nick cave - The I-94 Bar

Axels and Sockets: The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project (Volume III) - Various Artists (Glitterhouse Records)

axels-socketsCypress Grove, one-time collaborator with Jeffrey Lee Pierce (check out their Rambling Jeffrey Lee LP - "Real Steel Blues") is unwilling to let the magic die. He feels Jeffrey’s echoes all around him.

So do his friends and admirers. One can’t help wondering whether, if Debbie Harry had predeceased him, Jeffrey might have been tempted to do a similar project for Her.

Black Moose - The Dead Brothers (Voodoo Rhythm)

black mooseI have actually lost count of the number of times I’ve played this. I keep doing it. In the car, on the computer and around the house. Bloody hell it’s good.

Ever find yourself in the situation where you’re presented with a band with an unpromising name, an enigmatic if not daft cd title which, upon listening, you are so transported and delighted with that you play the item over and over in amazed disbelief, discovering as you go, humming and singing around the room, that the band have been in existence for quite some time and have five more LPs to their name and you paw miserably at your spartan wallet, realising that the next pay packet will have to do..?

Yes, Black Moose is one of those albums. Like listening to a smart blend of Lovecraft, R.E. Howard and the darkest American blues and country while reading Grimm to a terrified child. It’s as real as reality, and as tangible as imagination.

Forty years after the not so great "Lethal Weapons" rock and roll swindle

lethal weapons frontCorporate con or well-meaning act of benevolence? History tends to deliver a verdict of the former. for "Lethal Weapons", the 1978 compilaiton album of Australian "punk". 

"Lethal Weapons" was a product on an offshoot of major Australian label Mushroom (the same people who brought you Chain, Skyhooks and the Sunnyboys) and it was clearly a cynical attempt to commercialise underground music scenes then burgeoning in Melbourne and Sydney, especially.

Compiled by would-be A & R man Barry Earl, the album was notable for its eclectic cast which included The Boys Next Door (soon to become The Birthday Party), JAB, The Survivors,  whose members would go onto Sacred Cowboys, The Moodists, Radio Birdman, Teenage Radio Stars and the Bad Seeds. 

Trevor Block went in search of many of the original protagonists in bands that signed to Suicide. We're reprising his article to mark 40 years of "Lethal Weapons", and the decade since its CD re-issue. 



Get your dancing shoes on with The Pop Group's Mark Stewart

pop group white

The late ‘70s in the UK saw a deluge of explosive music and art colliding, and while not all was good by any means (much was utterly dreadful), some was brilliantly wayward. The Pop Group are one such, and they are doing only THREE shows in Australia in March.

The first is at the Adelaide Festival on Thursday 5th March, the next day they’re in Sydney at the Factory Theatre, and the last gig is at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne (where they will be supported by the rather swish Harry Howard and the NDE). Then, they’re slugging through the USA and back to Blighty to cause more sore feet and body odour. Toting a brand new album "Citizen Zombie" that's relevant and brilliant. 

Henry Hugo live in Adelaide

hugo henry wideCredit: Barry C Douglas (Barry Takes Photos)

Zurich-based Henry Hugo has been in Melbourne for a few weeks, playing with a variety of Melbourne talent so glittering it fairly takes your breath away. I believe there might be a couple more gigs to come, so I suggest you get your hat and coat and wallet and get out the door right now.

Before I go on, I missed opening act the St Morris Sinners. I have heard endless good things about them and I must catch them soon. But it wasn’t to be tonight.

Henry Hugo, Andrew McCubbin, Michael Plater and friends in Adelaide

henry hugo exeterWho the fuck does Henry Hugo think he is?

Argentinian. Lives in the evil gnome capitalist capital, Zurich. Will only eat meat-lovers pizzas. No poncy vegetables or fruit for this Dark Lord carnivore. Would probably munch on dwarves if he could catch them unawares. One of these sentences is a fib.

And here he is, this Henry Hugo, writing songs like "Cold Night in Warrnambool", "Deep Lead Creek" and a whole host of others inspired by … erm, well. Us. Orstrilians. Strayans.

Well. There’s a lot of people in Australia. Millions born here, born and bred, who are, frankly, so repulsive in themselves they should be taken out to sea, tied to an old fridge and set free…

Henry Hugo is, like several other overseas-born artists, an honorary Australian. He loves Australian culture, the country, the people, how and why we live here. It’s not a political thing. He’s not a potential Swiss immigrant who complains about the cowbells, or a Muslim grumpy because we don’t [fill in the assorted blanks here], nor is he a reffo.

Hugo Race plus The Battle of Flowers in Adelaide

hugo at the wheaty

Hugo Race makes a point

Adelaide's Wheatsheaf Hotel (aka the Wheaty) is one of those modernised, forgotten pubs with pricey but excellent wines and beers. Local families bring their kids and they run amuck.

There is a beer garden, but few people smoke (which I can’t understand). Coffee and hot chocolates are available at the bar. There are no pokies and no ATM (you withdraw at the bar). They have exhibitions of art, photography, hairdressing and whisky tasting.

The back room (where bands play) is essentially a newish tin shed with a ceiling, lights, formica tables and period chairs, and everyone squashes in somehow.

Hugo Race announces Australian solo show tour

hugo-bwMulti-instrumentalist and hypnotic crooner, Hugo Race, returns home to Australia in June and July, fresh from an intense wave of European solo headline concerts in support of his latest EP "Ophans".

The five-city tour will include dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania.

Race delivers a unique take on experimental blues, folk and dark-edge, dragging inspiration from artists the likes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground and Wilco.

His EP is credcited to Hugo Race Fatalists, the collaboration between Race and Italian instrumental gurus, Sacri Cuori , and is said to create "ground-breaking, intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock".

Into Our Arms: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds triumph in Sydney

nick cave lax charismaLax Charisma photo

Alexa Clayton-Jones and I went out to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last night at Sydney's voluminous and brand new International Convention Centre.

It blows my mind that for a few weeks in 1984, I played in the Bad Seeds, and I’m remembering bouncing around Europe in an old GMC wagon and some of the more colourful venues we played.

Messin' With The Kid

kid congo promo shotGuess who's coming to dinner? Kid Congo Powers (right) and the Pink Monkey Birds.

Kid Congo Powers’ musical career is a lens through which can be seen some of the most intense and evocative music of the last 40 years. 

Born Brian Tristan in the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente, Kid Congo Powers famously met Jeffrey Lee Pierce in the line at a Pere Ubu concert. Pierce was the president of the LA chapter of the Blondie Fan Club; Powers was the president of local chapter of The Ramones Fan Club. Pierce recruited Powers to join his fledgling band, Creeping Ritual, later to become The Gun Club. 

In 1980 Powers joined psychobilly band The Cramps, who’d recently moved to LA from New York (it was Cramps lead singer Lux Interior who bestowed Brian Tristan with the moniker Kid Congo Powers). 

Proto-punk is so yesterday: Garry Gray on St Kilda, Sacred Cowboys and making Sydney sit up and listen

sacred cowboys st kildaSacred Cowboys on St Kilda Beach with the SS Minow.

“Sydney audiences can expect to hear much of the ‘Diamond in the Forehead’ album and a number of songs that will comprise our second album. Expect rock and roll out of the early 1970s, expect high volume in the guitar department, expect Nobel Prize-winning freak flag songs”

Garry Gray wrote this to me, and I visualise him, pounding the keyboard with pride about his forthcoming shows in Sydney in mid-November.

Gray has been making music for 42 years. I imagine by now he knows when he has a killer album ("Diamond in the Forehead") and a killer live band (The Sixth Circle) locked in. As I wrote a few months ago who when I caught The Sixth Circle live at the Tote Hoteland was blown away by a great, pure rock, street-level band:

All that dark and shade in this set; theatrics and drama. The tempo pulls back with “Club Siren”. “Our God hangs #6” is wild rock beat and with the guitars blues-based. Gray’s menacing vocals howling: 'I got hung without a trial'. "Cadillacs” has that proto punk rawness and a blues progression. There are elements of deep soul with raw gritty urban blues, and a solid rock 4/4 backbeat. Live, it is a no-nonsense rock monster.

Road Series by Hugo Race (Transit Lounge)

road series coverFrom the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.

“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.

I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.

We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.

And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.

The Skeleton Tree - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Bad Seed Ltd) & Phantom - MJ Halloran (Off the Hip)

skeleton treeThe reason these two sit together here is that there is a similarity.

Ever since Nick’s "Boatman’s Call" made it acceptable, musicians have been coming out of the woodwork with quiet, intense music. Some are, naturally, better than others. Some remain lost, lost without knowing why, but because they don’t share the same creative origin (or ‘muse’) which sparks Nick.

phantom halloranStill others are compared to Nick when they share only a few of his influences - but produce something which people think they recognise as being in Nick’s … carpark. Think Mark Steiner, Nikki Sudden, Henry Hugo, David Creese, Hugo Race, Michael Plater, … hell, think Louis Tillett, Mick Harvey even.

Yet, if you take the time to listen to these folk, you discover how completely different they are. And, more often than you’d know if you believed the critics… sometimes they’re a lot better.

The Spirit - Hugo Race and the True Spirit (Rough Velvet/ Glitterhouse)

the spiritDig it: “The Spirit” is a five star album and Hugo Race and the True Spirit will be touring it through Europe, from West to East, from October 2015 onwards. There will be a second record from the recording sessions (not featured here): “False Idols” will appear in October. When you get the vinyl of “True Spirit” there’s a CD included; hell, that’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned.

Brace yourselves, Europeans. Buy tickets - and Hugo’s back catalogue. You’re in for a treat. No gig will be the same: “Each time we play one of our songs the interpretation changes because of the sound - the sound is always morphing, it’s always coming through us and we’re changing all the time and open to the fact that we’re channeling music as much as we’re playing it. Performance blurs those lines…”, Hugo explains.

The Winter Journey - Julitha Ryan (self released)

the winter journey“The Winter Journey” has been such a difficult album to review. Why? Well, I can’t concentrate on typing, I keep falling into it and staying there, hypnotised. It’s just bloody wonderful. I’ve tried with pen and paper, same thing. Just dragged in. Fabulous, really.

Seven bottles, Barman. This is the second of Julitha’s solo albums, hopefully of many more. Her first LP, “The Lucky Girl” I responded immediately to and “The Winter Journey” does the same. Sure, if you’re expecting a wall of guitars, you might pause when you get a wall of … Julitha’s delicate voice. But then everything else kicks in: piano, organ, guitars, pedal steel, synthesizers, strings, brass section, and oh, yes, her all male choir (The Wall of Men) used to intensely powerful effect.

Vale Bad Seeds keyboardist Conway Savage

conway savage carbieLongtime Bad Seeds pianist Conway Savage has passed away, aged 58. Close friends confirmed his passing on Facebook.

The Melbourne-based former Feral Dinosaurs and Happy Orphans member joined Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1990 and had been a fixture until last year’s US tour when illness forced him to step down. Savage was operated on for brain cancer and is understood to have been in care recently.

He guested on many albums by the likes of ex-GoBetween Robert Forster, Kim Salmon, Dave Graney, former Triffids member David McComb and Spencer P. Jones.

Savage has a string of solo releases and collaborations to his credit. His most recent EP was 2010’s “Pussy’s Bow”.

Carbie Warbie photo

Won’t Give Up - Charlie Marshall and The Body Electric (Red Ted Entertainment)

charlie marshallIt seems every Australian city had its underground "punch-above-its-weight" scene in the ‘90s. Hell, all of Charlie Marshall’s Melbourne band members here had serious form. That said, just because there’s a track record doesn’t mean there’s always gonna be magic. There might be concrete. Or salad instead.

In Marshall’s case, it’s magic. If you recall Harem Scarem in the ‘80s, well alright. But this ain’t that, and now ain’t then. If you’re a Nick Cave or Kim Salmon completist, you’ll snaffle this anyway (the presence of Warren Ellis and Jim White of The Dirty Three should send warning bells, and surely Brian Henry Hooper needs no introduction.) Same applies if you’re investigating Hugo Race ditto (Bryan Colechin of The True Spirit) and Darren Seltmann of The Avalanches.