The BellRays probably like themselves more than I do

And I do like the BellRays quite a lot. At one point I was even considering getting a t-shirt. And I bought and album of theirs. From a store.  Serious stuff.

But I get the feeling the band, particularly the guitarist and singer, already have all the top spots in their fan club taken.

I came across them a while back on an mp3 blog and was struck with the vocals and playing on “Hole in the World”, from an early album. Then I got hold of a later album Have a Little Faith and liked the single, “Third Times the Charm”, for totally different reasons. I was all prepared to buy into the band wholsesale when I started reading their  press releases and promo guff…

Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher. It’s all about emotion and energy, experience and raw talent, spirit and intellect. Exciting things happen when these things collide. Bob and Lisa made the BellRays happen in 1991 but they weren’t really thinking about any of this then. They wanted to play music and they wanted it to feel good. They wanted people to WANT to get up, to NEED to get up and check out what was going on. Form an opinion. React. So they took everything they knew about; the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, the DB’s, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, to name a very few and pressed it into service. It was never about coming up with a ‘sound’, or fitting in with a scene. It was about the energy that made all that music so irresistible!

Wow! Really? Hmmm. Does a soul garage band really need a manifeto? Do they need to state their raison d’etre so explicitly? Can’t you just, y’,know…form one and play? It’s only rock and roll, after all.

Subsequent reading on the internet has only backed up this impression that good ole Bob and Lisa and co take themselves WAY too seriously. I know this shouldn’t matter to me as a listener but it does. I can no longer hear a bunch of good musos and a big black lady who happens to have a very good voice. All I can now hear is a bunch of musos who think they’re doing this incredibly serious revolutionary thing and they’re not, led by a big black lady whose ego is so big it probably needs its own dressing room, separate to hers.

In summary: Listen to BellRays, they are good, but do not engage them in conversation or ever, ever read anything they say about themselves. If you want manifestos, try Marx.

Hole in the World

Third Times the Charm

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Big Kids: Advertising

ADVERTISING

A song with Music by me and words by Cody

The Big Kids is my new collabotaion thing with my kids.

Telling you what to buy even if it makes you cry

Sell you thing sthat you don’t need

Things that break so easily

Advertising

The American accent is ironic I guess but he won’t sing it without it.

Steve.

Southern Steve goes North

Dudes, feel me? I’m heading to the equator.

The movers come round tomorrow to pack up my computer so it is bye bye for about a month or so.

Then when I return I will be all equatorial on you. Look you where I am living my peepees. About six degrees from the equator.  Southern, but only just.

 

 

 

Whinging for Perfection

I am always going on about Australian band HUNTERS and COLLECTORS to people, and they do not always get me.

Often, they are fellow Aussies who only became familiar with the band in the 90s, and they either know for their more commercial stuff, or they dismiss them for being too commercial. (It’s true, they became very pop-rock in the 90s, and even had a particular single that became very popular with Australian Rules TV broadcasters.)

Or, they are from outside Australia and haven’t necessary heard them, or, don’t realise how good they were.

So, I am here to solemnly swear and attest that circa 1986, this band were the best live band in Australia, and maybe one of the best anywhere. During that long and dubious decade where fads and synths and haircuts ruled, these guys chose to do pub rock, blues guitar and horn driven, melodic and percussive, rhythmic and funky, arty and loud, angry and funny and dangerously weird, and all fronted by Mr Mark Seymour, one of the best singer-shouters my country has yet produced.

The lyrics were Australian, and intriguing – holding down a D, fanging home to your girlfriend, girls with fingers like green ginger roots, all trucks and beers and memories spread out on the road – and this meant a lot to me, and it still does. So many “Australian” song-writers are basically just generic American-style country artists who bung in the name of an Australian town every so often, and they don’t actually sound like suburban Aussies at all. But everything about this music smelled of Footscray, the Hume Highway, and Cartlon Draught. Somehow they just got it.

I saw the band four or five times at the ANU Union Refectory or the upstairs section at the Uni Bar in Canberra, and once at the Trade Union club, and every time, they totally blew my face off.  I have never seen a tighter band which somehow had such a loose, jamming energy. They could build tension like no other band I have ever seen (except maybe the Breeders  and that could have been a fluke).

Don’t believe me? Well, first off all, ignore pretty much everything past Human Frailty (1986), which is their last fine studio record. There are other people who will buy their later work, so you and me can concentrate on buying the older stuff.

You should start with this record, The Jaws of Life, from 1984.  The modern re-release includes the entire Payload EP, from 1982, Trust me, this is one of the finest Australian rock albums ever made. If Amazon are out of stock, keep trying, anywhere you can.

Here’s some sample tracks to pique your interest.

TOWTRUCK (from the Towtruck EP, 1982)

I COULDN’T GIVE IT T YOU (from the Jaws of Life LP, 1984)

 

 

after a brief 31-year hiatus…

…legendary British post punk band Local Heroes (SW9) are back in the studio and recording a third album, this time going by the name Commoner.

This site is often pretty sleepy, but since singer-guitarist Kevin Armstrong has been hanging about here lately, site stats have jumped, and I am getting a lot of hits on my original SW9 post in which I sang the praises of their first two albums from 1980-81.

Who reforms a band after 31 years? A certain ode springs to mind….

They shall grow not old, as we grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

Although photographs of the trio on Kevin’s website do show the  lads looking somewhat more aged than their previous incarnation but they ain’t no MTV boy band so who cares, right? Is the music any good?

The preview track from the forthcoming third LP can be accessed by going here.

What do I think? Hard to tell from only one track but I like it so far. The guitar and voice reminds me of King Crimson on the albums Beat and Discipline, which is a fair turn-around from the trio’s first two records, but who knows what they’ve been listening to in the last 31 years? Generally, the song has the same melodic intelligence that the first two records had, but the bass is playing less of a role, I miss that personally, I loved the bass playing on the other records.

Looking forward to hearing more to see how the whole thing is going to fit together.

Steve.

Remember Me, Marlena

We had an Easter Monday Jam with the Posse of Wonderful (variously called Law of the Sea, The Night Terrors, Grown Man Cry, or Hey Let’s Play Some Music.)

In amongst all the Beatles etc, one of the tracks was a version of Sinnerman, which I find is a spiritual made popular by the Weaver’s long before Nina Simone got to it. Our version of it rocked out at about seven minutes, still well short of her epic version.

In the same mood and the same key, we did a bang up job of Blue Boy”s Remember Me, that 90’s dance hit with the sample from Marlena Stewart’s Woman of the Ghetto.

I find that my wife, despite not being at all a woman from the ghetto, can really pull off quite a believable version of this. I have had it in my head ever since.

Our version was actually much better than this…

Here’s the original Marlena Stewart live track. Our version was not much better than this. How could you be?

You can download the mp3 here:

Woman Of The Ghetto

The Time Machines

1 – You MUST make sure the nominal formation of your proto-punk band is before the formation of the Sex Pistols in 1975. A ‘legendary’ initial formation in the early 70s is ideal, but even if the drummer once talked about being in a band with the singer in High School in late 1974, that could be enough. Also, the band needs to be called ‘The’ something.

2 – Play up your distinctive local origins. For example, if you are from London, say you are from Lewisham. If some of you are black, Jewish, Hispanic, etc, make a big deal of this. If all of you are white, put ambiguous but slightly racist overtones in some of your song lyrics which you can later deny.

3 – You need an association with another semi-famous indie performer. If you are stuck, walk up to Jonathan Richman and ask him if he wants to form a band. When he says no, you can say you had artistic differences, and you moved on.

4 – Write some songs. You only need a few decent tunes, the rest can all be filler or covers of American blues tracks. Optionally, you can spread a rumor that several of your originals were co-written by Bowie, Iggy Pop or David Byrne. If they say you are lying, tell them they were too out of it to remember.

5 – Pick an ‘unusual’ instrument choice: lots of feedback, hamonica, sax, one finger keyboard playing, violin, distorted flute, etc. If all else fails just have no bass player.

6 – Don’t play too fast. Remember this type of music is primarily designed for people in their thirties and forties, in the early 21st century. It should be basically be mid-tempo driving rock so they can nod along from their computer chairs. Also: either play perfectly in tune, or at least a quarter-tone out of tune.

7 – Pick an option for stage gimmick: wearing suits and ties in a sloppy way, wearing silly hats, facing the wrong way, drummer up front, eating unusual things, setting fires, etc.

8 – Play some hastily organized shows in front of at least 50 people. You must make sure these are anarchic in some way. Venue fires are excellent (see #7) , as is being kicked off stage by the venue manager. Ideally there should also be some kind of crowd violence as well. Regular fights between the lead singer and journalists or members of other bands are the best. But if all you have is some drunk lady throwing a doughnut at your bass player, make sure it goes down in the annals.

9 – Record an album, and possibly a single and / or EP as well. Make sure the album cover is t-shirt worthy. Then, do demos for a second album that never gets properly recorded (these can be rubbish). Also, get a hanger-on to record inaudible bootlegs for the rarities CD.

10 – You will need film footage for YouTube. Blagging you way onto a TV variety show and playing an ‘outrageous’ performance of your second best song is the best option. You can also get your hanger-on to record shaky super-8 footage from the side of the stage. Make sure there are a few people up the front, yelling.

11 – Break up and get on with life. Preferably the break-up should appear acrimonious, and related to drug and alcohol issues, even if you are all perfectly fine and still like each other. Several members need to go on to other, less successful projects. (This will not be difficult.) Also, one of you needs to have an arty-sounding  career in film making or whatever. The rest of you can all be van drivers.

12. Return to the present time. Your band will have several fan sites, and a Wikipedia entry which is mostly wrong. Someone will have re-released your album digitally, and there will be about five thousand suburbanite men in their thirties who claim you were the best band ever, and who argue heatedly on the internet about your output.  Also, quite a few impressionable 15 year old kids will buy your albums and claim to like them.

You still won’t get any money but now you can turn up at show and say you were there when it really mattered.