The Parade EP – Howlin’ Rats (Hiss and Crackle Records)
Doing anything new with the blues is a tough task. Doing something interesting is another matter. Newcastle, Australia, guitar-harmonica-drums trio The Howlin’ Rats, do just that on their debut five-song EP.
Opener “The Parade” is a harp-fuelled boogie stomp, an instrumental that serves to break the ice without busting any new ground. “MVII” is where things get interesting.
It’s an arcane slow-boiler that’s reminiscent of early ‘70s psych. Hobbit Harry’s winsome harp and a haunted vocal swim against waves of distorted slide guitar while drummer Tom Fairlie sits behind the beat and stirs the pot. It’s six minutes of splendour. Grass is optional.
I first met Chris Bailey in early 1977 when I was given the assignment of interviewing The Saints, who had recently arrived from Brisbane, and were staying in a semi-derelict block of flats on Berry Street, North Sydney. The last time I saw Chris was a few years ago when he was playing an acoustic set in a small venue in Draguinan, in the south of France. In between there were hundreds of shows, thousands of drinks and millions of memories.
Others will write about his legacy as a pioneering musician and the lasting influence on subsequent generations. However, today I just wanted to remember two of the times spent together.
In 1977, The Saints had arrived in Sydney after EMI Australia had been instructed by Head Office in London to sign and record them on the strength of their self-released single, “I’m Stranded”. Next door to flats was the office of their recently acquired managers, Together Management, who had been brought in as part of the upsurge in interest from EMI.
About 15 years ago, a burn of a CD turned up unsolicited in my mailbox, courtesy of the inimitable Dave Laing, then working at Shock Records. The band was Endless Boogie (named after the John Lee Hooker album) and the album was “Focus Level”.
It was eight songs, about 80 minutes, a heavy psychedelic smorgasbord of riffage, punctuate with Paul Major’s growling vocals. If ever there was a band that could take you to another dimension, it was Endless Boogie.
Having had to abort their most recent planned Australian tour in 2020 due to the plague, Endless Boogie is preparing to hit Australian shores again with Howlin Rain. I spoke to Paul Major from his home town of New York City.
In the wake ‘n’ bake legal reefer for rich white people Portland woke college culture, any mention of Burroughs is severely frowned upon because the dude was a bad man who killed his wife, but he accurately predicted this whole modern day dystopian police state NSA culture of surveillance capitalism and snitches and official narrative protecting fact checkers thinking they are helpful helpers doing their part for vegan wokeness. Nobody has the right to be left alone anymore, or mind their own business. That is their college kid idea of virtue, being micro mini Judge Dredd/Judge Judy vigilante deciders. "I like you, I don't like you." They all wanna be the jury, judge, and executioner, and the judgements are severe, as Leonard Cohen sang, in his prophetic, "Waiting For The Miracle To Come".
As Comets on Fire burnt out – inevitably perhaps, given the band’s incendiary exploration of psychedelic expression – guitarist Ethan Miller looked to the warm and free spirited grooves of ‘70s rock when forming his new band, Howlin Rain.
For lyrical inspiration, Miller cast his eye over the complex cultural melting pot that is the United States. Howlin Rain’s fifth album, “The Alligator Bride”, was released mid-way through the Trump era; the band’s latest album, “Dharma Wheel”, was conceived just as Trump’s tumultuous presidency ran head long into the descending clouds of global pandemic.
A prolific touring act, Howlin Rain had been scheduled to tour Australia in April 2020, only to find itself marooned at home as international borders banged closed. Now heading back to Australia for the first time since Comets on Fire toured here 15 years ago, and with “Dharma Wheel” finally released after 18 months’ abeyance, Ethan Miller talks about Howlin Rains’ symbiotic relationship with America, American culture and Americana.
When Can I Fly? The Sleepers, Tuxedomoon & Beyond By Michael Belfer Foreword by Jon Savage Hozac Books
I'm not that into art rock or prog rock, or Devo or the Residents, or any shit like that, right? I'm a Dead Boys guy, not a Pere Ubu guy, you know what I mean? Man oh man, though, once you get about 20 pages into this book by San Francisco punk scene pioneer Michael Belfer (guitarist with The Sleepers and Tuxedomoon) it reads like a crazy fuckin' movie. What a wild freakin' life this dude had! WHOA!
If you read my columns and rants on a semi regular basis, you are probably already hip to my ongoing theory that there ain't many good bands no more in part because controlled media consolidation pummels us all day with time-waster buy shit/puppet celebrity fakes we never asked for, and partly, because there is such a shortage of affordable real estate spaces available to rehearse in, since the banking scum jacked up all the rents everywhere under Obama and Holder who actually even went to work for 'em after failing to prosecute anybody for the mass mortgage scams, and the landlords who used to rent working class homes to working class people flipped all their rentals into Airbnb’s and act like they're doing you some big fuckin' favor for painting their front porch steps purple, adding a hot tub and a Buddha statue to the yard and charging you $300 a night. These old punk bands paid like $300 a month, ya know?
Tim Rogers frontign the Hard-Ons is As Beautiful as a Foot.
Hard-Ons Ratcatcher Enigma Bar, Adelaiude Saturday, April 3, 2022
Long story short - I'm still reeling. The Hard-Ons have crossed the Rubicon and what they're doing in Australia is anyone's guess. Right now they should be out slaying the world, Europe then USA, then South America. We're damned lucky to have them. I might add, I don't reckon we deserve them.
Cull was mean to be the opemnig band but cancelled. Dammit. I've tried about six or seven times to get out of the door to see them. The one time I get there ... Reports have reached me that they're damn fine.
New support, Ratcatcher, went on later than planned because one of the folks in the band second on the bill couldn't do it – thanks COVID.
Suburbia Suburbia’s new album, “Landfill”, is anything but rubbish. It is bloody awesome, It is full of screaming guitars, loads of wonderful harmonica and rolling bass lines and pounding drums. It’s just bloody good.
Suburbia Suburbia is Tony Townsend on vocals, Robdog Dekker (guitar), Allan 'Krock' Lyon (harmonica), Robbie Jib (bass), Rowie Riot (lead guitar) and Noel Gardner (drums.) They also have Ian Taylor (rhythm guitar) and Mark Godfrey (bass) on a couple of tracks.
These seasoned musicians have come up with eight tunes that just rock - a combination of blues and good old pub rock and roll. I cannot recommend this highly enough because it’s pure gold.