November 5, 2010

Reigning Sound – Time Bomb High School
garage-rock, rock & roll

Most of the best-known bands in the garage-rock Reigning Sound - Time Bomb High Schoolrevival scene have a tendency to aim for something of a rough, rock-out sound, pulling strong traces of blues, heavy-rock, punk or psychedelia into the mix for that dirty, raw angle that amps up the adrenaline and helps to establish a strong feeling of menacing authenticity. Reigning Sound go for a slightly different approach, reaching back into the early 60s and late 50s to craft a style with roots in rockabilly, country, vocal pop, surf-rock and the lighter-side of the garage scene. The music on Time Bomb High School certainly doesn’t lack energy or strength, though, packed with vitality and sporting a big, bright, robust sound that’s instantly very appealing. The authenticity is there, too – barring the crystal clear production, the songs sound like they could have been heard blaring from the crackling speakers of old Hot Rods and AM radios, and vocalist Greg Cartwright, whose musical pedigree traces back to his days in yesteryear garage-stalwarts The Oblivians, wields a combination of old-timey warmth and raw-throated belting that’s just a perfect fit for this kind of thing. Most of the album sits around the mid-tempo level, with plenty of love songs and lite-rockers, but Reigning Sound absolutely boot the door off its hinges with the opening track “Stormy Weather”, by far the finest and most replayable song on the album and one of my personal favourite songs of all time. Boasting the kind of broad appeal that suggests it deserves to be better known than it is, Time Bomb High School is a certified garage classic, revival or otherwise.



November 4, 2010

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP
punk-rock, garage-rock, indie-rock

Little I’ve heard this decade has blown me away quite like the opening moments of “Bang”, the first track on Yeah Yeah Yeah’s self-titled debut EP. An amazing, rubberband-riff of punchy electric guitar that’s been compressed to the width of a razor, it just about sawed me in half when it first burst out of my headphones, and when Karen O’s irrepressibly in-charge vocal slides in (how’s “take a swallow, as I spit, baby” for a lyric to introduce yourself to the world?) the whole song elevates to a higher level that’s just impossibly kick-ass. It’s clearly the highlight track here, and easily rates as one of the best songs of the decade, but the rest of the EP very nearly matches it, be it via the melodic punk-rock of “Mystery Girl” and “Our Time”, the rumbling, gravel-roar chorus and wickedly dirty humour of “Art Star” or the gritty propulsion of Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Yeah Yeah Yeahs“Miles Away”. A lightning-quick flash of pure, straight-from-the-garage attitude, it’s an EP so deserving of the spotlight that I’m choosing to honour it – rather than the group’s very good debut full-length Fever to Tell – with a place on this list. With its can’t-miss combination of jagged guitar lines and dynamic vocals, not to mention the added benefit of featuring arguably the most charismatic frontwoman in rock music today, Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a rough, sexy, rock-the-hell-out piece of work. The group have maintained a solid output in the meantime, yet in less than fifteen minutes this EP manages to eclipse all of it.


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.



October 23, 2010

King Khan and His Shrines What Is?!
garage-rock, soul, psych-rock


The garage-rock revival scene, with all of its assorted offshoots, subgenres and crossovers, has plenty of players, movers and shakers. In terms of quality of output, some have been more successful that others, but the fact is that King Khan and his sensational Shrines succeed more than pretty much any of them. What Is?!, the nine-piece outfit’s third album, sees the group elevating their killer blend of boozy garage-rock, psychedelic leanings and sensual, love-machine soul to the highest possible level, making for their finest personal effort and a guaranteed lock for the canon of garage-rock classics. Immediate impact is always a blessing on these kinds of albums, and this one opens incredibly strongly, with the blazing, bare-chested machismo of “Outta Harm’s Way”, the hilarious and hard-rocking full-disclosure of “I Wanna Be a Girl” and the groovy, garage-soul cut “Welfare Bread”, the track most seem King Khan and His Shrines - What Is?!to pick as the album’s key highlight. The sheer number of hits littered throughout the remainder is equally impressive, though, with speed-garage cuts like “Land of the Freak” and “No Regrets” (a personal favourite) interlaced between psychedelic sex-cult serenades like “69 Faces of Love”, “Cosmic Serenade” and “The Ballad of Lady Godiva”. King Khan himself is one of those larger than life rock stars, whose showmanship, attitude and massive personality make him a crucial component in the quest to keep rock music’s old-school theatricality alive and kicking. He fits the role beautifully, although in a somewhat unlikely manner – shirtless, cape-clad, beer-swilling and pot-bellied, he bellows his sexed-up lyrics (which would sound sleazy if he didn’t come across as such a fun-loving charmer) with furious abandon and limitless energy, making him feel like a cross between James Brown, Iggy Pop and the local drunkard. Hail to the King, baby!



October 16, 2010

Coachwhips Bangers vs. Fuckers
punk, noise-rock, garage-rock

Meet the loudest band in existence. Before he fronted Thee Oh Sees and started trading in psychedelic rock, John Dwyer led three piece garage-punk outfit Coachwhips through three albums of blistering, noisy, tear-the-walls-down rock ‘n’ roll. Bangers vs Fuckers, Coachwhips - Bangers vs. Fuckerstheir final release, is so loud and rocks so impossibly hard that you actually need to exercise a little caution when putting it on – the album was mastered at such a ridiculously high volume, that if you play it through headphones on your “default” volume setting you run the risk of pulverising your skull. While Thee Oh Sees are a lot more floaty in their retro-recreation, Coachwhips immediately get to the point, and then proceed to jackhammer it directly into your pleasure centres with nasty glee. By all accounts, Dwyer seems like a bit of an a-hole on this album, slurring his way through his near-incomprehensible filtered vocals while virtually swallowing the microphone, and playing his guitar with the furious pace and sloppy distortion you’d expect from someone on the tail end of a 48-hour cocaine binge, but there’s a roguish charisma to his madness that easily stops you from ever really being bothered. “You Gonna Get It” and “I Knew Her, She Knew Me” rate as my personal favourites, but the album races by so quickly (the whole thing is over in just over twenty minutes!) that it honestly feels like a bit of a blur. The first time I listened to this, I penned a very brief review which simply read “Holy shit. I think my head just exploded.” That should tell you everything you need to know.


September 24, 2010

Thee Oh SeesThe Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
psych-rock, garage-rock, noise-rock

The Oh Sees deliver fifteen slices of fuzzed-out, druggy garage-rock on The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In, without a piece of filler in sight. Choruses of ghostly vocals Thee Oh Sees - The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night Inecho their way around the snappy percussion, sharp basslines and dense layers of dirty, jagged guitar riffs which slice through sheets of distortion like razors, while the heavily filtered vocals and gauzy production lend the album a nostalgic, retro vibe that’s authentic and awfully appealing. The songs here are about 3/4 riotous rockers and 1/4 hazy, trippy detours, and the album is sequenced quite perfectly to space the latter out amongst the former in a very pleasing manner. It’s also the sort of album so consistently great that picking highlights can be very tricky indeed, although personally I think the blistering opener “Block of Ice”, the super-surreal and very appropriately named “Graveyard Drug Party” (which features some great echoes of muffled, choppy guitar), the slightly poppy title-track and, in particular, the acid-soaked stomper “Visit Colonel” stand out from the pack. The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In is a shining example of top-shelf garage-rock, and it’s got one hell of a funny title to boot. You could certainly do a lot worse than spending a night in its company.


August 3, 2010

Heavy Trash – Going Way Out With Heavy Trash
rockabilly, garage-rock, psych-rock

This rockabilly side-project turned out to be a perfect fit for Jon Spencer, best known for his work with The Blues Explosion. With his Elvis-tribute vocal style and constant swagger, it’s a schtick that fits Spencer so comfortably that it’s a wonder he didn’t try it sooner. Teaming up with rock ‘n’ roll guitar-wiz Matt Verta-Ray, Spencer injected some much-needed vitality into his noticeably flagging career (the Blues Explosion hadn’t put out a solid album since the late 90s), and with Heavy Trash he sounds completely at home and brimming with confidence. Nowhere is that more evident than on the duo’s kick-ass sophomore effort Heavy Trash - Going Way Out With Heavy TrashGoing Way Out With Heavy Trash. Taking hold of the rollicking rhythms, sexed-up lyrics, sly humour and outlaw personas of their more streamlined debut, Spencer and Verta-Ray augmented their sound with a hint of psychedelia and some heavy blues overtones, and then simply cranked everything up to a higher level. Big favourites are the killer single “Way Out” and the trippy closer “You Can’t Win”, but the whole thing is a floor-stomping triumph, worthy of high volume and high rotation.