How do you sum up the musical career of Billy Childish, England's finest, over two CDs or six sides of vinyl? "Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot" (translation: Punk rock is not dead) pulls it off pretty well.
The Childish oeuvre isn't for everyone. Across various groups - the Pop Rivets, Thee Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats, Thee Mighty Caesars, Musicians Of The British Empire, The Buff Medways and CTMF among them - Billy has been the poster child for low-fi, crudely-recorded, minimalist rock and roll.
Whip smart lyrics, sometimes confessional and often sardonic or profane, delivered in the voice of a street hooligan and set against distortion and dissonance. As a guitarist, Billy is no Steve Vai and for that we can all be eternally fucking grateful.
The American college town of Ann Arbor - A2 to the locals - has a lot to answer for. This re-issue of a long out-of-print live recording of some of its famous sons makes it apparent.
Originally released on CD only by Philadelphia's Real O-Mind Records in 2002, it's on vinyl as well as shiny silver disc this time around, and marks the return of David Laing's Grown Up Wrong label.
Everything about this show smokes. Powertane were the vehicle for A2 legend Scott Morgan, a soul prodigy (The Rationals) who made up a quarter of one of the greatest guitar rock and roll bands to ever go MIA in the mists of musical legend status, Sonics Rendezvous Band.
You’d be right if you said reggae doesn’t get much of a look-in at the I-94 Bar. It's not that anyone’s allergic to it, but rock and roll is the staple beer on tap.
You can argue that the Clash turned out their own kind of rock-reggae with mixed results, but the genre remains at the margins around much of the world - like its distant punk rock cousin.
Bob Marley introduced the wider world to reggae in the ‘70s but it had been entrenched in Jamaica for generations. A generation of immigrants had already spread rocksteady and ska to the UK.
The music that Marley brought to stadiums and concert halls was a few steps away from the sound that pervaded the alleys of Trenchtown. Major labels provided th bread, not Jah, and their producers rubbed the rough edges off Marley, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff to make them acceptable to mass market ears.
Their bid to become a sovereign state might have crashed and burned five years ago, and they still haven't worked out how to banish those Sassenachs* from north of Hadrian's Wall, but the Scots have never been short of a political opinion. Just put a pint of beer in front of an Edinburgher** - or a microphone in the case of The Media Whores - and you'll get your money's worth.
“A Decade of Defiance” is a compilation of tracks from The Media Whores' three albums and one EP, with three cuts thrown in to preview their forthcoming new long-player.
* English person
** Person from Edinburgh
Also Sprach might have been the king of Eurodisco but Ed Kuepper reigns supreme as the Monarch of Re-invention. Of his contemporaries, only Kim Salmon comes close.
There was a modest risk in forming a third line-up of The Aints; the upside was that they'd pull crowds and make good cash, the other half of the equation being that it wouldn't take the legacy of the original band anywhere special. If you were a doubter, leave the room now...
Re-shaping un-recorded songs written for the original Saints was a masterstroke. So was Kuepper's selection of his band - the engine room of Paul Larsen-Loughhead and Peter Oxley was never going to be a dud - and his decision to colour the material with bold brass arrangements...that was inspired.
It’s a brilliant idea so why didn’t someone do it before?
What’s that? you say. Record a bunch of iconic, mostly Sydney, underground songs in a way that honours the originals but makes them their own – at least for a few minutes.
UK-born, Brisbane-bred John Kennedy became a fixture on Sydney inner-city scene in the 1980s after cutting his musical teeth in his hometown. His distinctive “urban western” songs, and his bands JFK and The Cuban Crisis and John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong, earned him a healthy niche in a city that back then was groaning with musical talent.
John Kennedy was always backed by excellent bands and inevitably joined his peers in spreading their versions of the word on the national touring circuit, before moving overseas for a time. He and various line-ups of his John Kennedy’s ‘68 Comeback Special have been kicking around the now skeletal Sydney scene (read: Inner-Western Delta) for the last decade or so.