ABBA isn't the only rockin' thing that's Swedish
I Wish Life Could Be… - Swedish Magazines (Rubber Records)
Underground rock on Australia’s East Coast really needed a well-organised interstate exchange program in the 2000s.
Despite a smoothed-out Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney making long-haul road-trips safer and a flood of cheap airfares, the flow of bands between the two big smokes slowed, largely in part to Sydney’s declining number of live music venues.
After all, bands can’t do reciprocal deals to play in each other’s cities if one hometown has 20 venues and the other has four. If the balance had been more equitable and audiences less fragmented, it’s a fair bet that Melbourne’s Swedish Magazines would have household names across the nation in the mid-00s and not juist in Melbourne.
The evidence is here in the compilation “I Wish Life Could Be…” Billed as a Best of 2004-2011, it packs as much punch as anything by the current crop of allegedly high-energy darlings, like the Dune Rats or The Chats.
There’s not a whiff of the shitty stench of Aussie hip-hop or that pathetically mundane R&B genre with its stolen name, just 15 tracks of ragged and righteous, pub-reared, Oz punk rock. There’s more life in these songs than a bushy-tailed dog with OCD in a roomful of rocking chairs.
There’s always a back story: The Swedes sprang up in the fertile Melbourne scene when core members Van and Cal Walker arrived from Tasmania, taking a page out of the books of predecessors like Powder Monkeys and Bored!
For a while, Swedish Magazines were a huge deal and were sniffing at the heels of outfits like Jet. Given a different roll of the dice, they could have ridden the same New Rock wave internationally as New Zealand’s The D4 and Datsuns, or Sydney’s The Vines.
In trhe 10 years since, the Walker brothers have gone onto other things, Van particularly prominent as a solo artist, and bassist Cal with Tyrannamen and the superbly rootsy rockers Heartbrokers.
This stuff rocks regally, taking a lead from Oz rock and sprinkling it liberally with street level scuzz. Van Walker has killer pipes and he and his brother, plus a handfui of guitarists, deliver a hanbdful of chords and a headful of attitude.
There’s something here for everyone. From the AC/DC wail-of-sound stylings of “Girl From The Tote” (only Melbourne bands can get away with references to local venues) to the brimstone and bluster of “Head on Ice”, this is top grade.
Powder Monkeys comparisons should never be used lightly but the resemblance and spirit is there in “Ballbag Boogie” and the vocal stylings of "Head On Ice". And “She’s Evil” is the best Hellacopters song that Nicke Royale never wrote.
If you’re a stranger to the sounds of Swedish Magazines you should consider this your chance to catch up on what you missed, and If you’re a fan you’ll want the five live tracks that are exclusive to this compilation. Did wse mention that it's on vinyl as well as CD? Either way, you'll be primed for a plannded new studio album from the band in the near future.
I Wish Life Could Be launch tour
+ Leadfinger + Jupiter 5
Marrickville Bowlo, Sydney, NSW
- Nov 26
Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
- Nov 27
+ Warped + The Devours + Thee Cha Cha Chas
Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC – Dec
+ Warped + Future Tongues + Thee Cha Cha Chas
Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC – Jan 14