surf - The I-94 Bar
For six years at the cusp of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, Hellmen rode the skatepunk-surf wave better than most Sydney bands. Now Melbourne’s Buttercup Records reminds everybody what the racket was all about. Hellmen were explosive and slammed out song after song with not many longer than three minutes - exactly like this release.
"Mutant Surfer" is a four-track seven-inch EP with two scuzzy rehearsal songs, an outtake and a previously released track. The title cut opens and is an especially potent example of what these guys sounded like live. “Don’t Do It” rocks like the proverbial but pales next to closer “Stone Rock”, left off “Electric Crazyland”. “Skate To Hell” is a cover of a Gang Green song that seems very familiar, even to a non-skatepunk fan. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellmen back in the day (something about them being from enemy territory like the Northern Beaches maybe?) but this makes me want to track their old stuff down. It's all due for a re-issue and this is a taster for a Buttercup LP of some sort.
Art is by the mega-talented band member Ben Brown and there’s even a temporary tattoo in the packaging. It’s a limited run of 300 copies - a precursor to an LP - so don’t delay.
Buttercup Records on the Web
Tamam Shud back on stage at Byron Bay's Great Northgern Hotel. Al Heeney photo
The Northern New South Wales Australian coastline has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.
Remember the pilgrimage of holiday time, with caravans lined up on the Pacific Highway…the tribe of kids in the backseat of the Kingwood (or Ford Falcons) bellowing out of boredom on the inteminable drive north? Then there was the weekend pilgrimage of surfers with their Sandman panel vans. Followed, of course, by the night drive back to work to Monday. It was a long trip back down to Sydney with car headlights on high beam, dodging speeding semi-trailers with speed-driven truckies, in-between stopovers at the Oak Milk Bar or the Big Banana.
Dotted along the NSW coast, from Hornsby to the Gold Coast, are memories. Of stop-overs at Frangipani-lined caravan parks, or pitstops at the homes of relatives. Memories marked by places like Foster, Nambucca Heads, Coffs and Byron. Sleepy little towns that were bursting at the seams on long weekends and Chrissie holidays.
Le Cape Noir – The Ramalamas (Half a Cow)
This soundtrack to an imaginary ‘60s cult movie, or so the shtick goes, is really a collection of intriguing garage-swamp pop outbursts by enduring but low-key Sydney band. It’s the fifth long-player by The Ramalamasand their first on vinyl.
“Le Cape Noir” is a celebration of ADHD. It swings from surf-tinged rockers to garage pop and back to spy movie instrumental in the space of a few tracks. Its 16 (yes, 16!) songs are broken up by snatches of spoken word faux movie dialogue.
Sit back and let it wash over and you could be sitting in the Valhalla Cinema at Glebe watching a cult film, and ending the night stumbling out of the Sydney Trade Union Club at 4am.
Promo shot of The Atlantics 2012. Ashfield Leagues Club, before the last show played by the full lineup. Jim Skiathitis (guitar), Martin Cilia (guitar), Peter Hood (drums) and Bosco Bosanac (bass). Mandy Hall photo
The passing of The Atlanticsdrummer Peter Hood in September closed the door on one of Australia’s most important surf bands. The Atlantics formed in Sydney in 1961, the group spawned the worldwide hit “Bombora” in 1963.
The follow-up “War of the Worlds” was an innovative 45 that arguably pioneered space rock before there was such a thing. It was unsuccessful and the band re-invented itself after the surf music genre declined in popularity.
Taking on singer Johnny Rebb, they pursued success playing tough R&B (among other styles) and their Peter Hood-penned “C’mon” is widely regarded as an Australian ‘classic, later adopted by the Wet Taxis.
Making an instrumental album is a brave step for someone best known for doom-laden tunes about living eyes, muscle cars and human reinvention under piles of ice and snow, but Deniz Tek's departure from the well-worn path really works.
From the scuzzy serrated intro of "Eddie Would Go" with its air of "Human Fly" Cramps crossing swords with Davie Allan to the clean and lean retake on Radio Birdman's "Zeno Beach", "Lost For Words" makes a voice-less statement about simpler times.
Back in the '60s, a pre-teen Tek cut his musical teeth on these sorts of songs. Surf music (and its variants) was a radio staple around the world. Tek told Perfect Sound Forever in 2001:
"The first rock and roll song I learned to play on the guitar in entirety was 'Walk Don’t Run.' I was 12-years-old. And their version of the Hawaii Five-0 theme was a great inspiration to me in the summer of 1969, the year I started driving fast cars. When it came on the radio, the ‘68 Charger went much faster!"
Mexican Hillbilly Surf Music - The Mezcaltones (Foghorn/MGM)
For most Australians, Tex Mex music is like Mexican food: Only a handful of us have experienced the real thing. So props to Sydney band The Mezcacltones for cooking up their home-grown variant of the former, and dubbing it “Mexican Hillbilly Surf”.
The twang is the thang as far the sound of this six-piece goes. It’s all over their music. Their brand is country - with some trimmings - and the delivery is slick without being overly so. It’s commercial enough for The Mezcaltones to have played the Tamworth Festival five times.
Australia’s national capital isn’t exactly known for its crop of present day garage bands, so Space Party is a pleasant surprise.
They might even be Canberra’s only garage band, except their PR sheet helpfully says that they recruited their singer from another outfit called Okinawa Girls, so that means there are at least two.
(Before any public servants send thoughtfully composed emails of complaint, it’s been many years since I lived in Canberra so I’m possibly talking through my arse. The place does have at least two regular live venues and a cool community radio station in 2XX, so there are signs of rock and roll life amongst the roundabouts and grim Stalinist architecture.)
Reviewers still have a hard life, don’t they? All those free CDs and free gigs and backstage perks. Not this little black duck. The free CDs arrive and, as this ain’t the day job, they bank up a tad. Because I review music because I love it, if La Bastard were merely playing soft-core mimicry to a “classic” period, with that mushy, vacant intent, you wouldn’t be reading this.
I’ve listened to “Ooh La La Bastard” (“surf-rock party animals from Melbourne, Australia!” the back cover announces) several times now. Loved it more, each time. The front cover is a rather brilliant modern pastiche of ‘50s LP artwork which makes everyone look peculiar, French, and spectacularly jaded. Lluis Fuzzhound must be some sort of genius at large. Let’s just say La Bastard live a full life, and lay it down on the disc.
It’s a (mainly instrumental) surf album but “Quake Up!” covers more genres than you can shake a wax stick at. Movie and TV themes, sci-fi and garage pop litter the wake of this Essex quartet like pebbles on a Pommy beach. It's probably a reason for surf music purists to hate ‘em.
Surf music isn’t a language that openly speaks to everyone these days but it’s murmuring away in the background. From an Australian perspective, scratch the veneer of any of our greatest rock and roll bands from the last 50 years and you’ll surf music lurking underneath. The blues and beat pop that British migrants brought with them rode right over the top of surf in the early ’60s.
Return Of The Space Mariachis – Stories From Shamehill (self released)
Surf-tiki rock from the Netherlands? I’m in. Let’s face it: stranger things happen in Amsterdam - usually involving special cakes sold at coffee shops - and this trio of reverb-obsessed retro heads is nothing if not inventive.
With assistance from The Hot Habanero Horns (actually two horns and a harmonica), Stories From Shamehillworked up their second full studio album over five days in 2021 and it’s a barrel of fun.
The Stories have been riding their surf wave since 2012 and have even managed to tour and record in California. Talk about taking coals to Newcastle…
It’s a pairing of the music of two legendary Australian underground legends, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Sydney in 46 years: Tamam Shud and Buffalo Revisited are playing a double-headliner show at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Leichhardt on Friday, September 9.
Regarded as Australia’s true progressive, surf and psychedelic music pioneers, Tamam Shud recently celebrated 45 years with the release of a new album, “Eight Years of Moonlight”.
Buffalo is held in the same high regard and was recently lauded as the Australian “inventors of heavy metal” by UK magazine Classic Rock, which said they’d paved the way for scores of hard rock and stoner acts.
Forming in 1971 and releasing five albums in six years, Buffalo dissolved after making their mark as a live act despite a lack of commecial radio acceptance. They’d left a potent legacy before bass player Peter Wells went on to form Rose Tattoo.
Archetypal bad boys, Buffalo’s early albums “Dead Forever”, “Volcanic Rock” and “Only Want You For Your Body” have been reissued numerous times and original copies change hands for hundreds of dollars in collector circles.
A year ago, following constant approaches from fans, Dave Tice assembled a line-up to re-visit the original band’s legacy. They’ve since played a handful of select gigs, including a 40th birthday celebration for iconic Brisbane radio station 4ZZZ.
Swamped – The Quick Sixes (Outtaspace)
There’s an awkward charm to the sound of The Quick Sixes that’s hard to resist. Equal parts twang, space retro blues and garage shimmy, this Geelong quartet is a cross between Brisbane’s late, lamented Hewkawis, The Modern Lovers and Shutdown66 (but with better manners.)
The Gee-troit Sound is long gone but if you think of The Quick Sixes as Barwon Heads Beat you can’t go wrong. It's surf music for the loveless and landlocked. It'll occasionally make you cry into your beer. It's sometime a little loose around the edges, but it's a load of fun. Variety is a by-word, too.