AUSTRALIAN RECORD REVIEWS 2013
Key: (LB: Lance Boyle)(SB: Young Steve)(DH: Dave Hyde)(RK: Rich K.)(RSF: Rob Vertigo)(NG: Nick Goode) (EEK: Erick Elrick)
Ausmuteants "100 Ausmuteants Fans Can't Be Wrong...100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can" 7"
Second EP from Ausmuteants, four tracks originally released on cassette and re-recorded with Mikey Young for this release. Heavier on the organ/synth than I remember their first EP being. "All Talk" is a spin on Eighties dancefloor wave, complete with digital bongos/handclaps. Flock of Seagulls-esque. "Carbon Monoxide" has a thick analong synth sound, maintains a danceable beat but has a more punk-like attack, in a nearly Total Control style. B-Side is more up my alley. "Ausmuteant" comes off somewhere between Devo and UV Race - ultra-catchy spell-out-the-word refrain with a good dum-dum solo and abrubt end. "Nothing Rhythmic" is bizarro-pop New Wave with a dark feel - keyboard sound is straight Eighties schmaltz, lyrics are good and dumb, there's some hard edge to this one as well. A good record that I'm not entirely excited by until the B-Side hits.(RK)
(Anti-Fade Records // antifaderecords.webs.com)
Bad Vision s/t 7"
Melbourne quartet offering up two tracks of modern indie-garage that already sounds a bit dated. They're taking cues from Thee Oh Sees, solo Jay Reatard records and Ty Segall. Energetic and well put together but sounding rather vanilla in comparison to their source materials. Not bad, but also no better than whatever band Matthew Melton is in these days I'd guess. We have too much of this stuff in circulation for an average band like this to make a dent, although I'm sure some Burger Records garagesters or West Coast hippies would glom on to this if given a chance. Scum stats: 250 copies, green vinyl.(RK)
(Bad Vision // badvision.bandcamp.com)
Bamodi "Smell Heaven" LP
A whopping 19 track LP from Perth's Bamodi, a wacky experimental punk trio who run through a diverse selection of sounds. There's direct hardcore, lots of math-rock/jazzy jitteriness, Minutemen-influenced punk, quirky Japanese-styled shenanigans. This guy's vox are shrill as hell, a nasally whine/yell that makes as many songs work as it does make some get under your skin. Minute and a half long bursts of quirk and rage that sometimes flirt with powerviolence but aren't really mean enough to fully fit that bill. Seriously, this guys voice is one of those things that goes from entertaining to annoying with the flick of a switch. Musically, it's as tight as can be, technically sound and shifting gears with perfect timing. They sound like a good natured and goofy bunch, with a warbling and ear-piercing rendition of Beat Happening's "Ponytail" as unlistenable proof. These guys should be big in Japan. There's a few nuggets to be found here (songs like "Margot" and "Spatula" where the music and vox do make for a great pairing) and there are some moments that remind me of the absolutely goofiest moments in the Skin Graft catalog. It's a lot to take in at once, but that's part and parcel of this "genre", whatever that genre may be. A little too much for me.(RK)
(Tenzenmen // www.tenzenmen.com)
Batpiss "Nuclear Winter" LP
Batpiss are a heavy alt-rock power trio from the suburbs of Melbourne heavy on the gloom-n-doom, but instead of opting for the traditonally swampy Scientists/Birthday Party approach they sound much more like the early Nineties post-hardcore of a band like Brutal Juice, perhaps 'Wretch'-era Kyuss, the least sludgy of Melvins output or the least weird AmRep bands. Some of it is actually a pretty tight riff on stoner-metal (or action rock, you decide) that isn't indebted to plodding Sabbath nodding but the more aerodynamic styles of the Desert Rock bands (although they snooze out some repeat-o-riffs too). Some moments seem like the more Sub Pop friendly Pissed Jeans material. The vocals are an odd fit on many tunes, just a really monochromatic yell. This guy would sound good in the midst of a more traditional hardcore band, but sometimes the alt-metal attack here needs something with more personality. An Interscope Records logo really wouldn't seem out of place on this LP. "Couldn't Get Out" works out just right because it's basically a hardcore velocity tune. "Drag Your Body" is pretty powerful churn-n-burn and the swampiest cut, "Come Here and Fuck Off" works fine attitudically and musically. Some of the best moments are when they approach the metal-punk sort of style Wiccans do extremely well, but Batpiss just do it with less character (and again, it's all in the vox). A song like "Human" makes me think of how much better this tune could be with some different parts - the Flag-influenced Ginn moves are stretched and sludged nicely but have nothing to play against. It's an agressive album that's just lacking in the personality dept. All balls, which may be enough for some of you. Really nice artwork though...(RK)
(Every Night Is A Saturday Night // everynightisasaturdaynight.com)
Michael Beach “Golden Theft” LP
Solo release from this Melbourne to SF transplant. He’s had a few outings sprout up in these reviews before, including Electric Jellyfish, which is probably one of the best bands I’ve ever shared stage with. Beach is often seen helping out Bay Area locals like Meercaz and Colossal Yes live or lurking in the shadows wearing his corduroy jacket and a feedtime shirt. Total stand up dude. 'Golden Theft' is a collection of new songs and old OOP ones from Twin Lakes releases over the past couple years. Dusty western trails get kicked up during tracks like “Exhilarating Rise” and “Dirt”, which build on the southern gothic darkness of Simon Bonney or the Bad Seeds, yet they're haunted by the moody ‘mericana productions of Lee Hazelwood. Maybe even some of the shimmering beauty and jazz tempos of Jeff Buckley, if that don't scare the punkers away. I mentioned in the old tape review a while back that “Straight Spines” sounded similar to Mission Of Burma reworking their post punk catalogue, jarring it with unusual time shifts to produce a stuttering waltz. I’m sticking to it. The jangle n’ strum of the guitar builds to crescendos that have Branca or Chatham orchestration to them them, especially in the codas and short passages that split sides. “Static” scrubs away the arid alt-country flavor for more indie-centric grounds, hearkening back to 90’s college rockers with a wash of feedback swell that never overpowers, but rolls in and out like the tide on top of the proceedings. “There Is No Edge…” also returns from an earlier cassette release and it's an old fave of mine. A beauty of No Depression styled depression with some pedal steel to help swing the heartache along. I was flattered that his label mentioned my Greg Cartwright comparison, but I feel like the Andre Either mention was probably more on point, especially when you get to the epic end of this ride. "Eve" moves along in a blues rooted Dylan storytelling, dipped in a rustic whiskey soaked lore. I’m kinda’ in shock how much I like this stuff. He’s got quite a good grasp on songwriting skill, tugging at a lot of influences but standing his own ground without sounding like any or all of them. There’s a lot of heart, guts and time poured into this release and I wouldn’t be surprised to se a bigger minor league label like Sub Pop or Matador latch on to him in the near future. While playing this at work the other day, a customer asked who it was. He was surprised to learn that Beach lived right across the bridge, and proclaimed he didn’t sound “San Francisco” at all. I followed that with a “well, he is originally from Australia”. To this the customer put down the record jacket and said “There ya go...that’s as old weird America as you can get!” I think I know what he means. Stats: 275 numbered copies in a gatefold. (RSF)
(Twin Lakes Records & Spectacular Commodity // www.twinlakesrecords.com)
The Birthday Party "Live 81-82" 2XLP
Originally released in 1999 on CD and now seeing vinyl release for the first time, "Live 81-82" is the only official band-approved live document of the Birthday Party. There've been a good dozen or so live boots over the years, and the half-dozen of which I've actually heard were not that spectacular aside from the record with Lydia Lunch and the Peel Sessions (if you count those as "live" records), and this package stands as the only live Birthday Party you really need (that I know of). I'm not big on concert records for the most part, but when they're at their best a live document like this should obviously have you wishing you had been there. Or in some cases have you wishing you had been able to just see the band at any point in time to the degree that you actually get pissed about it. I'm fairly pissed about this one. Obviously I never had a chance to see these legends - I don't think I even started listening to them until they were long broken up - and it's something I'm not thrilled about. I suppose at this point our perception of Nick Cave is tainted a bit by what happened later, but in 1981 I'd imagine he was pretty fucking phenomenal when in character (and I'm of the persuasion that he's still cool, but maybe you're not). And really, in a live setting I'd probably spend more time staring at Rowland play anyway. RIP. Seventeen tracks here, all sounding deep, loud and clear, culled from three shows: ten from London '82 (the entire first LP), the next six from Bremen '82 and the last track (a scorching cover of "Funhouse" with Jim Thirwell on sexaphone) from Greece '82, with no repeats, and it actually all sounds pretty seamless due to the sequencing switching the sets up at the side break anyway. All tracks are from the period before Tracy Pew left for a spell, but the last few tracks give Mick Harvey a drum credit - but I'm pretty sure this was from before Phil Calvert was fired (I don't think they did it mid set?!). Not sure about that part. It's all prime cuts, they play 'Junkyard' almost in it's entirety, a few earlier cuts and "The Friend Catcher" seems to be the then-newest material - and Cave hambones this one up most perfectly. Cave might be ripe for some jabs these days, but here his theatrics sound as primal as one can be. "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" gets a really good workout, a tune that is pretty much the basis for every Jesus Lizard song (I guess you could say this about more than a few BP tunes, but it really sticks out here). No stage banter from Mr. Cave (or it was all edited out), but I think they were taking themselves pretty seriously at this point anyway. Side 4 is the crusher, with what I imagine was a set closing version of "She's Hit" with RSH sounding minimal and brilliant and savage and the "Funhouse" version, which sounds the rawest of anything here, and fittingly so. The guitar sound is pretty insane, just shrill feedback playing, Cave actually sounds like he's having fun in between screaming like a broad getting murdered, Thirwell's sax almost gets lost in the rhythm section and they of course stretch and then stomp out the ending. Few bands in the world have the balls or authority to cover The Stooges properly, and I do believe The Birthday Party are a band of that magnitude. Essential live stuff, also comes with a CD for the car, all in a deliciously slick gatefold package. (RK)
(4AD // www.4ad.com)
Bits of Shit "Meat Thump" 7"
The 2012 Band of the Year teams of with the 2013 Label of the Year and somehow this miserable world continues to spin without flying off its axis. “Meat Thump” is a nice n’ meaty pummeler that works well as a fitting tribute to Brendon Annesley and Co. If he was here right now, I’d assume he’d stay up all night writing about the importance of this track in this garbage-strewn excuse we now have to call R&R. I’ll just say it’s a hard hitting tune with feedtime drive, plus a smidge of artpunk that recalls early Saccharine Trust within my brain. A good throb. Danny’s still proving he’s got one of the best snark n’ snarl mouths in the biz. “W.W. Me” is a jarring burner that has a vibe more along the lines of their first (and long, long gone) single…that I still don’t have. Way to rub it in. There’s a metallic edge in the chords that speaks to my Midwest hesher roots. Think of it like an older, wiser (drunker?) and real mean Eddy Current. This is some real deal, meat & potatoes stuff, children. Scum stats: Pressed in a 500 count batch with hand stamped Total Punk sleeves. Did ya get the mail order version? I did. There were a 100 that came with a fantabulous Pettibone-aping poster. I still chuckle when I glance at it. (RSF)
Such a fantastic pairing. The most conceptually sound punk label of today with the most conceptually sound punk band from perhaps anywhere on the planet. "Meat Thump" (whether it references the band or not I have no idea) somehow has these denim-clad monsters of rock turning into some sort of nut-kicking Eighties hardcore throwback with post-'Damaged' Flag moves galore. Fucking smoking. Nuff sed. The B-Side is "W.W.Me" (which I had hopes was some sort of wrestling fed reference - but is just as equally smoking as World War Me) which continues to relentlessly kick you in the head with more white-hot guitar shred and the greatest vocal sneer in sport today. Absolutely essential, and I have to saw I'm blown away by Bits of Shit on this all over again. If you thought "Cut Sleeves" was fantastic (which I did) this one raises the bar(s) even further. Unthinkable, I know, but it happened. If you're a wise man you'll shell out for the version with the poster as well. And speaking of posters, this band even has the best fliers in the world. These wildmen are really attacking it from all angles. America needs more acts like this. (RK)
(Total Punk // www.floridasdying.com)
Bits of Shit "Rider" 7"
The Bits of Shit Music Club continues the Black Flag comparisons on the A-Side of this three tracker. "Rider" is is some post-sideBofMywar lurch-n-crawl bass skulk and guitar creep ('In My Head'-era perhaps) with less shred and more bent notes. B-Side has them keeping up their tributes and referential song titles - "Lazy Cowgirls" is hot rock-n-punk, a little bit Poison Idea maybe. "Total Recoil" is a minute-and-a-half of Aussie drive and howl. Simply vicious. Scum stats: part of the Singles Going Home Alone series, which means 750 copies on red vinyl for subscribers only. You snoozed if you didn't sign up this year, mate.(RK)
(Matador Records // www.matadorrecords.com)
Chinese Burns "Got Lost" 7"
One of my personal favorites return with their first record in over a year. "Not My Girl" rips right into things, a ballsy punker cut from the hottest of Headcoats cloth, and the energy and spit continue right into "Goose Step" which is a garage-punk dambuster with searing fuzz guitar and gonzo vox. A fantastically ripping punk rock A-Side if I've ever heard one. Fucking hot. "In My Jungle" fills the flipside with more childish fun, more of a crushing Caesars slow-tempoed axe dropper. These guys were unfortunate in that their first seven inch was so good it felt like everything that came after was a step down, which is a painful truth, but there was still a good song or two to be had for sure. The A-Side of this single is the closest they've come to replicating the magic of their debut. Good shit indeed, a couple of the best garage-punk tunes from any side of any pond recently.(RK)
(Swashbuckling Hobo // swashbucklinghobo.blogspot.com)
The Clits "Excuse Me" 7"
Melbourne trio peddling indie-rock wares. Not really twee, but could definitely be considered cute. Very simple but catchy instrumentation will remind one of any number of K Records outfits or bands featured in Sassy magazine. Prominent basslines drive the tunes, male vox are slightly nasal and Richman-esque at times (as are the quirker lyrics), songs are mid-tempo yet still have pep, playing is charmingly amateurish but not sloppy. Most awkward song title: "Period Pains" - sung by a guy. Could be a more sedate Royal Headache without the white-soul voxx. A very pleasant record to spin on summer afternoons when you have some girls over for drinks, file this one under "not punk" - it could have some wider appeal than just us underground goofs though.(RK)
(Anti-Fade Records // antifaderecords.webs.com)
Cured Pink "Body, Body, Body" 7"
You might remember Cured Pink from their split with Penguins, but I don't think that it hinted at how good they are. "Body Body Body I Need It I Need It I need It" is the name of the A-Side and it's quite simply stunning. The construction is something to behold - one of those songs that sounds like it's made up of broken parts that are somehow stuck together and matched up or just fall into line making for a bizarre yet catchy creation. I don't know how this was assembled - I have doubts something that seems so complex could have been recorded or played live - it must have been assembled in the studio. It reminds me very much of a Pere Ubu tune, built on a simple rhythm with tape manipulations and electronics over top - there's a clock-ticking cadence to it all, some tea kettle squeals, dry guitars that seem like they're emulating the precision of a machine (proto-industrial?), nasally vocals, theremins, oscillators, a watery bassline, maybe a china cymbal or small gong. There's a lot going on but it somehow doesn't seem too busy. It sounds deceivingly simple - like I said, the Ubu vibe is heavy in the air. A fantastic track. Listening to it is like watching a Rube Goldberg machine, primitive industrial vibes of the wondrous kind. From what I've read Cured Pink is artist Andrew McLellan's brainchild, a conceptual/performance artist of some regard in Brisbane, and I've also read that this single might be improvised with his band, but it seems too complex for that. B-Side is more of the same, perhaps a bit simpler in that I don't think there's as many instruments/players involved. It reminds me of an even weirder Gary Wilson song - there's some semblance of pop underneath it all, but it's covered in layers of shimmering percussion, Andrew's odd vocals which have a disorienting echo/doubling here, more clockwork time keeping, a prominent organ and identifiable bassline being played. There some incidental street noise acting as a backing track that blends in so seamlessly you don't realize it's there until the rest of instrumentation drops out at the end. Not as phenomenal as the title cut, this one is a bit more experimental but is still musically sound and a completely interesting listen. I talk a lot of shit about how "artists" make bad music via experimental cling-clang and other hacky shit, but McLellan has the right idea here - this is certainly music as art, but he managed to make songs out of it, not some baloney "painting with sounds" pretentiousness. Semi-industrial music made by an artist that I really enjoy to listen to - never thought I'd say that. Scum stats: limited info on this, I saw somehwere it was supposedly limited to only 100 copies, which is a shame if true because this deserves a wider audience. (RK)
(Black Petal // www.blackpetal.com)
Distort #41 and #42
I'll make this simple. Distort is the best zine in the world today. There are some other good ones out there, don't get me wrong, but none of them transcend our concept of a zine (or "zine writing") quite like Distort does. The most insightful writing (about music, movies, books or life) that I've read over the past few years has come from DX's pen. It's not a zine where you can rifle right to the reviews looking for some smarmy pisstakes on records you don't (or do) like, it's not a zine that you read the one interview with a band you like and never finsih the rest. Every sentence is something to be considered. An issue ranges 20 pages or so on average, but reads like a much denser page count and begs for revisiting. Thought-provoking stuff that isn't so much about reporting on the scene (but it does) and keeping up on current punk trends, but narrowing in on the really great things out there and making you think about why they are great. One of the few things I truly celebrate arriving in my mailbox. If you're not a subscriber I feel ike you're making a really bad mistake. These past two issues were top shelf, including an excerpt from our Lars vs. The Hunches interview, and touching on Harry Crews, Aaron Aspinwall (Repos singer and a great writer in his own regard), EM Cioran, Omegas, Sixties Aussie punks The Throb and more of an equally diverse rangs. Also in this recent "update", was Daniel's Life Stinks I Like the Kinks zine (also sold on the UV Race tour), which is an analytical/obsessive fan's thoughts on the band from 1965-69, the type of labor that can only come from someone who lives with and writes about music if only because it's something one must do. A natural. I look forward to the day twenty years from now when Bazillion Points collects all of these issues into a nice hardback. (RK)
(Distort // distortmag.bigcartel.com)
Drunk Elk "Under Neon Lights" 12"
This record came out some time ago - 2011 to be exact - and it's been lost in a pile of LPs here at the office for at least a year or more. I kept flipping it to the back of the pile, as I didnt much care for what I'd heard of Drunk Elk in the past - I recall some sort of formless weirdo art splooge. I figured I'd finally give it a go - and it ain't so bad. Sort of primitive art-folk, a bellowing singer/poet accompanied by unlearned or untrained acoustic guitar playing at times, making for a haggard and sad expression of raw emotion. There are no drums at all on this record. Free range organ playing over which he sings some poetry. "Factotum Vague" is the pinnacle (or nadir) of depression here. Poetry delivered unintelligbly always seems weird to me - what's the point of hiding the words when that's what the focus seems to be? "The Baccae" is scathing punk in essence. Not an uplifting listen at all - there's no happy ending - but it's jarringly good at being a bummer, which says something. Scum stats: 300 copies.(RK)
(Wormwood Grasshopper // wormwoodgrasshopper.blogspot.com)
Eastlink "Wild Dog" 7"
Al Montfort plays in many bands, all of them exceptional: UV Race, Total Control, Dick Diver, Straightjacket Nation, Lower Plenty, a veritable who's-who of Aussie phenoms. Here he plays drums and sings while surrounding himself with every one of his pals who owns a guitar - well, at least four of them, all hailing from bands of similar pedigree (Lee Parker, Zephyr, Johann Rashid and Ben Hepworth from bands like Lakes, Teargas, Repairs and others already mentioned), making a mountain of evil psychedelia and noise-drone of ominous magnitude. Both tracks are remastered from their Little Big Chief-released cassette and both hit on a level somewhere around your kidneys. "Wild Dog" creates a dark galaxy of guitar doom led into the night by tribal thump - reverb-laden repetition laced with whistling feedback (and actual whistling). The lame comparison is an alternate universe UV Race, all darkside and no sun - and it can be noted here that the band is named after a large slice of thruway that cuts through Melbourne. "Blood Money" is more bristling and harrowing, as a song about genocide is likely to be. Vocals and guitars are mangled and mingled into strange are foreboding formations that sound like sheet metal being bent and twisted and stretched, actually leaving behind the thought that these even are guitars at some points. Not easy listening in the slightest, but Mikey Young mastering makes them go down as smooth as glass full of tacks. Quality damage and the best in bad vibes make the upcoming LP on In the Red seem like it will be a release that should have some sort of advisory warning or hazmat sticker on it, should it not destroy the machinery at whatever lucky pressing plant gets to pound it out. Don't sleep. Ever. Scum stats: 300 copies with worthwhile insert. (RK)
(Aarght Records // www.aarghtrecords.com)
Exiles from Clowntown "#3" 7"
Post-3 Toed Sloth rock'n'growl deconstruction from the Exiles collective trio of weirdos. "(No) Original Thort" is built on a bass grunt and splayed guitar wanderings that go in and out of the drummer's time keeping efforts in making this projectile move forward, dragging the vocals behind it like a handcuffed prisoner. Probably the best of all Exiles tunes I've heard (and I think I've heard most if not all, at least the ones on record). They change direction on the flip for a gently twanged-up droner with subliminal Velvets-vibes. Ramshackle to say the least. That A-Side is a real mover though. Scum stats: 150 copies only, handstamped labels and sleeves with triangular cut-outs for the final installment in the band's "Holy Trinity of Shapes" series, following the circles and squares of the Great Dividing singles. (RK)
(Ever/Never Records // evernever.bigcartel.com)
The Fuzz "Air" 7"
Not to be confused with the Ty Segall vehicle Fuzz, THE Fuzz are a Memphis All Star Team whose membership includes Harlan T. Bobo, Jack "Oblivian" Yarber, Bruce "Easter Bilby" Saltmarsh, Steve "Big Ass Truck" Selvidge and Jeff "Action Family" Dutton. "Air" is Memphis garage-punk personified, classy yet tough, with a smokin' guitar break and chugging tempo. B-Side is a C&W slider that sounds like the ruminations of a man pretty far into the bottle - bad wimmin, alienation, bummer vibes with crying guitars. Some real fine stuff that's just a little bit ragged - like I said, it doesn't get more Memphis-sounding. I'm under the impression that this is a teaser for a full length also forthcoming on Munster, who are quietly chugging along as one of the finest labels in all of Euro-land, even if they put out some dodgy 7" box sets...this one is very recommended for all you "adults" out there.(RK)
(Munster Records // www.vampisoul.com)
Gooch Palms "Novo's" LP
Debut long player after two EPs from this Newcastle duo. Frontman/guitarist Leroy Macqueen is the kooky one, apparently the type of guy who likes to get naked and wild during shows, while stand-up drummer Kat Friend plays the straight man and also contributes vocals along with the beats. Macqueen's vox contain the zaniness of Fred Schneider, a bit of Lux Interior's punkabilly yelp and he can do the white-boy soul croon too. Kat's vocals are solid female punkola, not screechy or wild but having more of a Joan Jett directness. Songwise, they do a lot of styles - early Sixities-sounding ballads ("You"), indie-garage ("We Get By", what could be the hit off this one), garage-punk stomp ("False Identity"), Crampsy muck gone pop ("A Sun, A Moon"), Ramones radio-punk ("Hungry") and more all driven by primitive drumming and with Macqueen's vocals really being the attention grabber. Reminds me of a King Khan & BBQ set-up, with traces of doo wop and Fifties sockhop moves as well, making sure the live show is a party. Your liking of this will hinge largely on your appreciation of this guy's singing. Should appeal to Burger Records fans, Nobunny devotees and other pop-minded sorts who like it a little bit weird, but in a friendly way.(RK)
(Anti-Fade Records // antifaderecords.webs.com)
Happy Times "Gross Registrable Tonnage" EP
Australian action rawk with a U-Boat gimmick, including a comic book inner sleeve about the band being an unfrozen German crew from WWII and giving themselves Kraut pseudonymns with military ranks. Pretty ridiculous yet not all that funny. Musically it's like a less energetic New Bomb Turks or Zeke. Maybe Gaza Strippers without a great guitar player. One of those rare Australian bands that aren't actually that good, this is total scheisse.(RK)
(Swashbuckling Hobo // swashbucklinghobo.bigcartel.com)
Helta Skelta "Asbestos" EP
Aussie outfit from Perth I've never heard before, this is their second or third record, with members of Extortion. Kind of a weird mix of hardcore and garage punk, like Rupture meets The Onyas or something. I like it quite a bit, especially "Smile" which is a weird DIY sounding tune with some surfy guitar parts and dum-dum vox. "Rust" is very muscular mid-tempo punk with burly vox, "Suedehead" is not a Morrissey cover but a ballsy slow-tempo HC stomper. "Face" is great snotty shit with an odd post-punk angle to it. Very cool stuff, almost like a more punk or yobbo Hygiene or something, very hard to describe these guys which is always a plus in my book.(RK)
(Helta Skelta // heltaskeltarecords.blogspot.com)
Housewives s/t 7" EP
A fantastic little record that mushes you in the face right off the bat. "Special Power" is hardcore garage, with a snotty singer that could be giving the Bits of Shit guy a run for his money, overblown bass grunt, killer handclaps, almost a Swell Maps-ish boil but with the finesse of The Mummies - this is all snot and stomp. Young and pissed up/off, "Who Am I?" continues with more of the prominent bass moving with a swarming guitar sound that isn't a riff or chord, just manic shredding that somehow works. A five piece gang that sound like delinquents who just broke out of the detention center for a beer-soaked rampage through the town. There's some kind of catchiness to the moves here, sticky like rubber cement. "That's Chat" reminds me of a more aggro and mean version of the Ghastly Spats' disgusting slop. "Lick the Pip" closes with an infinitely playable bit of outta-tune teen-punk mayhem with a great refrain and having this young pisser blowing his lungs up and just resorting to barking at times. One of the top 7"es of this year so far - no indie-rock or artiness of any kind here, just sheer chunk-blowing jabber. Scum stats: 300 copies. (RK)
(RIP Society // ripsocietyrecords.tumblr.com)
Housewives "Second EP" 7"
Was pretty excited these kids got a follow-up release out so quick, as the longer their debut was around the more I liked it - totally obnoxious music with hooks that stayed with you long after you'd thought they be gone. I actually came to crave the tunes after a week of steady listening. So the new one, "Fuck You of Fuck Yeah" is a beautiful song title for sure, the tune is pretty wild and wooly too - just a stupid head-first chugger. "Phaser" sounds Bits of Shit-ty, but with the sneering vox replaced by a mushmouthed drunk. "You Got Eyes" has some of the weird moves that the first single had - multiple guitar tracks, a synth and a slowed down/sped up riff that breaks in a few different ways and the vocals sound extra batty. This could be the one to stick. "Searching for the Slug" has another slightly warped riff and the only bit of the gal/gang vox that were all over the first record - has a good "breakdown" at least. This ones at least as angry as the first single and has even more punk drive, but it also doesn't seem as charmingly sloppy and gooey. I'm going to have to let this soak in for awhile longer, but I still call it Grade A Aussie beef.(RK)
(Anti-Fade Records // antifaderecords.webs.com)
Ich Bin Ein Esel "Holy Grail" 7" EP
Ich Bin Ein Esel are Mad Macka's latest outfit (he of Onyas guitar heroics and present day Cosmic Psycho) with mates from Boondall Boys and Dangermen. Macka picks up the bass duties on this one, but also overdubs some hot solo action on the A-Side tracks. It's not as if good ol' Dr. Rock couldn't handle the guitar duties himself (he also does some soloing of his own, as does dummer Larmo - making this a guitar...platoon? I'm just trying to avoid saying army here...). It's Aussie-brand action rawk (derived from Detroit rawk), "Holy Grail" opens with the high water mark, as the soloing is the most molten (Macka and Rock on this one) with lots of wahhhhhhh. "Man Punches Shark" is fun, both for the ridiculous concept and chorus ("Fuck Shit Up!") and the Aussie-est vocal. It sounds the most punk and least rawky. Chugging even. "Hate, Fear and Conquest" is a hot metal attack. Chuggier still. If you have a taste for guitar daredevils and Motor City whomp, this is for you, chief.(RK)
(Swashbuckling Hobo // swashbucklinghoborecords.bandcamp.com)
The In-Sect "I Can See My Love" 7"
Reissue of the In-Sect's second single from 1966. "I Can See My Love" is a Sixties Antipodean punk classic (appearing on thee seminal Ugly Things #1 comp) with a killer fuzz guitar sound that I always thought sounded like a weird violin, giving the proceedings a baroque quality. I can't do any better than calling it a "freakbeat monster" as Mr. Harvey so eloquently puts it in the liner notes. Ugly Pop does some more fantasy league record label CEO-ing by switching out the rather tame original B-Side and replacing it with one of the better covers of The Yardbirds "Over Under..." you're gonna hear, with more in-sect-oid (oof) guitar buzz that sounds like a fly screaming. Knockout packaging as always - gotta love it when labels are classy enough to spring for pocket sleeves. A class act all the way. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)
Kicks "The Secret" 7"
Absolutley essential pre-goth/post-punk from Brisbane's Kicks, the Young Identities reimagined after they started to grow weary watching punk kill itself in 1980. "The Secret" is sinister mid-tempo post-punk that is the definition of throbbing bass/drums slashed by guitars. Still young, and you can tell, but it's exciting to hear these kids doing something that was almost entirely new at the time. I've always been preferential to Side B's "Return of the Action Men", mainly because I'm a fan of the sort of B-movie themes it reminds me of. It has a really hard and sharp guitar sound that penetrates the almost stuttering backbeat - a spy-theme tautness that manages to stay loose. The moaning back-ups and sort of pulpy lyrics always sounded like a lot of fun to me, especially the dramatized vocals and cloak and dagger vibes overall, as played by a bunch of kids. It's like a comic book in song form. This is the sixth volume of the still in process ten record Shake/Savage label complete recordings reissue campaign 540 started, that I imagine will culminate in the release of the Kicks/Just Urbain cassette on vinyl, which will then see the sale of the whole series as a box set. Hopefully you weren't waiting for that to come out before you started buying these, as I believe we're two years into this campaign now. And I'm not complaining at all, just sort of using this review as a bookmark to remind everyone about this great project still in the works that I'm sure will be finished someday...it's not like Timmy isn't busy doing other things!(RK)
(540 Records // chaosintejas.bigcartel.com)
Kitchen's Floor "Deadshits" 7"
Kitchen's Floor "Regrets" 7"
Kitchen's Floor were one of the first of the new wave of Aussie bands that really cracked my head open - pushed on me hard by Brendon NGL, they were very much unlike what I expected from Aussie music at the time. I really fell in love with their live record, but the first LP isn't far behind that. Easter Bilby has now released what could be my new favorite Kitchen's Floor record - five songs that might be the very first recordings by the band, 2008 demo versions of five songs re-recorded for the first LP (and at least one of which is on 'Live in Brisbane'). Acoustic guitar and minimal drum kit strum-and-bash with the Matt Kennedy and Julia Norris two-piece line-up. The version of "Deadshits" that kicks this off is the perfect take on the song, opening up a can of Australian-DIY and chugging heartily. "Left" is sheer beauty, beer bottle and kick drum percussion and strum with vocals from heaven. "Downed It" actually rocks with a hard riff of sorts, "Ground" reminds me of the best of the cassette underground of any era. Just phenomenal and hard-hitting (yet not really "hard") stuff. Fascinating to hear these songs in yet another version. Essential release status confirmed. RIP Society has reissued the "Regrets" 7" from 2010, which didn't make it out in time for the band's US tour but still fills the need for a record that's been out of print for a couple of years. Recorded in 2009 by a three piece electric guitar, bass and drums line-up, the A-Side is versions of songs that also appeared on the live record and second LP, "Orbit" is a great piece of broken post-punk and "Regrets" is all agressive drumming and their hardest tune here, but tempered by Kennedy's knack for fractured DIY-pop with an unexpectedly great hook (or at least as close to one as this band gets). "Still Night" is exclusive to this release and is a wide open bit of Velvets-ish rock'n'drone with great bits of feedback punctuating Kennedy's drawl and hearing him let out one of the most understated rocking "OOHS" towards the end is a great touch. Raw and rough versions that again cut to the bone. Matt Kennedy is one of the shining lights of the Australian scene and I've even come to appreciate the visual aesthetic of their records (even though they sold out and went color on the Siltbreeze LP!). You need these both, but get on 'Deadshits' fast if you have to pick one.(RK)
(Easter Bilby // ineedinsulation.blogspot.com)
(RIP Society // ripsocietyrecords.tumblr.com)
The Kremlings "Vulture Race" 7" EP
Five piece punk bonanza from Geelong, whose track I recall liking from the Anti-Fade compilation. Kremlings are playing fast-paced garage punk (not hardcore), somewhere along the lines of what we would have referred to as action-rawk some years ago (the type of stuff that could have appeared on Junk Records), informed by Dwarves and actually sounding a bit similar to the heavier side of the ATL bands of today (Wymyns Prysyn or Acid Freaks/GHB maybe). A-Side has three bad-vibed riffers that this guy's vocals take a long way - angry and sneering and constantly on the verge of meltdown. Twin guitar attack sounds powerful as does the overall recording (by Mikey Young no less). B-Side is one long mid-tempo trip called "Little Ape" with an extended solo section/breakdown that's pretty heavy (as in emotive). A pretty dark record overall that should appeal to rockers. Scum stats: 300 copies.(RK)
(Anti-Fade // antifaderecords.bandcamp.com)
The Lost Domain "An Unnatural Act" LP
The Lost Domain is some kinda loose-goosey band-like entity from down Orstralia way. They sport a roster of freaks with names like John Henry Calvinist and Ragtime Frank. Bet they really know how to do the existential polka. Or the Protestant mambo on the chain gang express. Or some such silly dance. The Lost Domain have a bevy of releases on various formats stretching back to the dawn of the millennium, including the ‘Blondes Chew More Gum’ double LP collection that Negative Guest List put out a few years back. Folks seemed to really dig that sucker, but I never heard it; so here we are with a wax version of a 2006 CDR, courtesy of NGL. Eight of the 14 cuts from the CDR are presented here, and, despite the unfortunate omission of “Fuck the White Race,” it is still a scabrous listen. “Sun House II” comes in on a tidal wave of overdriven tremelo and pulsating static, winding its way into the empty warehouse cacophony of “Sic ‘em Dogs On,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Missing Foundation record. “Funeral March for Charley Patton” is like a Skullflower jam session with someone in the kitchen cranking the transistor radio and spinning the dials willy-nilly. Side Two’s “Radio I” continues the radio-station-from-hell motif in a sort of art brut musique concrete manner (any excuse to string together zee French), before “Lithia” brings some blown-out guitar-fuckery to lighten the mood. “Regret” closes things out with a relatively pastoral calm-down. I dig this LP, but be forewarned, this is essentially a noise record, so check your rock pants at the door. (EEK)
(Negative Guest List // negativeguestlistrecords.bandcamp.com)
Love Chants s/t 12" EP
Twelve inches worth of sounds that very vaguely resemble music, I'm not sure why the members of a band would get together and try this hard to not play songs. They could've just read a book or did the laundry or something else. It's all in the name of art I suppose, and considering the members of this band are the persons behind artastic projects like Mad Nanna, XnobbqX, the Breakdance the Dawn, Albert's Basement and Black Petal labels, it all makes sense. One possibilty here is that they wrote four actual songs and then made the decision to play them as stretched and slow as they possibly could without actually nodding off. I've listened to this at both 45 and 33 rpms, and I fail to notice much difference. It's funnier at 33 I guess. ART. I can't really call this pretentious though. It's just beyond my grasp. Big surprise = each copy comes with a unique abstract painting as cover artwork. (RK)
(Quemada Records // quemadarecords.blogspot.com)
The Master's Apprentices "Undecided" 7"
A monster of Sixties rock, Australian or otherwise. The B-Side is the "famous" tune here, immortalized on the second Nuggets box, and it's certainly a heaping slice of garage-psych pie - killer guitar sound with drugged reverb breaks, a massive hook and kidney-punching drums. "Undecided" is a fantastic Kinks-ian punk&b with another killer riff and vox as snotty/sneering as they got in '66. Double-sided scorcher alert! Remastered in killer pocket sleeve and jumbo-sized insert showcasing some great fashion sense on these fellas (dig that guy's Riddler outfit!) - this one was so hot it had to repressed for a second turn for all you lucky snoozers out there. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)
Dan Melchior "K-85" LP
Back in 2009 or so I wrote this review of the 'Obscured By Fuzz' LP that I used as a sopabox for discussion on the overwhelming amount of releases he and other hard-working artists create, and even though it was a record I generally liked, it turned out to be the breaking point for my listening relationship with him for a spell, as 2009's double LP 'Thank You Very Much' was the last record of his I actively bought and listened to. I'd been following the guy's career since the late 90's Medway days, owning every record he released through the mentioned double LP (and that's at least 30 records by my estimate - that's a fucking lot, but I'm trying not to bring up old arguments again...). I loved the Broke Revue, and once drove three hours round trip to see them and don't reget a second of it (and watching them blow The Greenhornes and a couple local shlubs off the stage will always be a fond memory). I can't say that I stopped liking his music - I still listen to those old records at times - I think I was just finally overwhelmed and gave up. It was just too much, I wasn't necessarily excited by hearing a new record as they were popping up so often it became a chore. And I can blame myself and my collector's OCD for being a guy who had to keep up with EVERY record Melchior released in the first place. I burnt myself out. You'd think I would've learned a lesson trying to keep up with Headcoats/Childish records. Since then I reckon I've missed no less than seven LPs and another half-dozen singles in the 3 or 4 year sabbatical I've taken, and I'm positive some of those records were good to great. Melchior's standing as one of the most articulate and creative songwriters of our time is not in question - the amount of times he has retooled or modified and expanded his palette is astounding, he's blown away any real notion of genre in his work and has nearly created one all his own. Which brings us to 'K-85', which I received a promo of, and found myself keen to listen to it, interested to hear what he's been up to. As I said, I don't have the references of the past four years worth of material to check against, but I'll say that this one is a pretty damn good record. The LP moves from the pop opener to the experimental "The Prog Prick" with backwards vox and synth bleep (and maybe a lyrical barb thrown as well), to "Undertow"'s fantastic sound effects and back to more sharp pop ("Mockingbird"). "Being of Lights" is the type of fooling around I always like - a radio broadcast given musical backing making a great A-Side ending. "Extortionate Shit" is more of his sharp-tongued yet classy songwriting. "FFF" is more sound effectry that could be a very elaborate take on Shadow Ring, "She's A Creeper" ends with a lush arrangement of country/rock undertones. A great song with some of the best guitar playing I've heard from him. Let my mistakes be a lesson to someone out there - just because there's a huge buffet doesn't mean you have to gorge on it all. It's ok to say no. A dozen tracks split almost evenly between Melchiorian pop and exciting sound experiments. Pick and choose is how you need to appraoch it, and this is a fine pick. Scum stats: 500 total(?) with 100 copies on pink vinyl, all proceeds from the sales go to Letha Rodman-Melchior's ongoing battle with cancer. (RK)
(Homeless Records // www.homelessrecords.bandcamp.com)
Native Cats "Dallas" LP
I'm liking Native Cats more and more with each new record - their tracks on the split with UV Race were their best to date in my mind - and 'Dallas' continues the upward trend. For whatever reason I never enjoyed their first LP and was on the fence about 'Process Praise' - and I don't really think they're doing things that much different now, but 'Dallas' feels like their most accessible record thus far. Julian Teakle's bass playing and talked vocals create a solemn and straight-laced atmosphere that is somehwat downtrodden or even doubtful and anxious about life, but not really at all depressing. It's observational, conversational and questioning, but never sad - and there's some irony in there somewhere, but it's never obnoxious. Peter Escott's electronics add the emotional context to Teakle's protagonist. Crappy sounding Nintendo bloops, Eighties keyboard moves, crisp drum machines, even some lo-fi techno beats, all things that add color to the bass framing. They open at their most minimal, with the bass/vox only "Pane e Acqua" which is a great tune itself, but should also get you in the mindset to realize you're listening to one of those rare bands whose lyrics you should really pay attention to (and in another rare case, you can actually make them out clearly throughout the record). "I Remember Everyone" could be the song that becomes their "hit". "Cavalier" almost sounds schticky with its fancy New Wave electric piano lushness, but the lyrics paint a more serious picture. "Mohawk-Motif" closes out the record with class - post-punk bassline, dubby reverb effects, some exotic sounding percussion, biting lyrics - there's something PIL-like to it all. One of those songs that's ten minutes-plus but you could still listen to the rhythm on loop forever and get lost. When I realized there's only seven songs on this LP I thought they were going to be stretching some tunes pretty thin, but every track is is timed and sequenced perfectly. No easy feat, especially considering the emotional and aesthetic depth of the music involved (which again is illusory in a way - a duo with only bass and electronics convey these complexities?). A fantastic record, and one that's very well considered and deep in its ideas, something the press release (and goofy press photos) seems to try and downplay or hide - or maybe I'm just taking it too seriously? Either way, if you only buy one record from a Tasmanian band this year...US edition on RTS, AUS version through RIP Society, both are equally essential.(RK)
(Ride the Snake // www.ridethesnakerecords.com)
The Night Terrors “Back To Zero” 2xLP
A strange pair up, Homeless records and these Night Terrors…but why the hell not? After the punk rock slurry that’s been dished about the Australian landscape, we all could use a breather. And this is one heady trip with plenty of room to breathe. A Reissue of a 2009 CD, “Back To Zero” is made up of atmospheric post-rock instrumentals featuring a heavy dose of haunting electronics and Theremin. Night Terrors could speak to the Tortoise or Godspeed crowd, but they seem steeped in horror film lore and the pulsing Death Waltz/Dagored label soundtracks than either of those outfits. (I must not be too far off; I see they’re doing a stint opening for Goblin). Songs like “Dream Eater” and “Blood & Bone” do just that, colliding strong backbeats with electronic quivers, maggot-screeches and a Claudio Simonetti worthy hardened prog. I dig how they use the Theremin as a haunting vocal chorus instead of just background noise, much like Clara Rockmore would’ve wanted it. Morose movements like “Glass Eyes” bring a witchcult Goth that could be used as Sacred Bones backing tracks or the building blocks to newer Zola Jesus tune. Dreary/dreamy. “Sesquipedalian” is a wailer of Kraut drive and whirling sirens, worming about in a wash of shimmering synth cacophony and then back to a mind melter of progressive eclecticism. Nothing ever gets to avant or evil, nor does it go into such lame new age territories as you might expect. It’s a pretty uplifting journey overall, until you stumble upon the epic side-long title track. This is where the darkness takes hold. Giggling gnomes, glitching pulses and more ticking clocks or winding gadgets than the entire Pink Floyd catalog combined. An electronic laboratory of terror tour, that ends in synthetic ecstasy. The cybertronic equivalent of “Live At Pompeii”…? All that and a lot more. You could literally fly to Melbourne and grip a copy of this LP before I could finish breaking down every track. Kudos to Homeless for stepping out of their piss soaked cardboard box of a house and releasing this epic journey. There’s a song titled “Existential Revelation In The Circle Pit At Slayer” on here. You should probably buy this just to have that on your shelves. Scat-stats: 300 were pressed on multi-splatter colored vinyl and shoved into a real sharp Chris Ilth looking (but its not) collage gatefold. Out of print. Another 300 are coming down the pipe. Hope they make it stateside. (RSF)
(Homeless Records // www.homelessrecords.bandcamp.com)
Occults s/t 7"
Brisbane trio playing in the now popular death/goth arena. Fairly dark stuff with a more punk sensibility than batcave dramatics, but there's still a bit of Christian Death worship to be had. Certainly some Birthday Party records as well. "Soiled Bibles" has male vox over some truly throbbing bass, tribal beat and piercing guitar lines. More depressed than aggro, but firm about it though. "Sex After Death" has guy/girl trade off vox, the guitar gets less distorted and even more ear-piercing which is tempered a bit by a solid and gothy hook. The B-Side has two tracks that flirt with good ideas, but the execution becomes a bit predictable. Heavier rock moves with some SoCal punk vibes and cold-wave darkness - sounds good from an instrumental perspective at times, but the songs end up being a bit mundane. The A-Side shows promise as does the stellar sleeve design and packaging. (RK)
(No Patience // www.nopatience.org)
Peak Twins "Steppin' Off" 7"
Was not sure what to expect heading into this one. I was guessing either Spacemen 3-esque drone or schticky retro-New Wave based on the appearance of the sleeve. For the record, I actually like this band's name. The music is a bit of a surprise - "Steppin' Off" is a sort of riff on Fifties radio rock and Brit-pop in a roundabout way - like Oasis covering Roy Orbison or something. Very quaint. The B-Side is a downer called "China White", very lush sounding and straddling the line between AOR schmaltz and slightly psychedelic pop. It's a bummer, that's for sure. I liked this more than I was expecting to, but that's still not enough for me to recommend you seek it out. An interesting angle, but not enough substance to make it more than that. (RK)
(Bedroom Suck // www.bedroomsuckrecords.com)
Per Purpose "Eureka" cassingle
A true cassingle from Brisbane's Per Purpose, with "Eureka" repeated on both sides. Recorded during the session for their upcoming debut LP on Bedroom Suck, the tune is exclusive to this release, putting you in a difficult position - you might have to actually buy a cassingle in 2013. "Eureka" is a song worthy of going out of your way for, and one of the best (or at least most likeable to me) Per Purpose tunes I've heard. It's quite a change of pace from their usual six-songs-in-nine-minutes blast of econo-punk and jazzy angular bursts. This one is ten minutes or so of guitar ramble in indie-rock/post-punk styles, touching on Sonic Youth guitar scaping/table setting, maybe a kinder-gentler Shellac tight-n-shiny dynamic and some straight up melodic indie-pop moves. It'll take you longer to read the lyrics to "Eureka" than it did to listen to their last 7". The change in approach may be due some to their becoming a quartet with the addition of second guitarist Mitchel Perkins from Psy Ants and Cured Pink. And speaking of lyrics, there's some serious stream-of-consciousness babble going on here, and I dig it. Confident and somewhat ballsy vocal delivery. They build and rebuild the song a few times, taking quiet pauses to reset before striding into another section. A pretty smart tune, and smart in a different and more likeable way than they were operating before. Scum stats: 100 copies.(RK)
(Vacant Valley // vacantvalley.blogspot.com)
Rat King "Godsend" LP
A very remarkable and stereotypically Australian sounding LP from Newcastle's Rat King that sounds more like genealogically inbred bloodline continuation than forced tribute/imitation. Heavy on the drunken Cave-esque blooze-n-howl at times, but executed with authentic swagger and a convincingly haggard vocal performance. Real wrong-side-of-the-tracks aesthetics as well. A truly swinging rhythm section and a guitarist that can go - prickly sharp, twangy slide, string shred, this guy's got it all down pat. These guys could be the scrawnier yet just as inebriated drinking buddies of the musclebound in comparison Cuntz. "Frank Grimes" pays a toll to 'Blood Red River'-era Scientists. "Big City Clitty" (!) has a Jeffrey Lee Pierce lost highway quality in delivering a tale about bad sex (of the backdoor kind). The Aussie equivalent of Killdozer's characterization of backwoods hillbillies. Thuggishly Venom P. Stinger-like moves abound but with inebriated stumble instead of amphetamized dexterity. The tunes are almost minimal, yet full of sleaze, grime and most of all sex in all deviations - a lot of this is what I always supposed Slug Guts records would have sounded like. "In Bed Again" opens Side B with a misanthropy on par with Drunks With Guns, and although less bombastic, just as hateful. Sounds like drinking whiskey from a filthy glass, alone and in squalor. "Never Wrong" achieves and almost Scratch Acid-like perfection. "Tramp Stamp" is yet another variation of "Shutdown/Annihilation Man", this one concise and splattered with reverb. I feel like the singer is getting more and more shitfaced as this record goes on - and songs like this make me really wish there was a lyric sheet. "Kano" ends the record with a five minute instrumental that that sounds like the band is dying or at least nodding out while they improvise it. It almost seems like a chronological cataloging of one of the worst nights of blackout drugs and drink binging, the sort of thing that when you finally wake up a sweaty panic immediately kicks in as you try and piece things together. And I've had some bad nights, but nothing anywhere near the level of ugliness this record hints at. It kind of freaks me out that the bands initials (RK) are also mine and written huge on the labels - is it a sign? A fantastic record and one of the best modern interpretations of the classic Aussie sound that doesn't seem like a total retread. Shockingly not recorded or mastered by Mikey Young, but by a man whose name is Beef, which is so apt that I couldn't have made it up. Self-described "fuck-punkers" is also so good is has to be true. Scum stats: supposedly only 100 pressed, which is a hurtful number for such a stellar record. (RK)
(Y202 Records // ratkingbrr.bandcamp.com)
Royal Headache "Stand and Stare" 7"
Royal Headache are one of the new Aussie breed who have mainstream appeal, possibly stepping in for the supposedly now defunct ECSR as the most popular/likely to succeed. "Stand and Stare", while not one of their best or even most personable tunes, is the type of worm-on-a-hook indie rock bait that's gonna get them on the soundtrack to an episode of Girls or a Zack Braff film (did his Kickstarter even work out?). It's pretty fucking pretty with those soulful white guy vox (I feel like he's doing his best Rod Stewart on this one). "Give It All To Me" on the flip is my preferred cut due its breakneck punk pace, shreddy guitar and the almost panicked vocal performance, just breaking down he needs this broad so bad. I can appreciate the desperate emotion imparted here - not my favorite brand of music, but the B-Side of this is these guys excelling in the niche they've carved for themselves. Scum stats: part of the Singles Going Home Alone series, 750 copies on red vinyl for subscribers only.(RK)
(Matador Records // www.matadorrecords.com)
Rule of Thirds s/t 7"
Debut vinyl offering from this Adelaide group whose demo cassette was quite impressive. They sound more death-rock on this than the tape, which is welcome, and all tracks are fresh material not reprised from the demo. Freya Zaknich's vocals are equally icy and fiery, giving these three songs all the passion they need - Goth/death rock is nothing without some sexuality, and there's plenty here thanks to her presence. "Mouthful" is a mid-tempo rocker that's nearly Gun Club-esque, very taut and confident with effectively eerie organ sounds that aren't overblown and superb vocals. The best take on the new goth thing I've heard. "Love & Loathing" has an evil sounding hook, reminds me equally of Banshees and the Ex Con 7" - opressive, depressive, and superb lyrical fantasy. This band is doing everything right, just the proper amount of theatrics balanced with musical proficiency. The B-Side is "Altars" and it's their big show stopper. An extended organ intro unfolds into a sweeping piece of hypnosis, under-the-dirt rhythmic thrust, guitar-as-scalpel and evilly doubled vox from Freya and a male monotone chant. This one has fog machine all over it, but done tastefully. An outstanding record and the finest band pulling this stuff off today. I'm bleeding for an LP now. Killer packaging with a thick sleeve housing a printed inner with lyrics. Another essential pick, and thankfully a domestic release so you should be able to grab it easily and affordably.(RK)
(Video Disease // vdrecords.bigcartel.com)
Satanic Rockers "Fu Kung" LP
Firstly, the "Eviction" 7" was the best single released last year (and second best record of any size, succumbing only to the Hank Wood LP), so I felt like this LP had unattainable expectations latched on to it. So the fact that it actually fulfilled all obligations I had set for it is an incredible feat. Secondly, I feel like the biggest revelation of this LP was the fact that they're using Pignose amplifiers, which explains a lot as to how they create that sickly guitar sound. This tidbit really blew my mind. Thirdly, the obligations I set for this LP didn't involve Satanic Rockers necessarily doing anything different than what they did on the 7" - and they didn't. This is basically ten variations on a theme. And what a theme it is: rock'n'roll from the nether reaches of...somewhere...saying hell just sounds so lame. There is no other band that sounds like this. If you really cared about that first record, you did some homework, and found the James Last Appreciation Society blog and realized that the Rockers are largely the work of Lynton Denovan, a Kiwi expatriate relocated to Melbourne, and were imagined all the way back in 2008. Denovan's history will be discussed elsewhere in this issue, but it's the sort of vast and obsessed self-recording OCD that befalls many and explains some how to this music came to fruition, i.e. the band was not conceived overnight, but is the culmination of years of work. The entire record creates a consitent feeling of malaise - guitar, vocals, drums all often played with the intensity of molasses slithering its way down your pantleg. I'm going to forego my usual overbearing song-by-song trudge and try and keep it simple. "Magic Wandella" is the opener and as you feel it painfully rear its head with with so much non-energy, you're immediately comforted knowing you're in the zone. Vocals are often doubled giving it a real paranoic vibe, espcially on this tune where Denovan's lyrics are echoed by a man with a cleft palate or other speech impediment with great difficulty, who eventually gives up and starts countering with the lalalalalas of a manchild with a peanut for a brain. The songs continue to fall forward, guitars circling slowly like buzzards, occassionaly breaking for needly soloings at times both appropriate and not. "Fruit Shop Rat" is the sequel to "Rat Versus Boredom", a real life example of real hate for a real person, punctuated with an accusation of cock sucking. These guys worked at a fucking fruit stand together. It's fucking ridiculous. Another startling revelation is "Micro Manager" where they actually play at a velocity that proves that the band are apparently not just a poorly re-animated assemblage of corpses. They're so excited by this tune that they continue going faster and completely behead themselves with their own instruments on "Regional Command". They revisit "Eviction" and make it fancier, but the single version is still superior. The B-Side is basically an excuse for "The Legendary Pignose", ten minutes or so of them reading the copy on the box of the amp much a like a child reads the back of a box of cereal over which they create sounds like a guitar striking against electrified fencing, undergound, in a tunnel with strange acoustics, with the vocals taking on the excitement of a hobo who just found half of a donut in the trainstation toilet. This is where the Satanic Rockers saga ends, and although I'll miss them it's probably for the best, as they just blew their load all over that tune. Some stories are better short. Fin.(RK)
(Black Greasy Basement // available in the US via littlebigchief.bigcartel.com)
Sewers "Hoisted" LP
Brisbane based outfit whose cassette demo I was very much into. Dark outback punk rock, they stay away from the swamp for the most part and invest their songs with a drier and dustier sounding presence with post-punk elements. I think feedtime or KSR are the basic references, but they take it underground with some Fall-via-Country Teasers brand of dumb-smart post-punkitude. The reprise my favorites from the tape ("Grease My Chain" is haggard yobbing about, "Sinkhole" is shambolic Wallers-esque twang, "Ugly Party" is a teethsmasher) and tack on three or four newer ones. "General Gore" turns into twisted punk-n-country (again very Teasers-eque) that keeps chopping until it turns to pulp. Shan Corrigan's booze-n-cigs vocals gives the tunes a certain drunken affability and keeps the music grounded in the gutter. The title track is a real creeper that inches up your spine uncomfortably. They close with "Human Spray", which is their most frantic-sounding cut, a rousing song to chase a hog around the pen to. Glad these tunes found a home on vinyl, and Homeless is a most fitting label. Scum stats: 400 copies.(RK)
(Homeless // homelessrecords.bandcamp.com)
Soma Coma s/t cassette
Sicko Melbourne blackened hardcore with Moses from UV Race on bass alongside three kids who were in a band called Eat A Brick that I've never heard. Nine tracks. The first bit of "2 Minute Hate" has you thinking they might be some punk rocker types, but then it quickly evolves into Japanese HC insanity, evil vocals sound almost black metal, punishing Italo-core moves, maybe some Peni-esque franticity and mental illness. Recording is lo-fi demo quality, vocals are complete gonzoid vocal savagery. Fast-is-more Jap HC rules apply for maximum blastbeatery and forward moving guitar screech. Favorite song title: "Imperial Dick". Scum stats: internet says 100 copies, mine is numbered out of 200. There's a few of these in the States distributed during the UV Race tour. Look around.(RK)
(self-released // available via nopatience.org as well)
The Stabs "Dirt" LP
The Stabs "Dead Wood" LP
The Stabs were (most) active in the mid-2000s period just before the New Wave of Australian Rock really started hitting hard, which perhaps kept them from the collections of American record hounds - unless you were really paying attention to CD-only releases - but nonetheless saw them get some respect in their homeland as the heirs to the Black Eye brand of swamp-thuggery (they were invited to play ATP and did actually tour the States - a fact I was unaware of until reading this 2009 interview), and I have to thank Ben Blackwell for being on the ball enough then to release the 7" that introduced me to the band. At the time it seemed they were it, along with Drones, Bird Blobs, Digger & The Pussycats and The Sailors and whatever "classic" acts were still active, as opposed to today where there are seemingly more Australian bands than ever - I also think that period was ruled by the winding down of the Japanese vanguard and the rise of the French Glue Wave at the time, at least as far as American record geeks were concerned. Anyway, Homeless Records took on the project of releasing these albums on vinyl for the first time, a beautiful act that seems like it was such an obvious move but took so long to happen for reasons unknown. I'm not 100% sure either, but I don't think the band ever really broke up, instead just went a bit quiet after the 2009 release of 'Dead Wood' on CD. Until now. Reading this, you'll probably dismiss the comparisons to the already mentioned Black Eye lineage, but 'Dirt' is probably the single most reverently perfect distillation of that aesthetic made in modern times. The creation of an overwhelming sense of dread-as-music, made by a no-frills three-piece line-up. Brendan Noonan's guitar playing is an absolutely exceptional example of the "Australian" style, one half angular twang, one half feedback scrape-n-slide. The Mark Nelson/Matt Gleeson rhythm section on par with the pummeling lockdown of their predecessors. "The Woods/The Rain" (from the Cass 7") opens with the protoypical Australian swamp-rocker - not laconic in the least, but a pushing and shoving force of desperation, The Scientists re-imagined in 2006. "Black Widow" lurches with such power and heaviness it sinks bubbling into the very murk it's built upon, "The City" a screeching and subdued thunk that drips with muck. An eight track LP loaded with the raw beauty inherent to their country and a record that should be held up as a classic of the form. 'Dead Wood' was released on CD in 2009 on Melbourne's Spooky Records and had some hype behind it. Not just a retread of the classic approach of 'Dirt', yet still maintaining the ugly feel, it cuts a little sharper, feels a little more violent. A bit more from the Mick Turner lineage than the Salmon vein perhaps, and the band pics on the insert aren't the only things reminiscent of feedtime here. All three take turns on vocals adding welcome variance. "No Hoper" is rock-thuggery of Venom P. Stinger proportions, the title track sounds as much like Fungus Brains as anyone could hope to. The band mentions that the A-Side is the "rocking" side, which is true in all ways, making the B the experimental side. "Funeral Waltz" adds piano sounding more murderous than maudlin, leaning towards Bad Seeds dramatics even. "The Hated One" contains their most hellish vocals (from Nelson). "Family Trust" and "Blues in F#" (which has something Unsane-like to its wall-of-noise guitar and gang vocal violence) show signs of deconstruction and noise-rock, "Cabin Fever" adds broken glass as instrumentation and approaches the modern thuganomics of a Cuntz. Supposedly this side hinted at what the third Stabs LP would (or will?) sound like, and I'll be honest and say I have no idea what the band is planning - I do know that they are active and playing shows now, which is thrilling and somehow surprising to me - I always thought 'Dead Wood' was, in my mind, the death throes of a band in the midst of a brilliant flame-out. Past hyperbole makes these words seem hollow perhaps, and I'll admit I've cried hype as much as anyone regarding the present-day Aussie crop, but I can only stress that The Stabs on record should warm the cockles of even the most strident anti-modern-rockists who still pledge allegiance to the monsters of Aussie rock. A band that sounds like they really lived it hard, just like their forefathers. The future is unknown, which does make for a possible happy ending as well. Scum stats: 400 copies each, which should be just enough to sate a majority of true believers and leave pretenders and pussyfooters wondering what just happened. Remastered by Mikey Young and packaged crisp and tight.(RK)
(Homeless Records // homelessrecords.bandcamp.com)
Straight Arrows "Never Enough" 7"
Straight Arrows return to the turntable for the first time since their LP was released oh so long ago....and "Never Enough" is a perfect horse to come riding back on. A masterpiece of modern garage-psych - guitar is reverbed so hard it will shake your brain, with loping upper-tempo kicks in the ass, gang vocals that really sound like a gang, sick slo-mo soloing damage, and just a general kick-down-the-door and let us in so we can melt your face off attitude...from some really nice guys, though. Top track. "Can't Stand It" is hard popsike with a real nasally vocal and a HUGE hook that's almost bubblegummy, but it's too tough for that wimpy shit. Dig the dum-dum solo too. Perfect two songer from these kids, if this is any indication of the new LP we better get prepared for it now. Scum stats: 500 copies as part of the Hozac Singles Club - which had a decent hit-to-miss ratio this year, as at least 5 out of 10 were worth owning. (RK)
(Hozac Records // www.hozacrecords.com)
UV Race live and 'Autonomy and Deliberation' film
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of seeing UV Race perform (in one way or another) four times in four days. I'd seen them years before on their first tour of the States, and since that show they'd come a long way - a few LPs, some singles, and a freaking movie. The longer the band has been together they've somehow become looser and more comfortable with themselves - things have become more rambling and spacious, making that earlier material seem dense and tight in comparison. Some people seem to like one or the other, I like 'em both. The most beautiful things about the band (besides Marcus himself) is how they act as a gang, both onstage and off. Six people with a unified front that doesn't seem to ever waver. They've created their own mythology, their own symbolism, their own artistic language. Hippies? I don't think so, although they are quite friendly and upbeat. Two cute girls, a skinhead, a tall punk type, a skinny rocker type and a large manchild with a fantastic haircut - as stereotypes, they cut an odd genre-unifying picture as a tribe which simplistically says a lot about their sound. Anyway, live I saw three different shows. One as a headliner of a festival, the end of a drunken evening which had them channeling the crowd's posi-vibes, girls placing flowers and money in Marcus' g-string - sloppy yet poignant, and proof of their power to make love to a crowd. One show as one of many bands playing a matinee, seemingly more focused and sedate (or hungover), but a better example of their ability to play great tunes and their distillation of pop construction. A third show in a different city, headlining a bar, and my favorite of the bunch, away from the festival crowd and in their element as road dogs making another city happy to move to their thing, making new friends, making people dance and being good mates. The fourth instance would be a screening of their film, 'Autonomy and Deliberation'. I wasn't sure what to expect: a concert film, a documentary? It's neither really. I was a bit drunk, but had the benefit of getting live commentary from the band throughout to aid in my digestion of the narrative. I embarrassingly asked "Have you guys seen the Blues Brothers?", as if that cinema classic is somehow unavailable to anyone except us Americans. Of course they have. So, if you're wondering, it's actually a very enjoyable film for fans of the band, not at all terrible (which was the description someone who had seen it already gave me), and honestly better than I could've hoped (I was also drunk, but I don't think that means anything). It follows the "get the band back together" plotline, with Marcus as protagonist. I believe the story goes that he (in Joliet Jake mode) fouled up the band somehow, splitting the members off into various different lives and presenting Marcus with the challenge of convincing everyone to reunite after he has a moment of clarity, leaving the countryside again to immerse himself of the pitfalls off the big city. There's also a subplot involving them possibly being swindled by an (American?) record label hustler if I remember correctly. Throughout you get plenty of tunes, some interesting footage of the Australian countryside and the city, intenionally and unintentionally funny amateur acting and cameo appearances by pretty much anyone in an Australian band (Eddy Current fellas, Woollen Kits, Circle Pit, Deaf Wish and more...). I honestly forget the ending, but remember it being a happy one. The stunning thing about it in retrospect is that the band believes in themselves enough to have done this - not as an act of egotism, but as an act of remarkable creativity. I'm rather surprised they haven't released it on DVD somehow yet, as it would certainly be enjoyed by anyone who would care to buy it. And as an "art film" it's certainly not bad. Maybe they're waiting to finish the commentary tracks for a Criterion release. View the trailer here if you haven't already. Supposedly the sequel is already being filmed and occurs in outer space?! Sign me up.(RK)
(theuvrace.blogspot.com // facebook.com/theuvrace)
V/A Lenin Lennon / Rat King “Steel City Splitty” split 7”
Evidently this Steel City ain’t Pittsburg, but New South Wales. I learn something every day. Lenin Lennon lets loose two tracks of squealing noisepunk abrasion that could make a Shearing Pinx fan boy sit up in their chair. There’s a No Wave sputtering and jagged edge to it. Nuthin’ fancy. Rat King does a slurred to drunken shit ballad on his/their side that sounds like a fucked Pissed Jeans tackling an early doo-wop number. Again, nothing mind-blowing, but I do enjoy the bombastic attack of such a tune. What, wait? It’s over? I was just about to warm to it…piss yellow vinyl inside one of the ugliest sleeves ever to come across this Termbo office desk. (RSF)
(Forbidden Shopping // www.forbiddenshopping.tumblr.com)
V/A Bamodi/Mekare-Kare split 7"
Bamodi are a loud Perth trio sharing members with Water Temple and SMRTS and play some sort of fusion of post-punk, No Wave and hardcore. Hyperactive and mathematical arrangements with vocals so shrill they make my teeth hurt. I thought I had it on the wrong speed for a moment. Three tracks of crazed sounding bass-driven fizz with moments of guitar melodicism and maybe even screamo. Mekare-Kare are a Japanese free-jazzing/math-rock bass and drums jam band of some kind who give you a couple to stroke your beard to. Uh, for Boredoms or Ruins fans maybe?(RK)
(Heartless Robot // heartlessrobotproductions.tumblr.com)
V/A "Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era" CD/2XLP
Australian celebration of the 40th anniversary of Lenny Kaye's Nuggets, with 18 of the country's new young turks interpeting garage rock classics from the original series. Lots of bands I've never heard of, but of the ones I know the highlights are Straight Arrows' straight cover of "Lies" and The Living Eyes version of "Oh Yeah" (both Palms and Gooch Palms make appearances as well). As can be expected from a major label release, most of the unheard-to-me bands are from what I'm imagining are the upper echelons of independent music - meaning bands that have "records" released on iTunes and are courting/married to the mainstream already, at least Down Under. Notables would be Sydney's The Laurels doing a good guy/girl cover of "You're Gonna Miss Me", Baptism of Uzi do a krauted "Baby Please Don't Go" (which is really just more different than good), King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard take on The Nazz in boilerplate west-coast-garage fashion, and Bloods do a decent Black Lips-as-gal-group version of "Farmer John". The most remarkable thing here is Owen from Straight Arrows being pegged to record/produce a good portion of the tracks (more about that HERE), making him the second busiest producer/engineer next to the apparently never-sleeping Mikey Young (this release being one of the few things this update he hasn't had a hand in). Obviously you and I would've preferred a more uh...underground assortment of artists (Cuntz doing "Louie Louie" keeps popping in my head, or UV Race as the Cryan Shames or whatever else you'd like to imagine), but this is more of a showcase for up-n-cummers than the obscurities we crave. Congrats to Owen though. The 2XLP version contains 8 bonus tracks, including one by Night Terrors that's probably worth a peek.(RK)
(Warner Music // www.facebook.com/nuggetsoz)
Venom P. Stinger "1986-1991" 2XCD
It pains me to have to review a CD of this material, but I will say it has some merit in this format. Some of the most influential packagings of material in my young life came on CD - it would have taken me forever to hear bands like Big Boys, Halo of Flies or Scratch Acid if I would've had to track down the records. Instead, I had CDs like 'The Greatest Gift', 'Music for Insect Minds' or 'The Fat Elvis' to help me on my way. I guess in the digital age CD releases don't matter as much now as they did to me then - but I at least hope that this compiling of the primo Venom P. Stinger material under one title helps some young buck find their way through the woods. The Drag City Venom P. reissue campaign will be covering only up to '91, the material with the original line-up. So we won't be getting 'Tearbucketer' on vinyl (or anything else with Nick Palmer on vox), at least not from these guys. 'Meet My Friend Venom', 'What's Yours Is Mine' and the 'Walking About' 7" all see reissue and the most bonus bit is that the 'Waiting Room' EP will see 12" wax for the first time. These are some of the most essential Australian records of all time, to put it lightly. Some of Mick Turner's best guitar work, Jim White's insanely smart drumming (who at times sounds more like two drummers than any band in history who actually had two drummers) and seemingly constant drumrolls, but the real thing that made this band special (at least to me) were Dugald McKenzie's vocals. While there have been plenty of wild'n'crazy frontmen over time, especially in Australia, you knew that many of them were acting a part. It didn't take away from things, but you knew the drama was fabricated as a stage persona. With Dugald, you actually felt like the guy was legitimately mad (and many say he was), that he was a real nutter, that the paranoia of a song like 'Walking About' (which, by the way, is one of the greatest Aussie 7"es ever, and probably the bands ultimate moment) was all too real, that his friend Venom wasn't someone you really wanted to meet. Reality, honesty, humanity, I think those are the things what we all crave in our music deep down, and VPS delivered it like few others. Undeniably special and important music you should own on some physical format or you're no friend of mine. (RK)
(Drag City // www.dragcity.com)
Wonderfuls "Salty Town" LP
This is one of the most miserable and depressing records I've heard in a long time. I'll never be able to think about or listen to this band without thinking of Brendon NBGL and the unbridled enthusiam he conveyed to me when putting out the 'Piss Fist' 7", a record that delivered on all the promises he made to me. A great and fucked record. And as fucked as that record was, it barely even hints at the real life mental damage contained herein. "Piss Fist" is a delightful tune in retrospect. There's little...no, there's NO fun to be had here at all, it's a record that makes you more than a bit uneasy and nervous to listen to. You don't even want to think of anything here as a pisstake for sake of self-embarrassment in your subconscious. Most reviews of their 7" (mine included) referenced Pink Reason, and Kevin's most punishing moments of depression are just the starting point for the tales of mental illness contained herein. Supposedly some of the tunes here are about actual institutionalization, and it's no surprise. The lyric insert reads like the journal of someone committed, scribbled with doodles and drops of ink and RIPs to gone friends. Acoustic guitar laments that do approach moments of sublime beauty and catharsis, very brief glimpses of possibly uplifting respite. Taken as an artistic whole it's a deep and impressive expression of difficult human emotions. Taken simply as music (i.e. a record you put on for enjoyment), it's not one that begs for repeated listens - it's too much, too brutal, too visceral. Does that make it a bad record or a good record? It's both, in many ways. The lo-fi aesthetic and sometimes cartoony vocals almost beg you to not take it seriously, but that seems like a mistake you don't want to make, like blowing off your crazy friend's sucide threats because you're pretty sure he'll never go through with it - but there's still that nagging moment in your conscience where you know there's a shard of truth to it and you convince yourself to just ignore the possibilty as if that will somehow prevent it from actually happening - this record is ten songs of that uncomfortable feeling. I'll be filing this away ASAP with the sinking feeling of knowing I'll want to revisit again someday. "I Feel So Wrong" = perfect song with title to match. "North" extends the misery all the way back to childhood. Like watching a real snuff film. Scum stats: 100 copies.(RK)
(Negative Guest List // negativeguestlistrecords.bandcamp.com)
To read past reviews go here.