It's been 15 years since I first laid ears on Sweden's Dee Rangers via their mighty "Pretty Ugly Beat" album, so smear me with a bowl of IKEA meatballs and mashed potato for thinking they'd broken up. Au contraire, to mix European languages in an almost Brexit world, they are very muich alive and kicking.
"All You Need Tonight" is album number seven for a band whose membership has stayed largely stable since they formed in the mid-'90s. You'll recognise their influences as soon as you hear their music. Firmly rooted in the '60s but blurring the stylistic boundaries between pop and garage, it's a potent distillation of what made Scandi music great for a very long time.
Fifteen years ago, talented Victorian songwriter Danny McDonald told me that Little Murders was THE great lost power-pop band of Australia’s halcyon musical underground days of the 1980s. They were defunct at the time and an Off The Hip re-issue of their early material - and another reformation - were away off in the future.
Of course, Danny was right. He’d grown up with the band’s songs and they’d left a permanent mark. Little did he know that in 2015 he’d join Little Murders for their fifth and latest studio album “Hi-Fab!” - or that it might be the best thing they’ve ever recorded.
The DIY ethos is less a gimmick and more a way of life these days for the 99 percent of musicians not enslaved by a major label. It's either practical, necessary or all too easy to hole up in your bedroom and let those ideas pour out onto a hard drive without someone else calling the shots and charging your own money for it.
There's a defiite upside and also a downside. Rattanson is a case in point.
Rattanson is a one-man garage pop multi-instrumentalist from Sweden and "I'd Much Rather Be With The Noise" is his second album under that name. A former member of powerpo act Fanscene and garage rockers The Rawhides, he's gone solo to focus on his own songs.
Rattanson played all the instruments on his first record, 2017's "Full Scale Shakeability", and also on this one except for drums, for which he recruited Anders Björnlund from the Turpentines and the HiJackers. He'll have a bass player in tow to play the songs live.
Two thoughts sprang to mind after one spin of "Let's Go Wild!" and both are for sharing: (1.) What a cracking album and; (2.) Let's all move to Spain.
American-born Kurt Baker has done just that, calling Madrid home for about a decade and fronting his own Kurt Baker Combo, based over on the other side of the country in Leon, Spain.
If the fact that "Let's Go Wild!" Is on the Wicked Cool label isn't a clue, the sticker on the cover with the ringing endorsement from Paul Collins should tell you that it's a winner in the power pop stakes. Baker has a great voice, his band powers and the songs are full of fuzzy hooks.
No matter that this band of Englishmen have had more band names than Spinal Tap. "13th Floor Renegades" is arresting glam-pop rock and hookier than a cashed-up weekend angler's tackle box.
Do you like Cheap Trick? Never really got 'em myself but "13th Floor Renegades" is what they'd sound like if "Dream Police" hadn't been an overdone, ear-wig of a hit in Australia while I had my head in the local variant of Detroit rock and punk.
Originally called Silver Hearts, then Last Great Dreamers, Jet and then Jet City, before breaking up and reforming (twice) as Last Great Dreamers, the band sprang from the '90s Soho metal scene. These days, they're firmly built on the songwriting axis of Marc Valentine (vocals and guitar) and guitarist Slyder.
Candy Coated Cannonball – Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (GTG Records)
Detroit Rock was never just about the MC5and the Stooges. Ask a Michigan native and they’re just as likely to nominate Kid Rock or techno as defining. Don’t even start anyone aged over 50 talking about Motown and the myriad of soul labels that sprang up in the ‘60s.
Jeremy Porter and the Tucossound like none of the above. With origins in the city’s punk underground, the trio’s sound is a mix of power-pop, roots rock, alt-country and twangy blue collar garage. The title of their fourth album, “Candy Coated Cannonball”, is a misnomer – the album’s neither overwhelmingly sticky-sweet or explosive.
“Put You On Hold” is a super opener, a heady burst of gritty guitar, warm Hammond B3 and Porter’s emphatic vocal. It’s a rocking song and a juxtaposition, of sorts, that’s apparent in a lyric like: “Time flies by when the conversation is slow.”
If you worship at the altar of Big Star, the Beatles and The Byrds you’ll go nuts for this. The dream cited in the title is all about chiming open chords, (gently) duelling Rickenbackers and tuneful choruses that stick.
The Jangle Band bills itself as “Australia's second-best Rainyard/Header/Mars Bastards tribute act” because they’re three of the powerpop bands its members have played in. Throw in The Palisades and Jack and the Beanstalk as well. The membership has form.
Sydney powerpop mods Fast Cars are hitting the crowd-funding trail for their debut album...a mere 35 years after they kicked off.
Fast Cars were a fixture on the Sydney mod scene of the 1980s, issuing a single (“Saturday’s Girl” b/w “No Love Today”) and an EP to great acclaim and lots of Sydney airplay. The first incarnation of the band was around from 1980-84.
Whatever happened to the split-single 7” where bands of a feather got pissed in a studio together, slapped out a song each and whacked out a record with a song on either side? The styles didn’t always blend but that was much of the charm. The split single seems to have fallen from favour, despite the resurgence of vinyl. Reality is that it never really went away and here’s a great example from two Sydney bands.
Who knows if there was a pitch to the label? If there was, it probably went something like this: Find a gap in powerpop troubadour Paul Collins’ crazy schedule, put him in the studio with garage production king Jim Diamond and the house band for Detroit’s Ghetto Recorders, give them a cases of beer and let the music flow.
Collins (The Beat, the Nerves, The Breakaways) writes perfect rocking’ guitar pop like hipsters steal oxygen. It’s in his DNA; he has equals but there’s nobody better. A good proportion of these songs would be mainstream hits in a more enlightened and less disposable time.
One of Australia's finest power-pop bands, Melbourne's Little Murders, are the subject of a forthcoming documentary but the project needs an injection of fan funds to push it over the finishing line.
Director-producer Matt Wilson has been documenting the history of Little Murders and its founding and sole continual member Rob Griffiths. "Little Murders - 40 years on the smell of an oily rag" has a funding target of $6000 and is 40 percent of the way to the goal.
"In our ageist society it's rare that a musician in his 60's can maintain what is essentially a pop band and bring it to a level allowing a tour in Japan in 2019," Wilson writes.
The advice doesn’t come often around here but when it does, it’s always free. So here’s a dose: If you see a record with The Dahlmanns’ name on it and you’re into powerpop, buy it. The same goes for Andy Shernoff (but you probably knew that already). This one has both so how can you go wrong?
The Dahlmanns arewife-and-husband,Line Dahlman and Andre Dahlmann, plus a bunch of other Norwegian Dahlmanns, currently Otto, Jan Erik, Magnus, and Pål. Shernoff is the songwriting genius behind The Dictators (R.I.P.) and his own solo work. Andy wrote both songs and duets with Line on the A side.
Didn't have much time for mods, generally. Growing up in Sydney in the heyday of great, Birdman-inspired music in the 1980s, their thing seemedmore contrived than anything else (although, in retrospect, there was a great deal of energy in evidence on the Sussex Street scene, when it crawled up the stairs and seeped into the Trade Union Club.) The Green Circles are a mod-influenced band from Adelaide, and the good news (for me) is they're more V-6 than Vespa.
Guitar pop like this has no equal. Rob Griffiths has been writing and playing it longer than anyone can remember. Little Murders are a Melbourne institution and the current line-up is the longest serving. Each of these facts is connected.
The re-birth of the Stoneage Hearts sounds like a sequel to “High Fidelity”: Three guys walk into a record store at various times, buy the new Red Kross album from the owner and they all decide to form a band. They rehearse at nights in the shop, record an album, tour together and achieve global success.
Apart from the last bit about the worldwide success, the story is true. Not that global domination isn't possible, but more on that later.
This is the third incarnation of this Melbourne garage-pop band and apart from a stack of classic garage and powerpop influences, drummer Mickster Baty is the only constant. Previous line-ups were fronted by Danny McDonald (P76) and Dom Mariani (The Stems, DM3) with Ian Wettehall (Seminal Rats, Phillesteins, Freeloaders) on bass then and apart from guest Farfisa organist and Mickster, this one is populated by relative unknowns. Not that it matters a jot. They’re up to the mark and this is a great record.
"Shake Yer Popboomerang 3" Sydney Launch Ups and Downs Halfway The Aerial Maps Marrickville Bowling Club Friday February 29, 2020 Photos by Mark Fraser of Redback Rock
This isn’t going to be one of those reviews where someone walks you through a song-by-song recreation of the gig. For starters, I’ve seen Aerial Maps once, Halfway never, and Ups and Downs twice. None of them are really big on song introductions either. So I have no idea what any of the tunes were called, besides a couple from the headliners.
I guess a dedicated reviewer would have gone and had a squiz at the set lists, or maybe bailed up a hapless band member, but to be honest I was too busy drinking with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in ages to worry about that. So it’s going to be more about the vibe, man, and a few observations I jotted down in a notebook.
As the former Oscarlima and Jericho frontman, P76 leader and onetime member of Little Murders, Danny McDonald should need no introduction. But if you're curious about on of the most ybderrated purveyors of Aussie guitar pop and want a jumping-in point, his new EP is as good a place as any.
Danny plays guitar and writes pithy, Australian-tinged songs with depth and there are five crackers on "Modern architecture". They range from punky-pop to jangle-rama and are chockfull of melody and fire. McDonald has armed himself with a sterling engine room (Tim Mills on bass and David Klynjans on drums), a stellar vocal partner in Anna Burley (Killjoys) and an ace producer in Craig Pikington.
FLASHBACK TO DATELINE 2002: A disclaimer first - I'm responsible for releasing the new Young Modern album "Live at...." on my reactivated Grown Up Wrong! label, so everything below should be taken with a grain of salt... Of course this is a band whose music turned my head in a big way back in '79, and who ultimately turned me onto the Flamin' Groovies and Big Star, so I do reckon you should pay some attention...
Young Modern existed between 1977-79. They formed in Adelaide, played their first gig supporting Radio Birdman, became a popular draw in their home town and moved to Sydney where they soon split, having been picked up by a powerful agency who had them working in the wrong venues. Along the way they cut a great self-released single with Steve Cummings of the Sports producing, and did some demos that came out after their split (with the single sides added) as the "Play Faster" album on the Local label - an album which also became the first release on Aztec when reissued on CD some years back.
Named "the first powerpop from Down Under" in a news piece in the Jan '79 issue of Bomp! (written by legendary Birdman/Hitmen soundman Andy 'Mort' Bradley), they had killer tunes by the bucketload (mostly written by rhythm guitarist Vic Yates and singer John Dowler) and did great covers of things like 'Mr Tambourine Man', 'She Loves You' and 'Its All Over Now'.
Tis the season to be jolly, as if you didn’t know, and Perth-based international pop collective The JAC have a Xmas present for us all.
The JAC is Perth musician Joe Algeri whose bands include Jack and the Beanstalk, The Britanincas, The Outryders and, most recently, The Jangle Band.
Each year, Algeri releases a Xmas song. On “Christmas Without Maria” Joe’s on vocals and guitar and he’s ably assisted by The Christmas Crew. On this recording, they’d be Briitannicas bassist Herb Eimerman (USA), Swedes Steffan Johansson (the Lemon Clocks, the Melted Hearts) on drums and Lars Brusell on keys, Finn Andy J Prinkkila (the Lieblings, the Sugarrush) on guitar and Paul Colombini (The Outryders) on guitar. Egomaniac Music personnel Erika Algeri and Lydia Algeri assist on backing vocals.
Recorded over the Internet in various studios around the world, it’s a free Bandcamp download - so get to it.
Marching Out of Time – Various Artists (Popboomerang)
With 115 releases to its credit, Melbourne’s Popboomerang is as an amazing independent record label success story and a beacon for under-the-radar Australian pop. Presuming, of course, that success is measured in quality music and not sheep stations.
The labels been a long-time labour of love for owner Scott Thurling and that passion makes his decision to close it down, at least for now, all the more noteworthy. In his own words:
Being locked up can do funny things to you! I will admit to feeling a little frustrated on July 24, 2021, when I made the announcement to end Popboomerang Records. The news might have been a surprise to some, but it was one I had been contemplating for a while.
Covid-19 challenges to running a label were the tipping point after 18 months of cancelled live events and the gigantic increases in the price of international postage which was making exporting almost impossible.I had also recently established a new record label, Sound As Ever 90-99, focussing on Australian ’90’s indie music, which was taking off, and it felt impossible to do justice to both ventures at the same time.