chickenstones - The I-94 Bar
Good god, what a fucking racket.
“Johnny Streetlight” is four-and-a-half bottles of joyous, fresh-faced old school rock’n’roll, soaked in piss and substance abuse and if you treat it right you’ll lose part of your hearing (just don’t eat the worm at the bottom). There’s no bad songs on “Johnny Streetlight”, they’re all good for gold. If this band had been around in the mid-‘80s they woulda been huge.
The inner sleeve pic by Leif Alan Creed makes the band look positively criminal (one gentle soul makes up for his lack of pupils by wielding a rather lethal saw).
Well. It's that time of year.
The time of year when all right-thinking folk set out the Santa traps on Christmas eve, hoping for a big, juicy Santa (and not the scrawny weasel we caught last year, jesus, no meat on him at all) and the traditional charcoal spit-roast Santa in the back yard with all your mates and beer a-flowing. Done just right, the flesh falls right off the fucker's bones and melts in the mouth.
Preferably with apple and cinnamon sauce, but maybe that's just me.
Truth is that, while I heard a lot of wonderful music this year, I really don't feel up to delivering a Top Ten. Sure, there are some which leap out, but I didn't really listen that widely, I don't think. And I hardly went out. All were reviewed, look 'em out if you don't believe me.
I mean, look:
Gigs to remember:
The Animals and FriendsThe Animals and Friends
Gang of Four
The Gig of Glory (which I didn't review, but was the same line-up as the Banned from the Fed gig, but with the immortal Sean Tilmouth bringing up Fear and Loathing to international status, and the proper line-up of the Filthy Gypsies - ditto international status)
Cradle of Filth
The Drama Dolls
In no particular order, The Barman’s Top 12 albums of 2019:
“So I Could Have Them Destroyed” – The Hard-Ons (Music Farmers)
You could say “What a comeback!” but only if they’d really gone away. So much variety yet it hangs together so well.
“The Devil Won't Take Charity” - Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests (Beast Records)
Kim and his band have that Stonesy-Keef vibe down pat. Raunch and roll.
“Mystery Train” – Chickenstones (Crankinhaus Records)
Sydney’s best kept secret. Doc might be driving the bus but Preacher Phil really steps up. Soulful and abrasive tunes played with heart.
“Shake Yer Popboomerang Vol 3” - Various Artists (Popboomerang)
Some of the material back-tracks but it’s a collection of rolled gold. Aussie power pop for the ages.
“Black Door” – The Volcanics (Citadel)
High-energy, passion and variety. Their best to date. The Volcanics are truly a world class band.
“The Aints! Play The Saints” - The Aints! (Fatal Records)
Will we ever see their faces again? Maybe. Maybe not. This is a white-hot snapshot of what they delivered live.
“Ann Arbor Revival Meeting” - Scott Morgan’s Powertrane featuring Deniz Tek & Ron Asheton (Grown Up Wrong)
As historical artefacts go, this is as good as they get. It’s a generously appointed re-issue of a stellar, all-star show.
Doc Temple (centre) with Chickenstones
What's my Top Ten? Now, there's a question best reserved for someone young enough to still have a memory that lasts longer than a week. But as there is scant actual non-payola industry reference around, fuck it. I will try.
First off, I have had a number of recordings thrown at me this year as I rather often do a radio show co-host replacement thing (when one of the usual hosts is off doing what parallel universe shit they do.) This does not, however, make me any wiser or more influential than anyone else.
Some picks were not committed to Pro Tool hard drives this last year but took many, many months of work to do so, thence, they deserve some spotlight, but I subscribe to the Bob Short model of 'Do I have Ten?'. Maybe, maybe not. Being numerically dyslexic, I shall offer thoughts, not numbers:
1 . Welcome Aboard – The On and Ons: Catchy, melodic powerpop tunes by former Kings Of The Sun and Screaming Tribesmen guitarist Glenn Morris with bass and harmony vocals by Hoodoo Guru/Stepfords /Wetsuits member Clyde Bramley, performed with energy and great live.
2. Beginning At The End – The Young Docteurs: Thirty or so years in the making and well worth the Wait. If The Young Docteurs had done more recordings they would have been one of the more influential Australian psych/Punk bands of the ‘80s.
3. Love Is A Gamble - The Steve Wernick Band: Folk rock, country and swing influenced songs well constructed and arranged, performed in a unpretentious, heartfelt way.
4. Johnny Streetlight- Chickenstones: Blues influenced, Aus alternative rock with songs about homelessness, gambling and cheating relationships but performed with upbeat humour. A great band to see live, too.
5. Rx- Loose Pills: Some of Sydney’s best powerpop musicians with tight, up beat songs.
It seems a lifetime ago when the two great outposts of Sydney rock and roll were its northern and southern beaches. They were feeder tributaries to the inner-city and spawned bands like the Celibate Rifles and the Trilobites, to name just a couple.
The venues that were their spawning grounds have long closed down, the bands willing to play their own music thin on the ground. Only a hardy few are still willing to take a risk and make the swim up-stream.
When you realise we came up to Sydney from Adelaide solely to see The Chickenstones you may deduce from this that I am a tad biased towards the band. However, if I were able, I would simply be at every gig they do, because, to my mind, they really are that good.
However, one of the reasons I can't dash all over the country is the inevitable lack of money (donations are welcome), and another is that I work in a family-operated business, so I fit myself around what everyone else is doing. Mostly this means that there are things on interstate which I would love to see, but can't.
Opening band Dias - pronounced Dee-az - have good songs and the young folk love them. I think they may also be currently in a bit of transition, as some of the songs showed a similarity of purpose, while some of their others seemed to be coming from some other place.
Guitar and vox, bass and drums; it's amazing how varied people can make such a traditional set-up. While comparisons are effectively fairly useless, my photographer was reminded of The Whitlams, a musician in the audience was thinking about The Strokes, and I was reminded a little of early Go-Betweens. Truth is, I'd characterise them as a richly shiny, slow-burning surf waltz.
They went down well with the very mixed crowd (old unionist surfers and their wives, and folks who may as well be their university-aged grandkids... hell of a mixture). I don't know if I'd liked Dias if they'd still had their other guitarist - what interested me was that, as I say, I think they're still trying things out - which is always an excellent reason to see a band.
One of Australian rock roll’s few truly dangerous frontmen, Garry Gray (ex-Sacred Cowboys), is making a rare Sydney appearance with his crack band The Sixth Circle on November 18, presented by the I-94 Bar.
Garry Gray and The Sixth Circle are playing The Factory Floor in Marrickville with soulful rock soldiers Leadinger and street-level Northern Beaches rockers Chickenstones.
Melbourne-based Gray is a true survivor and legend of the Australian underground music scene. As crazed, chainsaw-wielding frontman for the Sacred Cowboys, he and his bandmates left a legacy of five studio albums and trademark singles, “Nothing Grows In Texas” and “Hell Sucks”.
Blasted by Molly Meldrum on Countdown as the worst band he’d seen in five years, Sacred Cowboys wore the insult as a badge of honour. They disrupted and devastated Australian audiences in the ‘80s and late ’90s with line-ups that included members of Beasts of Bourbon, The Models, Wet Taxis , Paul Kelly and The Dots and JAB.
As they say at well-to-do sailing clubs on Sydney's north side: "I like the cut of their jib."
Not As Bad As It Could've Been - Scarth Hog (self-released)
Mystery Train - Chickenstones: (Crankinhaus Records)
Away from the Sun - Majestic Horses (Kasumuen Records)
Yes, dear reader, I too wondered what a scarth was. Well, Scarth is a family name, and 'is of Anglo-Saxon origin and came from when the family lived in the county of Yorkshire, where they held the manor of Scarborough. This place-name was originally derived from the Old English Skaroisburg, which was brought into England during the Norman Conquest of 1066.'
But Scarth is also Yorkshire dialect for a rough, bare rock. No-one ever said Bill Bostle (whose band this is) ever lacked a sense of humour.
I used to know Bill a little, back in the days when 205 was a conglomeration of interweaving bands rather than a street number, and when Bill played (drums) in King Snake Roost with, among other interesting ingredients, the late Charlie Tolnay. I recall one visit to his house (in a quiet inner Adelaide ‘burb) during which he boasted of being “the loudest bastard in the street” which, given that he had the Grateful Dead on 11, was patently obvious.
“Johnny Streetlight”, that stellar album from Sydney’s best kept rock and roll secret, Chickenstones, is getting a release on vinyl, thanks to French label Basil Records. If you don't remember it coming out or want to know what the fuss is about, we reviewed it here.
To celebrate, Chickenstones will play a special show at The Music Lounge in Brookvale, Sydney, on July 21 with psych-punk veterans The Young Doctors and Thomas Keating. They'll also debut their new filmclip. Show-offs!