barman and wizardThe Barman on tour in Japan at Mr Death's Crampstore with The Grand Wizard of the Psychotic Turnbuckles.  

Top Ten Albums and Other Things In No Particular Order (with a qualifier that I never review gigs promted by the Bar but, fuck that, it’s my Top Ten.)

Ten Albums
1. Dark Country – Sonic Garage (self released)

This turned up on the eve of an overseas trip so a full review from yours truly isn’t among the glowing tributes already posted. A step up on the debut (which was pretty good in its own right) with lots of weaving guitars and classy keyboard textures. Sydney Old Man Rock and Roll. Just buy it.

2. Hackney Diamonds – The Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones Records)
You might have wanted to hate it. Lead “single” “Angry” was so-so but turned out to be one of the parts of a sum that’s much better than it could have been. There's a formula here but it's not a negative when it's in the hands of its inventors. Trust your own ears: It sounds contemporary but this is still The Stones being the Stones, even without Charlie.

3. Viva La Revolution – Black Bombers (Easy Action)
This turned up on the doorstep just as the Top Ten was being compiled and quickly found its way into the final list with continuous plays. Dark Rock Action from the Black Country of what was once industrial England. Five Rolling Rocks.  

4. You Can’t Polish a Turd - The Monaros (Tradie Records)
Our Man In Dimboola Ronald Brown’s (what other colour is there?) review convinced me to listen and the record came up smelling like roses. Really. Yob rock, you may sniff, but it’s lobbed up by three guys who can really play. A no risk acquisition for most Barflies. Prediction: You will never hear “Karen” on any radio station. Prove me wrong, Community Radio.

5. Sons Of The City Ditch – Pat Todd and The Rankoutsiders (Dog Meat)
The album David Laing released this year is another street-level classic. Pat Todd’s solo show with Mad Macka of the Cosmic Psychos at the Golden Barley in Sydney on November 28 was magical. Pat is a lovely bloke with star presence and more great songs than you can poke a stick at. Bring on the full band Australian tour and make 2024 worthwhile.

6. Let Ya Hair Down – The On and Ons (Citadel)
The powerpop excellence goes on and the band is a wonder caught live. Rapt to see the title track named one of Little Stevie’s Underground Radio Coolest Songs of the Year.

7. Hypersensitive – The DoGs (Heavy Medication Records)
Surprise vinyl re-issue on Heavy Medication and absolutely worth grabbing on mail order from Poland if you have a scintilla of Real Rock Action in your bloodstream.

8. Died Pretty Live – Died Pretty (Citadel Records)
One of Australia’s greatest bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s in peak form on a reformation run to celebrate “Doughboy Hollow”.

9. Every Loser – Iggy Pop (Gold Tooth)
More life in it than 99 percent of the soggy shit that turns up in the sewers of streaming. It didn’t need big name guest players to be vital but it is.

10. Tract Home Chippy – Chris Masuak and Dog Soldier (I-94 Bar Records)
Song of the Year! Tell me different.

Honourable Mentions:
"Travels and Travails" – Penny Ikinger (Off The Hip)
"School’s Out” & “Killer" reissues – Alice Cooper (Rhino)

Five Live
1. Chris Masuak and Dog Soldier Australian Tour
Long overdue and a reminder that it’s not bragging when you’re the best. It was hard work stringing together all those shows and making it viable (sorry Brisbane) but, fuck, it was fun. The duet with Mick Medew  on the Gold Coast was special. The Chief and Stu are the best and so are the fans who came out to have fun.

 2. Psychotic Turnbuckles Japanese Tour
All hail the Intercontinental Tag Team Champions of the World who are playing better than ever and entering their 40th anniversary year. I went on tour to carry their title belts and witnessed four peerless shows that honoured the memory of Christine. Take a tip: The Tokyo Halloween Ball is one of the best events on the international music calendar.

 charlie moshpit bw

3. Charlie Owen + Penny Ikinger at The MoshPit, Sydney
A riveting night. Charlie features in my music collection more than most Australian guitarists and is a compelling story teller. Penny was at her usual captivating self in solo mode and brought a mostly retrospective album “Travels and Travails”. Can’t wait to see her back with her full band next month and Charlie doing an encore run in 2024.   

4. Rocks + The Strike-Outs + The Jane Does at The MoshPit, St Peters, NSW on Saturday, April 1
You’re the April Fool if you didn’t make it to this Saturday afternoon matinee show. First time I’d seen Rocks for an eon and they rocked so hard in front of a bumper crowd that it should have been illegal. The Strike-Outs are two brothers who used to be two-thirds of Thee Evil Twin and they have killer songs full of razor sharp riffs that are played with venomous power. The Jane Does do the power pop-garage thing really well with choice covers plus an expanding oeuvre of originals and were a perfect opener.  

5. Pocketwatch EP launch with Polly and Vertigo at Marrickville Bowling Club, NSW, on Friday, August 14
Could they turn on something special for the release of “It’s Time”? Yep. Spectacular staging and their best performance to date.

Honourable Mentions:
Sunnyboys final show at Enmore Theatre
feedtime and Chimers at Marrickville Bowling Club
Penny Ikinger Band at Marrickville Bowling Club
The Johnnys at MoshPit Bar

Maybe it was triggered by the disappearance of lockdowns but 2023 was a return to voracious reading of the rock and roll kind. Easy Action’s spectacular Stooge-fest, “The Truth Is In The Sound We Make”, George Munoz’s lavish “Radio Birdman: When The Birdman Flew”, Roger Grierson’s colourful tales of the Australian music industry, “Lowbrow”, Stuart Coupe’s autobiographical “Shake Some Action” and Mark Cornwall’s “Proby And Me. A Howling Tale of a Falling Star” about the flame-out PJ Proby Australian tour are all required reading.

Couldn’t put down “Half Deaf, Completely Mad: The Chaotic Genius of Australia's Most Legendary Music Producer”, the Tony Cohen biography masterfully stitched together by John Olson, either. Getting stuck into Dennis Dunaway’s “Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group” was a belated pleasure

Still chipping away at “Another Tuneless Racket”, the first volume of Steve Gardner’s opinionated, entertaining and consuming series of books about “punk” in the 1970s and beyond. Expect a detailed review (COVID, Christmas and Top Tens got in the way). Do like I did and grab copies of the four published so far from Amazon here before they sell out.

There were too many to list so here are the hardest ones from a personal perspective:

Ronald S Peno: The I-94 Bar was honoured to present what would be his last Sydney show in 2022. Cancer’s fucked and it came back and claimed Ronnie in ’23. Such a sad loss of a vibrant person.

Patrick Emery: What a shock when he was taken down by an inoperable brain cancer after collapsing on December 24. I suppose we’d known each other 25 years and last crossed paths in person in Melbourne in May. A gifted writer with real insight, his Spencer P Jones bio finding a publisher was a win for both Oz underground music and Patrick. Thoughts are still with his wife and daughters.

Tom Verlaine:  We go back many years. So glad I got to see Television, even without Richard Lloyd. Wish he’d seen fit to finish the part-recorded fourth TV album.

Louis Tillett: Those demons made him close to unmanageable, but it would be bereft not to say he was a massive loss.