The Ark - The Vacant Lot (Damn You)

the arkIt’s said that the only good thing to come out of Australia’s national capital is the Federal Highway, but it’s not true. Canberra’s also spawned some decent punk rock, and here’s more evidence. 

It’s not a hanging offence if you’ve never heard of The Vacant Lot. Molly Meldrum never made their acquaintance either. If he had, he would have hated them. Take that as a plus. 

The Vacant Lot grew out of the Australian National University campus in 1978. Canberra had a small but energetic punk or new wave scene by then. Wearing less Detroit leather than Sydney, not as ragged and oppressed as bands from Brisbane and not as artfully smacked out as the Melbourne crew, it was a community that tolerated - no, encouraged - music that didn’t fit with convention. 

Paradox – Neil Young and The Promise of The Real (Reprise)

paradox youngNeil Young shouldn’t be allowed near a Super 8 movie camera, let alone a big screen. If his girlfriend, The Mermaid Lady, wants to make her own movies, she’s rich enough to go right ahead. Just be merciful and don’t make them compulsory viewing.

This is the soundtrack to a Mermaid Lady movie. Her directorial debut, no less. Apparently, the fillum is a rambling, plot-less Netflix download in which Neil and his band (aka The Spawn of Willie Nelson) appear as outlaws and cowboys, who "pass the days digging for treasure while they wait for the full moon to bring its magic, the music and let the spirits fly."

The above review comes from a friend and the media release. I can’t vouch for it myself. What I do know is that Neil needs to stick to making music. It’s his strength.

Behind The Shade – James Williamson and the Pink Hearts (Leopard Lady Records)

behind the shadePlenty of people won’t “get” this record. That’s the inherent risk when you move forward and don’t stay comfortably treading water in one swimming pool.

It’s the second solo album for James Williamson (third if you count the live one with The Careless Hearts) and “Behind The Shade” doesn’t kiss-off his substantial Iggy & The Stooges legacy. More pointedly, it reinforces that Williamson is no one-trick pony.

Of course you should know James for inventing one of the most brutal guitar styles ever. Iggy himself paid him a back-handed compliment by saying that his former collaborator filled every possible space in their band’s soundscape. He did say it was to the point of claustrophobia, or words to that effect.

Two Nights With Satan - 300 St Claire (Conquest of Noise)

two nights with satanYes, 300 St Claire were another of those noisy, intense and hard-as-a-cheap-pub-steak bands that were around in a crowded Sydney backyard at the cusp of the 2000s and never made a substantial mark anywhere else.  They self-released an EP, gigged around and more or less fell off the radar before the decade was half-done. 

My own memories include taking away tinnitus from a support they played to Asteroid B612 at the Iron Duke in Sydney one Friday night. By the time Johnny Casino and Co came on, the damage had been done, and every note The Big Fella played fell on ringing ears.   

As is the way these days, 300 St Claire has reformed - to have fun and sink a few beers, the members will tell you - so now is a good time for their long, lost EP to resurface on Conquest of Noise, complete with extras. It’s every bit as bludgeoning as you’d expect. 

Butterflyin’ - New York Dolls (Easy Action)

butterflyinRiddle me this, Batman: In these digital times, why put out a CD of a live recording in a box set and split it over two discs? A strange attempt to mimick the vinyl exprience of flipping an LP over after it hits the run-out groove? Yes, Barflies, these are some of the weighty societal issues we trouble ourselves with at the I-94 Bar. Let’s back the truck up a bit here…

“Butterflyin’” is an upgraded version of a Dolls boot that’s been doing the rounds since Steve Jones was old enough to do time in an adult detention facility. Not that he’s the only one who swiped something from the Dolls’ output. It’s taken from a 1974 WLIR radio broadcast. An additional six live tracks, from another undated radio show, are the icing on the cake. More about them later. 

Blues Trash - Reverend Beat-Man and the New Wave (Voodoo Rhythm) and In My Room - The Gun Club (Bang! Records)

beat man and the new waveYou've all been subjected to that “name 10 LPs in 10 days” stuff on Facebook like me, I suppose? 

I stopped partly because I had to go interstate and didn't think I'd have access to FB, and partly because, on the trip over I wrote down another list of those records which I considered to be watershed, groundbreaking, jaw-dropping and influential to me personally.

Noted thug-about-Sydney's-buses Bob Short is still going strong (at the time of writing he's approaching 50 days, and if he keeps going he might finish in 2021) and I think that's the problem.

Follow Your Instinct - Guttercats (Pop The Balloon/Ghost Highway/Beluga Records)

follow your instinctIt’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.

Oldest Friend - The Painkillers (Off The Hip)

oldest friendOf 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. 

Into The Sun - P76 (Off The Hip)

into the sunVocal 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.