Posts Tagged ‘Rose Tattoo’

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



There is a place called Americana – not to be confused with that all too real country, America – where everything is larger than ordinary life, where feelings run hot and sorrow can make the world come to an end at least once an hour. It is a place where the population is not bothered by parking tickets (unless they lead to a stretch in jail) or taxes (unless the taxman closes down the farm); a place where all women have great strong hearts, which are easily bruised, and every man will gladly destroy his life for a woman with a great big strong bruised heart.

Not to be found on any map, Americana lives in the grooves of records and in guitars, bars and cars – it lies at the intersection of country, blues and rock’n’roll (specifically rock’n’roll of the Sun Studios flavour).


Central Coast songwriter Lianna Rose proves that you don’t have to be American to make great Americana. She proves it – almost too easily – on her new album Travellers, released this March. Over thirteen sharply penned songs, she covers rockabilly, ballads, pop-country and rock and roll. The rise and fall of the album – its sequencing following an arc from rattling double-time openers ‘Willy Wagtail’ and ‘Big Ass Town’ through to the middle set of ballads such as the title track ‘Travellers’ and ‘Pillar to Post’, heating up again for the last barrage of rockers: ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Take its Toll’ – gives Travellers a strong cohesion and makes it a vivid and cinematic journey through Rose’s own little isthmus of Americana.

Great songs, honestly rendered and beautifully played. Her voice is capable of raising the roof, Wanda Jackson style, on the rockabilly tracks yet can fall away to a blue reverie on the deeply felt ‘Travellers’. The innocently sung ‘Somebody Save Me’ could easily be a pop hit with its lush hook and perfect song craft.

That the small group of crack players on the album can cover all of these grooves and moods so adeptly is no surprise; with players such as Matt Fell and Dai Pritchard on board. Pritchard brings some of his Rose Tattoo mojo to ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Take it Toll’, his slide guitar weaving in an around Rose’s voice, summoning that hair-raising spirit that Duane Allman did so damn well. LIANNA-FRONT-COVER-TRAVELLERS-copy-Small

Unlike much of current Americana, Travellers comes from an honest and deep place. As a genre, Americana can be too often overburdened with fake authenticity and second-hand experience. Rose writes and sings from a place of experience, with all its hurts and joys, and the songs breathe with the salty (and slightly bourbon-sweet) breath of real life.

An American poet once said “I am like a country song; all my sads are real.” That could apply to Travellers but, in Lianna Rose’s case, so are all her happys.


Lianna Rose’s website is


You would never have a Midnight Oil today. In a career that has spanned thirty years, The Oils have stepped on political toes, bit the corporate hand that fed them, always taken the hard line and have never taken a step back. As fan Tim Winton puts it, they “kissed no bum, tugged no forelock”.

Nowadays the current bad boys of Rock put out their own range of light Chablis and try not to upset ClearChannel. Midnight Oil had a heart, a conscience and a very Australian larrikinism that spoke up for Everyman and bugger the cost.

And they very nearly ruled the world.

Midnight Oil 1The Manly Art Gallery has mounted a new exhibition – The Making Of Midnight Oil – which charts their rise from bare-knuckle Northern Beaches pubs all the way to the largest stadiums in the world, playing to hundreds of thousands.

The Making Of Midnight Oil takes us – with meticulous detail – from their early days as The Farm (Peter Garrett with hair!) through to their infamous daytime protest concert outside Exxon’s New York corporate headquarters, where they played beneath a huge banner reading MIDNIGHT OIL MAKES YOU DANCE, EXXON OIL MAKES US SICK. (The banner runs along one whole wall of the exhibition – all thirty feet of it).

But it wasn’t all sloganeering and eco-warriors – The Oils could rock like no other. In a golden age of Australian pub-rock, they stood out in sharp relief against contemporaries like Rose Tattoo and The Angels, largely due to guitarist Jim Moginie’s artful songs and arrangements which borrowed as much from classical music and surf music as they did from hard rock. The songs, combined with one of the toughest-sounding bands around – and fronted by a windmilled-limbed bald giant – created an unstoppable rock machine, but one with a sharp mind, and a fiery heart. (Drummer Rob Hirst joked that, here he was, saying ‘save the rainforests’ while smashing his way through thirty drum sticks every gig…).

Midnight Oil 2

And you can see that the band worked, and worked hard. The exhibition is littered with scarred road-cases and guitar cases. Displayed are Martin Rotsey’s loved-to-death Fender Stratocaster and Jim Moginie’s road-wracked Gretsch Roc-Jet. On a small replica stage ­Rob Hirst’s bashed-in, vernacular drumkit is set up, complete with electric bin lids and percussive rusty water tank.

There are walls of Midnight Oil posters and a wall of Midnight Oil t-shirts. There is Rotsey’s worn and beautiful Rickenbacker 12-string and there is Jim Moginie’s reel-to-reel into which were played the rough demos which would become anthems to the world.

There is a clever little booth which, upon entering, takes you right back into the Oils’ early world of The Royal Antler, Narrabeen and the pounding, sweating, ecstatic warm-beer roar of their first Northern beaches gigs. Close the curtain and you are there – seventeen, half-pissed, soaking in the energy which the flailing bald giant is jolting into you, just you.

The Making Of Midnight Oil captures the excitement of Midnight Oil perfectly and completely – the only possible thing missing is the band itself, it seems. Everything else is there.

They were a remarkable band and an important cultural force, whose legacy has spread ripples right through to today’s music and right-on artists such as John Butler.

But, no, you would never have a Midnight Oil today. Which is a shame, because in many ways, we need them now more than ever.


Published July 2014 on


Heavy guitar rock comes in and out of fashion with almost meteorological regularity. Who is this week’s saviour of rock?

The truth is that heavy guitar rock never ever goes away and whenever things get too precious, it appears to be a rockin’ guitar band that pops up to give it a shot in the arm – or an analogue kick up the auto-tuned arse.

Rock and roll, metal, punk, grunge, pub rock – they are all manifestations of the primal urge of rock. The mutant hybrid of a guitar, an amp, a teenager – all pushed beyond what they were calibrated to do – has given us some of rock’s most feverishly thrilling moments. From Link Wray to The Who to The Stooges to Iron Maiden, it is Boy’s Own fun and fantastic stuff.


Australia seems to do guitar rock exceptionally well – giving the world one of the most iconic guitar bands of all time in AC/DC, and producing enormously popular and influential bands such as Rose Tattoo and Midnight Oil. Because much of Australia’s toughest hard rock was born in pubs, clubs and skinned-knuckle venues, it has always had a feeling of being bullshit-free and unvarnished – more ‘real’ – much as Australians see themselves.

Adelaide three-piece, Tracer, seem set to follow that fine hard rock lineage that recently has wavered a little too into cartoon territory with bands such as Airbourne. Their new album, El Pistolero has garnered top marks from Kerrang!, Classic Rock Magazine and Total Guitar and it is no surprise.tracer 1

Produced by Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley – the go-to guy for anything truly rocking (Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa) today – El Pistolero hits all the marks, ticks all the boxes and kicks all the pricks. Shirley has drawn a great sound out of a band that already had a big, thumping rock and roll heart.

Tracer’s sound balances their precision with sludge, their momentum with thud and their howl with growl. The mix is one of the most exciting I have heard for a while.

No cartoons, no posing, no weekend warriors – Tracer are a hard-working band who sound great because, like all the real bands – old like the Stooges or new like Kyuss – they do nothing but work at what they love.

El Pistolero is out today, June 5, thru Mascot/Warner.

The band’s tour kicks off June 12; details are here –


Prior to posting this review I asked Tracer’s Mike Brown a handful of questions. Here are his responses:

TheOrangePress: The title, graphics and 3 part ‘Del Desperado Suite’ give El Pistolero that eternally-cool spaghetti western vibe – what drew you to this theme?

Mike Brown: We’re movie nuts in the band and we’re especially drawn towards directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for their quirky, oddball films that are just dripping in coolness. I think we take that approach to our music too, trying to make cool music with a bit of a weirdness in it. I was watching the Rodriguez movie Desperado and I started tinkering with a flamenco guitar to learn the song in the film and that led to me writing a couple of tunes that were inspired by the film. I mean, the guy is a guitar playing, vigilante super hero! That’s fuckin’ awesome! We started writing songs that had a Mexican/south-of-the-border vibe to them and I was writing lyrics that followed the storyline of Desperado just to see if it could be done. It was a bit of a challenge for us because there was a high possibility that it could end up corny or a bit cliché but I think the songs that are based around the film came out really cool. We already had a bit of a tex/mex, dry, desert sound but with this album we wanted to open it up a bit and push the barriers in the stoner rock genre that we’ve been classified in (not something of our doing by the way). So we tried to get a more expansive, cinematic vibe to the tracks, which I think really came out in songs like ‘There’s A Man’ and especially ‘Until The War Is Won’.

TOP: Tracer’s sound is obviously inspired by ’70s guitar bands such as Led Zeppelin but there is just as much Soundgarden sludge in the mix as well. How did to arrive at this mix – why not go entirely one way or the other?

MB: It happened very organically. We never decided to write songs that sound like a certain band or consciously copy a sound. I think it’s derived from our influences. We kind of pick what we like from them and it subconsciously goes into the melting pot for us to pick and chose from when we’re writing songs. At the end of the day, we write songs that we want to hear. And that’s mostly because nobody else is making the music that we want to hear in our heads. I love the sludgey Soundgarden and Kyuss stoner rock, and I love the free form of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple so we take elements from those guys and leave behind the stuff we don’t dig, mix it in with what we want to hear and Tracer is what comes out. I have no problem in wearing my influences on my sleeve and I always remember what David Bowie once said… ”I have never had an original idea in my life.” This from an artist who I would consider one of the most original that has ever lived!

TOP: ‘Caveman’ Kevin Shirley – you really couldn’t find a better producer for the Tracer sound. How did working with Kevin come about?

MB: Kevin had worked with a few artists on our label, namely Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart and Black Country Communion and our music got put forward to him by the head of our label. Apparently he got very interested in recording with us and we got an email about two weeks later saying “Kevin is in. Be in LA at the end of November to record an album.” We just thought “Holy fuck! We should write some songs!”

TOP: What was it like working with him? He appears to have pulled some great performances out of you – was there any blood spilled?

MB: Yeah he really did get the most out of us for the record. He has a great ability to read people and knows when to push people to their limits and when to mother them towards a good performance. There wasn’t any blood spilled but there was plenty of sweat and hard work. Dre and I went to LA to prove a point with our playing and we had been working really hard on getting our level of musicianship up and also concentrating on good performances, especially with the vocals. I think Kevin picked up on this and pushed us further in the studio. With Kevin taking the producer role, which was something we had previously done ourselves, it really freed us up to concentrate solely on the playing and I think it shows on the record.

As far as his methods, all I can say is he is extremely quick in making decisions and recording in general. He catches the vibe very fast and then moves on before the magic dies. We had 14 songs tracked with drums, bass, guitars and main vocals in 6 days! He has a great knack for capturing that live excitement that comes from musicians playing together and getting excited by the music together.

TOP: Why do you think there is pretty much always a market for heavy, guitar-based analogue rock?

MB: Because it’s real! It’s emotion provoking and I don’t think people get enough of that in their lives from external sources. I think guys in particular have anger that needs to come out and I think that vocalizing it through rock music is a really healthy way for people to do it. Also I think people still appreciate good musicianship and well-written songs. Dave Grohl has been banging on about this for the last couple of years and I think he is absolutely right. There is a magic, a vibe, an indescribable feeling of when musicians play instruments and it’s recorded as is, warts and all. The artifacts and little fuck ups became that favourite part of the record and you can hear the musician’s soul. You can’t do that with auto tuned, computer music. There is so much terrible crap on the airwaves today that people can’t hang their hat on because it’s there one day and then it’s completely forgotten the next. Artists aren’t creating music anymore they’re creating adverts for a brand and I believe that people are starting to see through it again as they did in the 80’s. Punk, grunge and metal were the saviours in the 90’s because of the plastic-ness of the 80’s music. And I think the same thing is happening now.

TOP: And finally, what are your thoughts on music, in general, today? Please feel free to use bad language.

MB: See rant above haha! To be honest I try not to get caught up on it. There is an underground swell throughout the world at the moment for rock music and it will only take a couple of bands to break through before we start seeing a resurgence in real music for real fans and not fake music for scenesters.


Published July 2013 on



(also see Katja Leibing’s photo gallery of the Launch, here )

“We’re going to take it now to a different level,” announced Sydney songwriter Bridie O’Brien, changing gears between songs at the launch of her album Highway Heart. “We’re all about levels… they’re also called moods”.

Newtown’s fabled Sandringham Hotel was packed to check out the first gig in a national tour to launch ‘Highway Heart’ – a wonderful album full of O’Brien’s mood pieces. The title alone is evocative – a short story in two words – and the album’s cinematic breadth would be a challenge to reproduce with a stripped down band in a live environment.

That is all worked so beautifully well was helped along by the presence of Syd Green, the album’s producer and only other muso on the recording, who played one of the two drum kits and some ethereal lapsteel slide. He also grinned a lot, as did second drummer, Nerida Wu and bass player Oliver Pieterse – and why not: out front Bridie was whipping up a storm, a joyous storm of rootsy abandon and rock’n’roll righteousness.

O’Brien is one hell of a guitar player, as was evident in the opener, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ – which is also Highway Heart’s atmospheric opener –ominously building layers of looped Stratocaster shards and blues lines which fuzzes out in its own fog of beats and chanted vocal.

The power of the two drummers lifted the whole thing off the stage over the next two pieces  – ‘Lonely’ and ‘Disco Lights’ – melding into a funky skin and wood machine of irresistible force. Then O’Brien took it to a ‘different level’ – clearing the stage and working through the title track, ‘Highway Heart’ with only her guitar and the plaintive cello of Kate Adams beneath her voice. It was a good move and had a stunning effect – her remarkable voice framed by only the barest structure.

‘Violent Interpretations of Your Sexy Glance’ from 2006’s Soft Side of Dark was followed by her soulfully rootsy version of Rose Tattoo’s fuck-off mission statement (and one suspects, Bridie O’Brien’s too…) ‘Rock’n’Roll Outlaw’. Its 12 bar swagger got the room rocking and shone, like dirty chrome, with O’Brien’s tough and edgy guitar playing.

The sweet and hopeful love song ‘New Year’s Day’ – “It’s only oxygen between us” – gave way to the rattling country chase of ‘Dead Or Alive’ (O’Brien observing wryly on the fact that a song about ‘shooting fish in the back paddock’ appears to be the radio hit of the album…). Scooted along by Wu’s double-time drum groove and the hiccuping harp of guest Stu West, ‘Dead Or Alive’ reminded again me why I enjoy O’Brien’s music – so much of it harks back to pre-ProTools rock music, with all its inherent excitement and percussive acoustic flavours (superbly and intelligently captured by producer Green across the entire Highway Heartalbum).

A suitably scary ‘World’s Gone Mad’ (not as chilling as the album version but close) and then Matt Tonksgot up to guest on the chorus of Soft Side of Dark’s lovely countryish ‘Liar’ and it was all over.

But the room wouldn’t let her go, so after some hushed consultation with the band they rocked out a not-so-hushed version of KISS’s ‘(I Wanna) Rock and Roll All Night’ – played and handclapped with not the merest dot of inner-city irony. You can’t beat a Highway Heart – you can’t beat a rock’n’roll heart either, and Bridie O’Brien has one of the biggest on the block.


(Prior to the ‘Highway Heart’ Launch, I asked O’Brien a series of questions about her music, the album and her thoughts and inspirations. Here are her responses:)

1. How do you feel your music has evolved since your first album, Soft Side of Dark?

If anything the vibe has gone back to bare bones…. Bones and voice. There is more emphasis on vocal exploration throughout Highway Heart. It is grittier, my guitar playing and vocal delivery are closer to representing the wound on this album. I don’t think I will hit the mark till album 3 or 4. It is also not as instrumentally cluttered as Soft Side was.  So perhaps the evolution is evident in its stripped back approach.

2. Who are your main influences – songwriting AND performing?

Songwriting: Sting, Frank Zappa, Prince, Ernest Ranglin, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles, Lonnie Johnson, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Leonard Cohen, Bonnie Prince Billy, Neil Young, Don Walker, Bruce Springsteen, John Frusciante, Paul Simon, Kurt Cobain, Buck 65. ——-  Annie Lennox, Johnette Napolitano, Be Good Tanyas, Gillian Welch, Fleetwood Mac, Mazzy Star, Nina Simone, Cyndi Lauper, Janis Ian. A mixture of all of the above.

Performing: Early Cold Chisel, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Chrissy Amplett, Eva Cassidy, Led Zepplin, Nirvana.

3. How do you write a song? What triggers the process? How do you know when the process is finished?

I approach songs from a poetic perspective, always. The lyrics can appear mysterious, but they are just there to engage the imagination of the listener. Every lyric comes from a real experience, there is no fiction, however there is grey space.

Writing occurs when overwhelming emotion, directly attached to vague imagery and distant melody, storm.

This usually results in me grabbing a guitar and seeing what happens then and there.

Other times it happens without me really planning it. I spend all of my free time playing the guitar, hardly any singing.

In the past frustration and emotion would hang out over some beers until a caped, flaming, egotistical songwriter would smash into the room wielding a distorted guitar and proceed to sort everyone out. (Gee what a wanker). But sometimes that’s what it took. These days song writing is a strange undertaking. I am appreciating the good ones more and more as I get older. A song can trickle down from my semi consciousness over a period of days until I take notice of the leak. A good song will make me feel like I have articulated a sentiment on all levels imaginable. That is emotionally, visually, sonically and psychologically. I’m not sure one sets out to write a good song. I think the song rewards the writer when it’s time.

4. What drew you to record with Syd Green at Mononest?

Syd invited me to record my second album with him in 2009. I had met him before, but revered him as music royalty, so I was shy around him. I remember thinking, “wow… imagine if I got to work with someone like Syd Green one day”. I was absolutely shocked and buzzing with energy when he suggested we give it a go. He has since become like a brother to me. I adore him. He is much more than a gifted musician, he is much more than a cutting edge engineer, he has something that is in my opinion getting hard to find these days….that is true ‘cool’. Kind natured and humble in his manner with an all knowing smile. His creative process is intuitive, and the space to explore the possibilities comfortably exists. We soon found we worked well together. Mononest is a gorgeous place to record. The studio has ample space and an exotic array of percussive instruments on hand, as well as some interesting old amps. Syd and Elhi Green have furnished the studio grounds with magic dust. The vibe is positive and I always leave full of hope and wonder.

5. What place do you think unadorned, heartfelt music such as yours holds in current society?

I think my music is a bit of a lost puppy… *grin*.

I can’t easily define today’s society. I haven’t owned a TV for 15 months, just a record player and a computer.

I know my music will be ignored by the masses, and I am ok with that. It makes sense, because my music is very personal and probably wont resonate with many people, but maybe someone will feel a connection and when that happens it is a great feeling.

I find most modern chart topping music egregious. I didn’t grow up listening to soul music, because there was so much soul in rock n roll back in the day. I have always loved the Rock n Roll. And it was great! – but there has been a shift in what people consider to be good music.

I like music that affects me, any genre, but it has to move me. I am hard pressed to find numerous examples in current music charts. But humans need music and I need to make it, so hopefully that means there is a place for me somewhere in there.

6. Who do you imagine your songs speak to?

The broken hearted hero.

7. Can you pick three or four tunes that you will be performing at your launch (pref from the current LP) and give me a line or two about them (meaning? inspiration? insights?

DEAD OR ALIVE: This is a word for word true story of putting stranded catfish out of their misery during the drought of 1994. The song was written 2 days before it was recorded.

HIGHWAY HEART: I visualised this song as a scene in a movie before it was written. It is a song about lost love, but perhaps the love is one’s own mind. The protagonist switches.

WORLD’S GONE MAD: I wrote this song during my 10 years of exile from my parents. It is just a homage to the absurdity of religion, sexuality and the feeling of hopelessness.

DISCO LIGHTS: I wrote the main riff and lyrics for this spontaneously during sound check at a show 3 years ago. The song evolved and is my personal favourite. It is about letting go of the child within and moving towards the fire within. The imagery is thick, discerningly abstract and personal. I wail ‘MARY’ alot in the song. This is because Mary is the middle name of all of the women in my family within 3 generations.

Published January 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