - and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Vocalist Ripley Hood (Mushroom Planet, ex Gun Control/Funhouse) is an actor on his days off. 

If you're into labels, Brando Rising’s music is a mix of post-punk hard rock, hardcore and punk. The band cites Dead Boys, Bauhaus, Fear and David Bowie among its influences and you can hear bits of them all. There’s also an echo of Massappeal at times (especially on “Sunsets”) and “Enough is Enough” takes something of its groove from the New Christs. 

“Brando Rising” was recorded as a demo but the band was happy enough with the mastered product to release it. Guitarist Kelly Hewson (another former Gun Control and Funhouse member) did most of the writing. 

Thirteen - Simon Chainsaw (Dark Roasted/Pitshark)

thirteen lgeThere’s a familiar sound to all Simon Chainsaw records and it’s not going to change radically any time soon. It owes much to  Sydney’s mid-‘80s underground scene - Simon being the one constant member of the Vanilla Chainsaws - and adds dashes of punk, pop and hard rock from myriad other places. 

So of course “Thirteen” sounds a lot like the preceding 12 Simon Chainsaw studio albums. You expected techno? Simon’s distinctive vocal rasp, chunky guitars just this side of metal, an inherent sense of melody and lyrics about girls, the road and the resilience of rock and roll are all a given. 

Even so, there are stylistic departures (keys on “Cried a Million Tears”, lap steel on the anthemic “Take My Rock ’n’ Roll Back”) and the classic Oz Rock influence cuts through elsewhere, notably on “Firestorm” which features AC/DC session drummer Tony Currenti.

Out Of My Head - Paul Collins (Alive Natural Sound)

out of my headHas it really been four years since “Feel The Noise” and eight since “King of Power Pop”? The release of another Paul Collins record is a special occasion and “Out Of My Head” doesn’t disappoint.

While its predecessors explored rocking and powerpop songs respectively, “Out Of My Head” finds Collins sitting squarely in pop territory. Ringing chords, the odd minor key melody and Collins’infectious vocals rule throughout. Well crafted songs with depth. 

Paul Collins seems to work best when he has a crative partner to bounce off and in this instance it’s bass player Paul Stingo, whose melodic tone and vocal harmonies suit to a tee. Collins plays the guitars and drums and the record was recorded in a Brooklyn studio.

Bloodbath of Fuzz - 45 Spider (self released)

bloodbath of fuzzRockabilly guitarist Grady Martin is widely credited as the father of fuzz, taking Link Wray’s dirty tone a step further in the early ‘60s, thanks to a faulty pre-amp. "Red" Rhodes made the first distortion pedal for his friends in The Ventures. Add 100 watt amps to the picture and the rest is tinnitus. 

45 Spider - so named for the adapter used to make big-hole seven-inch singles work on a turntable spindle - should build a monument to Martin and Rhodes in their home town of Cleveland, Ohio. Their “Bloodbath of Fuzz” is 17 songs long and you won’t find a clean guitar note hiding anywhere.

A fuzzed-up cover of The Gentlemen’s “It’s a Cry’n Shame” opens the album and sets the scene: Meaty guitar and bouncy rhythms behind Ms Hadley K’s cute-sultry vocal. The template was designed long ago but it still works. 45 Spider plays a mix of semi-obscure covers and their own songs and if not familiar with the originals, it’s hard to tell the difference. That’s a compliment.

We Hate Each Other But We Hate You More – Baby 8 (Kasumuen)

baby8 coverMelbourne’s Baby 8 has delivered a smashing album full of songs about drinking, drugging and horrific nights out. It cuts straight to the bone. No love songs here, folks; just pure “boobs-to-the-wall” rock ‘n’ roll with some punk-pop thrown in.

“We Hate Each Other But We Hate You More” just kicks from the first track, “Nights Want to Kill“, which is the single. And what a cracker song it is.

Rachel Lendvay (vocals) shines throughout. Katie Dixon (Powder Line Sneakers) on guitar, Maureen Gearon (NQR) on bass with Matty Whittle (ex-GOD) on drums round out this powerful rock band.

Inside The Flesh Hotel - Beechwood (Alive Natural Sounds)

flesh hotelPull up a chair, crack a beer and let’s have a bet. Bukowski would. There are short odds on offer, my friend, that Beechwood is your new favourite band - even if you haven’t heard them yet. 

Bukowzki was from the other side of the USA,  as this trio from Brooklyn, NYC, the buzz on whom is substantial but not undeserved. It’s picked up momentum to move past a dull roar, even in these times of fragmented public communication. A recent European tour left the French, in particular, in raptures. See here for proof. 

You ever read Bukowski? Full of extremes, for sure, but also littered with patches of light and shade. Much like the sound of Beechwood. It isn’t easily categorised; there are so many stylistic threads coming together that you’ll die trying. A sometimes languid flow of vaguely ‘60s pop and psych elements runs right through it. Concise songs full of variety but somehow linked together. 

THE PLOW - Hieronymous Bogs (self released)

the plowFirst time I laid my tired eyes on the impactful, dark, visually striking, elemental art work of Hieronymous Bogs, I knew he had come to some of the same conclusions about life and death as I had.

Like a candle flickering in the dark, his prophetic folkart, found object assemblages, and iconic religious alters are invested with a compassion and humility one seldom sees, nowadays. His multimedia sculptures and paintings are filled with visceral, primordial, intimate terror and sadness, gratitude and grace, and his music has that same kind of rawness and naked vulnerability, beat poet bravery, and Cohen like melancholy.

If you see him in his big hat, hitch-hiking on the side of the lonesome highway, with a crow on his shoulder and bluebirds nesting in his beard, pick him up, and he will humbly regale you with vividly spun, purplish tales of poignant observations and quiet awakenings.