The band formed rather haphazardly in Sydney in 1983. Tex Perkins previous band – The Dum Dums - had broken up with outstanding gig commitments. Arriving at his local drinking spot, Tex recruited fellow regulars Spencer P Jones, Boris Sudjovic, Kim Salmon and James Baker. The band played small inner city venues and recorded their debut album Axeman’s Jazz for $100 in an eight-hour recording session/bender with engineer Tony Cohen that was alleged to have involved 72 cans of beer. The album ended up the best selling alternative album of 1984 and sold over 30,000 copies in Europe.
Still a side project to its members, the Beasts were on hold until 1998 when the band assembled and nutted out the Sour Mash album, a gritty album best described as “gut-bucket blues”. The band toured Europe on the strength of the album and grew in popularity and stature. The 1990 album Black Milk followed and a new rhythm section of Brain Hooper and Tony Pola joined the fold for the bands finest moment The Low Road , released in 1991.
The Beasts made the inaugural Big Day Out bill in 1992 and toured Europe for the third time. A live double album was released commemorating ten years of the band and their appearance on the first national Big Day Out bill in January 1993. However the success of various members’ side projects including the Cruel Sea and the Surrealists saw the band split yet again.
A new line up and album came to light in 1996 with the Gone album, though the response was muted and the band pulled stumps yet again. After some 22 years, 7 albums and burning through 18 members, the Beasts were revived once more for the 2006 Big Day Out and a subsequent national tour.
Like all great rock bands, the Beasts - Tex Perkins, Spencer P. Jones, Charlie Owen, Brian Hooper and Tony Pola - are a gang. All churning guitars, squalling solos, pounding rhythms, tight jeans and sinister snarls, their music represents their volatile, restless disaffection with each other and the world.
The fact that this gang contains the most electrifying frontman in the country and not one but two white-hot guitarists gives them some licence to wilfully roam the streets and do as they please.
That they are still playing together after 24 years is a miracle, considering brushes with death and the law, egos and feuds. And while they have mellowed somewhat as individuals since the wild '90s, when the gang regroups, it feeds off its reputation and collective chemistry.
"It's a vicious circle," says gangly, cocksure frontman Perkins. "The band act a certain way and create this vibe and atmosphere with this music, and then I try and express that in lyrics. And then I think the band get inspired by those songs and want to live it. So life inspires art and art inspires life.
"Every now and then, Brian (Hooper, bassist) will have a few whiskies and go mad, and you'll spend the rest of the night trying to calm him down and stop him breaking things. And, of course, Spencer does what Spencer does and he'll end up in a mental institution or a jail."
It has been a little over two years since the release of The Devastations’ acclaimed self-titled debut – an album described by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in Mojo magazine as “the best thing I’ve heard all year”, and named the best debut of 2004 by Rolling Stone Germany. That time has been spent productively, the greater part of it in Europe, using Berlin as a home base, touring the continent and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Einsturzende Neubauten and the Tindersticks.
And now The Devastations – vocalist/bassist Conrad Standish, guitarist/vocalist Tom Carlyon, and drummer Hugo Cran – return with a sophomore effort, Coal, that more than delivers on the promise of their debut, displaying assurance, subtlety and widened scope.
Formed in late 2002, the Devastations were from the outset mining a well of their own, preferring understated emotion and veiled menace to the primal strut and bluster of the much-hyped ‘new rock’ of the time. The critical response to their debut album, released in May 2003, earned the trio Australian supports slots with the Dirty Three, Cat Power, Tindersticks and the Black Heart Procession – but the Devastations always had their sights set further afield.
They moved to Berlin and played their first European show in September 2003 as part of ‘Bada Bing’, a concert series organized by Alexander Hacke of Einsturzende Neubauten. They soon scored a European deal for their debut album through influential Spanish label Munster, and toured extensively with Tindersticks. The Devastations also recorded the backing tracks for infamous Berlin duo Cobra Killer’s third album ‘76/77’.
These many and various experiences have all put their stamp on Coal, contributing to the album’s impressive richness and range. Recorded in three locations – a Prague concert hall, the former East German headquarters for radio and television in Berlin, and a Melbourne studio – Coal’s gentle ballads, such as ‘I Don’t Want to Lose You Tonight’ and ‘Dance With Me’, sit alongside the sharp, rapid fire assault of ‘Take You Home’ or ‘What’s A Place Like That Doing In A Girl Like You’. Strings and piano alternate with stinging electric guitars, and throughout the songwriting is deft and heartfelt.
The record’s beauty is also enhanced by the contributions of a number of special guests. New Zealand songbird, Bic Runga, lends her gorgeous voice to ‘A Man Of Fortune’, Padma Newsome, of highly-regarded New York instrumental quartet Clogs, plays violin and viola on ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You Tonight’ and ‘A Man Of Fortune’, and Genevieve McGuckin (ex These Immortal Souls) plays a woozy optigan on ‘Dance With Me’.
It’s a testimonial to the Devastations’ craft that despite its varying recording locales and special guest appearances, Coal is as cool, cohesive and compelling a record as you could ever hope to hear.
Spencer P. Jones has been a part of the Australian music scene for 20 odd years, first coming to the public's attention with his cowpunk band 'The Johnnys' in the mid 1980's- a band that Neil Young described as having "a sound worth bottling" on his recent Australian tour. Since then he's been slinging his guitar for the likes of The Beasts of Bourbon, Paul Kelly, Renee Geyer, The Working Class Ringoes, The Sacred Cowboys, has played with The Gun Club, Mudhoney and The Violent Femmes; while somehow managing to pursue a distinctive solo career between gigs.
The proposition "Spencer P Jones at the Tote" isn’t something that warrants much further debate and analysis. It’s an axiomatic statement, a self-evident truth of what’s beautiful about the Melbourne music scene. Spencer isn’t exactly a rarity on the local live scene – whether it’s with his current band the Escape Committee, playing solo, as the rock upon which the lurching Beast must prop itself, or as gun for hire for anyone who’s got half a brain – but in Spencer’s case, familiarity never, ever threatens to breed contempt. He’s often seemed like Australia's answer to Keith Richards with his own unique swagger and dishevelled cool.
"raised in Australia from the rock 'n' roll zombie-dead with the soulful religion of Neil Young, Roky Erickson and The Birthday Party embossed in a creepy-yet-soothing and, well, different sort of tension."
"pick of the week is this raw, pining monster from Australia, lost in the spine tingling garage haze of Bevis Frond's psychedelia, Iggy Pop's tour de force and Nick Cave's dark and dangerous blues"
Swinging with the dusty lilt of a saloon door, Melbourne's Black Pony Express play an Australian strand of carnivalesque, countrified blues that occasionally warms itself on the sun-dappled side of the bar with the Go-Betweens and the Triffids, but feels more at home drowning its sorrows in the dank corners with the Bad Seeds and the Dirty Three. From the titles alone ('Resurrection Blues,' 'nocturne'), this is an album of hard drinkin', hard luck stories set to an expansive, cinematic ensemble featuring violin, piano, accordion and gospel backing vocals. 'Home' and 'Silver Pennies' are as poppy and bittersweet as these guys get, with tinkling xylophone and gentle acoustic arpeggios; but for the most part, these are dark tunes with a slow-burning intensity. 'Where is the Love?' and 'Poor Boy' are drunken gypsy waltzes, while 'Vera Lynn' ends things on an achingly sad note with its mournful descending piano line and the stinging howl of its guitar solo. The sense of tension and drama created by Alan 'the mallet' Murphy's thumping drums, Katrina Morgan's sawing violin, and the howling guitar feedback of Greg Bukshtyn is complimented by Justin Cusack's cracked, plaintive voice that lends a weary tenderness to this material (Strom).
The second album from Ballarat's favourite cult singer-songwriter and his band showcases excellent arrangements around heart-wringing tales from the land of thirtysomething. Justin 'Hap' Hayward was the frontman for Ballarat's most loved, and possibly most doomed bands from the 1990s, the Dead Salesmen; together with Christopher Morris on guitars and piano they have been working as The Underminers for the past couple of years. To say this release has been hotly anticpated in their hometown is an understatement. Hayward's voice has the knack of reaching into your soul and feeling around until it resonates with something really sad, mournful or regretful; together with Morris the songs he writes have the ability to pluck open past scars and re-evaluate the damage done, or take you on dreamy 3am wanderings through re-imagined pasts. Page 21 is a song about reading the local newspaper and seeing a newborn baby on the front page while the death notices are full of your mate's name; the opening track We All Made It Through reads like Hayward looking back at the rock excesses of the 90s, the loss of friends to those excesses, and of the time since then, when your rock mates Got Real Jobs and the rest Settled Down in Suburbia.
Elsewhere the band kicks into gear upon radio-friendly tracks A Dream You Can Touch the Surface Of and Dream City Film Club , giving the band an extra dimension beyond that of balladeers and torch song specialists while retaining the intimacy inferred by the lyrics. It does get feisty upon Stand For Something without becoming a directly 'political' song - when the targets of your ire become the real estate agent and the bank manager you know you've grown older - whereas Self Made Man sounds like what would happen if you morphed Morrissey into Tom Waits; late night piano regret and last drinks retrospect with sensitive fragility rather than guttural cigarette-stained gruffness. In this album there are only one or two tracks with a simple voice/instrument arrangement; guitarist and producer Dave Beattie (Snog) has engineered and produced an excellent canvas for Hayward to splash his plaintive voice upon, bringing drums, bass and keyboards to the duo's sparse arrangements, working the emotional seams where needed and backing right off in all the right places to let Hayward's voice impact upon the listener.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring Strap early Saints & Wire to the bones of X & you’re getting close to the sound of ECSR. Eddy Current have developed a rabid fan base with their incendiary live performances.
The Muddy Spurs The Muddy Spurs write rock that is guttural, pesky, morose. Their music sounds like the eye of an oracular storm, and feels like the world is either gonna end, or gonna keep on keeping on. The lyrics concern underworld shootings, bar brawls, nightclub liaisons, and love nest paranoia. Sometimes they play heavy, sometimes they play soft. But they always play with one itchy finger on the the trigger, and all eager eyes on the rider. Woah, yeah
The Fat Thing The Fat Thing were one of those bands that stunk up most of Melbournes pubs during one of live musics heydays... This time the early to mid 90s. We were doing cabaret, puppet and game shows on stage while fire breathing and throwing mud at the crowd in stupid costumes long before reality TV made everyone stay home. Back when pubs like the Great Britain, The Prince of Wales, The Punters, The Richmond Club, The MCG, The Riverside Tavern and The Evelyn were filthy and great, we were there. So now we`re boring old farts who occasionally get back together to laugh at each other and publicly meld cabaret punk with performane art metal... Its true, it can be done!
Tim Rogers It looked as though Tim Rogers hadn't stopped drinking between You Am I's Falls Festival gig in Victoria on December 30 and the car crash that was their Tasmania show on New Year's Eve. The moment the singer-guitarist opened his mouth to speak to the excited crowd at the latter show, it was clear he wasn't well. Repeatedly slurring variations on a sentence that said he felt it was a privilege to play in Tasmania, Rogers was met by boos as the audience realised how intoxicated he was. After apologising for "playing like a c---", he insisted he would make up for it with the rest of the set. He didn't. A few songs later, Rogers, now shirtless, was tottering about the stage and trying to sing, but his floundering body wouldn't let his lips near the microphone. When he eventually fell on his backside - like a boxer under the effect of the knockout blow - it was clear the show was over, though the band somehow made it to the end of the song.
Again the frontman apologised, slurring how he had embarrassed himself in front of "my best friend", pointing to drummer Russell Hopkinson, "my band mate", bass player Andy Kent, and "my little brother", guitarist Davey Lane.
Rogers tried to start another song but quickly gave up, hauling off and dropping his guitar and stumbling towards the backstage area only 20 minutes into what should have been an hour-plus set. On his way, the singer exchanged words and shoves with Lane before being restrained and pulled offstage. Lane was subsequently spotted in tears.
Rogers was last seen being dragged into, and locked in, a Portakabin.
" Sometimes a band comes hurtling outta the primordial ooze with such teeth-gnashing force and insurgent brilliance it knocks you in the chest like some kinda rock'n'roll one inch punch. Oof! Your new rock heroes. "
Wunderkind who may be the best thing out of Melbourne since Nick Cave…… is there a more exciting talent than Matt Walker treading the rock'n'roll boards in Australia right now? …. as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, he's touched by greatness….. what sticks with you is the perfect melding of Walker's youthful voice, with its tone of bruised innocence and the desperate conviction of these songs.
Although one finds reminiscences of the large pioneers of the blues, the music of the two Australian ones is well theirs. Walker with the guitars… Davies with the battery……one should not any more to pass from the moistness of the bayous to great loneliness of the bush, with for common denominator the depth of the feelings. Rather than a rum or an Australian beer, you will take well a little Matt Walker & Ashley Davies between two Cognac-Tonics?”
Sunraysia reared country band The T-Bones are the epitome of rural rooted country with a hard urban edge. The band, which hails from Robinvale, followed in the slipstream of punchy predecessors 'Saltbush' and the 'Dead Livers' by writing about life in the Aussie country fast lane.
"We have a sponsorship from Melbourne Bitter to help us with artwork and promotion which is fantastic, not to mention the free piss that comes with it," Pupillo revealed to Nu Country on the eve of the launch.
Andrew "Pip" Pupillo from The T-Bones arrives for his interview with a slab of Melbourne Bitter under his arm. "Product placement!", he announces with a grin.
In an inspired example of Indie entrepreneurialism, The T-Bones approached Carlton & United Breweries to sponsor their best-of CD, Seventeen , which they’re launching this Friday night at Ding Dong Lounge in the city.
Says Pupillo, "I spun the marketing guy at CUB the line that I’ve spent a lot of money on their product, and the least they could do was give us some money for artwork!".
The cover art for Seventeen features a close-up of a kicked-over bucket of ice-cold Melbourne Bitter cans, a reference to the title track’s lyrics: "He’s seventeen, and he’s a man / He can drink two dozen Melbourne cans".
Seventeen was one of the first songs Pupillo ever wrote and like much of The T-Bones catalogue, reflects on the experience of growing up in rural Robinvale, in northern Victoria. "People in Robinvale had a lot of trouble coming to terms with The T-Bones", he admits.
Rowland S Howard Rowland S. Howard has been involved in creating & documenting innovative, unique music since the mid-1970's, all the while cultivating an unmistakable guitar sound, and a habit of writing music & lyrics that are simply to die for. From writing for various punk fanzines in his native Australia as a teenager, to writing the wildly popular "Shivers" whilst in The Young Charlatans, to becoming an integral part of influential bands like The Birthday Party and Crime & The City Solution...
Rowland S Howard On to forming his own band, These Immortal Souls , with Genevieve McGuckin, Rowland's brother Harry Howard, and drummer Epic Soundtracks. Although they only released two full-length LP's (1987's "Get Lost (Don't Lie!)" and 1992's "I'm Never Gonna Die Again"), the band created a style of music that truly defied definition and held you fixed in a dangerous ethereal noir-lounge galaxy of sex, drugs & rock'n'roll... Collaborating on projects with such artists as ex-Swell Map Nikki Sudden, renaissance woman extraordinaire Lydia Lunch, and former Barracuda Jeremy Gluck... Inroducing the 1999 debut self-titled release by instrumental band Hungry Ghosts ...
Rowland S Howard To releasing his first-ever solo project, " Teenage Snuff Film " on CD in 1999, on which he was joined by former Birthday Party cohort Mick Harvey, Surrealists/Beasts of Bourbon veteran Brian Hooper, and long-time collaborator Genevieve McGuckin. The full-length CD includes two covers, "She Cried" (The Shangri-La's "He Cried"), and a stunningly beautiful ballad reworking of Billy Idol's bombastic 1980's hit, "White Wedding". Rowland S. Howard is a man who truly wears his (he)art on his sleeve.
Silver Ray There is a grand, epic quality to the music of Melbourne three-piece instrumental group, Silver Ray . With most tracks over ten minutes in length, Silver Ray allow their music to slowly evolve and take the listener through a highly emotional musical journey that ranges from gorgeously sublime to stunningly powerful.
Paul Kelly From very early on in his career, Paul Kelly has been recognised as one of the most significant singer/songwriters in the country. Inspired initially by the likes of Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Lou Reed and Ray Davies, Kelly's narrative song writing is infused with wry observations, bittersweet emotions and enormous appeal. As well as issuing an enduring body of work with his own bands, Kelly has written film scores (Lantana and the Cannes 2006 highlight, Jindabyne), and produced albums for and written songs with some of Australia and New Zealand's finest artists.
Paul Maurice Kelly (born 13 January 1955 in Adelaide, South Australia) is an Australian singer-songwriter and is recognised as an icon of Australian rock music as a member of the ARIA Hall of Fame. He is now based in Melbourne, Australia.
His output has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output comfortably straddles folk, rock, and even some country. His lyrics, simply and laconically voiced, have managed to speak to Australian experiences and history perhaps more broadly and directly than any other artist, from "Bradman", about the Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, through "To Her Door", a tale of a struggling couple's breakup and attempts at reconciliation, to "Every Fucking City", a darkly comic story of a backpacker chasing a former girlfriend through a Europe stripped of distinctive national character.
The connections between The Tote (the hotel) and The Tote (the betting shop) are at best murky and at worst down right fraudulent. There are persistent rumours of tunnels running from the cellar of the current Tote under Johnston and Wellington Streets to shops opposite. These are supposed to have facilitated get-aways for the bookies who used to operate from the pub. If you've ever been in the old cellar of the Tote (whose entrance is guarded by our world famous Jukebox) then you'd know why we haven't been too enthusiastic about investigating the truth of these rumours. Spend much time at the Tote and you'll eventually encounter the ghost of the Tote. Not a scary ghost, nor a particularly friendly ghost, this fleeting apparition seems to inhabit the landing of the stairs (beneath our large 'Cobra Woman' banner) and always seems to be making their way upstairs. Perhaps it's a lost punter looking for the toilets, or a faded rock god who's demise no-one noticed, but we prefer the story that involves Squizzy Tailor, a rowdy new year's eve and an uncooperative publican.
It is said that in the early days of settlement the nascent city of Collingwood had one church, one mill, one bridge and fourteen hotels. We don't know how a vulnerable community would have survived with such a ratio but we suspect the church must have been very free with the sacramental wine. We haven't been able to track down the first hotel on the site, it's lost in the mists of beer fumes. A dairy covered the area for many years but there was a pub called 'Healys' here in the early 1870's. By 1876 The Ivanhoe Hotel was up and running and would stay that way until the name change to The Tote in the early 80's (1980's that is). The present building seems to have been built in 1911, we've never found any evidence of the original buildings because we've been waiting on a Government grant before starting excavations. John Wren's original Totaliser, an illegal betting shop, operated at 136 Johnston Street. The numbering of the street seems to have changed so if anyone knows exactly which shop it was then please let us know. The original Tote operated between 1893 and 1905 and was made famous (in fictionalised form) in Frank Hardy's novel 'Power Without Glory' (1950). As far as we know they never served alcohol or had any bands play.
The Punters Club was a pub and live music venue located on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, in inner Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
It developed a reputation as one of the city's premier live music venues, drawing comparisons to the likes of New York's CBGB. It was also noted for its rough, alternative, yet casual atmosphere with audiences sometimes sitting on the floor while watching bands.
The Punters Club was born in 1987 when the Moonee Valley Hotel was taken over, renamed, and renovated as a live music venue. It played a broad and eclectic range of music, such as indie rock, electronica, nu country, lo-fi, metal, celtic and ska. The venue helped launch the careers of a number of successful Australian bands, including Frente!, Magic Dirt, Something for Kate, The Dead Salesmen, Spiderbait and You Am I. In 1993, it was taken over by Mat Everett, who operated the club for the remainder of its life.
During the late 1990s, Brunswick Street began to change, with a number of more mainstream establishments replacing what had been a much more alternative area. This resulted in a significant increase in property rents all along the strip, and when the Punters Club's lease came up for renewal in 2002, Everett found that continuing would be unsustainable. The club closed its doors on February 17, 2002, with a twelve-hour music marathon that featured The Dead Salesmen and Rocket Science.