Top 10 Australian Albums of 2015

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I’ve listened to a fair bit of music this year. A decent amount, I’d say. Some of it was old, some of it was new, some of it was shit, and some of it was really fucking shit. But for the most part, it was really, really, really fucking good.

And at the pinnacle of it all was music from this country – there were plenty of things to be ashamed of Australia about this year, but music wasn’t one of ’em. After years of ignorance and cultural cringe, trying to echo the charts of the US and the UK, Australia produced three globe-conquering bands that feel like they could have only been birthed right here. Regardless of how you feel about their music, the fact that Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala and Hiatus Kaiyote wrestled the spotlight back to the land of Vegemite and lockout laws can only be a good thing. At best, it’s a chance to show how Australia can excel whilst working outside the lines of what is considered traditional pop music, and at worst, you can be a little bit patriotic when it comes to these fucking year end lists.

None of the aforementioned artists actually feature in my favourite albums of this year – the records were objectively good, but I’ve never been at the pub, heard “Let It Happen”, and turned to my best mate with a wide grin. However, I respect the fact that they’ve gotten the world’s attention to Australian music again, and now that we’ve got their eyeballs in a Clockwork Orange binge position, we suffocate them with as much of the good stuff as possible. Such as:

10. Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

Melbourne, Florida holds plenty of reasons as to why you should be showing Dick Diver to everyone you know. Even without mentioning their magnum opus Calendar Days, shoving songs like Waste the Alphabet” or “Tearing the Posters Down” should be high on your priority list of songs to put on when someone asks “What should we listen to?”. There’s a narrative tilt to the way that Dick Diver write songs that’s unmatched amongst their contemporaries. If anyone claims that jangle-pop is too disaffected and obsessed with the mundane, smack them sideways with your copy of this record, and showcase the emotional weight in songs like “Boomer Class” to silence them effectively.

Full Review of Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida

9. Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

If Dogs At Bay had been released during the period that Bad//Dreems are emulating, then it would’ve been one of Au-Go-Go’s most prized possessions. As it happens, Dogs At Bay came out in 2015, and introduced a whole new generation of kids to the glory of pub rock. Beer-soaked riffs, a howl that reaches all the way to the loner coughing up their life savings at the pokies, and a wide swathe of material that nodded to folks like GOD, Coloured Balls, The Go-Betweens and The Angels, Bad//Dreems pounded the listener with an affecting album of impressive rock.

Full Review of Bad//Dreems’ Dogs At Bay

8. Palms – Crazy Rack

Outside of Sydney, it seemed like this record was a bit ignored. Which is a huge shame, because it’s full of rock gems that span from the riff hurricane of “Bad Apple”, to the Cheap Trick-spiritual successor “Thoughts of You”, to “Sleep Too Much” a face-melter that rivals the power of The Ark of the Covenant. There were also pleasantly surprising softer moments that took Palms away from being pigeon holed as a band that could only do garage-rock. When you feel a bit shit, and needed that quick fix of heartfelt headbangers that you’re not ashamed to belt out off-key and shred an air guitar to, crank Crazy Rack. 

Full Review of Palms’ Crazy Rack

7.  MAKING – High Life

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132638620″>MAKING – COME 2 ME</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user41667982″>TRAIT RECORDS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

MAKING were the band that took me by surprise most this year. I’d never seen their live show before, and had only really glanced through their previous singles. Which is how “Come 2 Me” hit me so hard, Thor’s hammer splicing open my skull, caving in expectations. Indeed, all of High Life has that effect of being ripped apart from the inside by a pack of raging rhinoceros. Over the course of a half-hour, MAKING pulverises minds to dust, leaving you shivering, cold and begging for more. Their approach to music – thundering drums ploughing into a swelling bruise of menace until the whole fucking thing explodes – is exceptional. Furthermore, the sheer musicality of MAKING is terrifying: HOW DO THEY MAKE THE SOUNDS THEY ARE MAKING? How do they force their record to appear like the apocalypse? It’s complexity completely removed of pretension, just bucking insanity stripped to its most batshit crazy.

Full Review of MAKING’s High Life

6. Heart Beach – Heart Beach

Hobart’s Heart Beach are an unassuming bunch; they use what they need, and nothing more. Their cover for their album is just a heart and a palm tree – nothing fancy, just enough to let the kids know what they’re getting. Musically, they’re just as sparse: mild guitar lines, feathering drums, the occasional burst of noise, and lightly duetting vocals that miser around bum-puffing, waiting, and the small pleasures you hold dear when you work in office.

And with that simple tool of simplicity, everything that Heart Beach quietly whisper is a boom. When you’re a band like Heart Beach, loaded with inherent sorrow, its the little things that count the most. This is an album focused purely on the little things, and for that, this unassuming record has become one of the most powerful of the year.

5. Gang of Youths – The Positions

The accompanying story to The Positions makes it clear that it was always an album that was going to be made. It’s a testament to the band’s ability that what they have made is so good. Pivoting between enormous waves of Springsteen arena-ready rock and intimate moments  that could easily belong on a Joni Mitchell record, the thing that holds these changes together is frontman Dave Le’aupepe bare honesty. Put in the same position, there’s no fucking way I’d be comfortable sharing  ideas like suicide, critical levels of self-doubt and watching the person you love the most slowly dying in front of you. But that’s what Gang of Youths do, and its a jaw-dropping experience of an album because of that.

The Positions isn’t just an album that’s captivating because of its story, or because of how a person is telling the story, or because of the musical accompaniment, but a sum of these amazing parts. Do yourself a favour, and sit down with this album. Don’t get distracted, don’t listen to just the singles, listen to all of it. By the end of that run-time, if you’ve done it properly, The Positions will have hit you like a fucking train has ploughed through your soul, and you’ll be thankful for it.

Full Review of Gang of Youths’ The Positions

4. Roland Tings – Roland Tings

Here’s a good reason why Year End Lists matter – without Mess + Noise’s ‘Best Songs of 2013’ article, I never would’ve found Roland Tings. Since hearing “Tomita’s Basement”, I’ve been devoted to everything he’s put out. It’s just the smoothest music in the land right now, exotic soundscapes made by a bonafide genius.

Roland Tings’ debut is one that just keeps on giving, whether it be the hyperactive, salivating “Pala”, which sounds like Tings recorded synths over the best pool party ever, the cavernous “Cultural Canal” or the tantalising squelch of “Coming Up For Air”. Roland Tings made a party record that is universal, a protege extension of Todd Terje’s thrilling music. It is so easy to get lost in this album, but when its a record this flamboyant, diverse and fun, you’ll never want to get out.

Full Review of Roland Tings’ Roland Tings

3. Power – Electric Glitter Boogie

Putting on Electric Glitter Boogie, you get hit with the same feeling that accompanied people hearing Raw Power and Teenage Hate for the first time. There’s a carnal, primitive energy that only hits rock music every now and then, a spark that sounds like someone throwing a toaster in a bathtub.

Electric Glitter Boogie is unrelenting in its mission to seek and destroy what was previously the most maddening rock to scorch this Earth. Every song wreaks complete destruction, proto-punk missiles sinking their teeth into your very being and thrashing around, until your as cold and lifeless as all the other victims. When Power scream, they flatten their surroundings to patches of dirt. Power make me want to put my hand in a blender, and laugh all the way to the emergency room. They’ve made the most maniacal, demented, absurd ode to real rock music capable, and if you have any interest in the carnivorous power of guitar, you need to indulge in this album. Power’s title doesn’t just ring true, it redefines the meaning.

Full Review of Power’s Electric Glitter Boogie

2. Blank Realm – Illegals in Heaven

A year later, and Blank Realm are still on top – their 2014 masterpiece Grassed Inn seemed like an unbeatable benchmark for the group, but here we are: Illegals in Heaven is Blank Realm’s SECOND magnum opus.

There’s not a song on this album that isn’t a total winner, even if they incite that reaction for different reasons. “No Views” cries victory for its chugging riffs and squealing keytar, whilst “Palace of Love” and “River of Longing” triumph with their stories of lost love that are so intimate, yet could also apply to millions of relationships out there. And “Gold” remains possibly the best song Blank Realm have ever written, and in following logic, that means its one of the best Australian songs ever written.

Illegals in Heaven isn’t a perfect album, it is the perfect album. There is so much here to fall in love with, a constant stream of discovering new points in the album to exclaim, “Well, fuck me, that’s got to be the best thing ever recorded!”. It’s an album to be listened to with friends, with strangers, by yourself, at the pub, at a party, at a funeral, at the fucking fish and chip shop – there is no situation to far fetched or ordinary that Illegals in Heaven wouldn’t make the perfect companion to. Buy this album, hold it close, and severe all ties with anyone who tries to “borrow” it.

Full Review of Blank Realm’s Illegals in Heaven

1. Royal Headache – High

There’s a whole list of reasons as to why High is the best and most important record of 2015. It sees one of Australia’s arguably greatest contemporary band return to form after a three year absence, it sees them extend and explore beyond what they became so well known for, it followed one of the best performances the Opera House has ever been privy to, and Iggy Pop really liked it.

But the main reason why Royal Headache top this pretty irrelevant list is because High wins from sheer listenability. And isn’t that precisely what a good record should be? I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year, so much so that I’ve worn out my first copy and had to order a second one. I love it so much that I’m terrified to write about it, because I know I won’t even get close to describing how good it is.Whatever your rating system is, 10 stars, 5 flaming guitars, A/B/C/D, whatever…High doesn’t just take out the highest possible rating, it expunges that system from existence, and sits glowering atop the rubble.

The way Royal Headache punch through song after song, bringing the house down every two minutes or so – that’s exactly what drew me to liking music in the first place. High incites a reaction in me that hits so close to the bone that I’m embarrassed to even talk about it. This sounds like raving, but it’s important, at least to me, to express how much of total fucking masterpiece this record is. If there’s anyone out there with a doubt of how good a band can possibly be, chuck on this Royal Headache album, and feel all your cynicism at modern music fade away.

Full Review of Royal Headache’s High 

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Album Review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

Bad//Dreems – four dudes from Adelaide with an affinity for the oft-forgotten backslash. They wear mud-smeared uniforms, and beards slash their faces; their first t-shirt parodied the West End Beer Logo. As for their music, the band unleash their guitars in droves, fuzz hurled at the listener with a reckless, growling grin. It’s straightforward rock and roll, entrenched in pub rock tradition, with the records of Cold Chisel, Coloured Balls and The Angels still ringing in the ears.

Bad//Dreems are easy to fall in love with, especially for the average Australian. What better way to soundtrack the sweet summers of ’13 and ’14 than with a few tinnies snuck from Dad’s fridge, beach body envy and some rock music that makes you wanna to throw your fist in the air?

But anyone who’s delved into Bad//Dreems discography and actually cared to flick their ears on will soon be switched onto the subversive, self-deprecating nature of the band. Between the impassioned ocker riffs and pounding drums is self-doubt, and equal dolings of homage and criticism to Australian culture. Nestled between the songs about girls are genuine moments of fucked-up, thrashing abandonment. It’s a powerful concoction, one that makes Bad//Dreems stand out from the rest of the bands that flood the carpets of the local.

This dual personality aspect of Bad//Dreems has never been stronger than on their debut, ‘Dogs At Bay’. All that boiling potential – the crashing riffs, the piercing solos, the suffocating waves of authentic rock and roll that was bred from a beer-soaked carpet – all of that shines through here. Packed equally with radio-ready singles and songs for the summer festival season as it is with contaminated black sheep, this record is a triumph.

‘Dogs At Bay’ opens with some of the most overtly subversive songs Baddies have ever released: “New Boys”, “Cuffed & Collared”, and “Bogan Pride”. Despite the ocker titles, Bad//Dreems take the piss in the most applaudable fashion since Jonathan Swift. They tackle overt masculinity with deftness, paired with sprawling, catatonic riffs soaked in the sweat of a body-builder. When Ben Marwe whispers “Big muscles fucking up my sweatshirt, big muscles pumping into my dreams!” before bellowing a nightmarish work out routine, the amount of shivers that rock the average listener’s mild frame is enough to halt even the most sturdy of pacemakers.

The whole record isn’t devoted to taking the piss on clueless blokes –  there’s plenty more to the Bad//Dreems camp than frustration. Spurred by chewing riffs, “Nadine” punches out the lights, an underdog boxer stuck in a corner, fighting their way out with pure fury, just trying to get to the fucking paradise that is Summer Hill. Then there’s the token track about girls – “Dumb Ideas”, which absolutely shreds the hell out of its subject matter. The main thing to be taken from that track is that everyone from Surry Hills is a piece of shit, which I thought was fairly obvious, but hey, the more people that know of the evil peril of that place, the better, amirite?

The face-melting rock is fantastic, and Bad//Dreems are doing it better than most, certainly. Hearing these songs on record, (or even better, at a show) and feeling a gut reaction to songs like “Dumb Ideas” and “Hiding to Nothing” is a cathartic experience, one that puts your clenched fist in the air with the rest and reduces your voice to that of Clint Eastwood after a pack of smokes. But there’s a lot of bands that can do that. What sets Bad//Dreems apart are the cracks in the record, where the humanity shows. “Ghost Gums”, “My Only Friend” and “Hume” are incredible songs, absolutely jaw-dropping, and help round out the album. They put the gnashing rock in perspective, and help make ‘Dogs At Bay’ a fucking album, as opposed to a series of singles. They’re delivered with humility and smarts, assuring that Bad//Dreems can’t be pigeonholed as a one off rock band doing a Barnesy impression.

With their ‘Dogs At Bay’, Bad//Dreems didn’t just suit the expectation, or impress. They went above and beyond, showing they could be just as at home writing a pop song as they were with a crushing riff or a tune laden with self-analysis. There needs to be more bands who sound like they have a wattle-bush stuck up their arse, who can reach the mainstream. Too many groups prefer to ape overseas ‘indie’ contemporaries. Fuck that, I want a band that sounds like they’ve just finished playing Goon of Fortune. Guess what? Bad//Dreems is that band. Hopefully, a shit tonne of people hear this album, and our pub rock culture will become richer for it, and soon, the dream of a million scrawny bands fighting

‘Dogs At Bay’ comes out Friday 21st of August on Ivy League Records, and Baddies will be playing OAF on the 9th of October w/ Green Buzzard and West Thebarton Brothel Party.

New: Bad//Dreems – Hiding to Nothing

There’s no secret that there’s a lot of love between myself and Bad//Dreems. Who could resist four Adelaide blokes that have more hair between them than the average Yeti?

But it’s music first. The music always comes first, and their new single, shit, it’s good for these winter nights, tell you that much. “Hiding to Nothing” is a belter, one that’s been a staple of Baddies live set for a while now. It’s as warm as the beers they serve at the SCG, but has the opposite effect i.e it’ll knock you the fuck over. It’s got that swooping Chisel chorus, which wrestles with a huge body of dominating melody, crushing riffs played at a stampeding, roughneck pace, and Ben Marwe’s earnest bellow sailing over the top of it all like John Cena in the final moments of a bodyslam.

This thing is peak rock dogness. It is so huge and awesome. It is a bombast of white knuckle garage. It’ll dislocate your jaw with a sloppy jersey punch, and then shout you a beer at the post-match piss up. It’s both nodding its head in deep appreciation to the past, and ploughing into the stadium to plaster the next round of punters. It’s a fucking gem.

Gig Review: Bad//Dreems

Saturday 21st June @ GoodGod Small Club

I was 18 when I first saw Bad//Dreems. They played a house party in Redfern, and it was one of the best shows of my goddamn life. There was blood, sweat and enough beer to kill Boonie. The Modern History Exam I had the next day was a complete and utter write off. The examiner that looked through my answers was probably assuming that an illiterate Neanderthal with Parkinsons had adopted my name, and taken the assessment in my place. But it was worth it, oh so worth it, to see a band as good as Baddies play in such a corrupting environment.

Two years on, and Baddies have graduated to one of the most beloved rock acts in our fair country. They’ve got a little blue tick next to their name on Facebook and everything. Fuck, they’ve even got a Twitter account. Isn’t that the very definition of making it? They’ve got big things piling up, so before they crack the charts at No. 1 and play the Enmore Theatre to thousands of adoring fans, they gave the punters another go, and played a few intimate shows around the country to support their latest single “Cuffed and Collared”.

JODY opened proceedings with their brand of anthemic indie rock. These guys are young guns in the truest sense of the words. You can smell the hormones, wafting in tidal waves off their 19 year old bodies. Ladies and gents, please, contain yourselves. I believe a couple of them are single and rearing to go with all the youthful exuberance at their disposal, and that comes through their energy and constant streams of songs about girls. But I wouldn’t go near the frontman, Dom O’Connor. That human pleasure machine can play the fuck outta a guitar, move and hop around a show with the stage presence of Paul Westerberg on the third day of a two week binge, and knows his way around a melody. But he can’t finish a fucking Melbourne Bitter tinnie. No matter how many spot-on jams erupt from this beautiful man’s mouth, like “Never Change” (a spiritual successor to INXS if there ever was one) and “Codeine”, ya just can’t trust a bloke who can’t polish off one of Aus’ greatest gifts. Otherwise, fantastic show!

Mining Boom made the trek North for the Baddies show, and for that, I am forever grateful. Not only are they selling the best t-shirt in the music biz game, but they’ve got the choons to back it up. You know what type of fish Mining Boom would be if they were in the sea? A tune-a. Because they make music that good. It’s broken, fragile rock for the everyman, who owns a pair of dirty Redback’s, and a hi-vis that’s lost its sheen. Songs like “Telecom” and “PDA” are just as powerful gut punches as they were when they were released back in 2012, but the presence that frontman Paul French brings is more of a headspin than chowing down on a whole pack of Champion Ruby. New songs are stunning,  with the Mining Boom aesthetic of drenched, desperate romance remaining intact throughout. Apparently there’s an album in the works, but I don’t think the world is ready for that kind of brilliance. Regardless, you need to check out this band like a bloke from Chernobyl needs to check out that funny looking mark that’s recently developed on his collarbone.

But, look, this is all just pre-game. Bad//Dreems have let the kids have the oval, but it’s time to bring on the big guns. Mayhem erupts as Bad//Dreems launch into their heavy catalogue of top-notch tunes. One could go so far as to call them bangers. It’s pub rock, but delivered without the menace and overt masculinity that has restrained others, like Lubricated Goat and The Birthday Party, from reaching larger audiences. Some might say that’s a bad thing, but hey, different strokes for different folks. Some bands like to get in the nude on the ABC, others like to deliver muscular melodies. And the four flannel-clad guys thundering through hit after hit to the admiration of a few hundred fans were probably the only blokes capable of pulling off both feats.

Bad//Dreems are on fire. They plunder and pillage the room like they’re characters from Game of Thrones, and have a limited amount of time to connect with the audience and become their favourite figures before facing a brutal death at the hands of the Lannisters. The set swells, with excitement and energy being sprinkled through like a zealot chef making the recipe of their career. A heft portion of the a-spicy meatball, aka “Caroline”, swiftly complimented with a smidgen of “Too Old”. A dousing of “Dumb Ideas”, and an overdose of ocker riffs and frenzied headbanging via “Cuffed And Collared”. And to finish? Well, you just can’t leave a stage when the crowd so eagerly wants more, baying for music or blood with the enraged glare of the insane striding so radiantly from their eyes. So, you appease the appetite with a polite offering to the GODs, with the Australian classic of “My Pal” bringing the evening’ festivities to a glorious, sweaty, beer-soaked, suffocating end.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Bad//Dreems, then suck eggs, mate. This is a band bound for big things, and it looks like this GoodGod show might just be the final opportunity for punters to have caught them in intimate settings. But don’t get too offended – there will always be another chance to catch Baddies at a gig, and there’s a fair guarantee that you’ll be sorted for a good time. When a band can upend a crowd with as much joy and over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll perfection as Bad//Dreems accomplished at this show, there’s no doubt that they’ll be able to pull off this feat over and over again, only to bigger crowds and more adoring shitheads such as myself. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour, and get on board with this band.

Gig Review: Farmer & the Owl Festival

Saturday 14th March @ University of Wollongong

Wollongong is only an hour away from Sydney, and yet I have never been there. How Sydney is that? Staying in one’s own little bubble is as much as part of the Shitney lifestyle as overpriced coffee that you’ll insist is delicious, and getting coward punched in the Cross. Whether you live in Bondi, Newtown or the Northern Beaches, there’s an adverse reaction to leaving for anything more than a 15 minute bus ride away from your front door.

But with Farmer & the Owl Festival, now in its second iteration, the lineup was too good. A short ginger simply needed to sack up, brave the train ride and seek adventure down South, armed with only unconventional but nonetheless solid good looks and an iPod loaded with the latest Dead Farmers record.

Despite the train trip being pretty bluddy beautiful, that shit is longer than a turd after $2 taco night, and it forced a few unfortunate misses of fantastic acts. However, having bore witness to the pleasant pysch-pop sedation of Sunbeam Sound Machine and Richard in Your Mind many times before, for those who haven’t managed to catch them thusly, get off your thick backside, and buy a goddamn record. Spookyland was the first act to be ingested into the soul, and they were as good as any goddamn paleo diet that I’ve ever tried. Look past the sheer pop prowess of “The Silly Fucking Thing”, and stare on in wonder as Spookyland shred a potent mixture of The Birthday Party meeting Tom Verlaine and The Reid Brothers darkest fantasies. “Blood In the Rain” is particularly demented in the live setting, and when Marcus Gordon looses the shrill cry of “…with that gun in your hand!“, an eel of excitement involuntarily worms its way through your soul.

The Peep Tempel follow up on Spookyland’s brand of eschewed rock with a set that makes it feel like they could be the last real pub rock band in the world. It’s basic stuff, delivered with nonchalant snarls, stirling guitar veneer, and a glittering meanness that would make Scar from Lion King say, “Hey, woah fellas, chill out“. A tighter band couldn’t have been wrought from the slobbery floorboards of The Tote if they tried. A crowd slowly started to gather and build steam towards one of the standout sets of the day. But it still felt like punters didn’t deserve, or at the very least “get” the sheer greatness of a band like this. One dickhead went about his broken tape recorder routine of asking for “Carol” at the end of every single song in The Peep Tempel’s 40 minute set. Fuck, you know, this band has more than just one song, right? In fact, they have an entire catalogue of music, which they have kindly and strategically sorted into a setlist. If you shut the fuck up for a second, shit, you might even get to discover your new favourite song, like “Big Fish”, or “Vicki the Butcher”. God knows we don’t deserve The Peep Tempel already, and deadshits soured the experience.

Luckily, the deadshit factor was kept to a relative minimum, or at least, was herded into the DJ tent for the rest of the festival.  From herein, punters only lapped up the goodness that was served to them at a hurtling rate. There was Jeremy Neale (more like Jizzemy Neale, amirite), ever the showman, lashing up the love with his token mixture of 60’s pop reverie and an ability to make every audience member feel just a little bit loved. Combined with his throat-puncturing performance with Velociraptor (in its smallest form yet, a mere 5 piece), Nealemania is sure to become a hashtag of the future. Then there’s Hockey Dad, who are truly in the midst of their own lil’ Beatlemania replication. Sure, they were on hometurf, but this kind of horny reception was something that would make Ron Jeremy red with rage. Actually, it is understandable, because when you toss two good lookers up on a stage, and then allow them to blast through an EP of surf-rock nuggets that would make any self-respecting mammal with a working pair of ears wet between the knees.

At this point, old mates Big Dick and Brad had sat down with this ginger nutjob to enjoy the lush soak of Shining Bird. Y’all heard this band? Prepare to be casually buttfucked by brilliance. These guys know their way about a pop song, but what’s more, they can extend it past that radio friendly 3 minute mark, and still keep you interested. How many other bands can do that? Yo La Tengo? Stereolab? My Bloody Valentine? That’s about it right? Well, Shining Bird did their hometown proud, as “Stare Into the Sun”, “Keep Warm”, and a laced concoction of others spiralled through the lazy arvo. But that kind of melting haze can only last for so long, which is where a packed room of Los Tones fans made the difference. Do yaself a bloody favour, and go see this band. Strong fucking riffs delivered with an off-kilter craze from a couple of blokes that probably moonlight as whiskey connoisseurs between their day jobs as Lux Interior proteges. Their loud and vivacious brand of medicine bag garage took full-flight in the dingy sideline of the “Thrash Room”, a pleasure to watch, and a pleasure to boogie to. Pro Tip: bring earplugs. Step-Panther are as loud as they are awesome.

As mentioned before, the Raptors killed it. Straight up. You’d think that being stretched to a meagre, suffering 5 piece would dilute the mania that is so core to Velociraptor shows, but they remained pinnacles of party professionals, screaming and raving through keytar laden, guitar solo saturated, shout-along ready renditions of “Ramona”, “Cynthia”, “Sneakers” and more. This kind of party merely acted as a precursor for one of Wollongong’s ultimate treasures, Step-Panther. Fuck, what a band, what a treat. If you want yourself some garage-throttled goodness from a band that just happened to put out one of the best records of last year, then look no further than these guys.

Remember when it was mentioned that The Peep Tempel might be the only remaining pub rock band on the planet? Besides that being an obvious lie, Bad//Dreems ensured that any love for draught-soaked belters isn’t being abandoned in the near future. The crowd was thriving on the pounding anthems that seem to come so fluently to the Radelaide natives, jostling to get in the best position to shout “Caroliiiiiiiine, you do it to me eveeeerrrry tiiiiiiiime!” like it was a goddamn war cry. But who can blame them? Baddies slayed it, happily decapitating punters with scything riffs made from years of studying the bible of rock ‘n’ roll. Cold Chisel, AC/DC, Eddy Current Suppression Ring – any band with a riff, a beer, and a prerogative to unleash unholy rock and roll oblivion. That’s who Bad//Dreems remind you of, and there’s no one doing it quite as strongly as they are either right now either.

By this point, night has settled upon the ‘Gong, and the rambunctious are thirsty for some action. Luckily, the final four bands were in no state to dissapoint. There was Bass Drum of Death, from the USA, who combine the leather jacket cool of The Strokes with the fuzz of a Ty Segall record, and double down on the batshit insane, high velocity appeal of Evil Knievel. It’s hard to keep a single limb still during a set that includes “Bad Reputation”, “Crawling After You”, and “Get Found”. Shit, its hard to keep your limbs attached to your body – a set in the pit of a BDOD show is basically succumbing to the fact that you’re coming home minus a few fingers. That lunacy was abruptly followed by a rare performance by The Mess Hall. By this point a band that has reached “classic rock” status, it comes as a huge surprise that The Mess Hall don’t play more frequently, as they have punched through a tight set of hit rolling into hit. Their set was sufficiently stuck in the part zone, an onslaught of crowd-pleasers for a surprisingly small lawn of attendees. However, those who did make it along will be forced to admit that the rough-hewn blues rock of “Shake, Shake”, “Lock & Load”, and “Pills” were just as prime for as they were when they were served to us on a steaming platter all those years ago.

Watching DZ Deathrays, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that this has to be one of the most hard-working bands in existence, and yet they play as though they’re fucking Metallica. That’s meant as an adoring compliment, by the way. Three guys, onstage, prowling and growling with the kind of stage presence that no one has anymore. DZ have graduated beyond mere hometown heroes – they’re bonafide rock gods. They play as though they’re in Wembley Stadium, but they’re in the car park of the University of Wollongong. They treat each stage diving lunatic with a wry grin, and scuttle down their fret boards with the same enthusiasm as when they only had an EP to their name. Oh yeah, and they continue to lay down sicker riffs than an ebola quarantine camp. They’re mental, and the crowd reacts thusly. You’ve never seen kids mosh the way they do at a DZ Deathrays show, hurling themselves at each other with the kind of reckless abandon that can only be brought on from the thundering, lock jaw inducing, brain seizures of “Less Out of Sync”, or “The Mess Up”. There are plenty of bands worthy of seeing, but DZ Deathrays transcend that – they’re a band that you need to see.

Farmer & the Owl Festival feels like what Big Day Out would be like if it were held in the real bush instead of Homebush. From the stage setups that were tiny replicas of the famous Orange and Blue stages, to the rock dog-centric lineup, it was a comfortably small throwback to what I’m sure BDO felt like. This was felt most strongly with the headliner of Jebediah, a band more 90’s than a love for Marilyn Manson that isn’t somehow ironic or attached to guilt. Despite playing to a lacklustre crowd, Jebediah still served up some meaty hits that were made when I was still shitting myself. Is there really any better way to click past midnight than with the powerful punches of “Harpoon”, “Leaving Home”, and “Fall Down”?

Look, the ‘Gong might be a little while away. But the place is loaded with royalties that you can’t get in Sydney. A coastline where the Southern Cross tattoos are minimal, cheap beer, and the great bands are just a few of the reasons to make the voyage. And when there’s a festival that can make a tiny, grumpy ginger loaded with cynicism travel an hour down the coast, and bust out white moves whiter than Bill Clinton eating gluten-free brunch, then that should be enough incentive to head down. Drop the act, Sydney, Wollongong is more than dreads and tye-dye t-shirts. It’s all a lil’ bit alright. Make sure you’re there whenever the next Farmer & the Owl fest goes down.

Top 20 Australian Songs of 2014

It’s that time of year, when I sell my soul, and conform to the expectation that all blogs, no matter how small and shitty (of which Soundly Sounds is both) needs to compile an end of year list, summarising all the great things that have been accomplished by the fair artists of the year. Now, if you’ve ever been on this blog, or heard words out of my mouth, it becomes apparent that I have a habit of hyperbole, and describing everything as “my favourite” or “the best thing ever”. Well, now it’s time to pay up, and show what I, King Deadshit, reckons is the best of the best this year.

Fuck, this shit is really hard. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do. As opposed to the Best Videos of the Year, and the Best International Records,  this list has taken me days to put together, as I’ve been more indecisive than a newspaper editor trying to decided the front page between a story in which David Beckham and Ryan Gosling have constructed the world’s most beautiful baby, or an exclusive interview with Clive Palmer’s fourth chin. A toughie, that’s for sure.

Anyway, here are the picks of the year – Aussie songs that have made people turn their heads, jaws drop in astonishment, and allow for spines to be frozen over in fascinated horror. The list was torturing me, so it’s been lengthened to 20. Also, songs that were just released as singles got preference over stuff that was on albums, simply because those are coming in the next list! OH FUCK, CAN YOU EVEN WAIT THAT LONG, OR ARE YOU GOING TO CRYOGENICALLY FREEZE YOURSELF UNTIL IT COMES OUT, WALT DISNEY STYLE?

Honourable Mentions: Step-Panther (Parallel) Solid Dad (Kewl December), Jack Ladder (Her Hands), Andras & Oscar (Looking Back), Babaganouj (Bluff), Disgusting People (I Wanna Ctrl Alt Delete My Life), The Stevens (Thirsty Eye), GL (Won’t You See), Wives (Buried), Day Ravies (Hickford Whiz) Dead Set Ledger (Buddy’s Kickin’ Screwies on the SCG).

20. Miss Destiny – The One

A lambasting surge of sound from Melbourne’s Miss Destiny, this song is like Courtney Love being thrown in a blender whilst The Donnas and The Darkness throw down.

19. White Hex – Paradise

White Hex released a badass synth record earlier this year, ‘Gold Nights’. Dangerous seduction was the game, the kind that Michael Douglas would engage in, and White Hex won. Jimi Kritzler, former Slug Guts member, also released a fantastic book this year, “Noise In My Head”, but “Paradise” makes a case for being Kritzler’s no. 1 achievement of 2014.

18. Bachelor Pad – Fried

Bachelor Pad’s garage rock enthusiasm is irrepressible – it is actually impossible to stop them. Sounding like the bratty, cone-smoking kid of Ty Segall, “Fried” is as infectious as those warts that have started collecting themselves between your legs.

17. Postblue – Ugly

Poison City Records had a fuckn’ year didn’t they? Between the release of The Smith Street Band, The Bennies and re-releasing old Screamfeeder records, they found time for Postblue’s “Ugly”. On a record that’s full of affable, catchy rock tunes, Postblue especially stuck out on “Ugly”, an early Jebediah track that went through the digestive system of Steve Albini.

16. Total Giovanni – Human Animal

“Human Animal” makes me do weird things with my arms, but I like it.The bastard child between Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, Total Giovanni have a feverish cult of personality surrounding their music. It’s alluring, funky-as-swinging-leather-pants music that PT Anderson wished was around for the soundtrack of ‘Boogie Nights’.

15. Nun – Evoke the Sleep

Easily the most ferocious synth-punk released this year, Melbourne’s Nun provided a storming debut LP earlier this year. “Evoke the Sleep” makes the case for these guys to be considered amongst the likes of DEVO and Depeche Mode.

14. Old Mate – Requesting Permission

On the more heart-breaking end of the scale, there’s Old Mate. A member of Bitch Prefect, Pat Telfer’s “Requesting Permission” will make you start jabbering about all the random dust that’s flown in within the last 30 seconds.

13. Hockey Dad – I Need A Woman

South Coast-muzzas Hockey Dad provide a slab of feel-good surf rock that’s lathered affectionately in pop and fuzz, drives school-girls crazy, and is really fucking great. Hockey Dad just need to stop wearing their damn trousers so low, and they’ll be well on their way to success.

12. Dorsal Fins – Monday Tuesday

Pop music so good Madonna would want to rip it off. Beginning with urgent piano and stomping bass, Dorsal Fins turn things into up a dramatic notch for an 80’s singalong straight from the stolen brain of Debbie Harry.

11. Bad//Dreems – Dumb Ideas 

When the opening notes of “Dumb Ideas” ring out, it becomes fairly obvious that Bad//Dreems are going to provide another stomper of a track. A flippant flipping off, “Dumb Ideas” is a confident, surly piece of rock that Angus Young would want to call his own.

10. Liam Kenny – I’m The Ocean 

Fairs fair, when you’re covering Neil Young, you’re headed straight to the top of a best-of list. But when Liam Kenny (Peak Twins, Bitch Prefect, The Friendsters, Roamin’ Catholics) does it, it turns into a squalling guitars, and heart-clutched vocals.

9. Tempura Nights – R.I.P Chix

Brisbane’s on a roll right now, with Velociraptor, DZ Deathrays, Babaganouj and Major Leagues all kicking major goals this year with releases and singles. But Tempura Nights, a lil’ suprgroup, kicked the most amount of ass with “R.I.P Chix” a sweet garage sprinkled with Deal sister guitar and the kind of head noddin’ you’d expect from a Brissy pop band.

8. Peter Bibby – Hates My Boozin’

Peter Bibby is a moper amongst mopers, a bloke who paints his own portrait with a bottle constantly in one hand and an impossibly perfect rolled cigarette in the other, carefree and full of whimsy on the outside, but burning up within.

7. King Single – Restart Newstart Allowance

A certain Bare Grillz/Lenin Lennon member changed things up by providing gorgeous guitar-pop and glassy drum sounds that create only one reaction in all within earshot: *SWOON*.

6. Richard In Your Mind – Hammered

Richard In Your Mind say it best when they swing drunkenly upon the line “Me and my baby get hammered in the daytime”. From their latest record ‘Ponderosa’, it’s a honeyed trip into the tastily warped senses of Richard In Your Mind.

5. The Harpoons – Unforgettable

As far as breaking up goes, no one seems to have hit it on the head harder than The Harpoons. What a bunch of sultry crooners! It’s a jam that’s part Caribou, part TLC, and part doe-eyed wistfulness that feeds upon your heart like a piranha of romantic longing.

4. FLOWERTRUCK – I Wanna Be With You

Speaking of romantic longing, the best band that seemingly came out of nowhere was FLOWERTRUCK. Bursting forth from the same scene that’s brought Big White, High-tails, and New Lovers, FLOWERTRUCK make the descriptor ‘infectious’ cower in fear. They’re Sydney’s own version of Blank Realm. If David Byrne and Bryan Ferry exploded into fit of joyous crooning, amid slashing puffs of synth and guitar, it’d be about as great as this.

3. Donny Benet – The Edge. Feat Kirin J Callinan

Donny Benet. The man. The legend. The myth. There ain’t nobody like this feller in the universe, mainly because there can only be one moustache-weilding, impressively groomed prince of seduction in the world. It’s a Highlander thing. On, “The Edge” Kirin J Callinan and the Don do battle over five minutes of exhausting sexual healing.

2. Weak Boys – Hangovers

“Hangovers” sort of set the staple for what my 2014 was, along with many other budding attendees of whatever Inner West domain Weak Boys have been fortunately dominating. I’ve listened to this song more times than I’ve asked for a jug of Resch’s at the Lansdowne. My intimidatingly large beer belly nods in agreement.

1. Constant Mongrel – New Shapes

In 2014, no single came close to the grisly terror imagined on Constant Mongrel’s “New Shapes”. Melbourne’s most ferocious unleash a bass-driven hellscape that indulges primal and carnal desires. As far as finale’s go, Constant Mongrel went for an ending more taut, nail-biting and mentally draining than the conclusion of ‘Heat’. A blood-caked knuckle-duster ride into a starved post-punk oblivion, “New Shapes” is the kind of thing post-apocalyptic hero would throttle in their car as they ravaged a scorned landscape in survival mode.

Top 5 Records w/ Bad//Dreems

I’ve got a long history with Bad//Dreems. A long, bloody history. I started listening to them as a wee 16 year old, back when their Bandcamp page only showed “Close 2 God” and “Chills” as identifiers. But as Bad//Dreems grew, so did their extreme ability to write amazing portraits of the Australian landscape. Surely living in  oft-ignored Adelaide, surviving on a steady diet of classic Australian bands like GOD, Powder Monkeys and Cold Chisel has led Bad//Dreems to the inevitable – they are one of the most promising and unique Australian bands existing in the landscape.

Bad//Dreems are a band that could only exist in Australia. No other place would breed this kind of uber-tough melodies and pub rock excellence. That track “My Only Friend” is as purely ‘Strayan as a VB indulged at 2 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, paid for by worker’s comp for that broken toe you suffered six months ago.

As that video very clearly portrays, Bad//Dreems are also one of the hardest touring bands in this country, having gone out on at least 4 national tours this year, two headline shows, and supports for The Scientists and The Preatures. Baddies are heading out on the road again, hitting Newtown Social Club in Sydney on Thursday the 18th of September, with old mates Hockey Dad and Bearhug in support (TIX HERE). In earnest excitement, I’ve asked Barts from the band to hit me up with his Top 5 Australian Records.

Top 5 Australian Records

 

1. Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls –Gossip/ Under the Sun

We all love the two albums Paul Kelly did with the band know as the Coloured Girls. I particularly like Steve Connolly’s guitar playing. I’ve always tried to find out more about Connolly without much success, except that he died in the nineties. Like most guitarists I like, there is an emphasis on melody and simplicity, never any overcrowding. The rest of the band bristles with energy, which is captured so well on these recordings. Anyone who has lived/left/returned to Adelaide can relate to the Gossip song of the same name. Boredom/resentment versus old connections/nostalgia.

 

2. Coloured Balls- Ball Power

Call it proto-punk or whatever this is the way rock music should be. Still sounds as vital today as I’m sure it would have in 1973.

 

3. Sea Scouts- Beacon of Hope

I saw Bird Blobs a few times when I lived in Melbourne. My friend Darren Cross then put me onto Sea Scouts. So visceral. Darren always would go on about going on tour with Sea Scouts and their homemade cardboard box amps and guitars carved from Tasmanian oak. Degreaser’s new album is bloody good too.

 

4. Midnight Oil- Diesel and Dust

It seems like a lot of the mainstream Australian rock from this era became tarnished by how popular it all got. But there was a whole lot of amazing songs, presented in a refreshingly unpretentious way. This is an example.

 

5. Rowland S Howard- Teenage Snuff Film

I could listen to that opening guitar break of “Breakdown (and then..)” all day. As close to perfect as an album gets.

Video: Bad//Dreems-My Only Friend

Ah, the tour footage video clip. Now, before you go and make a cumstain of yourself, this isn’t one of those bullshit, ‘Hey, check it out, we still actually go and play show, man so gr8full for all our fans, lol, what’s originality?’ film clips, that you might see from the likes of 30 Second to Mars, The Black Keys, and Foo Fighters. This is a compilation of actual fucking shows, man! Not some stadium gig in which the singer got blown afterwards by forty girls caked in liquid gold and diamonds. This is a showcase of the blood, sweat and guitar solos that Bad//Dreems, one of the most hard-working and talented ‘Strayan bands out there, have sludged through to get where they are today.

Filmed like a VHS greatest-hits tape, the ‘My Only Friend’ clip traipses through some fucking killer shows and times the band have had, from the Backyard Blitzkrieg and VICE Halloween parties of last year, to the show at Black Wire earlier this year. And that’s just the shows I’ve been to and recognise!  There’s a bunch of shots of long necks, shirts cracked open at the top, and AFL jerseys, because this is a Bad//Dreems video clip, and it would be sacriligious to have a video without these symbols appearing. But the fact remains that this is a bloody documentary on how one of Australia’s greatest bands of the now are actually as genuine and bloodthirsty as their songs make them out to be. Here’s to authenticity, boys! And fuck 30 Seconds to Mars!

New: Bad//Dreems-My Only Friend

I’ve heard this song about a million times, because I’m a) better than you, and b) it’s the second track on Bad//Dreems double A-side 7″ they released a couple months back. They’ve also played the shit out of it at their last few gigs, and it always goes down a fucking treat, like scotch and ice cream whilst watching a sneaky episode of The Wire on a Monday night.

On record, as opposed to the Baddies always thrilling, high-octane live show, ‘My Only Ffriend’ allows for some raspy as sandpaper on a sore throat vocals, whilst morbid guitars plug the track throughout. Goddamn, if you think you’re having a bad day, just chuck this on, and let ‘My Only Friend’, a song that’s got its head stuck permanently in the neck of its tenth beer, run its course through you.

New: Bad//Dreems-Dumb Ideas

I’m totally unsure of whether Bad//Dreems have still kept the ‘//’ part of their name. Some blogs say they do, some blogs say they don’t, and since my life revolves around what websites tell me what to think, and everyone’s in indecision, my brain is melting out of my ears, Raiders-style.

What’s for certain is that Bad//Dreems have lost none of the potency and chorus-thrashing ability that led my young brain to explode when I first heard them. This song got chucked out when the Baddies recently played with The Scientists, and even though no-one knew the words, they were dancing like rock ‘n’ roll had been invented. Although that is in reference to Michael J. Fox’s bastardisation of rock music for the sake of his parents boning, the Baddies are more akin to pub rock bands like Cold Chisel and Powder Monkeys. No surprises, since they worked with the producer for the Chiz for this new track.

Basically, this song is a fucking brilliant ripper that’ll tear up your arsehole from all the righteous dancing you’ll get done to it. Submit yourself to that description when Bad//Dreems slaughter Black Wire Records on May 23rd