freakbeat - The I-94 Bar
We don’t have pop stars in Australia any more. In their place, we have reality TV-manufactured, milksop product whose fame is carefully designed to meet a demographical need and is disposable as the songs somebody else writes for them. Just as the tag “R & B” has been diluted beyond recognition, these people aren’t pop stars in the true sense of the term.
You might know him for an infamous TV fist fight with a shock jock (and, hey, that was almost one lifetime ago) but back in the 1960s, Normie Rowe was one of Australia’s first bona fide pop stars. There was no need to manufacture stars back then – the media certainly was complicit but they largely just appeared – and the good looking Rowe inspired teen adulation on the back of a string of national hits.
Freakbeat doesn’t swing much more than than this. Perth’s High Learys are children of the ‘60s, metaphorically speaking, from their meticulously ruffled haircuts down to the pointy tips of their winkle-picker boots. If such retrofitting offends your sensibilities, leave now.
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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We’re not claiming to be a “hip” or “cutting edge” forum at the I-94 Bar but here’s the conundrum: No-one other than the readership of similarly backward-looking but worthy publications like Mojo or Shindig is going to know about The Galileo 7. And that’s shit.
At the risk of sounding like a haughty communications lecturer talking to a bunch of undergrads, the more media fragments, the more isolationist its bubbles become. Which means, dear Barflies, that YOU have to dig deeper to find stuff that’s not disposable, commodified or bland.
The Galileo 7 is none of the above.
One of those online dictionaries defines "freakbeat" as "a sub-genre of rock and roll music developed mainly by harder-driving British groups, often those with a mod following during the Swinging London period of the mid to late 1960s".
Fair enough. This review is written by someone who used "The Rubble Collection" of UK freakbeat as the soundtrack to painting a dining room wall. There are 10 discs in that box set and, no, it didn't all of them to get the job done. Almost.
The point is that if you don't know the tag, you'll know th sound. Odds are you've probably heard, latched onto and loved a freakbeat band without consciously knowing it. In which case, you're a candidate to be equally besotted with The Galileo 7.
There’s a steely edge to “We Who Are” that sets it apart from the pack of ’60-influenced Paisley revivalists and winkle-picker wearing pretenders. It’s apparent in the uncompromisingly serrated fuzz tone of Alessandro Cozzi-Lepri and the economical and direct songs this trio writes.
Most of us have a soft spot for garage rock and ‘60s punk. If you grew up in Australia, it’s probably the US variants (and especially the acid punk end of the genre) that appeals. It fuelled a rash of bands in the ‘80s. You know their names. The Embrooks came late to that particiular party, not forming until 1996, but were no less formidable than their immediate forebears.
If we’re going to talk genre, The Embrooks were masters of freakbeat - the English take on psychedelia, beat pop and Mod - that sprang up in the mid-’60s and fittingly spent time on the Voxx label before calling it a day in 2004. Their reformation for this, their fourth long player, was much anticipated.