One of Those Fine Days - Guy Littell (AR Recordings)

guy littell coverWhen you take your surname from a character in a James Ellroy book, you nail your colours to the mast as a fan of most things American. Naples-born Guy Littell might be as Italian as pizza with a cappuccino on the side, but his music is drenched in Americana.

Littell’s biography mentions his links to Steve Wynn (of The Dream Syndicate and a long solo career) on whose next album Guy guests, and the impact of hearing Neil Young and Mark Lanergan. “One of Those Fine Days” shows those influences writ large - plus a deep dish serving of Matthew Sweet. 

Littell might not have the pipes of Sweet - who does? - but he and his band tackle these 10 self-penned songs with a similar measured, rock-pop aplomb.

Head Undone: 1982-1988 -Buick KBT (Buttercup Records)

buick kbt coverYou have to admire record labels like Buttercup who dig up decades-old sounds from Australia’s music underground, chuck a new coat of paint on those mouldy old tapes and offer them up for a cash consideration to nerdy record collectors who crave those obscure Australian sounds.

A cynical person would file this Melbourne combo under “'80s Smack Rock”…and of course I’m a cynical bastard. But, hey, being inspired by The Birthday Party or the Bad Seeds isn’t a bad thing. Those groups wrote their own rule books and went where no bands has been before them and if you’re going to be inspired by somebody it may as well be by the greats.

I’m sure Buick KBT shared cups of tea with The Wreckery, The Moodists and The Sacred Cowboys.  They certainly shared stages with Venom P.Stinger, Go-Betweens, X , The Laughing Clowns and Dead Kennedys.

Why? - Ich Ben Ein Esel (Pitshark/Swashbuckling Hobo)

ich bin ein esel foldoutNearly six years after it came out on vinyl, French label Pitshark has re-issued this unpolished gem from deepest, darkest Brisbane on CD in a fold-out seven-inch single pack.

Back then we opined that "Why?" was "equal parts wrecking ball guitar, sledgehammer bass and drums and can't-give-a-fuck punk slop" and there's no reason to resile from that.

We also said that "Ich Bin Ein Esel ("I Am An Ass") will sit you on your arse quicker than a six-pack of Coopers Pale Ale drunk through a straw on a stinking hot day", so if the rest of this lazy review reads like you've heard it all before, then you have...

Magical Thinking - The Dangermen (Swashbuckling Hobo)

magical thinkingBeing a punk rock institution in Brisbane and six bucks might buy you a banana thickshake in Brunswick Street Mall. Reality is that you’re as likely to lock ears with the harsh blare of techno as dirty rock ’n’ roll in today’s Fortitude Valley. 

That’s why you have to admire the underground rock and roll scene in the capital of Australia’s sub-tropical north, for its quality as much as its resilience.

Which nicely segues to The Dangermen, whose 17-year existence must qualify them for rock and roll’s version of seniors cards. Which, along with their Brisbane Institution status, should at least get them that thickshake at a discount.

Negative Fun - The Fiction (Off The Hip)

negative funIt could have been called “Short Lives Of The Poor and Obscure”. 

Like Reals, Negatives, Young Charlatans and News/Babeez, The Fiction is but a footnote in Melbourne punk’s earliest days, briefly existing from 1978-79. They released a posthumous EP under the name Little Murders, kickstarting that enduring brand and the career of its leader, Rob Griffiths.  They also enjoyed the patronage of the rightly-lauded Melbourne punk mover and shaker Bruce Milne and Pulp, the zine he ran with Clinton Walker. 

The Fiction had a loose affiliation with those glam-sheep- in-punk-wolves clothing, La Femme, sharing a practice space and a manager. Musically, The Fiction seems to have been drawing more from bands like The Who and the Small Faces, although there’s undoubtedly a bit of Bowie in there, too.

Cordyline Australis - Michael Canning (Ghostjogger)

cordylineLooks like I was premature the other week when I listed my fave ten or so for 2017. “Cordyline Australis” should have been there.

And I have to say I envy all of you - you haven’t heard this yet. The first listen  - if you put aside the hour and turn it on - you’ll be damn impressed. This is one hugely groovy disc.

You don’t know Michael Canning from a bag of chops, of course; he’s on Facebook as Michael Sea, and I did a review of his band’s last EP, “Mass Spectrometer”; I should also point out that Canning has released one earlier solo LP, and a slew of other music with other bands. Hassle the man on FB, but also go here.

Nothing Ever Gets Lost - Claire Birchall & The Phantom Hitchhikers (Off The Hip/Night Owl Records)

nothing ever gets lostYou know exactly what he’s gonna say: Sydney reviewer gets pissed off at the excess of musical talent in rival city Melbourne. Gets all angsty and laments The Good Old Days when Sydney more than held a candle to Melbourne. You’re partly right.

Cutting to the chase…Claire Birchall IS one of those uber talents from “down south” who grew up in the fertile Geelong scene and now lives in Melbourne. She plays everything from beatbox-backed pop to lean and mean rock. Genres are just a vehicle for the songs. “Nothing Ever Gets Lost” is a gnarly, blues-rock album.

The purple and blue cover art deceptively looks like one of those “Back From The Grave” acid punk compilations. The music, however, is fuzzy and warm and glows from the inside. There’s a great sense of dynamics and Birchall’s voice resonates with character and a world-weary charm. 

Silver and Gold - Cub Callaway (East Dominion)

silver and gold coverAlternative title: "He Gets by With Some Help From His Friends".

Producer-guitarist Bruce "Cub" Callaway assembled a stellar cast for this, his 2013 return to recording after a lay-off, and it shows.

John Hoey (Died Pretty), Warwick Gilbert (Radio Birdman), Paul Larsen (Celibate Rifles), Clyde Bramley (Hoodoo Gurus) and Julie Mostyn Gilbert (Flaming Hands) all played roles. Lesser-knowns Ian Johnson, Louis Callaway and Harry Rothenfluh also contributed drums.

Mobile Homeland - John Sinclair (Funky D Records)

mobile homelandNo introduction needed for the onetime spiritual leader of the MC5 so here’s a personal note about meeting John Sinclair:

It was on a night off during a business trip that involved a flying visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 2000s. Sinclair was in town for that city’s annual Hash Bash and had just played a show at The Blind Pig. I’d been drinking at the Eight Bar Saloon with some locals, including Scott Morgan who did the introduction.