Subterranean Nightmare - The Prehistorics (MGM/Green)

Subterranean-NightmareThese guys can't get arrested in their home town (Sydney) in a gig sense, and their last album was an OK but ultimately forgettable slice of Detroit guitar histrionics. There's no shame in either. The live scene is struggling and being in the thrall of influences without a voice to tell you to make a song your own can make a first album a mis-step. A couple of years down the track and The Prehistorics are back with a record that's a step forward.

"Subterranean Nightmare" crackles with energy and good ideas. Some of them might have come from Michael Carpenter, uber pop producer from Sydney's Inner-West Delta. A lot of garage bands are wary of sonic craftsmen like Carpenter because they think he'll polish their act too much. In this instance, he seems to have brought out a nice but nasty streak of glam, and the playing is focussed.

The ramalama-cruisin'-down-Woodward-gonna-find-me-some-action reference points are still there but there's a buncha hooks sprinkled through the 11 songs that lifts them from the obvious. The Prehistorics have stepped up to the plate and connected with the ball.

It's not a home run that's going to change your musical life and determine the course of history - how often do they come along? - but it's getting more than respectable CD player time around these parts. If you were of the rock and roll persuasion as it's understood here, it's what you'd call A Good Little Record without a hint of patronisation.

"Attack of the Klingons" opens the innings in a style not distant from "School's Out"-era Alice. It strolls along before tapping you on the back of the head with a big chorus. The harmonies have been brought right to the top on "Nightmare" and that's often a good thing. Scything slide (presumably from lead guitarist Stuart Greenwood) takes us out and bobs up on a couple of other songs.

"Tragic Town" and "Petrified" are super effective. The former has another killer chorus while the later breaks down into guitar sparring in a jungle of toms. Choppy piano from Michael Carpenter adds a nice trimming to "Rock 'n Roller-Coaster." The barreling "Medusa Touch" is another minor gem with an undulating melody line and great dynamics.

These 11 tunes are mostly "songs to strap yourself in by." They are about girls and jealous people and fashion addicts. There are no ballads. They motor along at mid-tempo or better with lots of guitar riffing. The allusions to psychedelia in the band bio seem incidental and if you're looking for a comparator, Melbourne's late Specimens spring to mind.

In the end, The Prehistorics are among a handful of Sydney bands still fighting the good fight while the night is closing in. Invite them to Brisbane or Melbourne or Europe, even. Show that you care, too.

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Tags: garage, subterranean nightmare, prehistorics

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