powerpop - The I-94 Bar

All You Need Tonight - Dee Rangers (Low Impact)

dee rangers all you need tonightIt's been 15 years since I first laid ears on Sweden's Dee Rangers via their mighty "Pretty Ugly Beat" album, so smear me with a bowl of IKEA meatballs and mashed potato for thinking they'd broken up. Au contraire, to mix European languages in an almost Brexit world, they are very muich alive and kicking.

"All You Need Tonight" is album number seven for a band whose membership has stayed largely stable since they formed in the mid-'90s. You'll recognise their influences as soon as you hear their music. Firmly rooted in the '60s but blurring the stylistic boundaries between pop and garage, it's a potent distillation of what made Scandi music great for a very long time.

Hi-Fab! - Little Murders (Off The Hip)

hi fabFifteen years ago, talented Victorian songwriter Danny McDonald told me that Little Murders was THE great lost power-pop band of Australia’s halcyon musical underground days of the 1980s. They were defunct at the time and an Off The Hip re-issue of their early material - and another reformation - were away off in the future.

Of course, Danny was right. He’d grown up with the band’s songs and they’d left a permanent mark. Little did he know that in 2015 he’d join Little Murders for their fifth and latest studio album “Hi-Fab!” - or that it might be the best thing they’ve ever recorded.

Let's Go Wild! - Kurt Baker Combo (Wicked Cool)

lets go wildTwo thoughts sprang to mind after one spin of "Let's Go Wild!" and both are for sharing: (1.) What a cracking album and; (2.) Let's all move to Spain.

American-born Kurt Baker has done just that, calling Madrid home for about a decade and fronting his own Kurt Baker Combo, based over on the other side of the country in Leon, Spain.

If the fact that "Let's Go Wild!" Is on the Wicked Cool label isn't a clue, the sticker on the cover with the ringing endorsement from Paul Collins should tell you that it's a winner in the power pop stakes. Baker has a great voice, his band powers and the songs are full of fuzzy hooks. 

13th Floor Renegades - Last Great Dreamers (Ray Records)

13th Floor RenegadesNo matter that this band of Englishmen have had more band names than Spinal Tap. "13th Floor Renegades" is arresting glam-pop rock and hookier than a cashed-up weekend angler's tackle box.

Do you like Cheap Trick? Never really got 'em myself but "13th Floor Renegades" is what they'd sound like if "Dream Police" hadn't been an overdone, ear-wig of a hit in Australia while I had my head in the local variant of Detroit rock and punk.

Originally called Silver Hearts, then Last Great Dreamers, Jet and then Jet City, before breaking up and reforming (twice) as Last Great Dreamers, the band sprang from the '90s Soho metal scene. These days, they're firmly built on the songwriting axis of Marc Valentine (vocals and guitar) and guitarist Slyder.

Edge of a Dream - The Jangle band (Off The Hip)

edge of a dreamIf you worship at the altar of Big Star, the Beatles and The Byrds you’ll go nuts for this. The dream cited in the title is all about chiming open chords, (gently) duelling Rickenbackers and tuneful choruses that stick.

The Jangle Band bills itself as “Australia's second-best Rainyard/Header/Mars Bastards tribute act” because they’re three of the powerpop bands its members have played in. Throw in The Palisades and Jack and the Beanstalk as well. The membership has form.

Fast Cars album campaign nearing target

 

Sydney powerpop mods Fast Cars are hitting the crowd-funding trail for their debut album...a mere 35 years after they kicked off.

Fast Cars were a fixture on the Sydney mod scene of the 1980s, issuing a single (“Saturday’s Girl” b/w “No Love Today”) and an EP to great acclaim and lots of Sydney airplay. The first incarnation of the band was around from 1980-84.

Fay Wray - The Exile Co. b/w My Name and My Number - The City Lights (Spiral Scratch)

exileco-splitcity-lights-splitWhatever happened to the split-single 7” where bands of a feather got pissed in a studio together, slapped out a song each and whacked out a record with a song on either side? The styles didn’t always blend but that was much of the charm. The split single seems to have fallen from favour, despite the resurgence of vinyl. Reality is that it never really went away and here’s a great example from two Sydney bands.

Feel The Noise - Paul Collins (Alive Natural Sound)

feel-the-noiseWho knows if there was a pitch to the label? If there was, it probably went something like this: Find a gap in powerpop troubadour Paul Collins’ crazy schedule, put him in the studio with garage production king Jim Diamond and the house band for Detroit’s Ghetto Recorders, give them a cases of beer and let the music flow.

Collins (The Beat, the Nerves, The Breakaways) writes perfect rocking’ guitar pop like hipsters steal oxygen. It’s in his DNA; he has equals but there’s nobody better. A good proportion of these songs would be mainstream hits in a more enlightened and less disposable time.

Forever My Baby b/w The Last Time - The Dahlmanns with Andy Shernoff (Next Big Thing/Pop Detective)

forever my baby whiteThe advice doesn’t come often around here but when it does, it’s always free. So here’s a dose: If you see a record with The Dahlmanns’ name on it and you’re into powerpop, buy it. The same goes for Andy Shernoff (but you probably knew that already). This one has both so how can you go wrong?

The Dahlmanns arewife-and-husband,Line Dahlman and Andre Dahlmann, plus a bunch of other Norwegian Dahlmanns, currently Otto, Jan Erik, Magnus, and Pål. Shernoff is the songwriting genius behind The Dictators (R.I.P.) and his own solo work. Andy wrote both songs and duets with Line on the A side.

Get On The Outside Of This - Green Circles (Sexy Diablo)

greencirclesDidn't have much time for mods, generally. Growing up in Sydney in the heyday of great, Birdman-inspired music in the 1980s, their thing seemedmore contrived than anything else (although, in retrospect, there was a great deal of energy in evidence on the Sussex Street scene, when it crawled up the stairs and seeped into the Trade Union Club.) The Green Circles are a mod-influenced band from Adelaide, and the good news (for me) is they're more V-6 than Vespa.

Go - Little Murders (Off The Hip)

little-murders-goGuitar pop like this has no equal. Rob Griffiths has been writing and playing it longer than anyone can remember. Little Murders are a Melbourne institution and the current line-up is the longest serving. Each of these facts is connected.

Hung Up (On You) - The Stoneage Hearts (Off The Hip)

hung up on youThe re-birth of the Stoneage Hearts sounds like a sequel to “High Fidelity”: Three guys walk into a record store at various times, buy the new Red Kross album from the owner and they all decide to form a band. They rehearse at nights in the shop, record an album, tour together and achieve global success.

Apart from the last bit about the worldwide success, the story is true. Not that global domination isn't possible, but more on that later.

This is the third incarnation of this Melbourne garage-pop band and apart from a stack of classic garage and powerpop influences, drummer Mickster Baty is the only constant. Previous line-ups were fronted by Danny McDonald (P76) and Dom Mariani (The Stems, DM3) with Ian Wettehall (Seminal Rats, Phillesteins, Freeloaders) on bass then and apart from guest Farfisa organist and Mickster, this one is populated by relative unknowns. Not that it matters a jot. They’re up to the mark and this is a great record.

John Dowler: He's Just a Modern Guy

dowler cover

FLASHBACK TO DATELINE 2002: A disclaimer first - I'm responsible for releasing the new Young Modern album "Live at...." on my reactivated Grown Up Wrong! label, so everything below should be taken with a grain of salt... Of course this is a band whose music turned my head in a big way back in '79, and who ultimately turned me onto the Flamin' Groovies and Big Star, so I do reckon you should pay some attention...

Young Modern existed between 1977-79. They formed in Adelaide, played their first gig supporting Radio Birdman, became a popular draw in their home town and moved to Sydney where they soon split, having been picked up by a powerful agency who had them working in the wrong venues. Along the way they cut a great self-released single with Steve Cummings of the Sports producing, and did some demos that came out after their split (with the single sides added) as the "Play Faster" album on the Local label - an album which also became the first release on Aztec when reissued on CD some years back.

Named "the first powerpop from Down Under" in a news piece in the Jan '79 issue of Bomp! (written by legendary Birdman/Hitmen soundman Andy 'Mort' Bradley), they had killer tunes by the bucketload (mostly written by rhythm guitarist Vic Yates and singer John Dowler) and did great covers of things like 'Mr Tambourine Man', 'She Loves You' and 'Its All Over Now'.

Make your Festive Season jangle for free

Tis the season to be jolly, as if you didn’t know, and Perth-based international pop collective The JAC have a Xmas present for us all. 

The JAC is Perth musician Joe Algeri whose bands include Jack and the Beanstalk, The Britanincas, The Outryders and, most recently, The Jangle Band.

Each year, Algeri releases a Xmas song. On “Christmas Without Maria” Joe’s on vocals and guitar and he’s ably assisted by The Christmas Crew. On this recording, they’d be Briitannicas bassist Herb Eimerman (USA), Swedes Steffan Johansson (the Lemon Clocks, the Melted Hearts) on drums and Lars Brusell on keys, Finn Andy J Prinkkila (the Lieblings, the Sugarrush) on guitar and Paul Colombini (The Outryders) on guitar. Egomaniac Music personnel Erika Algeri and Lydia Algeri assist on backing vocals.

Recorded over the Internet in various studios around the world, it’s a free Bandcamp download - so get to it.

Monsters b/w Before You Go - DM3 (Spider Music)

monsters 45It’s been a long time between drinks but the DM3 cocktail remains as sweet as ever, without losing any of its bite. This limited edition, double A-sided 45 shows off the Fremantle trio’s trademark tight harmonies and guitar-fuelled melodies, just right.

New Feeling - The Favourites (Reckless Records)

new feelingSounding every bit like a band born out of time, The Favourites have released their debut album - 40 years after they expired. 

Throw your mind back to 1977-79 (pretend, if you weren’t born) and think about the music de jour in the UK. Punk? Ska? New Wave? It sure wasn’t Power Pop. What was around used the descriptor New Wave and was at the mercy of the notoriously fickle UK music media. So-called provincial bands (not based in London) had their work cut out. 

The Favourites grew out of two Nottingham bands, the DTs and Plummet Airlines, the latter signed to Stiff Records. Their two-and-a-bit-year existence was peppered by recording sessions and live work, and they shared stages with Squeeze, The Rich Kids and The Only Ones. 

Overage Underachievers - The Smart Patrol (Off The Hip/Screaming Apple)

overage underachieversDo you still believe in record labels? Back in the ‘80s, being released on an imprint that you knew and loved (Bomp, Citadel, Waterfront) was a surefire indication that a band possessed a “certain” sound, and was good.

Screaming Apple is the garage rock label in Germany that doesn’t release duds, so hearing about it collaborating with Australia's Off The Hip for an album by a band called The Smart Patrol was always going to be news falling on receptive ears. 

Paul Collins Needs His Rock and Roll

Here's some music for the weekend, courtesy of powerpop king Paul Collins. It's the lead-off single from his new album "I Need My Rock and Roll" which is reviewed here.

Rotting Out - Black Heart Breakers (self released)

rotting outOnly an old fart would start a review with the statement: "Everything old is new again."

But it is really just to say that way back in the early ‘90s - when big festivals like the Big Day Out involved more people playing musical instruments than laptops - there was a rash of Californian bands pushing a brand of punk rock crossed with powerpop and ska that dominated stages and airwaves.

The Offspring were inspired by seeing Social Distortion at a school dance, The Bay Area’s 624 Gillman Street scene spat out Green Day and Rancid occurred after someone from Operation Ivy watched too many Clash videos. You know the rest.

Sometimes When - The Golden Rail (Candlestick Records)

sometimes whenIf you heard the debut album you know what to expect: These four veterans - supplemented by producer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Batterham - have been around too long to put a foot wrong, so it’s stellar guitar pop all the way.

With origins going back to Perth popsters like The Palisades, The Rainyard, Header, Summer Suns, DM3 and The Jangle Band, a
re-grouping in Australia's music capital, Melbourne, would be hard-pressed to fail.

The 10 songs are co-writes by guitarists-vocalists Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman and they're exactly what you don't expect to hear on mainstream radio. In other words, they're full of understated melodies, feels that sit back in the pocket and chiming guitars.

The Golden Rail's evocative sound winds things back to the '80s, capturing echoes from the preceding decades.