Beasts from Australia

28 Jul

Beasts of Bourbon

In 1987, at the tender age of 16, I saw the Rowland S. Howard led “Australian supergroup” THESE IMMORTAL SOULS open for THE GUN CLUB at London’s Town & Country Club. It blew my everlovin’ sock off, and stuck with me for years after. This week, at the grizzled age of 36, I saw the Tex Perkins led “Australian supergroup” BEASTS OF BOURBON at Camden Underworld. They, too, burrowed deep in my head/ear/spine but goooood.

I’ll just STICK TO THE FACTS:

– The Underworld is always comfortable with it’s basement feel and not-bad sound, but that night every goddamn accent there was AUSTRALIAN. It was like the Redback Tavern in Acton on a Saturday night! OK yeah, I suppose this kinda makes sense, but fuck, man: proper Londoners oughta have at least a few, vague recollections of these guys’ collective accomplishments, right? WRONG.

– Too many people were filming/snapping pics, hence missing out on THE ROCK unfolding all around them. Sure: TV babies we all are, but this kinda HEAVY MEDIATION is gonna be the death of all of us. Mark my words.

– Singer Tex Perkins was the perfect frontman/circus barker for these aging BEASTS. He looked a bit like David Johanson of THE NEW YORK DOLLS – albeit one who didn’t pretend to be gay, and who’d chose instead to scream drug/hate/trucker anthems at full volume. It was not unlike the eventual persona Henry Rollins unfurled in BLACK FLAG – all big ugly mouth and in-your-face ego – and like Henry, intentionally OTT. Tex was so broad with his jestures you could easily forget (as alot of folks there seemed to) that IT’S A PERFORMANCE, YOU IDIOT – and hence, overlook the fact that he seemed pretty damn smart/savvy with what he was referencing.

Me, I’ve no problem with big-ego front men. UP FRONT IS WHERE THEY BELONG, FR CHRIST’S SAKE.

– Bassist Brian Hooper was actually the fella I was most looking forward to see, as he’d played on Rowland S. Howard’s amazing solo CD Teenage Snuff Film earlier in the millenium. He looked good, grooved hard, and sounded tight back in the shadows – but he had a pained expression on his face for much of the evening and had a hard time moving his right leg. No doubt, lingering effects from breaking his back 3 years ago. It was great to see him standing/playing – but ya hadda feel for the guy.

– Rhythm-gtrist Spencer P. Jones has that Al Perry-in-rehab (read: halfway-to-Shane McGowan) look that speaks of too many years chasing the dragon. So it was great to hear he was capable of stepping up with a couple of amazing solos that sounded equal parts no-wave AND corn-fed chickenscratch. He’s a real character on stage too. He wrote some of the best tunes off their new album and still has the R’N’R goods to offer up to the gods when demanded. AND WE DEMANDED.

– My new hero: lead-gtrist Charlie Owen. I know him primarily from his great late-80’s recordings with THE NEW CHRISTS – but there’s clearly tons more for me to explore soon. This guy is one soulful, string-bending motherfucker – when he’s not rippin’ his fretboard apart like it was a shit-stained copy of THE DAILY MAIL, that is. No offense to Mr. Perkins, but it was Charlie that I was eyeballing most over the course of their set. I loved watching him make little decisions to colour a song with gtr run/figure, or better still – decide to lay back and ABSTAIN from playing at key moments. I ain’t no musician but watching him helped me understand how subtle/intuitive/ongoing that whole process is. He’s a goddamn great player.

– I got so caught up it HOW GREAT IT ALL WAS that I left without a clear impression of the talents/abilities of drummer Tony Pola. Sorry, Tony . . .

– And the new record, Little Animals, is a towering example of just how relevant naturalistic, blues-based hard rock still can be – in the hands of A FEW GOOD AUSTRALIAN MEN – in 2007. Check em out here, go buy it, and then see em tear it up at a dive bar near you soon . . .

Thanks to Skeleton Boy the photo

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3 Responses to “Beasts from Australia”

  1. Jeanne July 29, 2007 at 1:13 am #

    I agree on heavy mediation being the death of us. I love pictures as much as the next person, but it does seem a lot more people are living life behind the lense instead of living life. I know my dad did it pre digital…there are a ton of family pictures he took, but my dad was never really present!

  2. mrowster July 29, 2007 at 6:59 pm #

    Yeah a snapshot can’t never stand in for THE REAL THING.

  3. SonicGG August 1, 2007 at 1:54 pm #

    For some reason I ignored the Beasts for years although I have been a big Australian music fan since the ’80s…Anyhow, I was in Melbourne in Feb. for the first time and there wasn’t much going on but I did catch SP Jones doing an afternoon solo gig at a small dive bar. It was great and your description of his style is pretty right on. He did a great cover of “Another Girl, Another Planet”…and was a totally down-to-earth guy to chat with. The Beasts seem to be quite popular in their homeland- lots of big posters for their new record and gis- which was cool to see. I have some SP Jones solo and, I think, some Charlie Owen stuff so I’ll post that stuff at some point…
    Cheers,
    G

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