I have actually lost count of the number of times I’ve played this. I keep doing it. In the car, on the computer and around the house. Bloody hell it’s good.
Ever find yourself in the situation where you’re presented with a band with an unpromising name, an enigmatic if not daft cd title which, upon listening, you are so transported and delighted with that you play the item over and over in amazed disbelief, discovering as you go, humming and singing around the room, that the band have been in existence for quite some time and have five more LPs to their name and you paw miserably at your spartan wallet, realising that the next pay packet will have to do..?
Yes, Black Moose is one of those albums. Like listening to a smart blend of Lovecraft, R.E. Howard and the darkest American blues and country while reading Grimm to a terrified child. It’s as real as reality, and as tangible as imagination.
I've been looking forward to hearing “Jackdaw” for a while, but I must confess I didn't expect it to be this damn good. The last thing I said to Ed was, “Well, look, you know me. If I don't like it or I think it's bad, I'll tell you I can't review it. I'd rather have the friendship.” He understood.
Bad reviews, pfft, they're mostly just juveniles showing off how clever they are, and I've got better things to do with my time. Also, I'm not clever. Years ago, the New Musical Express and Melody Maker used to hire such clever types and, while they could sometimes be amusing, they would often miss brilliance in preference to their own self-swagger (for example, XTCcopped endless daft reviews which completely missed how fucking sharp, funny and evocative they were). So to “Jackdaw”.
This band was formerly known as Fleshlight, comprises four actors and played live (in drag) at the Gasometer in Melbourne precisely once before recording this bunch of songs, sans overdubs, and promptly disappearing.
This is a seven-inch EP of five songs on a boutique label.
Spoiler alert: There's much more to this story but don't read on if you want the mystery to be preserved...
Adelaide-based writer, editor, and sometime-musician Robert Brokenmouth took the time, during lockdown — well, lockdown for us non-South Australians, at least — to reflect on his literary and musical trajectory. It’s a curious bundle of projects and interests that Brokenmouth juggles — the war buff and the punk music-buff occupy the same territory (no military pun intended) without apparent contradiction.
Brokenmouth’s published achievements include his chronicling of Melbourne’s punk scene in the 1996 book “Nick Cave: The Birthday Party and Other Epic Adventures” as well as editing‘fictionalised’military histories such as Australian WWII navigator Ray Ollis’s 101 Nightsand air gunner John Bede Cusack’s “They Hosed Them Out”.
For Brokenmouth, war and punk have one thing in common, perhaps: both are opportunities for adventure, in very different shapes and forms, but adventure nevertheless.
With COVID-19 limiting opportunities to meet for an interview, Robert kindly responded to my questions via email — and though you might not getting him talking so prolifically in real life, it’s clear that when he puts pen to paper, or finger-pads to keyboard, he’s got a lot to say, and a rollicking history all his own.
I’ve pulled out some choice tidbits from Robert’s life and career to give you a sense of the Boys’Own, Boys Next Door fan.
Corporate con or well-meaning act of benevolence? History tends to deliver a verdict of the former. for "Lethal Weapons", the 1978 compilaiton album of Australian "punk".
"Lethal Weapons" was a product on an offshoot of major Australian label Mushroom (the same people who brought you Chain, Skyhooks and the Sunnyboys) and it was clearly a cynical attempt to commercialise underground music scenes then burgeoning in Melbourne and Sydney, especially.
Compiled by would-be A & R man Barry Earl, the album was notable for its eclectic cast which included The Boys Next Door (soon to become The Birthday Party), JAB, The Survivors, whose members would go onto Sacred Cowboys, The Moodists, Radio Birdman, Teenage Radio Stars and the Bad Seeds.
Trevor Block went in search of many of the original protagonists in bands that signed to Suicide. We're reprising his article to mark 40 years of "Lethal Weapons", and the decade since its CD re-issue.
Signed-up member of the Melbourne Music Mafia, Malcolm Hill, is premiering a new single with his band Malcolm Hill and Live Flesh.
"Cosmic Love", and its companion song "Anybody Seen My Girl", are a digital precursors to a full album later this star from Geelong-born Hill, a writer and staple of the 1980s Melbourne underground music scene with Buick KBT and Head Undone. Hill has guested with the likes of Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes, Nick Cave and The Dirty Three so he's well-credentialled to say the least.
The late ‘70s in the UK saw a deluge of explosive music and art colliding, and while not all was good by any means (much was utterly dreadful), some was brilliantly wayward. The Pop Group are one such, and they are doing only THREE shows in Australia in March.
The first is at the Adelaide Festival on Thursday 5th March, the next day they’re in Sydney at the Factory Theatre, and the last gig is at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne (where they will be supported by the rather swish Harry Howard and the NDE). Then, they’re slugging through the USA and back to Blighty to cause more sore feet and body odour. Toting a brand new album "Citizen Zombie" that's relevant and brilliant.
Zurich-based Henry Hugo has been in Melbourne for a few weeks, playing with a variety of Melbourne talent so glittering it fairly takes your breath away. I believe there might be a couple more gigs to come, so I suggest you get your hat and coat and wallet and get out the door right now.
Before I go on, I missed opening act the St Morris Sinners. I have heard endless good things about them and I must catch them soon. But it wasn’t to be tonight.
Argentinian. Lives in the evil gnome capitalist capital, Zurich. Will only eat meat-lovers pizzas. No poncy vegetables or fruit for this Dark Lord carnivore. Would probably munch on dwarves if he could catch them unawares. One of these sentences is a fib.
And here he is, this Henry Hugo, writing songs like "Cold Night in Warrnambool", "Deep Lead Creek" and a whole host of others inspired by … erm, well. Us. Orstrilians. Strayans.
Well. There’s a lot of people in Australia. Millions born here, born and bred, who are, frankly, so repulsive in themselves they should be taken out to sea, tied to an old fridge and set free…
Henry Hugo is, like several other overseas-born artists, an honorary Australian. He loves Australian culture, the country, the people, how and why we live here. It’s not a political thing. He’s not a potential Swiss immigrant who complains about the cowbells, or a Muslim grumpy because we don’t [fill in the assorted blanks here], nor is he a reffo.
Adelaide's Wheatsheaf Hotel (aka the Wheaty) is one of those modernised, forgotten pubs with pricey but excellent wines and beers. Local families bring their kids and they run amuck.
There is a beer garden, but few people smoke (which I can’t understand). Coffee and hot chocolates are available at the bar. There are no pokies and no ATM (you withdraw at the bar). They have exhibitions of art, photography, hairdressing and whisky tasting.
The back room (where bands play) is essentially a newish tin shed with a ceiling, lights, formica tables and period chairs, and everyone squashes in somehow.
Multi-instrumentalist and hypnotic crooner, Hugo Race, returns home to Australia in June and July, fresh from an intense wave of European solo headline concerts in support of his latest EP "Ophans".
The five-city tour will include dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania.
Race delivers a unique take on experimental blues, folk and dark-edge, dragging inspiration from artists the likes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground and Wilco.
His EP is credcited to Hugo Race Fatalists, the collaboration between Race and Italian instrumental gurus, Sacri Cuori , and is said to create "ground-breaking, intense sonic soundscapes that merge folk, experimentalism, electronica and rock".
There will be a a special encore cinema screening of "Descent Into The Maelstrom" at the Sedition 2019 Festival in Sydney on September 21 - part of a three-film offering that will bring together some unlikely bedfellows. And we don't mean past and present Radio Birdman members...
To complement the screening of "Descent", producer Jonathan Sequeira is putting together some of the documentary's extra material for a short film about the Darlinghurst underground music scene and The Funhouse, called "Let the Kids Dance".
"This will be a ONE OFF SCREENING only. Some of the material might be in the extras, but the film itself is ALL NEW and will only show at Sedition!," Sequeira said.
Capping it off will be a screening "Murder Ballads", the story of the creation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album of the same name, featuring exclusive interviews with Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, among others. This could be the first and last time The Dark Lord Cave, The Budgie and the Birdmen appear on the same silver screen at the same time. The venue is the Palace Cinema at 17 Oxford Street, Paddington, and it runs from 7-11pm.
For an Australian, Jack Saint comes across as Warsaw's own version of Tex "The Everyman" Perkins crossed with Sir Nicholas Cave. If that means he's destined to star in a country and western stage show and become a conjoined twin to Warren Ellis, so be it, but it's a meeting of the musical minds that we're talking about.
Jack Saint sure sounds like took advantage of the lifting of the Iron Curtain to sip deep at the well of St Nick and his Seeds and (more relevantly) the Beasts of Bourbon. "Girl What You Looking For?" sounds like it could have fallen off "Sour Mash", the 1988 Beasts record where Tex and the boys got all bent out of shape over Captain Beefheart.
"Girl...?" changes direction four times over its course with Wolf's repeated jagged guitar figure the familiar reference point. Jack Saint (the singer) intones/preaches like Jeffrey Lee Pierce. The band's cover of The Gun Club's "Stranger In Our Town" is a dead giveaway of another influence.
Guess who's coming to dinner? Kid Congo Powers (right) and the Pink Monkey Birds.
Kid Congo Powers’ musical career is a lens through which can be seen some of the most intense and evocative music of the last 40 years.
Born Brian Tristan in the Los Angeles suburb of La Puente, Kid Congo Powers famously met Jeffrey Lee Pierce in the line at a Pere Ubu concert. Pierce was the president of the LA chapter of the Blondie Fan Club; Powers was the president of local chapter of The Ramones Fan Club. Pierce recruited Powers to join his fledgling band, Creeping Ritual, later to become The Gun Club.
In 1980 Powers joined psychobilly band The Cramps, who’d recently moved to LA from New York (it was Cramps lead singer Lux Interior who bestowed Brian Tristan with the moniker Kid Congo Powers).
Sacred Cowboys on St Kilda Beach with the SS Minow.
“Sydney audiences can expect to hear much of the ‘Diamond in the Forehead’ album and a number of songs that will comprise our second album. Expect rock and roll out of the early 1970s, expect high volume in the guitar department, expect Nobel Prize-winning freak flag songs”
Garry Gray wrote this to me, and I visualise him, pounding the keyboard with pride about his forthcoming shows in Sydney in mid-November.
Gray has been making music for 42 years. I imagine by now he knows when he has a killer album ("Diamond in the Forehead") and a killer live band (The Sixth Circle) locked in. As I wrote a few months ago who when I caught The Sixth Circle live at the Tote Hoteland was blown away by a great, pure rock, street-level band:
All that dark and shade in this set; theatrics and drama. The tempo pulls back with “Club Siren”. “Our God hangs #6” is wild rock beat and with the guitars blues-based. Gray’s menacing vocals howling: 'I got hung without a trial'. "Cadillacs” has that proto punk rawness and a blues progression. There are elements of deep soul with raw gritty urban blues, and a solid rock 4/4 backbeat. Live, it is a no-nonsense rock monster.
From the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.
“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.
I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.
We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.
And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.
The blurb says it’s more “individually distilled” than the last album and maybe that’s why it took time to latch onto what “Reap What You Sow” is about.
The debut “Jack Saint” was a lot more obvious in its display of influences like the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club, while “Reap” seems in the thrall of Jon Spencer without being able to completely divorce itself from early pre-Warren era Nick Cave.
The reason these two sit together here is that there is a similarity.
Ever since Nick’s "Boatman’s Call" made it acceptable, musicians have been coming out of the woodwork with quiet, intense music. Some are, naturally, better than others. Some remain lost, lost without knowing why, but because they don’t share the same creative origin (or ‘muse’) which sparks Nick.
Still others are compared to Nick when they share only a few of his influences - but produce something which people think they recognise as being in Nick’s … carpark. Think Mark Steiner, Nikki Sudden, Henry Hugo, David Creese, Hugo Race, Michael Plater, … hell, think Louis Tillett, Mick Harvey even.
Yet, if you take the time to listen to these folk, you discover how completely different they are. And, more often than you’d know if you believed the critics… sometimes they’re a lot better.