Damned if this isn’t one of the best releases of the last few years out of Sydney and its by an all but unknown band. Saying Phringe Dwellers have a low live profile is like labelling Motorhead as a bunch of guys who played moderately loud. Paradoxically, this EP from the blues rock trio sounds like it was forged in the furnaces of a thousand suburban beer barns.
Of course its members are no strangers to live stages. Bassist-vocalist-harmonica player Carl Ekman and guitarist John South were members of The Hunchbacks in the ‘90s and King Felix in the ‘00s with four albums between them. Expat Melbournite and drummer, Simon Li, is a singer-songwriter who used to keep time for World Punk exponents The Balkan Grill.
1. The Sunnyboys / The Flaming Hands / The Shy Imposters - Enmore Theatre 2. Descent into the Maelstrom : The untold story of Radio Birdman 3. 4. Son Volt - Factory Theatre 5. Steve Earle - So You Wannabe An Outlaw CDLP 6. Tift Merritt - Stitch of the World CDLP 7. Lindi Ortega - "Til the goin' gets gone" EP 8. Ghost on The Highway : A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club 9. Beware of Mr. Baker (Ginger Baker documentary) 10. (Far from) honorary mentions - - The Phringe Dwellers - recording new stuff with current line-up - Dave Favours and The Roadside Ashes - releasing and launching 7" single + recording songs for vinyl LP - Releasing my solo CD #4 "From Beth to Evie"
For every band that “makes it” there are hundreds, if not thousands, that never get past thefringes of a scene. Sydney’s Hunchbacks were one of the many runners-up in the mid ‘90s. Despite patronage from the likes of Asteroid B612 (whose main man John Spittles produced them), they never cracked the big(ger) leagues.
That the hard blues edge of The Hunchbacks is apparent on The Fringe Dwellers’ debut album “Hook Down Easy” should be no surprise: Vocalist Carl Ekman (on bass) and guitarist John South from that band are leading lights. They’re joined by sometime I-94 Bar scribe Simon Li (drums) and Damien Smith (vocals and guitar.)
The sound of “Hook Down Easy” drips Sydney’s underground music scene circa 1986. It’s in the driving, hard-edged sound and sparring guitars that do it. That’s where the band’s roots are and there’s no escaping them. I’m guessing that won’t be a drawback for many reading this.
Don't feel sorry for the fact that, at the time of writing, only five people “liked” Fringe Dwellers on Facebook. It’s just that the music of this veteran Sydney trio is much better than their online self-promotion.
They’ve only been around a few months and this three-track CD single is Phringe Dwellers’ first foray into “product”, but it indicates that there could be enough in the kit bag to stretch to a worthwhile album. The songs hark back, relentlessly, to inner-Sydney circa the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and that’s where the band’s spiritual roots lie.
Guitarist-vocalist John South and bassist Carl Edman were members of formidable blues-rockers The Hunchbacks back then, while drummer (and past I-94 Bar scribe) Simon Li is an expatriate Melbourneite who was brought up on a diet of the Powder Monkeys. While the music never reaches those intensity levels, it does hit hit its own mark.