It’s fuzz-laden and filthy rock and roll and the antecedents of two of Purple Urchin’s three members tells you why.
Guitarist-vocalist David “Spiff” Hopkins was in herbally-inclined Sydney skate-surf punks The Hellmen and treble-toned but righteous Perth rockers The M-16s, while Shayne Macri played bass in aptly-named West Australian band, The Fuzz, in which stellar-throated vocalist Abbe May also cut her teeth.
Purple Urchin come from Dunsborough, a surf town 250 kilometres south of Perth that serves as the gateway to Western Australia’s Margaret River wine region. Like everything else in that part of the world, it’s a long way from anywhere else. Purple Urchin have clearly brought their influences with them.
A rating of eight bottles?!
Just to remind you - five bottles is the maximum. I take that to mean that those five are ticking the boxes. Further bottles are awarded for personal delight, surprise, enterprise and "they have no right to be this good".
"Crystal Cuts" is bloody gorgeous. It'll have you on the floor, or in a slow waltz, or blubbing as the level in the bottle sinks. Despite being nominally about a protracted relationship breakup, "Crystal Cuts" is also superbly uplifting, steadily exciting and a thrill to discover.
You know? The first time you listen to an album is special. Unique. Not every LP is that good that you cherish that moment, not by a long chalk. But I'll always remember pecking away in my back room waiting for the first decent rain of the year, a painting by Josh Lord ("false idols") to my left while Isabella Mellor's gently beautiful voice pours into my head.
"Shiny and New" is quite a trip. For a start, there's not so much a wall of sound as a wall of optimism, to the point that, because I've been smiling so much, my face is hurting.
There's a ton of soul, great swathes of bouncing joy, all wrapped up with a powerful sensibility of constant delight at the universe around us. I mean, who on earth apart from Stephen Hawking would conceive of a song about gravity?! And be able to realise it so magnificently? (Oh yeah, that's Hawking out. Couldn't sing worth a damn.)
I found myself wondering if the choice of covers came after the rest of Charlie's original songs had been assembled; "Mercy Mercy Me" - Marvin Gaye; "Move On Up" - Curtis Mayfield; and "God Only Knows" - Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. Because they snuggle effortlessly alongside Charlie Marshall's songs, swinging with style and pizzaz, providing such perfect thematic links. Ontime Harem Scarem frontman Marshall has made these classics his own.
When records are possessed of avant garde qualities, it is often difficult to assess them without addressing the political and social milieu from which they arise. Throbbing Gristle? Psychic TV? Half of the explanation comes out of the statement of intent.
Claim the key to the brown note. Wank your way to self realisation. Decisions. Decisions.
Because one man's meat is another's poison. Upside is down. Why is one man's white noise better than another? Judgeth not thy feedback lest thy feedback may be judged.
Smallpox Confidential is, at least in main part, the brainchild of one Robert Brokenmouth of this parish. It is less abstract than his previous release but that doesn't mean there's not enough feedback and rant poetry to go around.
Way back in the last century, there was a band kicking around Sydney called The Milky Bar Kids. They were minimalist rockabilly, stripped back to the bare basics of stand-up bass, twangy guitar and a tiny kit. They had simple songs, in the style of early Elvis, and they were wonderful.
Fast forward to a bar in Wales a year or two later and I laid eyes (and ears) on a similar band whose name is lost in the mists of time. Again, it was a bunch of people tapping the source of rock’s roots and it was as enjoyable for its raw simplicity as its songs.
The international angle is important because the band being reviewed has that sort of history. Vocalist-guitarist Ben Edwards is an ex-Sydneysider based in Melbourne and has another line-up of Plastic Section based in Bangkok.
Statement of the obvious: Three-minute pop punk songs (mostly) don’t get old. “Shake, Stomp & Stumble” - the debut album for Californian Greg Antista and his Lonely Streets - is littered with them.
This is a record of its SoCal birthplace. Orange County local Antista grew up in the 1980s with most members of The Adolescents, Agent Orange, Social Distortion and Middle Class as his buddies. He recorded and toured two albums with the band Joyride with Steve Soto (The Adolescents) in the early ‘90s.
“Shake, Stomp & Stumble” wears all those influences on its sleeve. It’s a little punk, a lot pop and all of it smeared with large dollops of country and Americana. Antista has an emotive vocal with a touch of melancholy to it - when needed. Not a bad attribute if you're dipping your toe into country waters. Johnny Cash was a punk rocker, you know.