Kevin K and the CBGB Years - Kevin K (Realkat Records)

cbgb yearsCBGB is, of course, no more. It’s a designer clothing store run by Detroit old boy John Varvatos. 

At this point, permit me a personal aside.

No matter how many times the new owner’s rock and roll cred and commitment to “tastefully” preserving elements of the old club on The Bowery are thrown at me, I can’t come to terms with this particular march of progress. 

My own CBGB experiences may have only been as a beer-swilling tourist living vicariously through the sounds of those on-stage, but turning a rock and roll hovel into a shop selling $300 T-shirts will only get you so far. 

LAX - Fast Cars (Method Records)

LAXWhere they’ve come from is academic; it’s where Fast Cars are now that counts. The onetime ‘80s Sydney mod-power-pop band has been a creative duo since reforming in 2015, working on opposite sides of the globe. “LAX” suggests distance only makes the creative muse all that much stronger. 

“LAX” is what people used to call a “concept album” - back when single song downloads weren’t the staple currency of the musical economy. I know what you’re thinking: Concept equals Pretentious. Wrong. “LAX” stays well away from that precipice. It’s 12 songs of classy psych pop, alternately dreamy and lush, occasionally funky or wrapped in strings, and framed loosely on the theme of seeking your dreams in a big city. 

“LAX” is also a Dropbox record. Dropbox is the cloud app that’s become stock-in-trade for projects like this. With vocalist-guitarist Di Levi based in Bristol, UK, and guitarist-songwriter Fabian Byrne living in Sydney, Australia, the swapping of ideas, sketches, recorded parts and, ultimately, fleshed-out songs, had to occur online.

Meeting the Mexicans: Live in Melbourne - The Celibate Rifles (self released)

meeting the mexicansIt’s 14 years since the last Celibate Rifles release, the accomplished studio effort “Beyond Respect”, so this one’s timely. It’s the third live album in the Rifles’ 39-year history and a departure of sorts. 

If you expected trademark explosive guitar from the outset (a la “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) adjust your expectations. “Meeting the Mexicans” - the title refers to playing to people in Melbourne - is from a half-electric/half acoustic gig at the Thornbury Theatre in Victoria in mid 2017. The first half is the Cellies mostly unplugged, with the full-blown configuration front-and-centre for the last five tracks only. 

The unplugged thing has been going on for a few years on the Celibate Rifles’ infrequent live runs. It’s an idea that links back to the 1996 “On The Quiet” album and mixes things up for fans and band alike. Considering the bulk of their songs were written on acoustic guitars before they were taken anywhere near a studio, it works. Plus, you get to absorb the words in a way that doesn’t happen at a “normal” gig. 

Never To Be Released - Maximum Security (self released)

never to be releasedThis is a clever record. Meaning: just enough thought went into its recording and production to make it special. 

Two declarations up front. I know most the people involved with “Never To Be Released”, so there’s a slight degree of bias in their favour. Secondly, most music that passes for “punk rock” bores me shitless. 

It’s like the second wave of UK punk: Once the first rush of anger and spontaneity had subsided, it fell victim to fashion. Style over substance. Saying the same thing over and over got real old, real quick. Learning two chords and starting a band is fine but you need to educate yourself in what to do with them. The chords and the band, that is.

3 Cheers to Nothing - Trixie and the Trainwrecks (Voodoo Rhythm)

trixie"3 Cheers to Nothing" arrived in my box unannounced and unasked for. I put it on as I was driving (as I do) and nearly rear-ended a bus.

I can see the children looking behind them with little circles for eyes and big open mouths, horror written all over... and then there was the rest of the drive, complete with sirens (bloody things, they take ages to get rid of), driving on the wrong side of the footpath, and a few dents on the roof (bloody cyclists).

You should be familiar with her record company: they declare they stock "Music to Ruin any Party" (they don't, the only parties they'd ruin would be political ones), Voodoo Rhythm (the folk who bring you Bob Log III, Dead Brothers, Delaney Davidson, Pierre Omer, The Pussywarmers and (in Europe) Rocket Science) and a host of others ... so Voodoo Rhythm have form, as they say of old lags, and fine, fine taste.

A Thousand Endless Nights - Little Green Fairy (Closer Records)

a thousand endless nightsIt’s been five years such the last album and French garage-psychers Little Green Fairy are back with their strongest record to date. You may have never heard of this band but be assured that they hit the mark and worth you taking a risk on.

Little Green Fairy (it’s a brand of absinthe) come from Sette on France’s Mediterranean coast. That means they’re a long way from almosty anywhere else in French terms, but it also positions them in a pictureseque stopover for touring bands on their way to Italy. They've won a reputation as the local support-of-choice.

They’ve shared stages with an impressive list. Try the Saints, Radio Birdman The Jim Jones Revue, the New Christs, Hoodoo Gurus, Real Kids, The Hydromatics, The Bellrays, Sonny Vincent and Chris Bailey, among others. 

Sideways Changeling - The Electric Guitars (Volume Creep)

sideways changelingThe Electric Guitars are fucking extraordinary. I saw this outfit in Geelong and they deliberately mess with your expectations. Partly I spose it's 'cause there are so many fucking rock'n'roll bands. And these days, there's a big swing towards the manner of psychedelia (without the bad trips and foul behaviour) in the US and UK.

Yeah, so the Electric Guitars use wah-wah. But it's hardly a mannered thing - they use a lot of effects, and they ain't shy about it. This outfit don't need drugs to get your attention, instead they have carefully set-up songs and wield them like scalpels, chainsaws and bludgeons, sometimes all at once.

You think you know where you are with a band like this, you'll fall on your face. The second song alone ("Three Body Problem") is a case in point... you're sucked in, frankly, and after a while your sinuses are aching and your inner ear is rattling. If you have fillings, take them out before you listen.

Live at Tully Hall – Lou Reed (Easy Action)

tully hallLou Reed’s much-maligned early ‘70s live backing band, The Tots, cop a bad wra

Maybe it’s because they weren’t the Velvets or the “Rock and Roll Animal” monster. No crime in that. Maybe it was the bass player’s white suits - like an early ‘70s version of double denim.

They were a bar band from Yonkers. They weren’t the best band to back Uncle Lou. Not by a long-shot. But they had a go.

After messing around with members of Yes and well-credentialed session guys in England to record his first two solo albums, Reed was ready to promote "Transformer". This was his "comeback" show in New York City. He'd emerged from a lay-off, much of which was spent working as a typist in the family business,

Witht the benefit of hindsight, The Tots were like a suit he bought off the rack. Not the most elegant fit, but they did the job for a year - until he wore them out/got bored and sacked them.

Kamikaze - Tokyo Beef (self released)

tokyo beef kamikazeDetroit rock? It never sounded so Australian as this Queensland band. Tokyo Beef slams out nine original songs on their second album and it reeks of Fourex pots and durries on a Gold Coast Saturday arvo down at the old Birdwatcher's Bar on Cavill Avenue.

The cover imagery is a Japanese Zero winging it past a burning wreck and it's apt enough. These songs are above mid-tempo punk rock with no safety net. Played live in the studio, theyy're first or second takes, for the most part. One guitar, bass, drums and a stand-and-deliver drawl.

Guitarist Punk (yep, that's his band name and for all I know it's the tag that his cellmate gave him) doesn't stand for subtlety and his tightly-coiled leads and sharp licks are all over these songs, free of overdubs.