raining treasure2 cvrRaining Treasure 2: More Australian Indie Gold Covers – John Kennedy’s 68 Comeback Special (MGM/Foghorn)

Tribute bands are mostly a blot on the musical ecosystem, right?. OK, they provide a fertile spawning pond for young players and pay bills for the oldsters, but most cover acts faithfully mimic role models just to milk money from morons.

This isn’t about the odd cover thrown into a set of originals because the drummer and the rhythm guitarist like the song or the band jammed out a loose approximation of a chart hit at rehearsal two nights earlier and wants to be ironic.

No, this is a gripe about hacks making money by mindlessly sating the appetites of dim RSL club masses who don’t know what they like but sure do like what they know. These people dance when they should know better or clap hopelessly out of time in the way that only middle-aged white people can.

Which is not territory into which “Raining Treasure 2” ventures on this eclectic collection of songs by Aussie bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s .

Brisbane-raised John Kennedy leads John Kennedy’s 68 Comeback Special and has been a Sydney staple for 30 years  (when not living in Europe), carving out a sizeable niche for his “country and urban” music with outfits like John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong and JFK and the Cuban Crisis.

Kennedy was on the Waterfront label and a contemporary of many of the bands he and the Comeback Special cover on “Raining Treasure 2” and its 2019 predecessor “Raining Treasure 1”. Bandmates Peter Timmerman (Widdershins), Phil Hall (Drop Bears, Sardine v) and Murray Cook (Finger Guns and, er, The Wiggles) all of them seasoned hands.    

This is an idiosyncratic look on Australian underground music’s heyday where originals are de-constructed and re-imagined in ways you probably never thought possible.

Radio Birdman’s “Hand of Law” is re-worked as a an outlaw boogie with serious swing and a Murray Cook “Pipeline” guitar solo. It swings. The Passengers’ “Face With No Name” is a duet between JFK and Flaming Hands vocalist Julie Mostyn Gilbert that’s given a dramatic facelift, courtesy of Phil Hall’s horns

Then there’s the Sports/Mentals mash-up where a reggae’d up “Who Listens To The Radio” gets hitched to “The Nips Are Getting Bigger” while JFK indulges his best Elvis Costello vocal. OK, neither band was exactly underground but licence is sought and granted for this and the down home cover of The Angels’ “Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again”.   

Hated the Screamning Jets’ version of “Shivers”? The Comeback Special gives it a banjo-speckled Johnny Cash feel that the Young Charlatans/Boys Next Door takes never hinted at.

The Eastern Dark (“Julie is a Junkie”) and The Decline of the Reptiles (“Time Stands Still”) get the treatment in clever ways while a mash-up of The Riptides’ “Tomorrow’s Tears/”Sunset Strip” flies the flag for Brisbane and out bounces the originals. Songs by Weddings Parties Anything, The Cruel Sea (Hi to Scomo!), the Beasts of Bourbon and GOD get their moment in the sun and shine.

Long-ish story told in short: You don’t need to be a country fan to derive enjoyment from these 15 songs. “Raining Treasure 2” is as fun and inspired as the first volume.

John Kennedy and the 68 Comeback Special launch the album at Petersham Bowling Club on May 6 with special guests including Julie Mostyn Gilbert and Warwick Gilbert. Tickets here.