Since, I was recently taken back by Suzie Stapleton’s compelling performance at the Bitter Sweet Kicks album launch Prince in St Kilda on Anzac Day, I did some searching. I found Suzie’s hypnotic and dark EP, “Obadi Diablo”, and it’s been on heavy airplay for more than two weeks. I contacted Ms Stapleton and requested a copy of her self-released debut EP of a few years back. Again, I was not to be disappointed.
melbourne - The I-94 Bar
Brattish as fuck and more highly-strung than a cosmetically-enhanced girlfriend’s bra strap, “Bite Your Tongue” proves lightning strikes at least twice. This second offering from this Melbourne band is a case of “second album, just like the first”, sonically-speaking, and that’s no bad thing.
Spacejunk operates in that hard-to-pigeonhole musical space that’s vaguely described as “psychedelic punk rock”. It equates to loud, fuzzy guitars, left-field sonic touches and a barely-controlled energy. Mark E. Moon’s lerry, acid-flecked vocal is the crowning touch.
Melbourne’s reputation for throwing up more unique bands than Sydney could ever dream of goes from strength to strength on the back of The Pink Tiles. Their second LP is an unabashed mix of girl pop with garage rock and cheap, synth-y sass goodness.
It took the first spin of a promo burn on a road trip to show that The Pink Tiles stood out from the pack. Some proper listens since then have cemented “#1 Fan” as top-shelf pop. The soundtrack to sunny days in a beer garden or on the back porch.
The Pink Tiles kicked off as a bedroom project and grew into the Melbourne pub scene, adding members as they went. There are six members and Ex-Rocket Science guitarist Paul Maybury is one of them. He produced “#1 Fan” at his own studio and it’s drenched in reverb, with its sharp edges left intact.
Melbourne songstress Crystal Thomas has woken up in too many emergency ward beds for her own good. Next time you or I do the same, let this album be playing in the background.
A scenario The Barman will appreciate: My place of employment has organised for middle-managers to attend a two-day leadership and management session. The notional proposition is clear: to build engagement across and up through to the more senior levels of the corporate hierarchy.
"Engagement", in this context, is a corporate-speak for constructive interaction in the workplace. You can talk to someone, but unless you’re both engaged, it’s just words. And what are words for, when no-one listens anymore?
We’re assembled at the venue, a mid-range hotel-cum-conference venue in Melbourne’s CBD. The room is small and stuffy. The only window looks out to construction works being undertaken across the street. The décor is unimpressive, patterned brown carpet like a Brunswick sharehouse, uncomfortable chairs, inconveniently placed supporting pillars.
They might have started as a jokey Stooges tribute act playing Tuesday nights at Cherry Bar while their other bands were on hiatus but Melbourne’s Prehistoric Douche sound just like the sort of garage-surf monster that most underground rocvk and roll scenes need. Sydney could sure do with them.
“Surfing Douche” starts out like a de-railed Lizard Train song, with a rumbling bottom end yielding to dual flick-knife guitars and banshee lyrics about going surfing. There’s a significant debt owed to the early Crusaders and The Freeloaders to these ears (your own results might vary) but whatever way you cut it, it’s seriously good. The ludicrous accapella Beach Boys breakdown just adds to the mayhem.
The Top 10 People I Love In RocknRoll That Make Me Love People In RocknRoll (2017 Edition)
1. Shannon Cannon
Shannon is an A1 World Class Top Shelf Human. She is somehow simultaneously all ticker, all smarts, all love, all staunchness, all practicality and logic yet all compassion and instinct. That kinda mix just don't happen often.
From her borderline illegal and harmful practical jokes on idiots she works with to her endless efforts and love to rehabilitate her dear daschund Bruce to walk again against all odds and massive financial hurdles, she is a wave crossing the full spectrum of traits of inspiring people.
Shannon takes this all into her music, I've seen it get pummelled outta her on stage playing bass like a war machine, I've seen it in the drive and focus with which she has forged Juliette Seizure and the Tremor Dolls (incidentally the majority of which are honourable mentions for this top 10), and I've seen it in the difficult, taxing and uncomfortable work she does/has done to earn money to fund music. I've seen it in the minimal twitch of her eye in place of a fist to the cock that she chose to use to respond to a dear and misguided friend of mine's amazement at her wearing a Dictators shirt ("a chick! Wearing a Dictators shirt!"). Shannon is the real deal whatever the hell that means to any of us.
Honourable Mention: Tremor Doll Graeme Cole (happiest man in rocknroll) and of course Bruce.
Hammered - Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters (Grubby Publications/Beast Records)
“Hammered” is a term I associate with a different era. A time of binge weekend drinking, gratuitous displays of alcoholic masculinity, bloviated local sporting club identities, sub-optimum musical soundtracks (I’m sure I remember hearing Dennis Leary’s “Asshole” about 63 times one Saturday night after a long day in the field) and bleary-eyed Sunday morning recoveries. They were best of times, but only until you come to your senses.
But Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters get you "Hammered", it’s a thing of perennial excellence, an ordeal that makes you stronger, better, all the attributes you thought that slab of Southwark Premium was going to do.
Following acclaimed compilations like "Boogie!", "Dirty Jeans" and "Down Under Nuggets" and deluxe reissues of classic albums and material by Sunnyboys, Archie Roach, Frente! and the early Bee Gees, Warner Music’s hertitage imprint Festival Records continues its excavation of great Australian music with a number of releases focussing on Melbourne’s influential ‘70s scene, to be released on October 3.
“(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton: Melbourne’s Countercultural Inner City Rock Scene Of The ‘70s” is a deluxe 2CD set that documents the arts and politics-infused rock scene that gave Australia cultural icons like Paul Kelly, Joe Camilleri, Stephen Cummings, Jane Clifton, Peter Lillie, Ross Wilson, Ross Hannaford, Greg Macainsh, Red Symons and Shirley Strachan, as well as author Helen Garner.
Soaked in beer, sweat and sex, Melbourne’s Grindhouse delivers a loud ’n’ fast album dripping with guitar riffs. This is their second offering.
It sure sounds like Ricky “Pony Club” Audsley (lead guitar), Mick “Two Fingers’ Simpson (vocals-guitar), Adrian’”The Father” Cummings (bass) and Liam “Sticky Wicket” Chuffley are having a blast playing these tunes.
Kicking off this assault on the ears is “I Just Want To Drink At The Tote” (a song about a great little hotel in Melbourne’s Collingwood) is a good, old fashioned party song. “Throbbing Eye” and “Why” keep the album moving along. These are drinking songs…pub songs…fuck Facebook songs. “Old Ship” and “Casual Sex” are more flat-out rock ’n’ rollers - and they do rock, baby. LAMF!
Here's the European edition of the twice-repressed album from Melbourne band Bits of Shit. The message is simple: If you haven't nailed a copy of the Australian version on Homeless, there's still hope.
He’s not a household name (yet) but don’t let that stop you. Ronny Dap is the self-styled King of Aussie Pub Rock DIY, a minstrel for those who wish their weekend trip to Bunnings was for guitar strings and not Ozito home-brand power tools that fall apart, shoddy customer service and a cheap sausage sandwich.
Yobbos. We’ve had a few. For those playing along at home overseas and not familiar with everyday Australian vernacular, Yobbo is the term for “a heavy drinker, who places mateship above all else and lives for those wild memorable moments that are unforgettable”. According to the authoritative Urban Dictionary, anyway.
From Billy Thorpe to the Cosmic Psychos, yobbos have been part of the musical and cultural fabric –the cut of the cloth being comfy jeans and a blue singlet. Turn up your nose if you must, but disdain for the upper crust, accompanied by larrikin behaviour, pre-dates Oz rock and roll by a long way. It’s probably one of the few defining national characteristics most of us can agree on.
Now I have to be upfront here. During the early '80s I was a huge Sacred Cowboys fan. I only saw them twice in Sydney but felt they were The Real Deal: a band in this territory of cool, alternative cowboy/Delta punk be that was coming from USA via people like The Gun Club and Wall of Voodoo, yet with a savage savage edge that was a nod to the "Blood River" period Scientists.
“Nothing Grows in Texas” simply was one best Australian singles of the '80s. Of courses Molly Meldrum slagged them off on TV on "Countdown". So we all knew they had so much going for them. At the centre was Garry Gray and his sneering vocals, somewhere between Alex Chilton and Jonathan Richman with a belly-full of hard, home brewed liquor.
If you were a member of a band who was about to drop off the twig and wanted somebody to preserve your contribution to music for posterity, you’d want the job done by Scotti and John from Buttercup Records.
The boutique vinyl-only label from Victoria, Australia, packages music like nobody else. The latest effort is a seven-inch re-issue of News, the Melbourne band formerly known as Babeez, who neatly straddled the punk rock and art camps of the late ‘70s. It pairs the 1978 “Dirty Lies” b/w “Chop Chop Chop” single with the previously unreleased “H Division Bash” and a scorching live “Mainline Honey” as a 33rpm EP.
Dumb-World - Negatives, Reals and Judas Iscariot & The Traitors = 1974-1978 (Loaded Skull Discs/Shock)
These are quite remarkable recordings. Yes, you've heard rehearsal tapes and demo recordings by garage bands before, but these are different. It's all about the timeframe, the intensity and the fact that they're Australian and were recorded in relative cultural isolation.
“Dumb-World” is a serious collection of raw demos and rehearsal tapes from future Sacred Cowboys leader Garry Gray and his early bands between 1974-1978, featuring Judas and the Traitors, The Reals and The Negatives.
To place this in a historic context, the Australian musical landscape was fairly frigid. The local artists’ soundtrack was blaring from commercial AM radio, but it that was drab even though the live scene was flourishing and there were so many gigs for local musicians to play.
Mickster Baty at home in his Off The Hip shop.
The music industry is a shallow trench full of sharks and transient imprints, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson. Independent record labels come and go with the regularity of manufactured reality TV stars and only a few manage to find their niche and prosper. In Australia, only Citadel is still standing from the halycon days of the 1980s. A few rose in the '90s to fill the gaps left by the demise of Phantom and Waterfront. Since the 2000s, the most enduring has been Melbourne-based Off The Hip.
Off The Hip grew out co-founder Mick ("Mickster") Baty's love of all things garage rock, powerpop and psychedelia. A drummer and veteran of one of Sydney's finest garage-trash outfits, The Crusaders, he went on to killer powerpop bands The Pyramidiacs and The Finkers. Baty saw Off The Hip as an outlet for his own music. He had re-located to Melbourne by then and formed The Stoneage Hearts, a shifting cast of players who produced top-shelf garage rock with a pop bent.
A retail operaiton operating out of his house morphed into a bricks-and-mortar shop in Melbourne's CBD and a floodgate of releases via the fledgling label ensued. It's been an enduring success - on its own terms - since then. Off The Hip - the label and the shop - have inspired and contrinuted to the existence and growth of hundreds of bands.
Last month, the Off The Hip label celebrated its 15th birthday. We decided it was high-time for Mickster to occupy the interview seat.
Issued as a cassette in 1988 in a limited run of 300, these are the first recordings of Bored! Expect no studio wankery or sonic polishing, other than the obvious mastering from cassette to vinyl. This is how the band sounded when they were a bunch of pups from Geelong, playing on the floor of their local record store.
Bang! Records is run by a couple of Basque Country rock and roll fanatics who have championed Beasts of Bourbon and various spin-offs, a host of scuzzy Downtown Manhattan noise-makers and the so-called Geetroit Sound. This recycled gem is on LP only and follows 2016’s “Piggyback” compilation of lost recordings on the same label.
While chowing down on early Stooges songs might be ho-hum in these Post Pop Reunion times, Bored! was really pushing envelopes in post-punk Melbourne and its environs. That explains the three-in-a-row inclusion of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “No Fun” and “TV Eye”. “No Fun” especially has intuitively weaving guitar fireworks from Dave Thomas and John Nolan that should make your jaw gape.
Hate The Blues, Personal Frequency & Ballads of Chessells&Shooter b/w Only Happy - The Dope Smoking Morons (self released)
Australia has, and always will have, a thriving underground music scene. It’s the DIY attitude towards garage/punk rock that endures for many of us, and I’m pleased to say Ronnie Dap’s The Dope Smoking Morons’ three releases on Bandcamp are keeping the old eight-track-tape machine, no-computers ethos alive and kicking.
Recorded at Dap’s Melbourne home, this nine-song collection of recordings (spread over three titles) is primitive in its sound with very little production, apart from a few overdubs (necessary when the man doubles up on guitar, drums and bass.) Ronnie also has a crack at the singing.
Young Melbourne Indie band Big League have released their first album, “I Thought Thunderbolt”. What the fuck that title means is anybody’s guess, but it doesn’t matter when the music speaks for itself.
The follow-up to “The Dandy Hub” EP is a joy; good pop songs, fuzz guitars and trong song-writing. It’s sure to get airplay on enlightened Melbourne community radio stations like PBS and Triple R.
Wrong Turn is a duo-grown-into-a-trio from Melbourne that puts the primal back into rock and roll. Two albums in, this single is the first new recording to make it into the record racks since the band became a three-piece and it hits the bullseye, right in the fucking centre.
Wrong Turn is Ian Wettehall’s band and what his c.v. (The Philisteins, The Freeloaders, The Lords of Gravity, Seminal Rats, Stoneage Hearts) doesn’t tell you isn’t worth knowing.
Don’t let the jokey cover art fool you. The A side comes over like Chuck Berry on 11, telling a story about a man called Johnny Collingwood who never left home. It’s seriously raw and sounds like it was recorded in a toilet. There’s enough fuzz in the guitar to rattle your fillings loose, the vocals growl and the engine room of Myles Gallagher (drums) and Pip McMullan (bass) deliver appropriate crash-and-wallop with powerful fills.
Flip it over and “Baby No Good” hits you in the solar plexus with equal effect. Vocally, there’s a touch of Hasil Adkins in the scream-and-stutter, reverb-soaked chorus (“B-b-b-b-b-b-baby no good!”) while the band sounds even trashier than pn the A. It's all recorded in glorious mono so you know it kicks like a mule. Score this gem at the band’s shows or hit them up on Facebook.