+ THE M16's
Annandale Hotel,
Sunday, July 18 2004

Three words sum up this show: "Black to Comm".

In fact, that's how it ended. With the MC5 song.

That metronomic, crashing rhythm and grins all around. Primal, pure. Loud as all fuck. Asteroid B612 cranked it out, and ex-members Ken Watt (guitar) and Bullett (vocals) joined the fray.

There was more to the evening than that one song, but the room had trouble containing it.

It was sharp enough to take your head off, if you didn't duck.

It was also a fitting cover, given that half the people at the Annandale seemed to be talking about the forthcoming DKT-MC5 shows.

But more on the gig at hand and The New Professionals - the latest band for Crusader/Persian Rug Kendall James - started the night on a respectable note.

Martin Martyni in action as a New Professional.

With Martin Martyni on guitar (lately of Spurs for Jesus these days, but once upon a time he was a Trilobite) and a singing drummer, these guys play unabashed garage rock with the odd poppy overtones.

Vaguely like a stripped-down Yardbirds at least once in the set, this was apparently only their second gig, and while some of the tunes were a little up-and-down, this is a band that could bear watching. The New Professionals have absolutely nothing to do with the Steve Jones-Paul Cook Professionals and mine similar turf to The Crisps.

By the time The M-16's hit the stage, a fair crowd had started to build (average age: about 45, at a guess, and it's like an RSL reunion in here tonight). God knows, it was cold enough to freeze a warm bottle of piss outside, so why not catch these out-of-towners?

Spiffy and Ken carve it up.

The M-16's (the redundant apostrophe is theirs, not mine) are from Perth and have a bit of a buzz about them. Drawing their more obvious cues from Sonic's Rendezvous Band and the Hellacopters, they have a fab mini-album ("Loose Bullets") out on Reverberation that's worth checking out if you're a fan of either of those precursors. Mainman "Killer" Ken Watt is a former Asteroid B612 member too, which makes tonight's pairing of both their bands a nice fit.

The thing, other than their mini-album, that preceded The M-16s' arrival in Sydney was their reputation for being volume freaks. Tales abound of a show in Western Australia so sonically ferocious that it caused roadies to take flight. (I'm old enough to remember the days when nothing but a knock on the door from the Drug Squad or the Dole Police would have had the same impact). Fortunately, tonight, someone convinced the band to turn down. Just a shade. It's loud, but there's no need for ear plugs (not that I ever remember to bring any).

M-16 Brad Miller asserts his right to be heard on bass and vocals

It's a short but finely-honed set of no-nonsense rock and roll. The "Loose Bullets" songs are churned out - as is an Asteroids cover, fittingly enough (don't ask me which one - it's a week later now and shame on me for not grabbing a set list).

It's as precise as a cruise missile and almost as powerful. The M-16's pack a huge punch and there's not a wasted note. Spiffy, the ex-Hellmen member, is part of the band for this tour on second guitar and fills out the sound superbly, but it's obviously Killer's outfit and he reels out some sterling lead-play.

In the end, the memorability of the songs may not quite match their forebears like Sonic and Co, but The M-16's still wipe the floor with most bands of their ilk. A full-length album is definitely in order. I even heard the words "Brother Brick" uttered by an appreciative punter and that's a fair call. Ironic too, as both that band and The M-16's contain ex-Asteroid B612 members, plus they are/were both capable of similar levels of aural assault and battery.

Johnny Casino leads the Asteroids.

It's tempting to think that The M-16's set spurred on the Asteroids who tramped on stage in good time. If you're also tempted to think that Asteroid B612's best days are behind them, re-consider. The band has indicated there's another album in the offing - and hopefully soon, on the strength of tonight's set.

There's not a lot new in what they do, but then that's not the point. With a mighty engine room (Ben Fox on drums and Scott Nash on bass, if you didn't know) and the formidable swathe of Johnny Casino's six strings up front (mere mortals can only wonder how he keeps an over-driven hollow bodied guitar under control), there aren't many bands as good as them in Sydney.

The question that really has to be asked is why "Straight Back to You" wasn't a mainstream hit, or for that matter why the last studio album "Readin' Between the Lines" wasn't falling off the shelves in massive quantities in stores across the world (a la Jet)?

Ken Watt joins Grahame Spittles for a quiet duet.

Anyway, again, I didn't grab a set list so I'm not going to try and reel off what songs were played where. It was perhaps a little tighter than the last time I saw the 'Roids play at the same venue. If they hadn't succeeded matching their predecessors by the tail end of their set proper, well it was a photo finish by the time Killer and Bullet joined them on stage for the finale.

I'd probably score it a dead heat.

Bullet re-joins the Asteroids and goes looking for someone's contact lenses.

Closing song apart, there was a blazing take on Keef's "Happy" that put the punters in that very state of mind. The Asteroids have always been more Berry/Stones/Groovies than Birdman or the Five, despite tonight's pumelling "Black to Comm". I'll go as far as saying they're the band you ought to petition anyone with a bar and an amply-proportioned PA to put on every Saturday night from now until the day they collectively roll over and call it a day. Nobody in Sydney delivers as consistently.

Tonight was ostensibly the launch of Asteroid B612's latest disc, "Greenback Blues, a radio show from '96. True to tradition - and like almost any record launch anyone's ever been to in I don't know how many years - there wasn't a copy in sight. All you really need to know is that you should chase it down - and that it doesn't contain "Black to Comm". That was reserved for us lucky punters at the Annandale. Hope you wish you were there.