Just Want To Be Friends - Screamin' Stevie's Australia (TurkeyNeck)
One man's Mantovani is another man's "Theme From M*A*S*H*" so I just want it known that Bob Short's review below is a tad harsh. "Just Want To Be Friends" isn't as good as "Four Flights Up" but it ain't a pile of steaming donkey turd either.
Screamin' Stevie's history in the Hekawis stands for itself but you can understand people thinking his vocal is an acquired taste. It's a plaintive, sometimes off-key instrument that ranges from a quaver to a growl - and not much inbetween. At times it's a downer but it's that "I've been kicked in the guts again and I don't feel fine" thing that imparts character.
Australia are/were Stevie's second band, growing separately from parallel recording sessions with The Credit Union. They're working from a mixed palette of songs with a fair pedigree (The Girlies, Ed Kuepper) but the songs aren't as strong as some prior Stevie outings.
"12 Hours A Day" is a classic opener, with Screamin' Stevie's bawling vocal, a scarifying Brian Mann lead-break and swirling mix of keyboards and backing vocals nailing a quasi-Doors-meets-the-Music-Machine feel. "Rock 'n' Soul" is more of the same, but the placement of the mid-tempo title track and the dragging stab at soul, "You Know That I Love You", early in the running order puts a bigger dampener on this party than the arrival a carload of bored cops after the booze ran out at 8.30.
"Twisted Twist" swings into the commercial zone with female backing vocals and cool organ prominent. Then the record lurches into "Long Gone", a muddy mess that sounds like two bands playing different songs - badly. "Done Me Wrong" sounds like "Strange Day" Doors after Jimbo checked out - leaving a pilled-up Manzarek to cover the vocal. Weird, maaaaan. - The Barman
I approached this disc with a certain amount of apprehension. Screamin’ Stevie’s Australia? What kind of a name for a band is that? I expected some kind of pub rock crap as I pressed play. Instead, I got a Wolfman Jack impersonation and a mod/garage opener called “12 Hours A Day”. It wasn’t bad. There was some nice fuzz guitar and organ. Screamin’ Stevie isn’t nearly a good a vocalist as he thinks he is. I mean, he doesn’t deserve a band to be named after him especially when the band is so much better than him. Still, if the standard had floated around the level of the opening track, they may have scraped a four star review. It would have been a real scrape but it could have been possible.
Unfortunately, things began to slip from there. “Rock n Soul” takes a nosedive into the 12-bar chug of Oz Rock. “She just wants to be friends” is a hideous soul-tinged ballad that does little besides revealing Stevie to be no Otis Redding. As he mangles notes relentlessly it becomes apparent that he isn’t even an Otis elevator. Frankly, the slower the songs get, the more flat and turgid the vocals become. By the fourth song, “You Know That I Love You”, the band has gone from slow to slower to get out and push. Stevie screams in the hope of hitting a note but this tyre’s gone and the wheel’s riding the rim.
“I Like It” returns to a garage theme and things pick up. Despite disc information to the contrary, “Twisted Twist” follows suite but the engineer has given up on Stevie. The vocals are so treated by this point that it sounds like when a cassette tape gets stretched. “Long Gone” is a fairly decent stab at garage rock but really, this shouldn’t have been an album. It should have been an EP. Its early promise is destroyed quickly as familiarity breeds contempt faster than rabbits on Viagra.
Finally, I have come to realise why this band is called Screamin’ Stevie’s Australia. This album is like walking into a gronk pub in the sticks on a Sunday afternoon. This band is setting up in the corner and before they’ve even got the PA up, they’ve been through five schooners a piece and nothing is going to stop them now. They start off fine but they drink another schooner between each song because I guess the pub is paying them in beer. Two songs in and the singer turns all sentimental on you and grabs a couple of beers to wash away the tears. You can smell his breath two suburbs over.
By the time we reach closing song “Done Me Wrong”, the band can no longer see the floor, let alone their instruments. It is a lame and unforgivable closing effort.
Let me give this to you in a language you’ll understand Stevie. Mate. You’re fine on the rock stuff but you really couldn’t hold a fucking note if your life depended on it. Drop the fucking ballads and stop making a cunt out of yourself. I’m not saying you guys can’t play because you can. I don’t often advocate the responsible service of alcohol but, in your case, I’ll make an exception. Show a bit of respect for yourself and your audience and only take half a dozen slabs of beer in with you next time you go the studio. Some backing vocals might also cover some of the more outlandish vocal atrocities too. I wish you luck with your future endeavours. - Bob Short