meanies - The I-94 Bar
Loud As Ever – Various Artists (Sound As Ever)
Every generation of music lovers grows up thinking its era was the best. So it goes with those who ploughed through puberty in the ‘90s, a time now digitally immortalised (as all things are) by a Facebook page, “Sound As Ever”, dedicated to Australian independent music from 1990-99.
“Sound As Ever” is a snapshot of what life looked and sounded like on the fringes of Australian music in the ‘90s. It has an audience of 72,000 Facebook users after just a year. Like any retrospective, some of what’s thrown up is gem-like and some is shite.
Personally, the ‘90s were a letdown: Once the tidal wave of grunge had subsided, it left a lot of mediocrity on the surface and it seemed there wasn’t much Real Rock and Roll left. Bands like the Powder Monkeys and New Christs that were grossly underappreciated at the start of the decade criminally remained so at the end.
Matthew, Ash and Wally are Even. Emma-Jane Johnson photo.
Ask any Australian fan of hooky powerpop who they rate and the answer will almost inevitably include Even, the Melbourne institution that’s been a fixture on the Oz scene since forming in 1994. Fronted by singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ashley Naylor, with Matthew Cotter on drums and Wally Kempton (aka Wally Meanie) on bass and backing vocals, they have just released their eighth album, “Down The Shops”, and it's reviewed here.
“Down The Shops” is a beautifully presented, vinyl collection of covers Even has released down the years. Ever since working up a rocking version of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” in their early mid-‘90s days playing the pubs around Fitzroy and St Kilda, Even have usually had a cover or two on the go. And they weren’t adverse to working up a load of them; they did "Even Jukebox" performances every year at Melbourne’s Cherry Bar.
Right, when I heard this for the first of what will be hundreds of times, I thought, fuck me, “Grandular Fever” is a career highlight. The thing is… I reckon they can match this over and over without breaking wind. And fuck, Loki Lockwood must be spitting. A record this fucking brilliant and it ain’t out til October (I won't tell you when I initially wrote this).
Every now and then an CD comes along which makes me love the privileged position I sometimes find myself in. And right now… EIGHT BOTTLES. And after several months of addictive listening, it's still eight bottles.
Mighty little Melbourne label Buttercup has taken up the cause of split singles by some of its home city's finest that Infidelity Records was rolling out when they shut their doors. The concept is an A side from a headliner backed with a couple of bands covering the lead-off band on the flipside. Putting The Meanies, Digger & The Pussycats and The Double Agents on the same slab of seven-inch vinyl is an inspired idea.
The Meanies are as much a Melbourne institution as that odd football game they follow and the venerable Tote Hotel. Their song, “Gravity”, is a particularly sticky piece of ear wax with a catchy vocal line and sharp guitar solo. The vocal harmony fade out will have you reaching for the turntable tone arm to play it again, even if your name isn't Sam.
Flip the 45 over and the explosive cover of “Gangrenous” is typical of the musical hand grenades that duo Digger & The Pussycats have lobbed in pubs and cafes from Geelong to Lower Europe. Bratty and brilliant and at 1min43sec it’s over before you can get bored.
The other cover song by The Double Agents is (as far I know) posthumous and only a touch over a couple of minutes long, But what quality minutes they are. The groove on “Cock Rock Lips” sounds like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hitting high-gear in their tour van on a boozy road trip through the wilds of St Kilda. Too good not to hear again.
Buttercup Records on the Web
I can’t remember the first time I saw Money for Rope play. Probably sometime around 2010, give or take a couple of years. Wally Kempton, initially fan, then manager, now the band’s record label benefactor, was there, telling us these guys were good. Very good. He was right, of course.
There have been a few changes in the line-up since that initial sighting, maybe not on the scale of The Fall, but enough to threaten Money for Rope’s initial promise. But every time I’ve seen Money for Rope since then, they’ve been as impressive as they were that first time. Sometimes you get bands like that.
Twenty-five years on and Australian punk legends The Meanies have somehow weathered many a storm to still be not only around but being more relevant now than ever before.
The band is about to launch a national tour to mark a quarter of century in “the business”.
One of the last Aussie ‘zines standing is setting some sort of record for durability, but issue 20 is tinged with deep sadness.
Editor Danger Coolidge’s opening column, detailing the life and tragic loss of his son, Angus Reekie, who took his own life late last year at the age of 16, is one of the most powerful things you’ll read. Cathartic in the extreme, if it doesn’t touch you, you’re not human.
On the brighter side of the coin, this issue is the usual mix of gems, surprises and obscurities. The interview with Buffalo vocalist Dave Tice is detailed and comprehensive (and we played a small part in making it happen so it’s all the more satisfying.) The chat with Link Meanie is long overdue and covers a storied and ongoing career that's taken on fresh legs wityh Sun God Replica.
As for obscurities, Unbelievably Bad invariably shines a light on acts most of the world hasn’t heard of and there are pieces on Undinism (the Geelong band - not the Donald Trump allegations), Nick Singer (of Newcastle band Brandon’s Island) and Jonah Wallis (Fucked Up.) Harriet Hudson might be a name known to the kids who follow Miss Destiny but I didn’t like Circle Pit (her other band) so I can take or leave her interview.