I was a fan of Sonics/Seeds/Shadows of Knight-inspahrd garage grunt right up until the moment when the likes of the Hives (My new favorite band? Not likely, pal) and the execrable Jet arrived on the set – which coincidentally was around the same time I started running, not walking, away anytime some SXSW shill offered me a new band’s CD-R that sounded “just like the MC5!” It seemed to me that the whole trip was starting to sound not just stale and derivative, but even a tad bit formulaic. What to do, then, but recede back into my bunker with my Boris and Ornette Coleman records? But The Barman pulled my coat to these guys, and the Barman is an honourable man.
nuggets - The I-94 Bar
I Want, Need, Love You: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults - Various Artists (Playback Records)
A vinyl fanatic you may be, but owning most of these 26 tracks in their original format would set you back almost as much as a down-payment on a modest piece of real estate in the over-heated Sydney property market. So put aside your collector scum aspirations and focus on the merits of this formidable collection of ‘60s gems on CD instead.
Australia’s garage and beat history is under-appreciated - despite the best efforts of labels like Raven and others of dubious legal standing - so new imprint Playback is a welcome market entrant. “I Want, Need, Love You” focuses on the output of The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs, spanning the period 1965-68, with about half the tracks new to CD. As many as possible have been sourced from the original masters.
Finally, here’s the definitive collection that does the Fuzztones justice.
There have been numerous re-issues, the odd compilation and a tribute record. There’s even a 2CD set of rarities. But packaging the first three of their seven studio albums - plus their debut live EP bulked-out to album length - in a box set, with bonus vinyl and a DVD tossed in - was an inspired idea.
The Fuzztones sprung up in New York City in 1980 and were the vanguard of the garage rock revival wave. Along with the California-based Bomp label, the Cramps and Lenny Kaye’s seminal “Nuggets” compilation, the Fuzztones opened ears to a whole new (old) world of Farfisa organs and distorted Vox guitars.
Tune Out Switch Off Drop In - The Routes (Groovie Records)
Echo, vibrato, tremelo, retro-a-go-go. The Routes aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their paisley sleeves. From Nuggets-style garage and psych, to surf and swamp, this Japan-based act tread a well-trodden route (sorry!) but they do it with substance and style.
Formed by expat Scotsman Chris Jack and based in Hita City in the mountains of Oita prefecture, The Routes have been making music since 2006 with a variety of line-ups. Jack remains the one constant, and on this album he handles vocals, guitar, bass and organ, leaving the drums to Bryan Styles. “Tune Out Switch Off Drop In” is their seventh album, released on Groovie Records in late December 2019.
The CD version boasts four bonus tracks from their 2018 EP “Driving Round In Circles”, featuring Shinichi Nakayama on drums. I hope I’m not being insulting to either drummer when I say it’s hard to spot much difference – they’re both solid and match their tempos to Jack’s tunes. The downside of including the EP is that the CD becomes a 14-track effort and that stretches things a little further than necessary.