Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 - Wire (pinkflag)

pink flagCertainly the deluxe edition re-issues are part of their time. Can't help that.

You know what they say of the younger fans of Green Day, on the occasion of their first listen to The Clash? "Golly, they sound just like Green Day!" ...

One of the weirder things is revisiting old men's records and realising that their leaps forward 40-odd years ago did the spade-work for mega-selling buttonhead bands by the hundred. I mean, come on. The late '80s and mid-'90s Britpop thing owes a huge debt to Wire.

What is astonishing here, apart from the vibrant inyerfaceness of the pre-"Pink Flag" demos (recorded between May and August 1977), is that, like The Buzzcocks and The Clash, or Siouxsie and the Banshees around this time, how broadly creative Wire were over such a short space of time. Like The Clash and the Banshees, Wire were part of the punk burst, but didn't rely on its DNA.

Roxy - Tonight’s the Night Live – Neil Young (Reprise)

roxyThere’s a Neil Young biography (maybe one of the earliest about him) by Johnny Rogan from 1982 that documents the great man’s “Ditch Trilogy” period in some detail. A section about Neil’s 1973 UK tour - before the release of “Tonight’s The Night” – makes him sound unhinged.

Rogan’s telling has Young believing his own audience patter that he’s “in Miami Beach” (tagline: “It’s cheaper than it looks”) and delivering ramshackle, desolate songs that the audiences had never heard before – when all the punters wanted was a run-through of the hit album “Harvest.”

Besides criticising the op shop stage décor, Rogan painted Young as near incoherent, bombed out of his brain on whatever was handy and mumbling. It’s like the man’s mind was a bottle short of a full case of Corzo.

Dirty Stash - The Beat Taboo (Off The Hip)

the beat taboo albumThis is swampy, tub-thumping, blues-y bayou rock and roll with more meat on its bones than a fat lady in a St Kilda cake shop at lunchtime. Of course it's from Melbourne, but it probably's done time washing dishes in a Memphis roadhouse, soaking up Alex Chilton stories.

The Beat Taboo take their cues from so many different places that you could easily name-drop half-a-dozen influences and come up winning and grinning. I suppose the Cramps are the obvious one (dig the "Human Fly" references on "Splinter Beach") but that's a tag that's as limiting as it's lazy.

Looked at their whole career, the Cramps were really a portal leading back to a rich assortment of '50s rockers and freaks. To whom, The Beat Taboo (and plenty of other garage-y bands) owe a deep debt.

Can I Drive Your Commodore? – Grindhouse (Off The Hip)

can i drive your commodoreThere’s a school of thought that says continual exposure to dumb rock and roll will lower your I.Q. by a significant degree. Well, fuck that. You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to enjoy hard and fast, Real Rock Action. But don’t be getting off on your snobbery trip, either.

Rock and roll can be thoughtful, intelligent and insightful. That doesn’t stop it also being thicker than a San Franciscan fog. Chuck Berry had his subversive moments, but “Johnny B Goode” ain’t one of them. Little Richard: “A whop bop a lu lop a-whop bam boo”? What the fuck is that about? Don’t even mention “Ob-la-di ob-la-da”. It’s a shit song anyway.

The point is that you can like smart rock and simultaneously roll around in the swill trough. It shouldn’t be one or the other. They’re not mutually exclusive. The Franklin School were flat out wrong. (Look ‘em up if you don’t know.) High art is one thing but getting high (or drunk) mindlessly at warp speed is another. Even if you're not into over-indulging, rock and roll is as much about fun and having a laugh as anything else. And it doesn’t get much funnier than middle-aged Melbourne punks Grindhouse.

Brilliant Disaster & I Know My Way In The Dark - Paul K and The Killer Elite (Beacon Hill Records)

brilliant disasterOUTLAW BLUES AND ENDLESS GRACE....

If you're feeling unloved and forgotten, frightened and voiceless, alienated and misunderstood, in these brutally dark times of Trump, surveillance, controlled media, Gestapo cops and endless war, get these CD's. They will comfort you immensely. "Brilliant Disaster" is sort of an EP but also perhaps, the best LP I've heard since Ian Hunter's ‘90s masterpiece, "Rant".

The way you know every slick American music rag has been hijacked by the corporate state to promote war and Wall Street, bigotry and consumerism, is they keep putting war criminals, former wrestlers, and vacant lap dancers on the cover instead of the Cohenesque, Paul K… Maybe he ain't that famous, but his songs have had immeasurable emotional impact on most everyone they have been properly introduced to.

Tuckerbox - Aberration (Crankinhaus Records)

tuckerboxListen up: This is killer. Ten songs of sharp-edged, driving punk with lots of melodies. 

The original Aberration kicked around Sydney in the 1980s as a four-piece, playing New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) inspired punk, sharing stages with the likes of the Hard-Ons and Massappeal before that hoary old chestnut, “lifestyle issues”, took ‘em out in ’86. 

Original Aberration singer, Big Al Creed (Hell Crab City/New Christs/Panadolls), is the sole survivorv on vocals and guitar. He’s joined by Tony Bambach (ex-Lime Spiders) on bass and Stu Wilson (ex-New Christs, Lime Spiders) on drums. 

Polaris Oblique - Seedy Jeezus (Blown Music)

polaris obliqueMelbourne band sell out. Again.

Seedy Jeezus: "Polaris Oblique". Rhetorical question: how do three hairy men make so much bloody racket? And why is it so damn good?

Patrick Emery's given this one four bottles in the review below, but you know what? bugger him with an awkward object, it's five or more easy. Thwack this on the car stereo and you'll be making sharp turns and mounting sidewalks in no time. 'Polaris Oblique' is big, heavy, and soaks like alcohol into a villain's hanky.

The Seedies know their shit, they know their rock'n'roll; Lex Waterreus (gesundheit) (he's the talented swine with the voluminous guitar and the brilliant artwork) sounds like Plant on a good day, and one must assume he has the whacking great dong to match.

April 4th, 1978 – Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (Easy Action)

srb rsdThis recording is where it all started for recent Sonic’s Rendezvous Band fans. Originally issued in 1998 as “Sweet Nothing”, it was the first non-bootleg, live recording that stood up, sonically speaking, and both the CD and LP pressings sold out quickly.

A second disc of live and tweaked studio stuff (“City Slang”) surfaced a year later and we’ve been fairly spoiled with a flow of material since then.

“Sweet Nothing” was an ear-opener in all senses of the term. No longer did you need to listen to “Strikes Like Lightning” or any of the other lamentably poor quality boots and ponder why nobody in Detroit in the mid-‘70s owned a boombox with a decent microphone.

The steady stream of releases peaked with Easy Action’s lavish 2006 “Sonic’s Rendezvous Band” box set, a six-disc CD collection that included rehearsals, other live recordings and a spruced-up version of this show. Now, this vinyl release has arrived as part of the annual Record Store Day hoopla.

The Ark - The Vacant Lot (Damn You)

the arkIt’s said that the only good thing to come out of Australia’s national capital is the Federal Highway, but it’s not true. Canberra’s also spawned some decent punk rock, and here’s more evidence. 

It’s not a hanging offence if you’ve never heard of The Vacant Lot. Molly Meldrum never made their acquaintance either. If he had, he would have hated them. Take that as a plus. 

The Vacant Lot grew out of the Australian National University campus in 1978. Canberra had a small but energetic punk or new wave scene by then. Wearing less Detroit leather than Sydney, not as ragged and oppressed as bands from Brisbane and not as artfully smacked out as the Melbourne crew, it was a community that tolerated - no, encouraged - music that didn’t fit with convention.