2019 was first year for a while that I wasn’t doing a radio show and being in Canberra for work, I felt I was little bit out of the loop. Nonetheless, it was another memorable rock ‘n’ roll year and here’s my top10 in no particular order.
Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests at Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney
This took me back to when I first started seeing bands in Melbourne in the mid ’70s. It was no-nonsense loud rock. Two really good guitarists on top of a solid rhythm section. I loved how the band occupied half the stage and hardly broke formation through the gig. The record’s pretty good, too.
Sue Telfer Tribute in Sydney
It was really sad to lose Sue. She was seriously special and it was great to see so many people come out and so many good bands turn it on. All the bands I saw were great with X as a four piece the standout. I reckon it was the best gig I’ve seen Steve Lucas do.
TOP TEN ALBUMS
1 The Elevator Mood - The Elevator Mood (Bandcamp)
2 Bag O’ Bones - The Reverse Cowgirls (Northern Cowboy)
3 Neon Primitives - Band of Holy Joy (Tiny Global Productions)
4 Dark Times - Doctors of Madness (Cargo Records UK)
5 My War Is Your War - deux furieuses (Xtra Mile Recordings)
6 Heightened Senses - The Cathode Ray (Stereogram Recordings)
7 In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time - The Sweet Things (Spaghetty Town Records)
8 More Guitars - Tom Rafferty (Bandcamp)
9 Address to the Nation - Chris Masuak & the Viveiro Wave Riders (I-94 Bar)
10 The Kidney Flowers - The Kidney Flowers (Bandcamp)
Gus Ironside is music editor for "Sogo" creative arts magazine and also contributes to "Louder Than War" (online and print), "Vive le Rock", "PennyBlackMusic" and "Is This Music?" He's based in Angus, Scotland.
Open Season - Mick Medew and The Mesmerisers
Firstly declaring an extreme bias and a conflict of interest with this one, Mick’s second offering from the Mesmerisers is even better than the last. The addition of ex-Tribesmen tub thumper Michael Charles has added muscularity to the band and they go from strength to strength. Some Sydney and Newcastle Birdman supports really won them some new fans. Brian Mann created a stunning sounding record. My fave album of the year.
Address to the Nation - Chris Masuak and the Viveiro Wave Riders
Again, another declaration as I’ve worked closely with Chris over the past thirty years. My second fave of the year… beaten by a short nose. Chris writes killer songs… plays guitar better than any player I have worked with and has a band so tight I couldn’t slide a fag paper between it. A great album, and it gave us a few wry smiles.
The Festival of Sue (X, New Christs et al)
The shock of Sue Telfer’s passing pulled together a stellar line up talent who delivered on an emotional night. There were some killer performances but my top two were the New Christs, whose emotion tinged performance left no doubt that they are a top echelon act… but man of the match for mine was Steve Lucas and X. It was a blinding performance, Steve sang and played better than I have heard the band in years, Kim Volkman & Geof Holmes snarled and snorted like a beast. The Barman and Tiffany Palmer did a great job getting it all together, and we raised a great sum of cash for Support Act. I’d like to think Sue would’ve approved.
Random top 10 bands to see live according to how much I enjoyed them in the tiny backroom bars I’ve been hanging in all year. There were so many, but these spring to mind:
Year 6 Disco
Sounds like winter
Lights Out Holy Roller
Special mention Australis Über Alles.
Ronny Van Dyk plays guitar in Wollongong's BotBots and was vocalist for punks The Leftards (RIP). He runs the Wreckless Enterprises record label and booking agency.
You want me to write a year in reflection? Well, where and how to start? I will bang on these keys and most likely bang on in my usual stoic warm way.
Mind you, I rarely write about music these days. I look back and reflect on the shit I once wrote and it seems all so naïve, sycophantic almost. But here’s a try and since it’s not the 10 best gigs, nor the 10 best recordings, I have license to mix it up.
Best thing that happened – helping out with the band bookings at MoshPit, a small unpretentious little bar down the south end of King St which now fits 120 people. Yes, it’s small, and don’t go there if you feel paranoid or claustrophobic as you’ll probably hate it. But, in the vein of CBGB’s in NYC, Frenches which was on Oxford Street (Darlinghurst) the Old Bar in Melbourne, and its local counterpart Midnight Special in Enmore, this place oozes fun.
Where else can you put on your favourite bands and liken it to your best ever lounge-room party. There’s a whole range of yummy booze, great staff, the co-owners Pat n Wax, + two sound people who know what they’re doing within limitations. Nunchukka Superfly, Thee Evil Twin, Face Command, White Knuckle Fever and Los Monaros are just some of the great local acts that graced there in 2019. We was lucky and their goodwill was priceless. Sydney needs venues like these so in my unbiased best, please support.
Best things I listened to – newish stuff from Pallet, Small Town Incident, White Knuckle Fever, Sounds Like Winter, Syntax Error, Joseph Leonard, Wreckless Enterprise Recordings volume 1 and 2 – compilations featuring Dirty Slutz, Babymachine, Leftards, Minor Surgery, Space Bozzies, Bitchcraft, Piss to Eme.
TOP TEN ALBUMS
Broads - "Stay Connected"
Loved everything they’ve done, and this ain’t any different. Songs, arrangements, voices.
Julia Jacklin - "Crushing"
Wow. This was awkward and difficult to listen to in a good way. So personal; beautifully, simple observations of life. Could be the best of 2019 for me.
Paranoyds - "Carnage Bargain"
New wave 60’s garage pop (?) outta LA. Brilliant.
Levitation Room - "Headspace"
I listened to this on repeat for about three hours and had to make myself switch it off.
Shifting Sands - "Crystal Cuts"
Almost a drop dead gimme that this was going to be superb after "Beach Coma".
Shelley’s Murder Boys - "Above Is A Roar"
Bluegrass from the Inner West. I just love how kinda ‘not perfect’ they are, just as bluegrass should be. Always great to see live.
Chelsea Wolfe - "Birth Of Violence"
She is the Dark Lord.
Adam Yee (right) with Stms drummer David Huck-Shaw.
TOP 11 ALBUMS
Eddy Current Suppression Ring - All in Good Time
Nine years is a long time between drinks, but this was well worth the wait. For my money the most important Melbourne band of the last 20 years returns with an LP up there with their first two albums. In true Eddy Current style this LP just all of a sudden dropped out of nowhere, with no shows and little media presence to promote it. Garage rock the way it should be, messy but tight, loose and fast and songs ending whenever it feels like that’s enough.
Hexdebt- Rule of Four
Punk meets shoegazing with social’political messages that come straight in your face. The long awaited debut LP of Hexdebt backs up their reputation as a killer live outfit
Cereal Killer – The Beginning and End of Cereal Killer
The first and last long player of this Geelong supergroup. I saw ‘em live a few years back with feedtime and was blown away, so was keen to hear the LP as I wanted to see how that stage show was put on record. The LP has plenty of the power of the live show, combining elements of garage, punk and electro, one of the most fresh and finest releases of 2019.
Plastic Section - Trouble is Our Business
Sun City meets John Spencer. Killer '50s guitar and vocals, two ripper instrumental tracks and only one song cracks the three minute mark. Its sounds old but in a new way, powerful but not flashy guitar. Singer-guitarist Ben Edwards sounds like he could ave played with the Killer himself.
Mick Trouble- Here’s the Mick Trouble LP
Thanks to Ritchie Ramone at Strangeworld for putting me onto this. Was amazed this came out this year as I thought it was a lost Television Personalities recording. One of those gems I would only discover via the man behind the record store counter. Buzzcocks style harmonies meets the storytelling of Wreckless Eric.
Imperial Wax - Gastwerk Saboteurs
Pete Greenway, Dave Spurr and Keiron Melling had been the core of the Fall for the last decade of the band's existence until the passing of Mark E Smith. The three lads hooked up with Sam Curran to make an LP their old taskmaster would ave been proud of. It’s not the Fall, but without MES how could it? Theres certainly elements of the Fall in there but the lads ave their own approach and ideas, much like the Fall, taking a simple idea and expanding, taking rock music to new places.
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF - Last Punk Standing
With the exception of Mark E Smith no one has given me more joy then Billy Childish. Pretty much every year theres an LP with the name Childish that appears in the top 10 list. The mans a hero of mine. On top of the massive discography of amazing albums, what I love about him is the fact the man just gets on with it. Bangs out two LPs a year, with just two, if that, chords and bangs out a record in one take. No overdubs no time for being precious, just doing it and doing it well. I wish I had this talent and discipline.