November 15, 2010

The Drones – Havilah
blues-rock, garage-punk

The Drones - HavilahA work of muscular punk-blues, The Drones’ sprawling fourth full-length album is emotionally charged and very fiercely delivered, topping the excellent Wait Long By the River and The Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By as the Australian quartet’s finest work. Backed by bluesy percussion and guitar that alternates between punchy and sparse, lead-Drone Gareth Liddiard couples formidable songwriting talent with a gravel-lined, croak-&-roar delivery that makes every emotion he expresses sound like it’s been amplified multiple times over, and it’s undeniable that he reaches heights of excellence on this album rarely heard on previous efforts. The group show great discipline on Havilah, knowing exactly when to reign in their fury and when to push it into overdrive, making for an intense and dynamic performance that’s packed with memorable moments. Highlight tracks are in abundant supply, be it the stompy and humourous lead single “The Minotaur”, the melancholy, late-night lament of “Cold and Sober”, the measured storytelling of “The Distant Housewife”, the anthemic and ruthlessly indignant “Oh My”, the uplifting finale “Your Acting’s Like the End of the World” or the album’s thrilling mini-epics “Lay it Down”, “I Am the Supercargo” and “Luck in Odd Numbers” (in a pinch I’d pick that last one as the album’s best). Normally I wouldn’t go so far as to mention quite so many tracks individually, but Havilah is one of those freak instances of an album that plays out like one continuous peak, blessed with an almost embarrassing surplus of perfect songs, each one individually noteworthy in its own right. It’s the best Australian album of the decade, to be sure, and deserves to be remembered as one of the country’s all-time greatest works.




November 2, 2010

Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours
garage-rock, garage-punk, post-punk

Australia’s garage-rock/punk scene of the 1970s, which delivered a slew of brilliant albums, gets a far-better-than-you’d-ever-expect revival in the form of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s sophomore effort Primary Colours. The Melbourne foursome deliver a blast of straight-from-the-gut, minimum-frills rock that channels Aussie-Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Primary Coloursgarage kings The Saints with surprising ease, making for an old-school record that feels like a long-lost hit of a bygone era. While the group keep it predominantly simple and familiar, they do throw in some individualistic touches to establish a distinct identity (even if these touches are also mostly pilfered from other groups) – there’s some long, loose guitar lines, reminiscent of the hypnotic loops of Television and Can, that give the album a bit of a post-punk flavour at times, particularly on “That’s Inside of Me” and “Colour Television”, while “We’ll Be Turned On” employs ultra-cheap keyboard lines and goofball lyrics to deliver the album’s least serious and most amusing cut. Lead singer Brendan Suppression is classic frontman material, a big personality who oozes rock ‘n’ roll charisma every time he opens his mouth (which is useful since, in a technical sense, he can’t really sing out of it). He stumbles his way through Primary Colours with the on-the-edge spontaneity of Iggy Pop, to the point that you can almost hear him dancing spasmodically as he belts out his punchy vocals. The album opens stunningly, as the short, sharp and straightforward double-hit of the strutting “Memory Lane” and the bombastic “Sunday’s Coming” ensure that you’re instantly transfixed, while lead single “Which Way to Go”, deceptively over-simplistic at first, over time gets stuck deep into your head and simply won’t let go, making it one of the decade’s most durably exciting rock songs. Essentially, this album is a perfect example of what rock music should be when you boil it down to its essential elements – tightly played, consistently exciting and economical in a way that leaves you satisfied but hungry for more.



October 29, 2010

The Hunches – Yes. No. Shut It.
punk, garage-rock, noise-rock

If Yes. No. Shut It were a mission statement, it’d be a beer-soaked, ash-stained napkin with “kick titanic amounts of ass” scrawled onto it in blood. Blending a grab-bag of punk, garage and hard-rock influences, primarily The Stooges, Motörhead, Rocket from the Tombs and a touch of The Velvet Underground, The Hunches deliver a non-stop hurricane of maniacal, swaggering awesomeness that rocks harder than just about anything. This is the kind of amphetamine-fueled thrash that makes songs like “Murdering Train Track Blues” (what a title!), which opens the album with a hoarse shout and a veritable avalanche of speed-riffage, sound like the band are being dragged along a gravel road behind their instruments, which are too busy playing themselves about two or three clicks faster than necessary to notice the carnage being left in their wake. The guitar on “10,000 Miles” cuts like a rusty buzzsaw and “Static Disaster” is the sort of wild, unhinged punk song that would make Iggy proud. And that’s just The Hunches - Yes. No. Shut It.in the first three tracks! The sludgy “Explosion” and “Got Some Hate” rate very highly as well, and I dig the slowed-down, Loud Reed style vocals on “Same New Thing” and “Lisa Told Me”. Honestly, though, I don’t think the band take their foot off the pedal long enough to allow anything close to a lull to emerge. At its core, Yes. No. Shut It is bar-fight music – the audio equivalent to having a chair broken over your head. Embrace the chair.



July 4, 2010

Nobunny – Nobunny Loves You
garage-rock, garage-punk, retro pop

If you decide to check this album out, you’re probably going to notice the grainy recording, the kind-of-half-finished songs, the occasionally terrible mini guitar solos, the blatant use of drum machines, the super-short runtime and the general DIYness of it all – it basically sounds like it was written and recorded in the time between knocking off work and hitting the pub – and you’re going to say “What the hell? No way is this a ‘Top 100 of the Decade’ kind of album!” Then you’ll listen to it again, because you remember smiling at the crash-landing singalong of “Nobunny Loves You”. Then you’ll notice that “Boneyard” is wicked catchy and full of fun attitude and addictive vocals. Then you’ll be listening to it the third or fourth timeNobunny - Love Visions and realise that “I Am a Girlfriend” has inexplicably become your favourite song in the whole world. It’s not that inexplicable – it’s just a really f*cking great song. Then you’ll start grooving to “Tina Goes to Work” and “Chuck Berry Holiday” and singing along to their choruses. You’ll start noticing the incredibly naive sweetness of it all. Finally, you’ll realise that this album has wormed its way under your skin and you simply can’t get rid of it. Then you’ll understand why it’s a ‘Top 100 of the Decade’ kind of an album.