It’s OK to like pop. Real pop, that is. You won’t hear it on mainstream radio. What they play is a watered-down variant that’s polished and homogenised within a centimetre of its life. So go straight to the source, go online or (gasp) experience it at a gig, cherry-pick what sounds good and forget the rest. That’s where a band like Some Jerks comes in.
Recommending music is such a personal thing that we behind the bar are often criticised for going over-the-top in some of our evangelistic rants. Well, fuck you: No, there won’t be an apology for that, because we (mostly) review the shit that we like. Speaking of evangelism…
Josh Lord is, despite the agit-prop-like art, a conservative. The morning after the opening of his Melbourne exhibition, Josh rose at 7am and started work on his next series of artworks. Then he went to town and did an interview. Then, finally realising he was still wrung out from the night before, he crashed.
Now, if most of us had worked all year and put everything into one night - granted the exhibition runs for a while yet, but the opening was “the event” - we’d be reeling around all wibbly-wobbly and a bit dazed for most of the following two days.
Josh is a working man, really. And art is his business. Whoever said that all capitalism is evil? Josh makes art which criticises both art and capitalism, but capitalism itself doesn’t have to be evil. There’s a lot of evil nasty sods out there. And it only takes a small percentage.
Punk rock icon Jeff Dahl is making his first album in eight years and has launched a spectacular crowd-funding campaign to float it.
Dahl’s long career as a solo artist (and collaborator with the likes of Poison Idea, Cheetah Chrome and half the LA punk scene) went on hold after he upped stakes and moved home from Arizona to his former home of the Hawaiian Islands.
Health issues precluded him from doing much, musically-speaking, but he’s now well and itching to record.
As well as baseline offers of an album download and physical copy of the CD (the latter only available to pledgers), Dahl has has opened his own treasure trove of personal memorabilia to sweeten the deal.
“Since I have no children and I am almost as old as dust I've decided to part with some of my precious, precious...," Dahl says.
"Like my Hoyer 5060, Les Paul-style guitar which was previously owned by Stooge Ron Asheton used during his New Order days, and Gregg Turner of the Angry Samoans (pictured).
“Want my wretched old leather touring jacket? It has enough of my DNA to clone an army of Jeff Dahl's!
“One of Stiv Bator’s old belt buckles and with some cool memorabilia? Ian Hunter's book with his and Mick Ronsons autograph? That would look good on your shelf.
“You say you want test pressings? I got 'em! 45 Graves' first release, various Jeff Dahl, MF 666, Vox Pop? Yep, I gots 'em and you can buy 'em! How 'bout some rare old vinyl with autographs by folks like Neil Young or the 'Classic" Motorhead line-up of Lemmy, Philthy and Fast Eddie? Nikki Sudden? I got him too! “
Half a Cow in the inner-western suburb of Glebe was the coolest bookshop in Sydney; an advocate of the underground with shelves bulging with left-of-field fanzines, authors who had been banned and musical output from alternative voices.
It was a literary anti-establishment. It all came crashing down, in my view, one afternoon in early 1993, during my fortnightly visit to the shop.
A phone call had been made earlier that day and I witnessed the removal of issues of “Lemon” magazine from the shelves.
I asked: “What has Lou done?” and was shown a review of indie-folk pop stars Club Hoy, buried in the back pages.
It was just six words: “These girls deserve a good raping."
"Lemon" magazine was now officially banned. It started one of the most controversial weeks in the history of the modern Australian music industry.
Indeed, it was the flashpoint of the underground openly clashing with the mainstream.
The Rosemary Beads are a band that sound completely original yet wear their influences as a badge of honour.
Emerging out of the West Australian indie rock music scene during the ‘90s, they released three exceptionally good EPs that ranked as some of the best pop from that side of the country. It was music that was highly ignored and startlingly brilliant
“From 3 EPs” is a compilation of their output ("Breath", "Dog" and "I'll Come When I'm Good And Ready" - two of them on Citadel) from the band’s original run that ended in 1995. “Shine” is their first full album and ther comeback recording (they disbanded after the death of their drummer, Cam Munachen) and arrives after 20 years of silence.
“The Diving Song” opens “Shine” with a huge splash of classic alternative rock. It is melodic and there was a time this would have been on high rotation all around the country with a good chance of crossing over to the mainstream. Of course that was back when there was a glimmer of hope for new and exciting bands to be given airplay.
This was the weekend that Hugo Race and Kim Salmon played separate shows in Adelaide on successive nights. At first glance, there might seem little to compare the two. But there’s plenty.
Both guitarists, both swimming against the stream writing songs which are, essentially, written as much for the ages as us. Both Hugo and Kim are touring professionals who love playing live, giving to a crowd.
Arguably, both also make the kind of music which seems to endlessly slip between the cracks in a modern world so devoted to novelty (rather than a trend) and the appearance of substance or significance, as opposed to any depth or meaning.
Tributes are flowing freely for Duncan Stewart, onetime host at iconic Sydney and Melbourne rock venues like the Petersham Inn and St Kilda Bowls Club, who has passed away.
Ex-Bambalams frontman Brendan “Wig” Kibble described Duncan as “a true original who gave so much to the music scene”.
“A lot of us found it tough getting gigs in Sydney because of what we played, (and) Duncan gave us a 'home' at the Petersham Inn and the Britannia. He touched the lives of a couple of generations of musicians and punters. We're all so lucky to have connected with Dunc.”
Psychotic Turnbuckles singer Jesse the Intruder met Duncan when he was publican at the Petersham Inn in Sydney and said his passing was “very sad news”.
“Duncan was one of the true great supporters of The Psychotic Turnbuckles (when he) ran the Petersham Inn during the glory days of Sydney rock and roll. Duncan has sadly left this earth for a better place. God bless Duncan.”
Turnbuckles gigs at Petersham became legendary and Stewart re-named the hotel's back room as The Pismo Bar in honour of the band.
Charlie Maclean of Sydney band 50 Million Beers said Duncan was “charismatic, stylish, funny and loyal” and “a natural enthusiast of subversion and the music that made its soundtrack. Before Americana was du jour, Dunc was on a mission to support the music he loved come hell or high water. In doing so he helped and encouraged countless young musicians who shared his passion.”
"All Bets.." is The Coolites’ first disc, a five-track EP, and "Caravan Park Summer" is their debut CD. Four-and-a-half bottles each. And I was reluctant to score so high, but … you’ll see.
Put simply, The Coolites have discovered a delightful, poppy rock niche. And it’s very well done indeed. They’ve got harmonies, tunes, structures, chord progressions and everything that goes into a good song.
And all their songs are very good, and if today were 1985 I reckon they’d be signed already and with at least two singles in the charts. Certainly
. Watch it. There’s a couple more; find ‘em.
The Coolites' CDs are a cut above the usual cd package, evocative, somewhat nostalgic for an apparently more innocent time … yet there’s a layer of tinfoil or something in there which prevents them being a 'happy' band (but they're not unhappy, y'know). The Coolites’ celebration of Australia past (metaphorically Australia’s present, I spose) is first, dancing shoes time (and perfect driving through traffic music, tho the car will return with one or two minor dings and scrapes through trifling inattention) and second, a sort of nudge at what we are now as well as what we had then. In between, as I said, dancing.
(Just as a by the by, d’you remember the era when one job bought your house, a car, a telly, 2.5 kids and a bar-b-cue and/or roast on the weekend and kept your partner busy? And when bank managers were pillars of the community and teachers and salespeople obvious failures at life?)
The Coolites’ lyrics make sense, there’s an immediate pull of recognition and identification. I’d like to see what they’re like live, because a sweaty rock’n’roll night in Australia is a unique thing… Their Facebook site makes it clear where their souls lie, and there's a Sydney surfin thing going on there too.
Which is partly why I’ve scored it a reluctant 4.5. They make me grumpy. Maybe that’s just me, cos these CDs are the business.
Now look. I’m sure I’ll get letters about this, but it seems to me that people born overseas who then migrate either embrace their new country like disciples to the Chosen One, or long for the Auld Country to the point of stupidity (yet never leaving), or have their emotive feet stuck in two countries. So The Coolites’ warm but intelligent embrace of all things Australian is, for me, a rather dissonant thing.
No, I’d never, ever return to the country I was born in (the UK), by God they’ve made a shocking mess of the place. Vile. But this country, overall, is pretty fucking horrible too. And there are some fairly unpleasant individuals running the joint.
To take one example: almost everyone has had a whinge about the weather these last couple of weeks. Where I am, Adelaide, we’re fine, because it never really lasted more than a few days, and wasn’t surrounded by 35C days for months at a stretch - for us, this and the last few summers, have been pretty acceptable. Australia is great in winter. If you don’t get flooded. Winter is the only time eucalypts are acceptable to me. Can’t stand the bush. And the fucking flies and fucking mosquitos. Jesus. And how people leap out of bed in the morning of yet another 35C day, declare themselves ‘energised’ by the stifling, morbid, deadening heat I cannot imagine. Then there's this passion to hurl themselves beachwards at the slightest sign of real heat, even more so on 40C plus days … this is just weird. And it’s not as if we’ve never heard of melanoma; isn’t that a town just out of Darwin? If I go out on an overcast 24C day for more than 15 minutes I’ll change colour and just shrivel up. Patrick White said it best, ‘This country hates people’ (I’m paraphrasing).
I could go on but I won’t (looking back at Australia’s 20C history is often bleak and an exercise in wilful ignorance, bastardry and troughing. If one bloke rorts and gets found out, that’s permission for everyone to join in. Don’t get me started on those manly games involving balls. Thug gang culture.) but I really cannot abide the place.
Then again. Maybe The Coolites have a point.
After all, where is better? Certainly not the USA, a country whose ignorance and myopia we've been lionising since the 70s. Certainly not China, who we seem to be snuffling towards like gormless puppies.
Bah. The Coolites. Get ‘em, you’ll love ‘em. They’ve managed to annoy me on a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon, in between jigging around the room in a grouchy old swine sort of way. - Robert Brokenmouth
Looking back doesn’t have to be awkward as The Coolites demonstrate on their “Caravan Park Summers” album and “All Bets Are Off” EP. Their music is clever, winsome rock-pop and very Australian.
This Sydney band is the brainchild of drummer/multi-instrumentalist Simon Gibson who did the rounds with a slew of bands in the ’90s (Sneeze, Modern Giant, the Aerial Maps and Lazy Susan) and wrote these songs while teaching in an international school in Vietnam for seven years. So he was not just looking back but gazing from afar, with al the clarity that distance affords.
It takes a lot to entrust someone else to sing your songs and Gibson gives that role to part-time TV presenter Peter Colquhoun on “Caravan Park Summers”, and parts of “All Bets Are Off” where other bandmates like guitarist Mark Hyland and bassist Danny Yau chime in. Familiar names like Matt Galvin (guitar), Tim Byron (keys) and Stewart Cahn (guitar) are part of the collective.
These are pop songs with some obvious reference points - REM, the Sunnyboys, Go-Betweens, amped-down Midnight Oil and the Hummingbirds. The music carries a strong whiff of salty surf spray - which is very appropriate when the band’s name comes from the stuff they used to make kids surfboards from in Australia in the 1970s.
“Caravan Park Summers” starts strongly with “Growing Up In Australia” which name-checks a couple of dozen iconic Aussie cultural events in the space of its two-and-a-bit minutes. “When Strummer Was Alive” and “Just Kids” respectively draw on the late Clash frontman and Patti Smith’s book for lyrical inspiration.
“I Hope It’s Not Too Late” is a cool rocker with sobering twang and “Past Midnight” a darker surf tune. “Wingman” is as clever as all get-out with its reflection on an under-dressed and financially fraught night in a club full of models.
Peter Colquhoun’s weathered vocal is limited in its delivery but that’s not a game-breaker - the dichotomy of sometimes sunny songs paired with dour vocals is interesting in itself - but he needs a bit more light and shade in the arrangements over a whole album. Jade Tran's occasional spot on backing vocals bears this out.
Being an EP, “All Bets Are Off” brings the same elements together in one place and is slightly stronger for that. “That Is Punk” is a pop song imploring you to listen to what’s good, not what you’re told to. “Truth, Freedom and Rock ’n’ Roll” is uplifting, altruistic and a little cynical all in the space of three minutes.
The title track has Colquhon sounding like Peter Garrett singing a clever punk song. Mark Hyland takes the mic for the contrasting “Not Even Sure”, a a co-write with Gibson that sounds a little out of place while still making sense. Adam Yau’s nervy vocal and a keyboard wash sweeps “Thank God You’re An Atheist” along and it’s another song brimful of smarts.
This will be especially compelling if you spent your youth in places like Hotel Bondi, Cronulla Workers or Sydney Cove Tavern. Check it out on Bandcamp where you can listen, download or order physical product to your heart's content. - The Barman