A Tribute to Sonny Vincent - Various Artists (Disturbed Records)

sonny tributeThree years ago, family tragedy thrust Sonny Vincent from being a cult New York punk legend into the role of full-time carer. 

Based in Europe for two decades from where he prolifically recorded and toured, he was suddenly pulled back to the USA by a home gas explosion and fire that left his son, daughter-in-law and grandson on life support in a North Carolina hospital.

Sonny’s family has survived but his music is on indefinite hold. Day-to-day life now revolves around his 12-year-old grandson Cayden, still undergoing skin grafts while trying to live the life of a schoolboy. Sonny hasn’t picked up a guitar since that fateful night and has been existing on donations.

Scuttlers & Scoundrels and Barrels of Death - Geof Holmes (self released)

scoundrels boxGeof Holmes is a name you should know, but the reality is that he’s unfamiliar to anyone outside a tight circle of Sydney musicians and followers of a certain vintage.

Holmes was one of the guitarists with Evil Roomers, the 1977 precursor to seminal Australian band X. With his close mate Ian Krahe on guitar, Steve Lucas on vocals and Ed Fisher on drums, they were in rehearsals when joined by bassist Ian Rilen, already on his way out of Rose Tattoo.

For various reasons, that line-up of Evil Roomers never got out of the practice room. Rilen, Krahe and Lucas would hook up with ex-cop Steve Cafeiro on drums to form the first line-up of X. Holmes went on to join Lucas, Rilen and Fisher in a potent 21st Century line-up of X. Last year, he sat in with the Lucas-only version of the band in Sydney for one song.

Liquorice - The Ramalamas (Half a Cow)

licouriceThis is an intruiging and charmingly all-over-the-shop album on which this Sydney five-piece sheds its alt.country label and heads for a garage in a swamp. There's more variety in this Licourice than a pallet-load of Darrel Lea Allsorts. 

The Ramalamas have been around for a decade or so, led by Chris Nielsen (vocals-guitar) and subsisting in their city’s fragmented live circuit while putting out a string of albums, of which this is their fourth. Nielsen name-checks the usual ‘60s references (Kinks, Stones) with a nod to the US West Coast’s psychedelic folk-pop scene. 

As well as owning a serviceable pop voice and playing nifty guitar, Nielsen is an award-wininng illustrator and his work adorns the CD cover and inlay. 

Think About It - Rod Hamdallah (Hound Gawd)

think about itIf you’re going to raid the garage for inspiration, make sure you’re taking your cues from the best.

Rod Hamdallah grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and was playing gin joints and trashy dive bars before he was old enough to legally drink, steeping himself in blues, '50s and '60s rock and switchblade punk sounds from the get-go.

This 10-inch vinyl EP is a re-issue of Hamdallah’s self-issued debut CD from 2014 and reverberates with rebellious righteousness.

.​.​.​For the Worms - All The Weathers (Rough Skies Records)

for the worms2019 is shaping up to be a real terror of a year. Parts of Australia are in the middle of a housing, job and health support crisis and the shit has well and truly hit the fan.

Heads of police are on trial for brutality, while politicians are dragging their feet on whether or not trans people have a right to exist.  Bodybuilders are shooting up strip clubs and a massive methamphetamine epidemic is destroying the lives of vulnerable young people.

Young men with schizophrenia are firebombing punk squats while teaching staff and metro workers are routinely striking, grinding workplaces and services to a halt.  On the street, there are hundreds of young people facing homelessness, violence, unemployment and lack of future prospects.  To them, the future is bleak. 

Despite all this, there are dozens of vibrant young artists creating challenging and unique works that directly tackle the horrendous and wretched world we find ourselves in.  One of those bands is Fern Tree, Tasmania, iconoclasts All The Weathers.

This is War! Godfathers Live! - The Godfathers (Godfathers Recordings)

this is warWe all know that band that was “born out of time”. The one that was on the cusp of success and that would/should have become household names given a modicum of luck and better timing. The Godfathers certainly qualify. 

Arising in the UK 10 years after punk’s initial rush and playing a brutal but hook-laden fast R & B, they had a degree of chart success in the US with “Birth, School, Work, Death” and “More Songs About Love & Hate” before leaving their major label for a German indie, peetering out in the 2000’s before a late decade reformation.

Silver Space Machine - Purple Urchin (self released)

silver space machineIt’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.

Crystal Cuts - Shifting Sands (Spooky Records/Beast Records)

crystal cutsYou might hear a better Australian album this year but I’m not sure I will. “Crystal Cuts” doesn’t have the immediate, dark pop rush of “Beach Coma” but that’s only by a matter of degrees. It works its way into your listening psyche through much more subtle means.

That’s not to say “Crystal Cuts” shouldn’t be occupying airwaves and taking up streaming bandwidth, worldwide. It manages the rare trick of being commercial (whatever that is) and subtle at the same time. Shit, I’d settle for hearing “Would’ve Killed Each Other” over “Hotel California” on the supermarket PA system, as I forage the health and beauty aisle of Coles for razor blades. Safety ones, of course…

The vocal combo of Geoff Corbett and Izzy Mellor makes for a rare treat. Yin and yang. It’s the gnarly, weather-beaten Serge matched with the darkly alluring, slightly diffident Jane. They’re like a Sarah Lee supermarket cake (remember the TV ad with the annoying line about “layer up-on layer up-on layer”? – me neither until now) with a serve of sugar icing atop a crusty old base.

Shiny and New - Charlie Marshall and the Body Electric (Charlie Marshall)

shiny and new"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.