Beginning At The End - Young Docteurs (Young Docteurs)
Has this debut album really been three decades in arriving? The details of how and why are more than a little shrouded in mystery but what counts more is that it’s here and it delivers.
Young Docteurs materialised in Canberra in 1978 with a potent brew of punk-psych that has always been hard to categorise. They made the move to Sydney in the early ‘80s and became part of the rich tapestry of life that was Surry Hills and the Sydney Trade Union Club scene. Despite some heavyweight backing (Jeremy Oxley, Nic Dalton and Steve Kilbey were fans), they never emerged to major prominence nationally and have flashed off and on like a lighthouse in the thickening fog ever since.
Fast-forward to 2015 and founding members Paul Hayward (guitars) and Chris Shakallis (vocals) were joined by the rock solid rhythm section of Darren Spiteri (bass) and drummer Imants Freimanis. It’s a line-up that’s true to the spirit of previous configurations although still largely a vehicle for Hayward and Shakalis, the principal song-writers.
Paul Hayward is indefatigable, a familiar sight on what’s left of the Sydney underground scene, more than often than not with his punk gang The Baddies. His guitar playing is the killer app on “Beginning At The End”. When you get your copy you might dive right in at track four, the six-minute “Buying Freedom”, to get a handle on his playing. Its searing tone and deft fretwork make it one of the best cuts here.
As the album title implies, “Beginning At The End” is a mix of old and new songs, recorded by the current line-up in two sessions. Heading the revived songs is “Man In The Box 2”, a re-make of a signature tune from a 1983 EP. It always has been one of the strongest songs in the repertoire and translates well with its edgy lyrics and Chris Shakalis’ heady vocal.
Variety is a Docs by-word. “Broken Man” is a mix of syncopated and snaking psychedelic guitar. “River Of Experience” is a side trip into Who territory, a ballad that might have fallen off “Quadrophenia”. Coincidentally, it’s followed by “Docteur Who”, which is the band’s own take on the TV theme of similar spelling. “War Hero” is punk rock, par excellence.
Shakalis gets the chance to flex his expansive vocal talents on “Away”, an intense 11-minute opus that eventually escalates into bluesy psych rifferama. This one might have done with some judicious paring back but if you’re not going to get excessive on your debut album, when are you going to indulge yourself? The song that follows, "Birdman", maintains the sonic carnage (and it's not a tribute to them) and merges onto what went before so it ends up an intense trip.
The transposing of older and fresh recordings works well and Russell Pilling’s consolidating mix is ballsy but transparent. You get 15 songs for your heard-earned over 71 minutes so there’s no issue with value for money. Excuse the sound of crass commercialism but did we mention that the I-94 Bar is hosting the official album launch in Sydney? Tickets here. The rest of you can buy the album at the link below.