"Evolution" - Tamam Shud Damn, if this doesn’t rock I don’t know what does. Veterans from the beginning of time (well, birth of Australian surf-psychedelia) sound dirty and relevant at the same time. They deliver the goods live, too.
"Post Pop Depression" - Iggy Pop His best album since “New Values”. Big grooves and melodies with a sharp, Germanic essence, it’s proof that Iggy needs another talent to bounce off to deliver his best work.
"Lost Cities" - Ed Kuepper Ed’s been an underrated treasure since finding his solo feet in the late ‘80s. This adds to the considerable body of work. An album of great songs with understated intensity.
Now I have to be upfront here. During the early '80s I was a huge Sacred Cowboys fan. I only saw them twice in Sydney but felt they were The Real Deal: a band in this territory of cool, alternative cowboy/Delta punk be that was coming from USA via people like The Gun Club and Wall of Voodoo, yet with a savage savage edge that was a nod to the "Blood River" period Scientists.
“Nothing Grows in Texas” simply was one best Australian singles of the '80s. Of courses Molly Meldrum slagged them off on TV on "Countdown". So we all knew they had so much going for them. At the centre was Garry Gray and his sneering vocals, somewhere between Alex Chilton and Jonathan Richman with a belly-full of hard, home brewed liquor.
These are quite remarkable recordings. Yes, you've heard rehearsal tapes and demo recordings by garage bands before, but these are different. It's all about the timeframe, the intensity and the fact that they're Australian and were recorded in relative cultural isolation.
“Dumb-World” is a serious collection of raw demos and rehearsal tapes from future Sacred Cowboys leader Garry Gray and his early bands between 1974-1978, featuring Judas and the Traitors, The Reals and The Negatives.
To place this in a historic context, the Australian musical landscape was fairly frigid. The local artists’ soundtrack was blaring from commercial AM radio, but it that was drab even though the live scene was flourishing and there were so many gigs for local musicians to play.
One of Australian rock roll’s few truly dangerous frontmen, Garry Gray (ex-Sacred Cowboys), is making a rare Sydney appearance with his crack band The Sixth Circle on November 18, presented by the I-94 Bar.
Garry Gray and The Sixth Circle are playing The Factory Floor in Marrickville with soulful rock soldiers Leadinger and street-level Northern Beaches rockers Chickenstones.
Melbourne-based Gray is a true survivor and legend of the Australian underground music scene. As crazed, chainsaw-wielding frontman for the Sacred Cowboys, he and his bandmates left a legacy of five studio albums and trademark singles, “Nothing Grows In Texas” and “Hell Sucks”.
Blasted by Molly Meldrum on Countdown as the worst band he’d seen in five years, Sacred Cowboys wore the insult as a badge of honour. They disrupted and devastated Australian audiences in the ‘80s and late ’90s with line-ups that included members of Beasts of Bourbon, The Models, Wet Taxis , Paul Kelly and The Dots and JAB.
Corporate con or well-meaning act of benevolence? History tends to deliver a verdict of the former. for "Lethal Weapons", the 1978 compilaiton album of Australian "punk".
"Lethal Weapons" was a product on an offshoot of major Australian label Mushroom (the same people who brought you Chain, Skyhooks and the Sunnyboys) and it was clearly a cynical attempt to commercialise underground music scenes then burgeoning in Melbourne and Sydney, especially.
Compiled by would-be A & R man Barry Earl, the album was notable for its eclectic cast which included The Boys Next Door (soon to become The Birthday Party), JAB, The Survivors, whose members would go onto Sacred Cowboys, The Moodists, Radio Birdman, Teenage Radio Stars and the Bad Seeds.
Trevor Block went in search of many of the original protagonists in bands that signed to Suicide. We're reprising his article to mark 40 years of "Lethal Weapons", and the decade since its CD re-issue.
Garry Gray and The Sixth Circle owning the stage at The Tote. Ripley Hood photo
I don’t think I could ever live in Melbourne
Not unless I wanted to exist on on liver tonic and could handle being out seeing bands most nights of the week. The previous evening in Melbourne I was at HITS and maybe the mistake was to have my first beer at midday at Sydney Airport. The carnage that followed lasted long after midnight with visits to all the cool bars along Smith Street, Fitzroy.
My fellow fiend in booze and rock and I wandered into Ya Ya’s (a sleazy place at this time of night) and watched on from upstairs as another band hit the stage at 2am. It was either that or take a cab to the Cherry Bar, which is still having bands till the early hours. It all reminds me of misadventures of a long, lost Sydney live music scene.
Sacred Cowboys on St Kilda Beach with the SS Minow.
“Sydney audiences can expect to hear much of the ‘Diamond in the Forehead’ album and a number of songs that will comprise our second album. Expect rock and roll out of the early 1970s, expect high volume in the guitar department, expect Nobel Prize-winning freak flag songs”
Garry Gray wrote this to me, and I visualise him, pounding the keyboard with pride about his forthcoming shows in Sydney in mid-November.
Gray has been making music for 42 years. I imagine by now he knows when he has a killer album ("Diamond in the Forehead") and a killer live band (The Sixth Circle) locked in. As I wrote a few months ago who when I caught The Sixth Circle live at the Tote Hoteland was blown away by a great, pure rock, street-level band:
All that dark and shade in this set; theatrics and drama. The tempo pulls back with “Club Siren”. “Our God hangs #6” is wild rock beat and with the guitars blues-based. Gray’s menacing vocals howling: 'I got hung without a trial'. "Cadillacs” has that proto punk rawness and a blues progression. There are elements of deep soul with raw gritty urban blues, and a solid rock 4/4 backbeat. Live, it is a no-nonsense rock monster.
We Mainline Dreamers - Garry Gray and Edward Clayton-Jones (Spooky Records)
Top-drawer stuff from the Sacred Cowboys frontman Garry Gray and the wicked guitar sidemagician best-known for his work with The Wreckery and The Bad Seeds, Edward Clayton-Jones.
Hasten thou to the magic credit card...
In the next few weeks I shall be taking a sabbatical from reviewing for most of a year. However, I must unzip myself first. "Full disclosure" as The Barman says.
First, I've eaten salt, broken bread and shared a jug of wine with both culprits (and I've written songs with Garry).
Second, while I have a tendency to get very excited over new music, when it's closer to home, when reviewing I am if anything more restrained. Also, there's always that slight anxiety before I start listening: will this be crap?
In early May thieves broke into Dan Sullivan's Johnston Street recording studio in Melbourne and stole guitars, effects pedals and recording gear worth thousands of dollars.
Despite the best efforts of friends and fellow musicians, the equipment and gear has yet to be recovered, leaving Sullivan and James McCann personally and financially devastated.
The studio has recenty been used (for free) to record tracks for an upcoming Spencer P Jones tribute album.
On Sunday, 22 May members of the Melbourne music community will come together at The Tote in Melbourne to raise money to replace the missing gear. The event will feature performances from Kim Salmon, Garry Gray & the Sixth Circle, James McCann & the New Vindictives, Penny Ikinger, Midnight Scavengers, Fraudband, Los Dominados, Claire Birchall & the Phantom Hitchhikers, Jules Sheldon, Helen Ryder and Tex Napalm.
Come along and see some great music, while helping out some hard working members of the Melbourne music community in a time of need. Keep an eye on the Facebook event for playing times and to spread the word.
MARVELLOUS MUSICAL MOMENTS OF 2022 AND MORE MUSINGS:
Firstly, thanks to The Barman and I-94 Bar contributors Keith Claringbold, Dylan Webster, Matty Ryan and Edwin Garland who included my shows with my band in NSW and Melbourne in their Top Tens for 2022. That is so cool and greatly appreciated! Thanks to everyone who came to these shows! It was fabulous to see so many “old” friends there!
Thanks to the musicians who played in my band – Tim McCormack on bass, Jason McGann on drums, Julian Held on guitar, Sam Billinghurst-Walsh on guitar and Ryan Oliver on keyboards. They are worthy of the attention they have been getting.
In fact, thanks to all the musicians who performed live on the indie rock circuit in 2022. These are not easy times for many musicians, and it’s been fantastic to see so many artists back in action on stage, in the post lockdown world. Often, I cross paths with them when they attend other people’s gigs as well. It’s a wonderful thing to behold - intrepid rock’n’roll soldiers leading the charge to bring live music back into the forefront of our hearts and minds!
Thanks to all the punters who have been supporting live gigs. Thanks to the music journalists for reviewing our shows and new releases and to the radio presenters who have been playing our music. Thanks to the venues and the promoters, with a special thanks to The Barman for his tireless efforts to keep our rock scene alive and well.