On Top - Straight Arrows (Rice Is Nice)

on top straight arrowsThey’re not its most prolific band but they’re one of Sydney’s best. The Straight Arrows seem like kids but have been around for nearly a decade and this is only their third long player. It’s doubtful they care about keeping score and neither should you.

What you need to know is that “On Top” is uncomplicated, nicely raw and melodic. Two guitars, bass and drums and well-crafted, economical songs. Tight but loose. Cleaner-sounding on this record than before but still rough enough around the edges. 

Owen Penglis writes good songs, alright. Cock an ear to the grinding yet light fuzzfest of “The One” or the buzzsaw burst of album opener “Nothing To Me”. They’re instantly catchy - like early Ratcat to cite a band that was around before these guys were born. Penglis and Al Grigg weave curtains of fuzz with their guitars and the energy level never sags. 

Tokyo - Penny Ikinger (Off The Hip)

Tokyo front coverIt's a long time between Penny Ikinger records but the results are usually worth the wait. "Tokyo" follows "Penelope" (2010) and "Electra" (2003) and is as evocative as ever but with a slightly rockier disposition.

"Tokyo" was recorded with a batch of top-notch Japanese psychedelic musicians, with heavy input from Radio Birdman's Deniz Tek. The latter's influence is evident - not just in some flammable splashes of lead guitar but also in the odd lyric. That Four Winds Bar sure has done some mileage since being name-dropped by Blue Oyster Cult all those years ago...

Even so, "Tokyo" is very much a Penny Ikinger record. Gone are the days where she needed to be referenced as "a past member of Wet Taxis" or as "Nico defrosted". As clever as that last marketing line was, Nico ultimately shut out the world. Penny embraces its musical possibilities and has her own distinctive voice.

Wasteland - King Brothers (Hound Gawd)

wasteland king brothersUnless I’ve blinked and missed them, it’s been more than a decade since King Brothers appeared on Australian stages and 20 years since they started as a band. Time is rarely kind to any of us, however King Brothers' trademark brand of brutal “hardcore blues” not only remains intact but has blossomed.

“Wasteland” might be their sixth or seventh full-length album - background is hard to dig up on the Interwebs when you don’t read Japanese - and it leaves little to the imagination.

King Brothers are a two-guitars-and-drums trio from Nishinomiya City whose sound has been called “the Germs backing Howling Wolf”. Eric Oblivian reckons they’re the best band in the world and they tour the world constantly.

All You Need Tonight - Dee Rangers (Low Impact)

dee rangers all you need tonightIt's been 15 years since I first laid ears on Sweden's Dee Rangers via their mighty "Pretty Ugly Beat" album, so smear me with a bowl of IKEA meatballs and mashed potato for thinking they'd broken up. Au contraire, to mix European languages in an almost Brexit world, they are very muich alive and kicking.

"All You Need Tonight" is album number seven for a band whose membership has stayed largely stable since they formed in the mid-'90s. You'll recognise their influences as soon as you hear their music. Firmly rooted in the '60s but blurring the stylistic boundaries between pop and garage, it's a potent distillation of what made Scandi music great for a very long time.

Lost For Words - Deniz Tek (Career Records)

lost for wordsMaking an instrumental album is a brave step for someone best known for doom-laden tunes about living eyes, muscle cars and human reinvention under piles of ice and snow, but Deniz Tek's departure from the well-worn path really works.

From the scuzzy serrated intro of "Eddie Would Go" with its air of "Human Fly" Cramps crossing swords with Davie Allan to the clean and lean retake on Radio Birdman's "Zeno Beach", "Lost For Words" makes a voice-less statement about simpler times.

Back in the '60s, a pre-teen Tek cut his musical teeth on these sorts of songs. Surf music (and its variants) was a radio staple around the world. Tek told Perfect Sound Forever in 2001:

"The first rock and roll song I learned to play on the guitar in entirety was 'Walk Don’t Run.' I was 12-years-old. And their version of the Hawaii Five-0 theme was a great inspiration to me in the summer of 1969, the year I started driving fast cars. When it came on the radio, the ‘68 Charger went much faster!"

The Church of Simultaneous Existence - The Aints! (ABC Records)

church of simultaneous existenceHave you heard that the people at Warner Bros are working on a re-make of the Road Runner cartoon? Hollywood has unfailingly screwed up the legacy of almost every other iconic TV show with a lame makeover, so why the hell not?

Rock and roll has its own history of reinvention and Australia’s master of the art is onetime Saint, Ed Kuepper.

Kuepper’s enduring career has been through more twists and turns than Wile E. Coyote navigating a cliff-side road on an ACME corporation-sponsored suicide mission, but unlike the bird-seeking missile of cartoon fame, he usually delivers his payload with unerring accuracy.

So make no mistake:  “The Church of Simultaneous Existence” is a controlled demolition that’s worthy of comparisons to his most seminal work.

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – Handsome Jack (Alive Naturalsounds)

eveythings gonna be alrightA word about words: Albums should be all about music, but descriptors count because they convey an identifiable concept of what the music sounds like. Lockport, New York, Handsome Jack’s record label, Alive Naturalsounds, calls them “boogie soul”. That cap fits…so you know the rest about wearing it.

Fourteen years into the game and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” is the third long-player for Handsome Jack since they kicked off as a trio of precocious teens in a ubiquitous garage. Two of the three members remain - drummer Bennie Hayes is a newcomer - and while stability like that is a rarity, it’s also a virtue.

Guitarist Jamison Passuite summons up John Fogerty with his rich and resonant vocal on opening track “Keep On”; other places he echoes Southern rock and Stax soul. Throw in some Delta blues and the rest of this sure-footed, grooving album doesn’t stray far from the inspirational well. Many, if not most, of their influences seem to have been around before these guys were born. Is that a bad thing?

Electric Demon - The Deadvikings (Zodiac Killer Records)

electric demonThey might not be Japan’s most prolific rock and roll band but The Deadvikings’ two full-length albums each pack a considerable punch. This one dates from early in their 11-year history and delivers their Hellacopters style jams in spade-loads.

The Deadvikings toured last year’s “Libertatia” in Australia - well, in Sydney - and they're back in 2018, confusingly pushing their first CD from 10 years ago. Ours is not to reason why...

"Electric Demon" has some wayward moments (the ragged "The Ripper" and the low-key opening title track, which sounds underdone) but for the most part, it's surging high-energy rock songs. They're clearly in the thrall of the 'Copters and their Scandi Rock contemporaries, but this is hardly a bad thing when done right.

Get Off My Wah Wah…And Suck This – Bored! (Bang! Records)

get-off-my-wah-wah-and-suck-thisIssued as a cassette in 1988 in a limited run of 300, these are the first recordings of Bored! Expect no studio wankery or sonic polishing, other than the obvious mastering from cassette to vinyl. This is how the band sounded when they were a bunch of pups from Geelong, playing on the floor of their local record store.

Bang! Records is run by a couple of Basque Country rock and roll fanatics who have championed Beasts of Bourbon and various spin-offs, a host of scuzzy Downtown Manhattan noise-makers and the so-called Geetroit Sound. This recycled gem is on LP only and follows 2016’s “Piggyback” compilation of lost recordings on the same label.

While chowing down on early Stooges songs might be ho-hum in these Post Pop Reunion times, Bored! was really pushing envelopes in post-punk Melbourne and its environs. That explains the three-in-a-row inclusion of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “No Fun” and “TV Eye”. “No Fun” especially has intuitively weaving guitar fireworks from Dave Thomas and John Nolan that should make your jaw gape.