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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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)

 

 

Time’s Up for Howard Devoto

A while back I made the mistake of downloading a “rare” previously unreleased Buzzcocks album from 1976, called Time’s Up, dating from when Howard Devoto was still singing for the band.

Why the hell do I do things like this?

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Devoto can’t sing as well as Pete Shelley and I really only like a few songs by his other band, Magazine.
  • The band had only been around for a year or less and the songs are all hasty demos.
  • The band chose to put out all the best stuff from this early period on the Spiral Scratch EP, including better versions of four of these songs.
  • The band chose not to release the rest of this recording, but instead went back into the studio to re-record the same songs from a full length album, with Shelley singing.
  • Howard Devoto left the band saying he was bored of their music

So, bad demos with a bored lead singer from a band who hadn’t really found themselves yet, and which they chose not to release. Obviously the smart thing to do would be to AVOID this record. So naturally I downloaded it and listened to the whole thing.

It is terrible.

Don’t believe me? Try these.

ORGASM ADDICT

LOVE BATTERY

Believe me now?

It’s time to go, Howard Devoto

 

Use a Kleenex, Solve World Problems

OK, so, I admit to liking Billy Idol’s first band, Generation X. They were fun and “punky” and all about the hair, and generally they were not to be taken seriously and there’s a place for that. Their first record (the only one worth a mention) came out in 1979, as the band cheerfully rode that wave of second-rate commercialism that came through after the fist wave of English punk bands had either given up or gone arty. And personally I do not blame them at all. Someone else would have done it, and probably done it much worse. At least Idol can actually sing, his lyrics were kind of funny and cynical and took the piss out of commercialism while also embodying it, and, the band wrote decent power pop tunes to back it up.

They got semi-popular in the UK but never made it in the US or Europe, and although they always feature on those interminable ‘Spirit of Punk’ singles compilations, they are otherwise not referenced that often in the history of the times, probably because they were so utterly inconsequential.

That is, until Green Day started covering their ballad “Kiss Me Deadly” in concerts, and that same song got put on the end of a major summer movie, SLC PUNK.

Now, the U.S. is full of geeky teenagers learning to play that riff on acoustic guitars, and talking about the original Gen X version as “the SLC version”, and getting paid out by “real punks” who still have the thing on vinyl, and can remember when Billy Idol’s sneer hadn’t set and become permanent.

How funny, to think of this cheesy commercial pop-punk band being held up as “old school”, and potential new fans of the band being called poseurs. I wonder if anyone has actually said “I was into Generation X before they were cool!” yet.

Dudes, they were never cool. Just look at them for godsake.

Anyway, I chose not to put Kiss Me Deadly on here, but two other tracks from that record, both in player and mp3. Enjoy.

GENERATION X -From the Heart

GENERATION X –

GENERATION X – Kleenex

What you gonna do next
What you gonna do now
Use a Kleenex!!!

Wipe out sex – Kleenex
Better than love – Kleenex
John Paul George – Kleenex
Governments use Kleenex!!!

Use a Kleenex, solve world problems
Better blow your nose right now!!!

Glenville Reel

Now that all my own musical aspirations are focused on various live / jamming projects this blog here can return to our regular “mp3 of bands what I like bulk good” type of blog.

First one up isn’t a band per se but a singer song-writer by the name of Loudon Wainwright III who I was introduced to back in 1992. My housemate Hickey produced this battered old 2 dollar LP from 1971, with a funny looking geezer on the cover, and we listened to it about once a day for about six months. I think I was particularly entranced by the guy’s voice. Back then he sang in this high-pitched anxious, slightly pathetic wail, that makes him sound not feminine but definitely not masculine and almost like he belongs to some separate third gender of angsty singer-songwriter. I late found out he was married to a McGarrigle and Rufus Wainwright is his son, so maybe this is why.

I got a hold of it recently and realized I had forgotten all but three tunes – Baby in the House (which is good but formulaic), Motel Room Blues (which I used to cover), and, the 3-part medley ending in Glenville Reel. I had forgotten the other two parts of this but always remembered the end of Glenville Reel:

Take off her clothes and throw ’em in the river

Wash her body and stick it in the sun

Give that gal everything that you can give her

You can give her the bullets if you can give her the gun

Great song. I don’t know why it’s called Glenville Reel, though. Glenville is in West Virginia and Loudon isn’t from there, and it sure isn’t a traditional song so I got no clue. Maybe he just wrote it while he was there.

Anyway I have lately been working on my own version, Glenside Reel, which takes its name from an Adelaide mental hospital. I’ll post a demo on the L and S site sometime in the next few months, maybe, and those who listen to both will be able to hear the resemblance.

MOTEL ROOM BLUES

MEDLEY – UNHAPPY / SUICIDE / GLENVILLE REEL

I’m trying out the audio player, just for this post.

Uh, this is, uh, Radio 2XX, uh, yeah…

The Particles: Truth About You

The Particles: Bits of Wood

Canberra circa 1985. I am a dorky teenager who likes punk rock and goofing off. The local university / public radio station is called 2xx, a place now indelibly etched on my musical psyche.

Me and sundry dork mates hang around there in the afternoons waiting for a studio slot to open up (often because the presenter didn’t bother turning up), so we could sneak in and record our bullshit songs on the 8-tracks. One time we actually get on air doing this.

Also, much time is spent ringing up the afternoon presenters requesting songs so we can record them on to tape, and putting on funny voices so they don’t work out it it’s just us over and over again. Looking back I think they knew anyway, they were all older than us(like, 18!) and half of them were friends with my sister.

The 2xx presentation style was incredibly lackadaisical. I still listen to public radio now, and I can’t believe now how slack the 2xx presenters used to be in comparison.

“Oh wait…uh…it’s the wrong side…no, wait…it’s actually the wrong record…uh..hang on…uh…”

This would go on for minutes. Then they’d put five songs on in a row so they wouldn’t have to talk and could just sit there stoned.

But the music was good and the music was loud… well, actually it wasn’t loud, the signal was rubbish, but it was kinda bassy and muffled and comforting. I revisited a tape I had made off that station about ten years ago and the sound of it nearly made me cry.

A sample playlist (I just made this up from memory) for a 2xx afternoon or nightime presenter went like this:

  • Simple Minds: The American
  • The Cure: A Forest
  • Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • Psychedelic Furs: India
  • The Clash: Straight to Hell
  • Devo – Mongoloid
  • The Buzzcocks: Fast Cars
  • XTC: Generals and Majors
  • X-Ray Spex: Germ Free Adolescent
  • The Jam: That’s Entertainment
  • New Order: Blue Monday
  • The Fall: Totally Wired
  • The Cramps: Goo Goo Muck
  • B52s – 52 Girls
  • The Saints – Know Your Product

etc, etc, etc. All the good shit.

Some fun local bands were around, too, getting airplay because they were darlings of the scene. These mp3s are from a Sydney-ish band called The Particles (members of whom went on to become the Lighthouse Keepers / Widdershins / whatever else they ended up being called).

This shit used to get played on that station all the time.  Listening to it now brings back incredibly strong memories of that sound. I probably would never have heard of them otherwise. And I don’t even like it that much but it is so nostalgic to me now, I just wanted to put it on here…

The Particles: Truth About You

The Particles: Bits of Wood

The Suburban Lawns

The correct answer The Suburban Lawns kicked ass.

Here’s some mp3s from their only album (s/t, 1981).

Suburban Lawns: Flying Saucer Safari

Suburban Lawns: Anything

And here’s some YouTube fun.

Enjoy.

Steve.