top ten - The I-94 Bar
1. Definitely at the top of the heap that was 2017, Jonathan Sequeira risked life, limb, and genuine sanity to bring us “Descent Into The Maelstrom”, a fiercely objective, no holds barred documentary about the shit storm that was Radio Birdman.
How he managed to convince that particular sack of snakes to agree to anything in the first place is a testimony to his considerable appreciation of the band’s legend, his heroic patience, and his nutsack-clenching resolve. A minor miracle, more so because it certainly wasn’t the puff piece that some characters clearly expected in their “imagining” of the bands tumultuous and antagonistic history!
Vindication for some, the trashing of decades of carefully cultivated bullshit for others, replete with many a “Holy crap!” moment.
A rollicking good story about a special band, time, and place in history!
I liked it!
Penny onstage with Dimi Dero, Vinz Gulluliy and Johnny Casino at Andoaingo Rock Jaialdia in Basque Country.
In no particular order:
1. GUITAR WOLF (Japan) and Mach Pelican at The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne
Ah! Guitar Wolf! Boy, can these guys fly! Liberating and exhilarating to listen to and watch. Every now and then I go to a gig and get a guitar lesson for the price of the entrance fee! This is the second time I have seen these guys, and there I was, right up the front again, with my comrade in arms, Julian Wu, protector of rock ’n’ roll women in volatile crowds.
2. CHARLIE OWEN at The State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Charlie melded instruments - electronic, electric and acoustic - in a way only Charlie knows how. Situated in the Reading Room of the State Library of Victoria, a tremendous building built in the gold rush era of the 1850s, the setting was opulent and reverential. Charlie had his very own pulpit/stage so to speak and kept us spellbound for an hour or so.
There is a school of thought that suggests great art is the product of suffering. 2016 has largely put paid to that notion.
I mean, this year should have positively dripped genius. I couldn't come up with a full ten. Here's my Top Six.
The Stress of Leisure…Eruption Bounce
Go Go Sapien …. Love in Other Dimensions
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard …Sketches of East Brunswick
Rebecca Barnard… Music for Relaxation
Grey Lotus … Acacia
Georgio “The Dove” Valentino…. The Future Lasts a Long Time
Charlie Marshall and The Curious Minds… Sublime
Julitha Ryan…The Winter Journey
Ross McLennan…. All the colours print can manage
Cam Butler….. Find your Love
Jim James … Eternally Even
1. PAUL MCCARTNEY LIVE SYDNEY 12 DECEMBER, 2017
2. KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD - “Sketches of Brunswick East"
3. RESIDENTS - “The Ghost of Hope”
4. Sólstafir - “Berdreyminn”
5. MELVINS - “A Walk with Love & Death”
6. FRENZAL RHOMB - “Hi Vis High Tea”
7. DEAD - “Unpopularity Contest”
8. MYRKUR - “Mareidt"
9. MASTODON - “Cold Dark Place"
10. DAVID BOWIE - “No Plan"
Photo by Steve Gullick
Top Ten things I enjoyed in 2017, in no particular order and randomly numbered:
5. Tenebrous Liar - The Cut (Album)
I have faith Tenebrous Liar can save us from the Indie-pocolypse. I don’t know how to describe this album - the sounds and mood is as wonderfully textural and emotive as frontman Steve Gullick’s photographs (which he is better known for). Highlights “Alienation”, “Lowlands”, “Swing For Me”... all of it. Bandcamp.
4. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun (Album)
This entry is more for Chelsea Wolfe’s catalogue than just this one album. I was late on the uptake and only discovered her music this year. Albums “Abyss” and “Unknown Rooms” have been on repeat, though Hiss Spun also has plenty of charms too. Website. Listen on Spotify.
1. FRIDAY NIGHT HEROES - LEADFINGER LAUNCH AT THE FACTORY FLOOR, SYDNEY
Wollongong’s finest, led by Stew Cunningham, blitzed the Factory Floor in Sydney launching their album "Friday Night Heroes", my favourite Australian release of the year. Dillon Hicks, Reggie Screen and Mick Boyle certainly brought their A game in front of an augmented line-up that included Carrie Phiilis on BVs, Doug Hazell on sax and Andy Newman on keys. I could have sworn it was the E Street Band at one stage. Extra points for covering Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money”.
So. The Barman (he of the stained apron and soggy socks) has suggested to me that I provide a Top 10 for 2017.
He doesn’t say of what, unfortunately, so I am greatly tempted to relate (in considerable detail) each of my Top 10 Excretions this year, including two in which I barely made it to the potty on time.
However, this is a family website, and we mustn’t say words like "shit’ or even "shitweasel".
I’ll have to write them instead.
Oh Christ. The Barman’s on the phone from Bondi. Says he’s gonna make me a star. David Essex once made me a similar offer which probably would have certainly given me a #metoo moment. A Top 10 list? Shit. Have you seen the state of Planet Earth?
Just when you thought the whole place couldn’t sink much further, they gave a pussy grabbing paedophile the keys to the kingdom and a button for his tiny finger. I tried not to write. Mother said something about “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” I’d been putting my foot in the truth for a long time and it was getting me in trouble. Hate mail. Death threats. I wasn’t allowed to attack their freedom to be dicks.
And it’s been a shit year with a whole bunch of old timers coming back to provide a less than memorable version of the past. I could name names but, let’s just remember I was there when those moments were something to throw your life behind. Best thing about saying that is anyone asking “Is he talking about me?” is probably right.
Noticeable Exception 1 is Top Ten 1.
1. PATTI SMITH plays Sydney 2017. How to grow old disgracefully…
In no particular order...
Garry Gray & The Sixth Circle:
The former Sacred Cowboys frontman's "Diamond in the Forehead" was one of the stand out albums of the year. Great songs, big unhinged guitars, fantastic vocals and solid rhythm section behind it. You could be forgiven for thinking that their show at the Factory Floor would be sell out, but no. Barely 50 people witnessed one of the gigs of the year. Supports Leadfinger were fabulous (they always are) and the Chickenstones put on the best show I've seen from them.
Leadfinger’s "Friday Night Heroes":
Stew and the boys were back with their fifth and best to date album in "Friday Night Heroes". Great songs for grown ups, plus two excellent guitarists and a top notch rhythm section. The album was backed up with some fantastic shows. Probably Sydney's best rock band at the moment and it makes me wonder what things would have been like in another era when people actually bought and went out to see this stuff. One of the albums of the year.
Jim Dickson’s "Coelum Verses":
The year's most unexpected debut? Yep. This is not what I would have expected from the New Christs and Birdman bassist. It took a few listens before I really got into and then the penny dropped – one man's journey through a life of listening to and playing music. Anyone who's had a beer with Jim knows that he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and is a hell of a nice guy too. After each listen, this record was becoming less surprising and more enjoyable. Great songs, great band, great production. Can we have a live show please Jim?
Iggy Pop’s "Post Pop Depression":
Over the last 25 years or so, Iggy's records have been patchy at best. This one was recorded with a small band with production responsibilities handed over to Josh Homme. Stripped back, tight and brooding, it looks backwards and forwards. It's the sum of where he's been and may be where he intends to go. For mine, his best since the Berlin albums he did with Bowie. Compelling. Iggy's not done yet.
Doc Temple (centre) with Chickenstones
What's my Top Ten? Now, there's a question best reserved for someone young enough to still have a memory that lasts longer than a week. But as there is scant actual non-payola industry reference around, fuck it. I will try.
First off, I have had a number of recordings thrown at me this year as I rather often do a radio show co-host replacement thing (when one of the usual hosts is off doing what parallel universe shit they do.) This does not, however, make me any wiser or more influential than anyone else.
Some picks were not committed to Pro Tool hard drives this last year but took many, many months of work to do so, thence, they deserve some spotlight, but I subscribe to the Bob Short model of 'Do I have Ten?'. Maybe, maybe not. Being numerically dyslexic, I shall offer thoughts, not numbers:
1. Big Bongin’ Baby
Gutterball Pete is perhaps the only person currently alive who can vomit during the middle of a guitar solo and not fluff a single note. He’s a character – an amalgam of Nikki Sudden, Ronnie Wood and Peter Perrett in style and grace. The affectionately –named Bongers have played around town for over 25 years and like the Saints, failed the Academy of Music’s Battle of the Bands.
2. The Double – "Dawn of the Double" LP (In the Red ITR-295)
Drummer Jim White and guitarist Emmett Kelly playing Bo Diddley for three quarters of an hour in E over two sides of an LP. This is probably too avant for the fans of rock ‘n’ roll and too in the pocket for the rockist set. I don’t think rockists know what that term even means but I’ll leave it in here anyway.
3. Kitchen’s Floor – "Battle of Brisbane" (bruit direct disques Br-d 19)
Whether they’re blissfully unaware or overtly conscious of the fact they’re carrying this anger and sense of punk that goes back to Brisbane’s day one is probably pointless and not worth fretting about right now.
2016 was a great year for new music in my view, from both new and established acts. I found it pretty difficult to whittle the list down to ten, but here goes.
1. deux furieuses - "Tracks of Wire"
In a year dominated by abject misogyny and the rapid rise of idiocracy in the western world, Ros Cairney and Vas Antoniadou kicked against the pricks with a masterful collision of tribal drums, brutal guitar and razor-sharp feminist/humanist critique. The true heirs of Patti Smith's mantle.
2. Iggy Pop - "Post Pop Depression"
Jim Osterberg and his notorious alter-ego finally coalesced on a brave, compelling album that sought resolution of the key themes of his life's work.
3. Ela Orleans- Circles of Upper and Lower Helll.
Dark, trippy and completely absorbing, an album that mirrored the free-fall disorientation of 2016.
4. David Bowie- "Blackstar"
You know about this one. A class act, to the end.
￼1) Died Pretty at Factory Theatre, Sydney
Astounding, amazing, Ron Peno sounding great and enjoying himself. What am I saying? The whole band sounded great.
2) Died Pretty at Factory Theatre for Spencer Jones Benefit
Not content with being brilliant just once, they came back and proved it wasn’t a fluke, a pretty (!) tough trick, given the more relaxed vibe of the evening and the fact they were playing a short set.
3) Los Chicos - Marrickville Bowling Club
I’d never seen nor heard them but trusted the raves of folks with good taste and went along! What a night! So much fun. Notable Celibate/New Christ/Leadfinger/Birdman guests joining in all star renditions of MC5 and Flamin’ Groovies classics..let alone the quality of the originals.
Penny and her trademark Ikinger Pennycastor. Carbie Warbie photo
1. Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds at The Caravan Club, Melbourne - Wow!!! What a band!!! It was like being given a music lesson!
2. Radio Birdman, Max Watts, Melbourne. A really diverse and powerful set of new and old classics.
3. James McCann and the New Vindictives - James McCann’s new band is truly awesome - punk meets well crafted songwriting with a good strong dose of youthful & invigorating mayhem. I have been guesting as vocalist and guitarist at their live shows singing a Spencer P. Jones song and another I co-wrote with James for their soon to be released album.
EAGULLS - “Ullages” LP (Partisan Records)
Second album from these lads from Leeds. It’s bleak, it’s dark but you would expect that from a Leeds band.
Think – The Cure, Cocteau Twins
THE GOON SAX - “Up To Anything” LP (Chapter Music)
Brisbane kids. Pop music played as it should be. A familiar last name amongst the members. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Think – The Go-Betweens, Beat Happening
DAVID BOWIE - “Black Star” LP (Columbia Records)
The artist of our generation? I’d say so. He changed my perspective of music when I was young. His finest work since the 70’s. Respect.
Think – David Bowie
The Celebrity Roadie Peter Ross attracts fans wherever he goes. Veteran road manager John Pearce (right) inspects his ponytail to make sure it's real.
The On and Ons @ almost everywhere – The Sydney power-pop phenomenon rolls on and gets ready to record a third album. Strong songs from singer/songwriter Glenn Morris and the pedigree of Clyde Bramley, Jon Roberts and Brian Morris make for irresistible pop. Welcome Aboard!
The Flaming Hands @ Factory Theatre & Enmore – A couple of power packed shows from these '80s icons blew my mind. Julie Mostyn’s crack band of Radio Birdman’s Warwick Gilbert, Peter Bull and Barton Price brought a polished sheen to Jeff Sullivan and Julie’s songs. They should come back again… soon!
In no particular order...here's the best of 2016:
"Brujita" - Chris Masuak and The Viveiro Wave Riders
Best rock pop record of 2016 by a long way. Did I mention it’s on I-94 Bar Records and you can buy a copy here?
"Friday Night Heroes" - Leadfinger
The soulful Sydney-via-Wollongong rock and roll band par excellence just keeps getting better.
"Evolution" - Tamam Shud
Damn, if this doesn’t rock I don’t know what does. Veterans from the beginning of time (well, birth of Australian surf-psychedelia) sound dirty and relevant at the same time. They deliver the goods live, too.
"Post Pop Depression" - Iggy Pop
His best album since “New Values”. Big grooves and melodies with a sharp, Germanic essence, it’s proof that Iggy needs another talent to bounce off to deliver his best work.
“Diamond In The Forehead" - Garry Gray and The Sixth Circle
The album was killer and the short run of Sydney shows was just as good. Were you you? One day you might claim to have been. Nice people, to boot.
"Lost Cities" - Ed Kuepper
Ed’s been an underrated treasure since finding his solo feet in the late ‘80s. This adds to the considerable body of work. An album of great songs with understated intensity.
Kylie Pitcher photo
KC goes to more live shows than your mother goes to Tuppaware parties. Here's his Top Ten of Sydney gigs.
EVEN – NEWTOWN SOCIAL CLUB
A power pop fans dream and a very early “gig of the year” contender from the Fab Three. Supported by the wonderful On and Ons and Soul Movers on a stinker of a summer EVENing. Is it heresy to say I like them and their songs so much more than You Am I? I eagerly await the Christmas Even show at The Landsdowne on December 23.
THE APARTMENTS – THE FACTORY FLOOR
A wonderful set of sparse songs, full of emotion, not sentimental but heart tugging and soul searing. Spare and simple arrangements enhanced by nuanced and subtle musicianship of Peter Milton-Walsh’s fellow musicians, including Amanda Brown.
DIED PRETTY – ENMORE THEATRE
Following on from two cracking shows in 2016, Ron Peno and co delivered another amazing set and they were the band of the night at Radio Birdman’s big show. Brett Myers, what a guitarist.
For those of you with attention span issues here's the short version: All killer and no filler. While "D.F.F.D." (Dictators Forever Forever Dictators) is a perfect album title, they could just as easily called the record "You’re Lucky". The new Dictators album is a phenomenal combination of craft, power, and presentation. It puts together everything that’s great about the first three Dictators albums and the Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom CD, which are all really different as far as I'm concerned.