It All Comes Down - Jackson Briggs and the Heaters (Grubby Publications)

it all comes downA couple of historical reference points: Ken Russell, director of the cinematic version of The Who’s Tommy, lurching excitedly toward politico-cultural polemic. “Townshend, The Who, Roger Daltrey, Entwistle, Moon could rise this country out of its decadent, ambient state more than Wilson and those crappy people could ever hope to achieve.” The second, Old Grey Whistle Test host Bob Harris, his sanctimonious attitude almost as dominant as his pearly white teeth, dismissing The New York Dolls as “mock rock’”. 

I first caught Jackson Briggs and the Heaters last year at the Yarra Hotel in Melbourne’s Abbotsford. A tiny band room out the back, the full complement of band members unable to squeeze onto the notional stage.

Driving riffs, one guitarist secreted on the right-hand side of stage, weaving elegant licks like a artisan putting the finishing touches on a roughly hewn rock’n’roll tapestry. James McCann had encouraged me to get along and see them, and I knew why.

Glaucoma Chameleon - Eyes Ninety (Swashbuckling Hobo)

glaucomaThere’s no chance of mistaking this for a prog rock epic or a pompous concept album. None of its songe figire on the "Bohemian Rhapsody" soundtrack. Eyes Ninety play unadorned, garage rock and roll. Two guitars, bass and drums. Tight when it has to be, looser and ragged when they feel like it. Which is quite a bit.

Music is so often a product of its geography and Eyes Ninety are from Brisbane. Now, lots of people talk about the Brisbane underground scene - and most of them are from Brisbane. If you don’t come from there, you should visit more often. 

For all the constraints of being an Australian capital city, Brisbane rock and roll doesn’t do too badly with its music. There’s a supportive local radio station (4ZZZ), functioning record labels (Swashbuckling Hobo being one) and a reasonable range of venues. What’s more, the bands in Brisbane don’t feel obliged to stick to any formula. 

Cue, Eyes Ninety. For a so-called garage band, they sure mix it up. They get all broody and (dare say) post-punk on “Iceberg Syndrome” while “Laminated Beams” is hooky, edgy and fast. “Another Dimension” hangs off a meandering lead guitar line. “Spinning” is discordant, unnerving and equally catchy. “Lost Sunnies” packs a wallop. And that’s just side one.

Moving Target - The Peawees (Rum Bar Records/Wild Honey)

moving target peaweesLet’s see. It’s been 18 years since I first heard a Peawees record and this is Album Number Six. The Italian combo from scenic La Spezia by the sea has been kicking out pop-punk jams since the mid-‘90s. Despite having only one constant member in guitarist-vocalist Hervé Peroncini, they sound pretty much like they did way back when.

There's something to be said for longevity in rock and roll. Perhaps there's a clue to The Peawees' secret in the album title. One thing The Peawees haven't done down the years is stand still, and there's enough stylistic variation on this album to keep things interesting.

It's not all about the Ramones. The bar room boogie of "Reason Why" or the Jam-like rush of opener "Walking Through My Hell" are proof enough. If that double-punch to the solar plexus doesn't get you gasping for air, you're a corpse.

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.