Bystander and Destroyer - The Vendettas (self released)
The term Oz Rock is a catch-all phrase that’s scope is broader than a Queensland cow cocky’s accent but there’s something inherently recognisable about the music. The best of it is urgent and full of dynamics.
Once upon a time it was forged in year-long tours of a vast circuit of massive beer barns; nowadays it’s as much a creation of the odd gig in small-ish, grungy bars and digitally-assisted backshed studios.
Which brings us to Melbourne band The Vendettas and their second album. This isn’t a bad record but it’s very much music made with eyes on the prize. While that target isn’t going to be mainstream airplay in their home country, it could be a contract with a label in a bigger market. Many are called but few are chosen. The Vendettas might just do the business in Europe like Airborne or follow The Lazys to Canada.
It’s what’s not on this record that’s the concern. It's what isn't. There’s scarcely a bum note, no false starts and very few rough edges. Leakage is almost entirely absent. It’s been shined with a buff that recalls any number of middle-of-the-road, hard rock records that used to cram the shelves at what were called record bars back in the pre-CD/download days. Lots of them were great, many were formulaic.
The band bio references AC/DC and the Hellacopters. OK. It could have thrown in Airborne and The Casanovas for good measure. It mentions residencies at Melbourne institutions like The Tote and Cherry. The Vendettas could be the best live band in the country but it’s not apparent from their record. It’s too clean, it’s dampened down.
The songs have some accessible hooks. “Dead Eyes” and “Wake Up Call” in particular. “Without a Sound” eschews 4/4 and powerchording and steps outside of the tent. It’s five minutes of what The Vendettas could sound like if they threw away the playbook. There’s also a power ballad called “Blackened Heart” that sounds like Loverboy.
Many of you would love this record. I’m probably the wrong person to review it. I really need to hear rough edges and that messy leakage. When I think of great Melbourne bands I think of Bitter Sweet Kicks whose records are full of guitars cascading all over each other and songs that shudder and sound like they’re bursting at the seams with a desire to fuck things up. The Vendettas are playing it safe.