Hulacide - The Dunhill Blues (Off The Hip)
Not to labour the point, but we live in troubled times. Terms like "hardest working band in Australia" are an irrelevance, a relic of the days when Oz Rock ruled our roost and beer barns were places of worship that were embedded in every town and suburb across this wide, brown land. Bands could, and did, play as many as eight shows in a week. Then it all faded away.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule - and The Dunhill Blues are one. They truly do work hard at what they do. In an era of lossy downloads and stripped-back duos, here's a band that has so many members they'd be hard-pressed to squeeze into the Partridge Family bus. Half their peers only want to play every third month, for fear of devaluing their (modest) pulling factor or eroding their performance fee. Perversely, The Dunnies rock up to every two-bit bolt-hole that will have them, content with not just having a good time but using their live show to convert the curious and the disaffected into glued-on fans.
"Hulacide" is The Dunhill Blues' third album and it's tighter and more in your face than those that have gone before. The sense of scrappy irreverence is intact but The Dunnies now sound like a well-honed unit. They still mix it up but have developed their own cohesive sound - without losing many rough edges.
From the opening surf-a-rama-bama-lama title track to the feedback-laced "It's Gonna Look Like a Murder/Suicide" (who said song names have to be uplifting?) this is garage greatness, a 16-tune stylistic smash-up derby that works on almost every level. A song like "I Wanna Tickle Nick Cave" is a thrashed to within an inch of its life with a couple of grinding chords and a shout-sung vocal, but it holds together. It says 'This is not a band that takes itself too seriously'. It's a figurative hot poker up the orifice of the Dark Prince of Torch Songs that his nearest and dearest should play at his next Birthday Party, if not his wake. Like, Nick, don't take it so seriously, man.
These are nagging songs that tug at your jacket sleeve in the queue to the bar and ask you to buy an extra beer for them - 'cos they really can't be fucked lining up. Songs thrust and parry where others might cajole, bouncing along on jagged riffs and (mostly Dan's) barked vocals.
The Dunhill Blues don't only play guitar skronk, however. Horns punctuate "Mescal Madness", a song with the subtlety of "Girls Gone Wild on Spring Break at Cancun", and there's a touch of Morricone meets the military in the martial instrumental, "Cormac McCarthy Pt 1". It's cousin ("Pt 2") also resides on this record and pushes what sounds like a theremin to the fore, along with mariachi trumpet.
"This Barstool" is drooling country punk, with all the irony that the loosely defined genre can summon. "No One Here Is Out To Get You" spins on an axis defined by its horns arrangement with the guitars taking their turn to stab.
I once told Dan I thought there was a touch of the Captain Beefhearts about some earlier Dunhill Blues songs and elicited only puzzlement. If there's an influence it's not a conscious one. The arrangements don't come within a bull's roar of the Magic Band at their most complex but there are parallels with the Captain's more accessible blues tunes, if only in the way the rhythmic undertow carries the songs forward.
Sixteen songs make up "Hulacide" and if any of the above makes sense, chances are you'll love all of them. Buy before you die.