Posts Tagged ‘Led Zep’

Dom Mariani and Greg Hitchcock‘s Datura 4 have released an album that says everything about the joy of electric guitar. Checking out the trippy cover art (I want what Joshua Marc Levy is having…) and taking in the title – Hairy Mountain – my son said “This just has to be good…”

It’s better than good, it’s the best thing I have heard all year (to be honest it is a tie for 2016 with Bill Hunt‘s acoustic and startling Upwey). Hairy Mountain serves up riff after delicious riff over ten killer tracks. As a fan of rock and roll guitar, I found myself happily saturated with huge tones, big hearted rock and roll and more than a few nods to the great original psychotic reactors of Detroit, London and Sydney. Rock with great pop sensibility – it is an unbeatable and irresistible one-two punch.


Hairy Mountain is all about hooks, hubris and heaviosity. Not surprising considering the pedigree here: Mariani’s Stems and Hitchcock’s Bamboos were two of Perth’s most loved garage rock bands; what is it about Perth?

‘Fools Gold Rush’ opens with a Black Sabbath grind – the tone I expected from the last Sabbath album (but was given Foo Fighters instead) – before lifting off into a Byrd‘s jangle: pure pop for now people. ‘Trolls’ is blues-rock supreme – these songs all have a sour worldview, delivered with a curdled sneer that fights to be heard above the guitars – perfect! “Trolls will find you, they will wind you up…”

‘Uphill Climb” is Stooges-brutal with that momentum that only spiky drugs and/or rock and roll can give you. Same with “Mary Caroll Park” with its Rose Tattoo slide-guitar scraping the paint off my ears.

Title track “Hairy Mountain” rolls on big Led Zep wheels through a tale of perfect surf breaks and peace-pipes – a chink of (not quite) hippie sunlight in a doomy album. Hitchcock’s ‘Greedy World’ is back spitting at the stupid world, over that mutant breed of pub rock that only Australians seem truly capable of.datura4_hairy-mountain

After the raw and red-eyed ride, Hairy Mountain winds up/winds down with Mariani’s melancholically acoustic country-rock plea ‘Broken Path’. It is perfectly placed and just what we hairy mountaineers need to come down after our time spent on the slopes.

Lysergic, heavy, booglarised, wildly colonial, Hairy Mountain is – like all great rock and roll – perfectly imperfect and vice versa, and all the more thrilling for it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the 80s revival is over there; if you do then do yourself a Molly favour and grab some Hairy Mountain.


Hairy Mountain is available from



A friend rang me yesterday and said “Have you heard? Bowie has died.”

I had only just come off Facebook and there had been no mention. How could he have passed? He looked in apparent rude good health and had only a few days ago released his new album, his twenty-seventh studio collection, Blackstar. All appeared good in BowieWorld.

I prayed his death was a cruel social media hoax, so I jumped back on. The entire wall was Bowie, top to bottom, as long as I scrolled. The news had just come over… and it filled the world.

Such is the universality of David Bowie and his music. One of those rare, rare artists – I can only think of The Beatles as the other – who could truly be all things to all people. Wherever they were in their lives.

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Bowie came into my life just in time to save me from Trinity Grammar School.

I had not been aware, nor did I care of his earlier incarnations as the Mod rocker, David Jones, as the opaque folkie of Hunky Dory or the proto-glammer of The Man Who Sold The World (all of which I would come to love). I was only dimly aware of his chart hit ‘Space Oddity’, which at the time, looked to be his first and last stab at fame.

For Christmas I had been given The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars and it turned my world around 360 degrees. Each school day I would come home and disappear into my bedroom, where David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust would take me away into his mirror-maze universe, making the grey strictures and eon-long boredom of School fade far far away.

His universe – slightly dystopian, endlessly new – was rich in imagery and characters, all told in a poetry that I could not always fathom and yet which spoke directly and strongly to me. What it said was that I could be me, and Bowie gave me permission to be so. If he, with his orange fright-wig hair, girlish moves, androgynous clothes and wonky eyes could take on the world, then I certainly could take anything Trinity Grammar School could level at me.

And it took some time to introduce this strange new music into our boys-school circle – we were all Status Quo, Led Zep and Free fans: hairy hetero denim rockers to a man. It was now lyrics such as “Inspirations have I none / just to touch the flaming dove“. And as for our parents: to them David Bowie was a queer Pied Piper who threatened to take us away to Gay Glam Land and keep us there (he could have with one wink). He really messed with their minds. David_Bowie_-_TopPop_1974_10

To we 70s kids, Bowie was ours – he was neither of our parent’s post-War culture that threatened to suffocate us, nor of the counter-culture, the Hippie movement of older brothers and cousins that was passing. He was entirely New and entirely Ours.

The irony is of course that he was not entirely New, far from it. David Bowie’s genius lay in his remarkable artistic ability to sift and riffle through the Twentieth Century and to fashion the Pop Culture odds’n’ends he found there into shiny new shapes that dazzled, and still do. These exquisitely cracked mirrors also served as a lens through which we could make some sense of the cultural shit-storm that made the Century so dizzying.

Like Andy Warhol – the subject of one of his finest songs – he seemed one of the very very few ‘modern’ artists who truly grokked (Google it) the times he lived through.

Bowie – like Miles Davis, like The Beatles – leaped so far forward with every release and dragged so many in his wake, his influence is still being analyzed and considered today. This influence is obvious, and immense. Would contemporary rock and pop sound the same without Bowie? Would Punk have so quickly ditched the yobbos for the art-students and forked out into indie, New Wave, post-Punk and all their sizzling tributaries without the possibilities he revealed and hinted at?

His latest album (and its videos) were created in the knowledge he was dying ­– it is littered with messages and farewells to us all. Even in the terrifying knowledge time was slipping away, he still performed.

If that is not an artist whose Life is inextricable from his Art, I can’t imagine what is. But that is what he has always been.

Bowie came into my life just in time to save me from Trinity Grammar School, and over the years, through the challenge, vision and plain ecstasy of his music, he has saved me over and over again.


Published January 2016 on




In David Byrne‘s smart (of course) recent book How Music Works, he suggests that music is created to fill a context that is brought about by the natural ebb and flow of the society around it. For example, Gregorian chants were created to suit the highly resonant architecture of Medieval cathedrals, yet African drumming was created to sound strong and carry far outdoors wherever it was played.

Listening to the new Crooked Fiddle Band album Moving Pieces of The Sea, I was reminded of Byrne’s idea – the microphone, that surprisingly innocent-looking device, makes any context you want possible. In the Crooked Fiddle Band it allows heavy (John Bonham heavy) drums to sonically co-exist alongside the band’s nyckelharpa, guizouki and cittern (what wonderful words for instruments), adding a contemporary thud to some very ancient sounding music. (No, not ancient sounding: more always-been-here sounding music).

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But who cares about all that musico-anthropological flannel?  –  The Crooked Fiddle Band and Moving Pieces of The Sea make one want to jump for joy (albeit jump in a Bulgarian 9/8 – 2,2,2,3 – time signature). From the first note, the Band, via Steve Albini‘s (Nirvana, The Pixies, Gogol Bordello, Joanna Newsom) transparent and very sympathetic production, burst forth in a torrent of joyous/sad/reflective/triumphant feeling – whether whirling dervish-like at a mountain wedding, toasting the hunt with millet beer or gazing across the green waters for the return of a lover, these eight tracks (well, six and an 18 minute two-part suite) will transport you. I know they did me.

Brian Eno has said of the Band, “The Crooked Fiddle Band are completely surprising. The music is original and quixotic, and yet has the strength of some deep and strong roots. I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything else like it!” crooked fiddle 1

Brian Eno, Steve Albini – The Crooked Fiddle Band are attracting the attention and patronage of some heavy hitters. And it is no wonder – Moving Pieces of The Sea has that perfect balance of joy in the telling and some serious musicianship going on. It can be enjoyed on a number of levels and thrills one as much from the neck up as from the neck down.

Inspired by Scandinavian fjords, lakes, waterfalls and streams, Moving Pieces of The Sea is dripping with water imagery. The title comes from oceanographer Jacques Cousteau‘s letter to his son in 1963 which says “The fish were just moving pieces of the sea. I smiled because I knew… you would always seek after the vanishing shapes of a better world”.

Opening track, ‘The Vanishing Shapes of a Better World’ conjures these fleeting fish with guitars and marimba (and those John Bonham drums!) before a lovely fiddle melody from Jess Randall morphs into that Bulgarian hoe-down.

Just as blues seems to rise up in disparate cultures across the world from Africa to Chicago, so does the frenzied dance – ‘Neptunes Fool’ could be Bulgarian, Celtic, Pakistani. I am trying to avoid the ‘world music’ tag here – as John McLaughlin said “We all live in the world” – and it is lazy. Suffice to say The Crooked Fiddle Band draw from the music of the world – just dig Joe Gould‘s 7/8 tabla groove on “Shanti and The Singing Fish” before it explodes and goes all Led Zep on yo ass.

And so to the big one, the two part suite – ‘The Deepwater Drownings Part I & II’. The first part is a song, melancholy sea shanty – albeit twisted. The second part – all 13:39 of it – is where The Crooked Fiddle Band show themselves to be what all the great bands are: a force of nature. Over the course of the tune, the Band jam a tone-poem to wond’rous water, in all its forms – from wide Swedish rivers, to rippling streams pouring through the Carpathians, to fjords and eddies and ice creeks, widening out finally to oceans and oceans and oceans. As I said, transporting stuff.

The music and vibe of The Crooked Fiddle Band show themselves to be curators and stewards of vanishing shapes of a better world. Whether applied to the nature world – we all know, painfully, how quickly and irreversibly it is succumbing to myopic business interests – or to the vanishing shapes of music that is made for celebration, rituals of kith and kin, or just the plain joy of living – there is something elemental and – dare I say it? – important in what The Crooked Fiddle Band  do.

But while we are pondering all that heavy shit, grab your partner, charge your mug and  have a Balkan boogie to Moving Pieces of The Sea.

Published October 2013 on

Anyone who caught the wizard of Katoomba, Claude Hay supporting US blues guitar hero Joe Bonamassa at his recent Sydney gig would have been as amazed as I was that Hay’s music held its own against Bonamassa’s road-toughened four-piece band – and there was only one of him.

For years the remarkable Hay has travelled the world with only himself and his collection of loop-boxes, jim-jams, boo-bams, junk instruments and kitchen-sink guitars (‘Stella’, who we heard at the Bonamassa gig was a baking tin in a former life). Hay’s independence – no, self-sufficiency – has extended to his music which has always been a highly personal take on the Blues – taking in country, zydeco, slide-blues and hard-rock – as chopped and channelled and welded together as his guitars.


To check Claude Hay live and hear his huge rockin’ sound come out of so few people (one) is astonishing. There is always the danger that, on an album with no visual, the novelty will disappear and the music will disappoint.

Thankfully it never does. It didn’t on his first two LPs – 2007’s Kiss The Sky and 2010’s Deep Fried Satisfied – and it sure doesn’t on his latest, I Love Hate You. Hay’s talent, instrumental ability and country-strong songwriting always errs on the side of deep feeling and rootsy honesty.

For the first time Hay has used trusted outside musos on an album – notably, the rhythm section of Sydney blues-rockers Chase The Sun. Does this toughen the sound? Who knows – sounds pretty wild to me from opener, the title track ‘I Love Hate You’, a stomper that hangs out Hay’s shingle of heavy blues, more Hound Dog Taylor than B B King.

The stompin’ vibe continues through ‘Good Times’ and into the stringy funk of ‘Stone Face’ – Hay’s self-production on every track is as tough and as sparse as I needs to be, just perfect for each song (it helps to be a One-Man Band).

Power-ballad ‘Close’ seems a departure for Hay – his website suggests his songwriting is beginning to show the influence of his childhood love of 80s cock-rock – but I hear Jeff Buckley in ‘Close’: swooping, highly wrought vocal (Hay is a hell of a singer) and one of those Led Zep builds that made ‘Grace’ so irresistible.

Also from Hay’s site: “‘I Love Hate You’ is a concept album – dealing with the things Claude loves, hates and loves to hate. From loved ones, great gigs, motor vehicles and treacherous trans-continental bus rides, bad customer service and indifferent radio programmers.ClaudeHay_SingelCover_LoveHate_LoRes1

Further listens will reveal who or what these love and hate objects just might be – through acoustic porch-rocker ‘Narrow Mind’ and banjo-led roller coaster ‘Blues Train’, all the way through to moody back-street crawler ‘Hound’ and closer, the Chilli Peppered junk-funk of ‘Turn It Up’.

Claude Hay lives in a dome house he built himself, plays instruments he built himself and tours the world on the wings (or wheels) of a career in music he built himself – he doesn’t seem to need for much. But we need the Claude Hays of this world now more than ever. As Big Music cuts out its digitised cookies in ever-increasing numbers and turning the AutoTune off is the definition of spontaneity, we really do need music like this.


Published December 2012 on

Years ago, when I was a jazzhead serious young insect, I used to cringe when reminded that Australia’s major contribution to contemporary rock music was Pub Rock. Nowadays I glow with pride.

AC/DC, Cold Chisel, the less arty side of Midnight Oil (who came up in the blood-and-sand pubs of Sydney’s Northern beaches), The Angels, The Radiators – hell, even Jet – have proven it and a thousand unknown but bullets-sweating guitar bands prove it every Saturday night. Even with a band as ‘grown up’ as Powderfinger it is just below the surface (vis a vis ‘Got You on My Mind’, pure and perfect pub-rock). The populism and boozy hedonism of Pub Rock also extends into Australian Hip-Hop, Blues and Country. Like it or not, it is a musical reflection of who we are and who we want to be – informal, inclusive and wildly colonial. And we do it so fucking well.

But none do it better than Australian hard rock’s once and future kings, Rose Tattoo. Formed around 1976, Rose Tattoo have never diverged from the path of perfect, flint-hard rock and roll. Styled from the start in the outlaw/bikie mold they have never become a cartoon of themselves, as AC/DC have, nor have they craved the stadium lifestyle (despite playing to hundreds of thousands in Europe where they are particularly revered). The slide-guitar (originally of Pete Wells RIP, and today of Dai Pritchard) has been a feature of the band since day one, linking their sound to the dark church of the blues as it howls and moans through their music.

Earlier this year, Rose Tattoo played a couple of shows at Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel. Fans couldn’t believe their luck – here was a band on par with AC/DC but in a pub, up very close and very personal. This says as much about the band’s street ethos as it does about how they see their connection to fans – stadiums are fine but you can’t touch the people. The shows were such a success that they repeated them on December 9 & 10 at the iconic Annandale Hotel.

The December 10 show that I caught was warmed up by The Corps (square-jawed punk with Oi flavours) and Black Label (superb blues-rock royale, a little Thin Lizzy, a little Led Zep, a lot tough as nails). During their last song I remember thinking that Rose Tattoo couldn’t possibly be more filthy, more urgent than what Black Label were putting out. But if course I couldn’t have been more fuckin’ off the money, as Angry might put it.

No announcement – what could you say? – and there they were, larger than life, black, dirty white and chrome, grizzled road dogs to an illustrated man. As the guitarists plugged in, Angry Anderson took the mic by throat, berating us all with a fuckin’ this and a fuckin’ that, bourbon in hand. Over the next hour and a half, he would throttle that mic to within an inch of its life, shredding it with his paintstripper voice (a national treasure in itself). There has recently been another man out there called Angry Anderson who has dallied with questionable right-wing politics; this Angry Anderson was a different animal, a tough little dog, seemingly three feet shorter than the towering guitarists around him and yet King of this leathered, bearded, boozed up domain. All hail!

There is a particular intersection of ecstacy where all your senses are filled up to the brim and, instead of panic, you just float. When the Rose Tattoo rock machine, counted off by drummer Paul De Marco, starts to roll, you either swim or sink. At asphyxiating volume, with the twin banshees of Anderson’s voice and Dai Pritchard’s slide eating at your vitals, it is a ride like no other in rock. The swagger and loose-limbed animal grace of their grooves is up there with the Stones and the songs are deceptively simple but brilliantly built – everything paired away for maximum dramatic effect. The storytelling blues “The Butcher and Fast Eddie” reaches back to the roots of their roots and the quieter, almost country “Stuck on You” (…stuck on you, like a rose tattoo…) shows some really tasty musicianship. With lyric vistas of bad boys (Ian Rilen’s “Bad Boy for Love”), jailhouses, violence (“Black Eyed Bruiser”) and honour over the top of these irresistible anthems, the effect is one of enormous liberation. For a few hours in our dulled lives we are Rock and Roll Outlaws and we never needed anyone.

Is it stupid? Is it art? Is it the cause of the decline of Western Civilisation? Oh what a pleasure it is not to think, but to feel and to wildly chant along to “We Can’t be Beaten” because for those three minutes, we can’t be. Rose Tattoo have allowed us to join their gang and we can face any-fucking-thing.

Published December 2011 on