In April 2007 I sat opposite Spencer Jones and Greg ‘Tex’ Perkins in a booth downstairs at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda. The occasion was an interview to promote the release of the Beasts of Bourbon’s first studio album in 10 years, "Little Animals". Having recently arrived back from a short tour of the United States, Spencer and Perkins were weary from the long-haul flight.
Perkins was in Beasts mode – cocky, enigmatic, and just prickly enough to remind you who was the tough guy here. Spencer was, as he always was, just Spencer – the cowboy hat, a faint smile, and a reassuring honesty that defied his decades of service in the duplicitous, ego-obsessed world of rock’n’roll.
A fraught fraternal atmosphere hung over the interview. Spencer and Perkins had been friends, band mates, fellow reprobates and occasional antagonists for the past 25 years. They were like brothers, Perkins once mused, and like brothers they loved and fought. And Spencer and Perkins were the only remaining links to the genesis of the Beasts of Bourbon, an irreverent make-shift band thrown together to fulfil Perkins’ gig commitments at the Southern Cross Hotel, way back in June 1983.
It’s a split album from two French bands on a label from Lille in the north of France, which is one of those old industrial cities that's cast off its blue collar for a suit and tie. Like many of those gentrified European cities, punk rock clings to life - an even thrives - in reduced circumstances.
The Denyals make crunchy punk rock and sound like a cross between the early Clash and Husker Du - slowed right down. They're a three-piece devoid of any trimmings and they use drop-outs to good effect. Errein's impassioned vocal and jagged guitar are splattered all over the six songs.
The savage "Disco Boy" and stuttering opener “Valentines (I Love Your Head)” are the real stand-outs. Errein's guitar sounds like the bluntest of surgical instruments on "My Sweet Swedish Things".
If you see the Action Recordz label on an album and you’re a regular at the I-94 Bar, pick it up with confidence. The French label doesn’t often miss and its in-house producer Johnny Cat has an impeccable touch.
If you didn’t know, Honest John Plain was/is a member of London’s The Boys, an under-appreciated and wonderfully melodic punk band that grew out of the rehearsals-only London SS. After stints with various outfits (including The Lurkers) he started cranking out records under his own name in 1996 and “Vocal Remover Requested” is his latest.
It’s a record full of Plain’s trademark buzzy guitars, unassuming hooks and meat-and-potatoes vocals. There’s nothing wrong with the latter - the album title is presumably ironic - and Honest John is in a long line of singers with a guitar player’s voice. You expected Aled Jones?
For an Australian, Jack Saint comes across as Warsaw's own version of Tex "The Everyman" Perkins crossed with Sir Nicholas Cave. If that means he's destined to star in a country and western stage show and become a conjoined twin to Warren Ellis, so be it, but it's a meeting of the musical minds that we're talking about.
Jack Saint sure sounds like took advantage of the lifting of the Iron Curtain to sip deep at the well of St Nick and his Seeds and (more relevantly) the Beasts of Bourbon. "Girl What You Looking For?" sounds like it could have fallen off "Sour Mash", the 1988 Beasts record where Tex and the boys got all bent out of shape over Captain Beefheart.
"Girl...?" changes direction four times over its course with Wolf's repeated jagged guitar figure the familiar reference point. Jack Saint (the singer) intones/preaches like Jeffrey Lee Pierce. The band's cover of The Gun Club's "Stranger In Our Town" is a dead giveaway of another influence.
Admit defeat when you see it: The groovy font and blue-on-blue titling on this album made reading the song names impossible for ageing eyes. Fortunately, you don't need to know the name of a track to dig it. On with the review...
The Dunes are a young band with Adelaide playing on old style of drone-y, fuzz-laden, psychedelic rock. Their songs are dark and blissful at the same time. Played at stun volume, they're deeply engaging. Reverb-laden girl and guy vocals, winsome organ and shimmering, tuned-down guitars, It's easy to get lost in the flow.
There are nine songs - two of them are the same one ("The Intergalactic chic Drifters Inn Welcoming Centre Theme Song Pts 1 and II") placed as book-ends at the start and finish - and they all hover around the six or seven-minute mark. If you, too can't work out the titles, their Bandcamp page will help. It doesn't really matter. They're all outstanding.
Izobel Garcia’s collaboration with Reverend Beat-Man was one of the best things on the latter’s most recent album, “Blues Trash”, so a full-length long-player from the pair was always going to be a tasty prospect. Those high hopes have been met.
“Baile Bruja Muerto” (translation: "Dance Witch Death") evokes colours of a dark hue; West Coast Mex cool meets decadent garage trash. Gospel, swamp and skronk meet in a parking lot to imbibe god knows what.
Ms Garcia is an L.A. artist of Mexican descent with a stunning voice. Beat-Man is a frequent visitor to the City of Lights as he has relatives in the area. The pair met at a downtown rock and roll gig. Beat-Man picked Izobel for a musician because she looked odd. It takes one to know one.