Memories From a Shithole - Whodunit (Beast Records)

memories from ashitholeThis Parisian band brags they’ve been “playing garage-blues-punk since 2003” and that’s no mean feat in a city where rock and roll gets simultaneously downtrodden by dance music and high culture. 

Two more things in their favour is that they’re on Beast Records, a well-established home for music that flies a ragged freak flag, and “Memories From a Shithole” was produced by expat Detroiter Jim Diamond, the ex-Dirtbombs bassist and sonic master now spending much of his work-time in Montpellier. His credits include the Bellrays, the Fleshtones and the White Stripes so he’s qualified to make this sort of noise. 

Whodunit aren’t your standard ‘60s acid punk rehash or two-chord crash-er-rama thrash artists. They don’t play second-rate Serge lounge tunes or bother trying to de-construct the blues. They just go for broke. 

More Blood, More Tracks - Bob Dylan (CBS)

more blood on the tracksThis may be Dylan's best album ever. It might also be his most unnecessary. He recorded these songs. Sent out promos. Then he changed his mind.

Was it right to dump this version and re-record it? Absolutely.

In the early ’70s, this album would have had its fans. It would have sold. But it would have disappeared into the back catalogue. Too much more of the same.

The second go at the songs that become the Blood on the Tracks album are a force of nature that captured the zeitgeist. They buried the copyists and pretenders. That album was a lion amongst cattle. It turned Dylan's career around.

One For The Road - Bigger Than Jesus (Dinner For Wolves)

btjYou can’t separate Steve Lucas from his X history – at least not in this bar and not in this part of the world.

The early members of X eschewed the punk tag because they regarded themselves as a rock and roll band. The delivery might have been rawer than a steak in a trendy French bistro but the band’s musicality raised it above the average two-chord wonders.

Since the deaths of most of X’s many members since formation, Lucas has firmly held onto the band’s legacy, while not limiting himself musically. Bigger Than Jesus is proof of his determination to branch out.

We all might say we hate labels but we all still use them. If X was (and is) his “punk” band, The Groody Frenzy his blues rock outfit, Pubert Brown his psych-Kinks trip and A.R.M. his Oz Rock monster, Bigger Than Jesus is Steve Lucas’s “metal” group. And how.

Anthems For The Misanthropic - Hell Nation Army (Heavy Medication)

misanthropicYou took notice of Scandi Rock in the ‘90s or you stayed blissfully living under a rock listening to The Smashing Pumpkins. Grunge had dissipated and the corporates were looking for a new genre to plunder. No matter what you call it, high-energy rock is hard to kill. It’s only a matter of how fast it’s played and how many chords it hangs off. 

The package for Hell Nation Army says “kick ass punk and roll” and does not lie. They play high-energy rock from Berlin in the vein of Gluecifier, Heliacopters and Turbonegro. In other words, Scandi Rock that’s been landlocked. 

Are You Ready To… - Squeeze the Pig (self released)

are you ready toHere's the theory: Inside every serious Aussie bluesman, prog artiste and serious muso type of an older demographic, there's a yob rocker waiting to break out and release his (or her) inner Thorpey. Turn it up to 11 and and yell: "Suck more piss!"

Some yob rockers do it with all the subtelty of a semi-trailer being driven through the wall of an outback diner, while others let their Sunbury freak flag fly with slightly more poise. That's where bands like Squeeze The Pig come in.   

"Are You Ready To..." is the second EP from Perth’s Squeeze The Pig and it’s a competent mix of Oz rock blues and ‘80s garage punk. Art rockers need not apply.  The band members’ ethos of fast bikes, cold beer and banging out four chords at the pub on a Saturday night is nowhere more apparent.

“On Ya Bike” is harmonica-powered blues-rock. Nothing more, nothing less. Vocalist Ian Laurie has that everyman sound to his pipes and the band is equal to the task. “The Band Is A Rockin’” mines the same vein and Steve Bee’s slide wraps itself around Peter Brown’s greasy blues harp. 

Oh Yeah - Dear Thief (Sartorial Records), Holy Motor - Sloks (Voodoo Rhythm) and Comes the Light - MJ Halloran (Off the Hip)

oh yeah dear thiefLondon-based trio Dear Thief's fantastic record (yep, vinyl) is a couple of years old but I doubt they've had much press.

They seem to be an occasional band rather than a constantly gigging behemoth; nonetheless they sound exactly like some sort of rabid mammoth wandered into the No studio and went berko.

Those of you who notice such things might think you're being reminded of a particularly vicious Fall gig - drums, bass, guitar - but I find myself rather startled to realise that it's time I pulled out my "Woman" LP again.

 

Going Underground - The Light Brigade (Full On Noise)

going undergroundRock and roll's fascination with the doomed is a story well told. From the members of the 27 Club of Janis and Jim to Johnny Thunders, Amy Winehouse and beyond, it's a love affair that's been going on a very long time. 

On the other hand, you don't have to die to be an occupant of Rock's Pantheon of Lost Causes. It's much larger than any physical graveyard and my mate Bob Short is a proud tenant.

It's not that "Going Underground" or its makers are going out of their way to sell no copies or that its investor (Bob) wants to finish deeply in the red side of the ledger. Not when there are more guitars to buy.

Even Bob knows that "recouping" is not another word for a re-constructed chicken enclosure. He's also a realist who knows the sweet, abrasive sounds of this collective will never grace the airwaves of a commercial radio station.

Red Church - Marilyn Rose Veil (Marilyn Rose Veil) and Afloat - The Near Jazz Experience (Sartorial Records)

red churchI had these two on, over and over, back to back while I was cooking, driving and then again the other night. And then again, and again. There's a cool groove about both; and while I prefer "Afloat" to "Red Church", my tastes ain't yours (thankfully).

"Red Church" is nothing like "Afloat", when each finishes, the start of the next is a bit like getting to the top of a staircase and trying to climb another step which isn't there. A bit startling. Could be dangerous.

The seven songs on "Red Church" all favour Veil's huge voice; and here she must owe a debt of thanks to the very talented guitarist Henry Hugo, the ex-Argentinian New Australian (via Switzerland - and no, he's not a banker or a money lender in his spare time).

Most of Hugo's songs he recorded in Zurich, with overdubs and mixing by Hugo and Dugald Jayes (who adds an air of brash mystery to the proceedings) in Melbourne. Mark Steiner helped by recording Gunnar Motland's drums on a couple of tracks. Lyrics and vocals ... this is where "Red Church" comes to life.

Egomania - Hank Van Hell (Sony)

egomaniaMost people outside of his native Norway would think it’s been a long time between drinks (or other substances) for Hank von Hell, The Artist Formerly Known as Hank von Helvete of death-punters Turbonegro

Lifestyle issues twice rendered him an ex-member of his old band and he finally pulled the pin on them in 2010. A second spell in rehab (via a conversion to Scientology) put him back on his feet. Since then, he’s been a radio host, starred in a film, written an autobiography, appeared as a judge on Norwegian Idol, married a model and fatheried a daughter. All of which proves that fact is stranger than fiction when you consider Hank kick-started his career singing about having an erection..

Hank had a number-one hit in Norway as a solo artist in 2009 and fronted the post-Turbonegro supergroup Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult for a time. He’s now back on the boards in his own right with the release of “Egomania”, a record that might be a concept album themed loosely on the pitfalls of performing.