The Atlantics Bombora 1963 (CBS)
Listen when: You and Gidget are strapping your malibus to your woody.
Fuck Dick Dale and Pulp Fiction. Bombora’s where it’s at. Drunk old dude at Young & Jackson’s pub after the footy one night.
They’re from the Pacific. They’re the Atlantics; and in the early 60’s they took the surf music world by storm. Their balls out instrumental hit Bombora barreled in on the U.S. rivalling The Chantays’ Pipeline and The Surfari’s Wipe Out for the surf instrumental crown.
Bombora is a phenomenal instrumental album with Theo Penglis’ twangy lead guitar taking centre stage. The title track itself is a master class in 1960’s surf rock with the thumping rhythm section of bassist Bosco Bosanac and drummer Peter Hood driving the track along with jungle precision. Penglis’ signature high end E over B flat pluck green-flags the tune with a spine chilling shriek that seems to almost summons a barrelling wave from its slumber.
The second track, the salty Adventures in Paradise is a precursor to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross and, complete with sea bird squawks it actually leaves you a little bit green around the gills with seasickness.
Other gems are the Duane Eddy-ish Turista and the disorienting final track Moon Man, both of which stitch up Bombora perfectly; a tight-knit, mood encapsulating mix that helped put Australia on the surfing radar.
The Saints (I’m) Stranded 1977 (EMI)
Listen when: Cops are chasing you at breakneck speeds.
The world needs scumbags like The Saints. Chris Bailey (The Saints)
After listening to this album for the best part of thirty years I still have no fucking idea how Ed Kuepper does it. How the hell does he squeeze such an immense volume and freneticism out of his Gibson SG without any hint of feedback or warped distortion?
The album’s final track, Nights in Venice, typifies this. With its Zeppelin-esque riffage and almost free-rock homage to Coltrane’s free-jazz, the song feels like it could fall apart at any minute. Somehow though, it remains clawing at the precipice for the entire 5 minutes and 42 seconds. It’s god damn stunt music.
Nights in Venice is symbolic of the entire (I’m) Stranded album; kind of off kilter, precariously brutal, desperate and with the dangerous fragility of a saturated cardboard box full of electrified razor blades. And it’s bloody obnoxious too.
Kuepper’s anti-social buzzsaw approach set the Saints apart from punk contemporaries like the more trend-conscious Sex Pistols and the Clash; his point of difference being to tune his Gibson up one tone from the standard E, A, D, G, B, E tuning and play everything through a P.A. system instead of a conventional amp.
The track sequence is dysfunctional genius with an ear-glassing first three tracks followed by the pissed off but less assaulting BPM of Messin’ With the Kid. Tracks 5–7 are a sonic gang rape but then comes track 8, the wisdomous Story of Love, a down tempo number, but still laced with the agitated awareness that only singer Chris Bailey can deliver. The two strategically placed slower tracks allows the exhausted listener a temporary leave pass from the prison of sonic mayhem walled around them. Sagely use this time to regulate your breathing because after Story of Love comes the biggest blistering revolt ever charged at the music industry.
Demolition Girl and Nights in Venice close off the album, seguing into each other brilliantly, leaving you with a sense of skin crawl as Kuepper, bass player Kym Bradshaw and primeval drummer Ivor Hay seem to deliberately lose time with one another, making it work all the more perfectly. Smartarses.
Scientists Blood Red River 1983 (Au-Go-Go)
Listen when: Your God is giving you the shits.
Grunge doesn’t exist. But if it did, Kim Salmon would be the high priest. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
According to my father, (who it must be said is a professional smartarse) the blame for the creation of the worst band in the world, Nickelback, lays firmly at the feet of Scientists ringleader, Kim Salmon. Dad’s reasoning is ridiculous, yet it kind of makes sense; Scientists heavily influenced Mudhoney who in turn were labelled as the creators of the grunge movement. Without grunge there would be no Pearl Jam. Without Pearl Jam, the disgraceful grunge lite atrocity wouldn’t have come to fruition and thus, there would be no Nicklefuckingback. I don’t know, he drinks a bit my old man so, yeah.
Regardless, Blood Red River is a phenomenon and did indeed hugely influence bands like Mudhoney, Nirvana and the Melvins. Taking the most sexually perverse elements from the Cramps, Gun Club, Captain Beefheart, Suicide and the Stooges, Blood Red River is the musical equivalent to the fundamental Christian version of Christ’s second coming. All hell will reign upon thee when Jesus returns as when Blood Red River is on the turntable. The sun will darken and fire, flood and pestilence will ravage the unholy come judgement day. This album summons all of that; you have already been pre-judged.
Blood Red River signifies somewhat of a second coming for the Scientists too. Their earlier sound was much more power pop oriented and heavily influenced acts like the Hoodoo Gurus and Redd Kross. But what we have here is something far more profound and magnificent. Swampy yet crisp. Avant-garde yet with great pop sensibilities.
Originally, Blood Red River was released as a 6 track EP but in more recent times it has been reformatted to include other tracks recorded around that prolific 1982–84 period. Swampland, Solid Gold Hell and We Had Love were three of the inclusions, all painfully intense tracks with cathartic release choruses, the latter track making the top 100 list of greatest Aussie songs of all time.
Blood Red River is sludgy, broody, writhing and with Salmon’s snake charming guitar, Brett Rixon’s Bo Diddley on ecstasy drumming and Boris Sujdovic’s night-stalking bass loops, there is no reason for you not to religion-up once in a while and ensure your passage straight to solid gold hell. The church of Kim thanks you in advance. Amen.
feedtime feedtime 1985 (Aberrant)
Listen when: Drunk, sloppy sex is on the agenda.
Feedtime pays respect to the stuff they got going. You respect that stuff because it keeps you going. Mark Arm (Mudhoney)
Feedtime, as a collective, would prefer their band title to be written completely in lower case. For the sake of punctuational correctness, I am making the F a capital letter. I have to for my own sanity.
Speaking of sanity, Feedtime’s debut self-titled album is fucking insane. If Chuck Norris drove a monster truck and was trying to chase down another Chuck Norris in another monster truck, this album would be the soundtrack.
It stomps and rolls along like a hard working V8, chockablock with heavy, thumping basslines, gravelly vocals and a slide guitar that sounds like it’s being played with the head of a boa constrictor. If that all makes sense to you then you’re gonna love this band.
The rollicking Ha Ha kicks Feedtime off with a bang, with indecipherable lyrics and a tone that’s fuzzier than a bear’s pubic hair. Track 2 is the fanatical Fastbuck with a chorus that boasts “I got my Pontiac and gasoline” and a melted warped version of music that ZZ Top might play if their beards were doused in petrol and set alight.
Feedtime is one of the greatest Aussie albums of not just the 80’s but all time. Its sound is so dirty that it’s hard to believe it spawned from the glittery Sydney scene of the era. You could say Feedime helped revive the scene which at the time was heading down a disturbingly mediocre path post Radio Birdman et al.
Southside Johnny, Small Talk, and I Wonder What’s the Matter With Papa’s Little Angel Child are great songs and frankly, if you don’t get to know these tracks before you escape this planet then, well, your life would have been quite shit.
Venom P. Stinger Meet My Friend Venom 1986 (No Masters Voice)
Listen when: You’re safely straight-jacketed inside your panic room.
I started swimming in my own blood/I saw my friends get taken/ Don’t even like swimming/Wish I wasn’t tripping. Dugald McKenzie (Venom P. Stinger)
Delve into the disturbed mind of Venom P. Stinger vocalist Dugald McKenzie and you might never make it out alive. PCP laced violence, drowning in blood, a serial killing imaginary friend… to put it mildly, his fucked up conjured imagery should never really be released into the mainstream public.
For you and me though, it’s totally fine, right? We’re mature enough to know fiction from reality. Aren’t we? Sometimes I’m not so sure, especially after listening to Meet My Friend Venom ad nauseum. The lyrical content is kind of scary and can be frighteningly influential. You really do feel like stalking passengers on a train while jacked up on PCP. Or is that just me?
This claustrophobic, scuzzed out deviant of an album isn’t just about Dugald’s schizophrenic lyrics; if I were to be completely honest, it’s drummer Jim White and to an extent, guitarist Mick Turner that give the songs their unique claustro-jazz punk churn.
Jim White is a fucking genius. Seriously. As a drummer he is up there with the best of them; Krupa, Moon, Baker. He is the band’s slightly buckled, protruding backbone, actually playing like he has a slipped disc, anchoring his core to his seat and implementing a series of subtle wrist flicks. It looks like the fucker’s hardly moving. But listen to any Venom P. Stinger track and in truth, White is one of the busiest proponents of the skins ever put to record. It’s maniacal.
Meet My Friend Venom is bookended by the escaped mental patient tracks PCP Crazy and the frenetic band theme Venom P. Stinger. In between are some of the most perverse, unsettling songs that you’ll ever be company to. The warped Jaws and Jaws II make their namesake look like a Disney Tinkerbell movie, leaving you with the complete knowledge of what’s in store for you come album’s end. The ambitious song of apathy Going Nowhere is an incredible highlight smack in the middle of the album opening with Turner’s squealing feedback, White’s speed-fueled drum fills and bassist Alan Secher-Jensen’s primally untrained gut-busting loops. Venom’s four walls close in on you pretty damn quickly.
White and Turner went on to form the much more mellow Dirty Three, Secher-Jensen founded noise band Come The Rubber Pig and Dugald? Well he’s dead. See if you can guess how.
Powder Monkeys Smashed On A Knee 1993 (Dog Meat)
Listen when: Flying through a plate glass window.
Powder Monkeys were the hardest rocking outfit I have ever seen… easily the equal of MC5 in energy. Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman)
Any album that intros with a sample of an interview with an ex- Manson Family member reminiscing about dropping acid with Charles Manson, has to be just like Charlie; a killer.
This cut is pure beef. And not your girly Angus beef with the fat cut off; no, Smashed On A Knee is a gristly, rough and ready burnt to the crisp t-bone, flamed by a VB drinkin’, stubby wearin’ Aussie truck driver and mauled by his unneutered Rottweiler who stole the meat straight from the fire.
Singer/bass player Tim Hemensley is a pub rock legend. Possessing all the meanest elements of Lemmy from Motorhead, Eddie Spaghetti from the Supersuckers and G.G. Allin without the shitting on stage, Hemensley growls through the album with the poise of a rabid three-legged dog. His lyrics are an autobiographical catharsis, recounting bar fights, lock-ups, drug abuse, rough sex and really bitchy women. What’s not to love?
Powder Monkeys are in a sense, a pub rock supergroup. Along for the doomed journey with Hemensley (Royal Flush, God, Bored) are blistering guitarist John Nolan (Bored, Hoss, Spencer P. Jones) and drummer Timmy Jack Ray (Peter Wells Band). Do not fuck with this trio. What Hemensley lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in rock god attitude, snarl and pure nastiness. Nolan is a bloody nice guy to talk to but put a guitar in his hand and holy fuck! His violent, zealous delivery is so intrusive, it shakes you to your very core. Timmy Jack Ray is just straight up delinquent badass, pounding his drums like he hates you. He probably does.
Sadly, as spookily prophecised in the God song The Day They Buried Hemensley, the crazy frontman is no longer with us. He died of a heroin overdose in 2003. Nolan too has had his tough times, suffering a severe asthma related heart attack due to prolonged drug use, rendering him with impaired motor skills. Luckily for us, the band’s off-stage wrecklessness translates perfectly to Smashed On a Knee, turning even the feeblest of listeners into the most motherfucking of all motherfuckers.
A massive nod has to go to harmonica player Jed Sayers who adds a bluesy grit to the album, particularly rocking it on opener Another Nite in Hell, the stomping Bruised, Battered and Bloodshot and closer Valediction. Play it like your life depended on it.
Mindsnare Credulity 1996 (Trial & Error)
Listen when: Bloody whenever.
Mindsnare are one of the most influential bands of the 90’s. Missing Link Records
Credulity is a crackerjack of a recording. I’m not sure which movie the opening sample on Credulity is pulled from (I think it’s the Ten Commandments) but regardless, the goosebumps stand to attention upon hearing it. Dramatic refrains of I will destroy you, I will follow you till the end of the Earth and I will not rest until you’re dead kick off this short but powerful album, aptly setting the scene for eight short sharp bursts of spit-fueled anger.
Mindsnare ignited the Melbourne hardcore scene in the mid 90’s with the release of Credulity and with their brutally intense live shows at venues like the Arthouse and Wax Studios.
Credulity is the blueprint of Aussie hardcore; energy driven, romping, awe-inspiring, riot soundtracks. Are We Valid? and J.L.S. are incredible as they rumble with together later in the album. The power is just awesome as Beltsy all but smashes you with his stunningly unexpected guitar prowess while Matt Maunder’s vocals are simply blood-curdling. I have no idea how someone can sing like that for a full set.
Opening number Flood and belter Power to the Lonely have the power to make you do anything; and you will. Smash a window, trash a cop car, behead a Ronald McDonald statue; all viable options when Credulity rolls into town. Justifiable too; I believe under the influence of Credulity is now a legitimate legal defense in a court of law.
Black Cab Altamont Diary 2004 (Interstate 40)
Listen when: Your vegan girlfriend turns blood thirsty and your French Bulldog is a leather collared Pitbull.
Altamont Diary isn’t an album of pop songs designed to raise money to alleviate famine, it’s more like an album about what it feels like to starve to death. Sam Cutler (ex-Rolling Stones road manager)
Upon first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Altamont Diary is a positive, soul nurturing album. The first three track titles Summer of Love, It’s OK and Angels Arrive suggest a lovely album perfect for listening to in the park with your vegan girlfriend and French Bulldog on a checkered fur free blanket. Look further down the tracklist though and the truth will be revealed. Titles like Good Drugs and A Killing spring forth and sock you in your idealistic pretty mouth. Apt.
Black Cab are kings of the concept album, a more American and British thing than Aussie. For those that don’t know, Altamont was a speedway in Northern California where an infamous incident went down at a Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead free concert. The Hell’s Angels were contracted as security for the evening and things got quite out of hand when young concert goer Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by a Hell’s Angel after Hunter pulled a revolver. Three other fans also died at various stages through the night.
What’s Hunter’s loss is our gain. Altamont Diary is a fastidious, atmospheric soundscape, transporting the listener right back to the night in question. Following the recurring refrain of “it’s the summer of love” comes the quick turn of events with the drummed in message of “it’s ok, things are not ok.” Gradually the concept album degenerates into a downward spiral of violence and misery concluding with the epic 1970 an 11 minute masterpiece signifying the end of the love movement. As a bonus, 1970 just so happens to be one of the greatest songs ever written. Just be patient with it.
Don’t forget to dig on the Grateful Dead cover coming at you from track 6. It’ll be your last chance to enjoy any form of peace and love for a while.
The Drones Wait Long by The River and The Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By 2005 (In-Fidelity)
Listen when: Night hiking through a mosquito infested alligator swamp.
The ARIAs are just for wankers, snorting coke and getting drunk. It’s not on my radar. Gareth Liddiard (The Drones)
In the mid 2000’s, Aussie pub rock was struggling. The great bands of the 80’s and 90’s were either becoming stale or had chucked it in completely. The sticky carpet venues needed a new hero. Enter The Drones.
Their swampy, creeping ivy lustre is just what a disillusioned fucker like myself needed. The beer started to flow freely again and the Marlboro cigarettes reclaimed their domain in the front pocket of my flannel shirt. I was a drunken bum once more.
Wait Long by The River is an ode to every alternate tuning protagonist in rock history. Wafts of Rowland S. Howard, Sonic Youth, Blixa Bargeld circa Bad Seeds, Beasts of Bourbon and the ballsy grunt of the Stooges all exist within the parameters of the album. Yet it still retains its uniquely Aussie couldn’t give a flying fuck attitude that sadly is missing in so much recent music.
Opening track Shark Fin Blues and the broody The Best You Can Believe In are both epic slow-burns that leave you wallowing in quicksand self-reflection. An artist that gave a shit about their listeners would usually strategically place a more upbeat track somewhere here just to create an uplift. Band leader Gareth Liddiard is not one of those artists. The mood sludgifies further with Locust, a lament to end all laments. There is some hope for happiness with the mixed-messaged You Really Don’t Care but then the drowning blues are back with Sitting On the Edge of the Bed Cryin’.
This is by no means a depressing album though; Wait Long by The River is red-sand earthy and bloody authentic. A dripping honesty is squeezed out of every oozing track, created with both heartfelt emotion and the ball-chafing grit left over after a day in the quarries. You need this.
The Necks Chemist 2006 (Fish of Milk)
Listen when: Avant-garde tantric sex is on the agenda.
The Necks are one of the greatest bands in the world. Geoff Dyer (U.K. columnist)
Stalking the pitch black night with a sinister back alley mindset, Chemist is an experimental jazz album containing three tracks, each of which is based around the glue of Tony Bucks’s metronomically advanced drumming. Each track climbs a mountain, building seamlessly to a perfect peak of flag-planting bliss before fluently descending back to civilisation in triumph.
Buck’s restrained, percussive sensibilities are the perfect foil for pianist/organist Chris Abrahams and bassist Lloyd Swanton to explore the dark, uncharted realms of avant-tension, taking the patient listener on an improvisational rollercoaster of grandeur and demise.
Buck is no dummy with the guitar either, partially filling the empty spaces with a blackboard scraping guitar screech reminiscent of Rowland S. Howard circa Birthday Party. The remaining oxygen circling the soundscaped passages create an ambience of constriction and anxiety, but never fear, the pressure releasing crescendos of each track are made all the more euphoric for the tense experience.
It all makes for a heady journey that will evolve your mood in the most Darwinian of adaptations; naturally, organically.
If you enjoy the work of Ben Munday and getting off the beaten track, then make sure to check out his exciting new travel writing website, The Low Road.