Marching out to Aussie pop's beat

marching out of time cvrMarching Out of Time – Various Artists (Popboomerang)

With 115 releases to its credit, Melbourne’s Popboomerang is as an amazing independent record label success story and a beacon for under-the-radar Australian pop. Presuming, of course, that success is measured in quality music and not sheep stations.

The labels been a long-time labour of love for owner Scott Thurling and that passion makes his decision to close it down, at least for now, all the more noteworthy. In his own words:

Being locked up can do funny things to you! I will admit to feeling a little frustrated on July 24, 2021, when I made the announcement to end Popboomerang Records. The news might have been a surprise to some, but it was one I had been contemplating for a while.

Covid-19 challenges to running a label were the tipping point after 18 months of cancelled live events and the gigantic increases in the price of international postage which was making exporting almost impossible.I had also recently established a new record label, Sound As Ever 90-99, focussing on Australian ’90’s indie music, which was taking off, and it felt impossible to do justice to both ventures at the same time.

Kinda blue and cooking, X man Steve Lucas pushes his own boundaries

cross that lineCross That Line – Steve Lucas and The Rising Tide (Aztec Music)

Steve Lucas, last man standing from Australia's mighty underground legends X who, back in the day, I expect would have thought of themselves as a powerful rock band. Live, no-one would want to follow them ... and like The Saints and even Radio Birdman, they got called "punk" anyway. Pigeon-holing is for pigeons and gugs. I'd love to have been able to see X and Rose Tattoo in the same week.

Like many veterans of the music industry, Lucas has an unavoidable musical legacy. Which I expect can be both a blessing and a curse. So, for those expecting X Mark 32 and won't take no for an answer ... "Cross That Line" ain't for you. I always thought 'punk' was a state of mind about expressing the individual, not everyone wearing the same uniform and going to the same gigs. My approval or t'otherwise of any record is irrelevant, no matter what the genre. Remember, I'm a big fan of (among others) Gzutt, Peg Leg Sam, Thelonious Monk and Jon Wayne.

Flowers For Jayne's guitars are in bloom

dangerous woman cvrDangerous Woman – Flowers For Jayne (self released)

Guitars are unfashionable, ergo Sydney’s Flowers For Jayne will never be musical flavour of the month with contemporary tastemakers or scenesters. And that’s fine. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not one of those people anyway. You think R&B is Stax or Motown 45s and hip hop is nothing more than softcore aural wallpaper.

Drums, bass and guitar (turned up loud) with a voice somewhere in the middle is a timeless configuration. Flowers For Jayne is a classic “power trio” - both in the heavy sense of the term and for having a keen sense of dynamics.

The band is the vehicle for vocalist-guitarist Jayne Murphy, former Lime Spiders member and woman about Sydney town, and she’s joined by ace rhythm section Jess Ciampa (drums in Bernie Hayes Quartet, The Nature Strip, Dog Trumpet, Jeff Duff Band, Smelly Tongues and others) and Phil Hall(Sardine v, Dropbears, The 68 Comeback, Lime Spiders, Flaming Hands, Matt Finish, Roddy Ray'Da & The Surfin' Caesars).

Digging for Treasure yields more gold

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 .

Posthumous live album shines a light on a troubled star

drinkin with some angelsDrinking With Some Angels – Cranford Nix Junior (I-94 Recordings)

As soon as I saw the beautiful album cover, my first thought was, how lovely it is, that Cranford Nix Junior's grown kids can look at all this stuff - the albums and heartfelt tributes and fanatical cult followers – appreciate the sentimental testimony of old friends and collaborators and understand how loved and talented their dad was.

Cranford Nix Junior was the charismatic, charmed life, bon vivant, hard-drinking, fringe dwelling, abyss mocking, gone-too-soon, the son of a famous Nashville studio musician. An Americana type songwriter, he was a little bit country, little bit glammy punk ‘n’ roll, like somewhere between Pat Todd and Tyla from Dogs D'Amour, with maybe a little Waylon Jennings, and Paul Westerberg thrown in.

Rats parade their retro roots

the parade epThe Parade EP – Howlin’ Rats (Hiss and Crackle Records)

Doing anything new with the blues is a tough task. Doing something interesting is another matter. Newcastle, Australia, guitar-harmonica-drums trio The Howlin’ Rats, do just that on their debut five-song EP.

Opener “The Parade” is a harp-fuelled boogie stomp, an instrumental that serves to break the ice without busting any new ground. “MVII” is where things get interesting.

It’s an arcane slow-boiler that’s reminiscent of early ‘70s psych. Hobbit Harry’s winsome harp and a haunted vocal swim against waves of distorted slide guitar while drummer Tom Fairlie sits behind the beat and stirs the pot. It’s six minutes of splendour. Grass is optional.

L.A. survivors The Hangmen ride on

cactusville cvrCactusville – The Hangmen (Acetate Records)

In the wake ‘n’ bake legal reefer for rich white people Portland woke college culture, any mention of Burroughs is severely frowned upon because the dude was a bad man who killed his wife, but he accurately predicted this whole modern day dystopian police state NSA culture of surveillance capitalism and snitches and official narrative protecting fact checkers thinking they are helpful helpers doing their part for vegan wokeness. Nobody has the right to be left alone anymore, or mind their own business. That is their college kid idea of virtue, being micro mini Judge Dredd/Judge Judy vigilante deciders. "I like you, I don't like you." They all wanna be the jury, judge, and executioner, and the judgements are severe, as Leonard Cohen sang, in his prophetic, "Waiting For The Miracle To Come".

Does Suburbia disturb ya? Get a thong up ya

landfill suburbiasuburbia cvrLandfill – Suburbia Suburbia (self released)

Suburbia Suburbia’s new album, “Landfill”, is anything but rubbish. It is bloody awesome, It is full of screaming guitars, loads of wonderful harmonica and rolling bass lines and pounding drums. It’s just bloody good.

Suburbia Suburbia is Tony Townsend on vocals, Robdog Dekker (guitar), Allan 'Krock' Lyon (harmonica), Robbie Jib (bass), Rowie Riot (lead guitar) and Noel Gardner (drums.) They also have Ian Taylor (rhythm guitar) and Mark Godfrey (bass) on a couple of tracks.

These seasoned musicians have come up with eight tunes that just rock - a combination of blues and good old pub rock and roll. I cannot recommend this highly enough because it’s pure gold.

No disputin' that The Media Whores next need to skewer Putin

a light in a dark placeA Light In A Dark Place – The Media Whores (Twenty Stone Blatt)

Four studio albums into this punk rock caper and The Media Whores aren’t mellowing with age. History records that there have been more battles in their home of Stirlingshire, Scotland, over the last 500 years than most old school Aussie pubs, so it’s only fitting that they keep fighting wars on multiple fronts.

Wanna talk about old punks?  The creative fulcrum of Craig (vocals and guitar) and Doogie Mackie (bass and backing vocals) lit their first fire together in 2008 and the band almost won a mainstream industry Mercury prize in 2017 for their caustic “Dangerous Minds” long player. Presumably, a win would have been the kiss of death so let’s give thanks for the judges’ lack of good taste.

Surf and enjoy

space mariachisReturn Of The Space Mariachis – Stories From Shamehill (self released)

Surf-tiki rock from the Netherlands? I’m in. Let’s face it: stranger things happen in Amsterdam - usually involving special cakes sold at coffee shops - and this trio of reverb-obsessed retro heads is nothing if not inventive.

With assistance from The Hot Habanero Horns (actually two horns and a harmonica), Stories From Shamehill worked up their second full studio album over five days in 2021 and it’s a barrel of fun.

The Stories have been riding their surf wave since 2012 and have even managed to tour and record in California. Talk about taking coals to Newcastle…

I-94 Bar