There might be some irony in the band name considering their obsession with ‘70s glam rock, but Smash Fashion are from Los Angeles so maybe not.
These veterans have been around for a dozen years in this form and call their music Dandy Rock. Even a cursory listen to the A side has Cheap Trick written all over it so it’s no surprise after some judicious online research to see them cited as a prime influence.
Australia’s one-man punk rock machine Brat Farrar (aka Sam Agostino, of Digger and the Pussycats, Russian Roulettes! and Kamikaze Trio) emerges from the Melbourne lounge room with another cracker release. This one’s a three-track vinyl single limited to 100 copies so you’re advised to move fast.
The title track (full name: “Being With You That Night”) is a pounding electric beat that’s really a stage for duelling twin guitars. It’s over in a minute-and-a-half but leaves a large scorch mark. “Let It Go” is just as frantic but the guitar sheen sounds like it's been sonically buffed to take the edge off. Don't worry. It’s still terrific.
He wears more hats than an international milliner’s house model but prolific UK musician/artists/poet Billy Childish keeps making idiosyncratic, vital music. Here’s his latest - and of course there’s a back story.
Childish put his band Musicians of the British Empire (MBE) on hiatus a couple of years ago so wife and bassist Nurse Julie could have a baby. CMTF is the reformed MBE and this four-track EP apparently announces a return to live shows.
Mighty little Melbourne label Buttercup has taken up the cause of split singles by some of its home city's finest that Infidelity Records was rolling out when they shut their doors. The concept is an A side from a headliner backed with a couple of bands covering the lead-off band on the flipside. Putting The Meanies, Digger & The Pussycats and The Double Agents on the same slab of seven-inch vinyl is an inspired idea.
The Meanies are as much a Melbourne institution as that odd football game they follow and the venerable Tote Hotel. Their song, “Gravity”, is a particularly sticky piece of ear wax with a catchy vocal line and sharp guitar solo. The vocal harmony fade out will have you reaching for the turntable tone arm to play it again, even if your name isn't Sam.
Flip the 45 over and the explosive cover of “Gangrenous” is typical of the musical hand grenades that duo Digger & The Pussycats have lobbed in pubs and cafes from Geelong to Lower Europe. Bratty and brilliant and at 1min43sec it’s over before you can get bored.
The other cover song by The Double Agents is (as far I know) posthumous and only a touch over a couple of minutes long, But what quality minutes they are. The groove on “Cock Rock Lips” sounds like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hitting high-gear in their tour van on a boozy road trip through the wilds of St Kilda. Too good not to hear again.
Buttercup Records on the Web
This is bright folk-pop from a reformed New York City garage scene band that recorded but never released an album of new material a decade ago.
The Optic Nerve put out a couple of jangle-pop albums in the ‘80s (on Screaming Apple and Get Hip) and A side “Penelope Tuesday” is in the same folky vein. When Bobby Belfiore (lead vocals) and guitarist Tony Matura lock together harmonically, it’s sunny enough to make you reach for your sunglasses. Think of The Optic Nerve as the opposite of most of the wave of revival '60s garage rock. They owe more to The Charlatans than the Music Machine.
The flipside “Here To Stay” is more downbeat with Byrds-style vocalising and Bay Area six-string jangle that makes way for a nice tremolo lead break. It's like the early Haight-Ashbury got sold and transplanted to Brooklyn. You'll find a copy on State Records where all the best freakbeat and garage rock 45's live.
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The blurb says this split-single is by Sydney’s two best purveyors of cowpunk and who's going to argue? Anyone who’s had prior live exposure to Spurs for Jesus or the more rarely-sighted Deadwood 76 will know both as a soundtrack to an afternoon of wearing beer goggles and raucous fun. It’s been that way for a couple of decades.
Spurs claim the honours on their “Landslide” side where twin guitar and lap steel attack from Matt Alison and Martin Martini cuts a swathe. Musically, it’s edging towards tough beat rock than straight-up country twang. No Liverpuddlian accents here, however, and Kane’s insistent phrasing and Spats' lap steel ensures the song stays on the rough shoulder of the road. Killer engine room, too, and the smarties among us will know there’s no show without that beat.
Deadwood 76 mines the rich alluvial vein that’s known as Outlaw Alt-Country with “Pearl Cadillac”, a boozy tale that’s told from the waist down. The lap steel cuts through with venom and the guitars have a matching edge to their twang. Good guys wear white but this song has a black heart.
Stanley Records on the Web