BILLY POMMER JNR AND THE GUILTY PLEA - Billy Pommer Jnr and The Guilty Plea (self released)
Film noir meets mariachi madness on a desolate Gold Coast beach and it's guitars and trumpet at 10 paces: This is the shadow world of Billy Pommer Jnr and The Guilty Plea, whose self-titled debut album is the raucous surprise package of 2008.

For most people, Pommer was last sighted drumming in a sporadically reformed line-up of Australian cowpunk icons The Johnnys, who drowned in a sea of empty beer cans and god-knows-what-else a few years ago (one off-the-wall show at Sydney's Metro sticks in the mind.) He also did time in The Butcher Shop, Paul Kelly's Colored Girls and a pick-up version of The Gun Club. Relocated to the Queensland Gold Coast, Billy surrounded himself with a talented band, set himself to recording and this is the result.

There's a dash of his former bands in this nine-song collection but it's really a recording that stakes out its own ground. Sassy female vocals, courtesy of country singer Wendy Rendell, and up-front trumpet from Glen Minto bounce off Pommer's in-the-pocket drumming and saw-edged vocal. John Ivey's guitarwork is more than up to the task and skillfully rides the line between understated and emphatic.

Ian Rilen rates prominent mention in the acknowledgements and Pommer could be channeling the Great Man Himself in his own singing. For a drummer, Billy has a guitar player's voice - which is to say he punches the clock, holds his notes and emotes with distinction but there's no invitation pending to join the Vienna Boys Choir. But fuck, what a boring existence THAT would be. Rock and roll needs more character and Billy's throat machinations fulfill that need for mine.

The songs do too with an awkward sense of cool. Jazz nudges surf and sunny lounge noir. Plus it swings. And rocks. Much admiration too for Mr Minto's trumpet. Yes, trumpet. Is there a message for bands ploughing tired old fields?

But speaking of songs, there's a genuine Johnnys rarity in the ultra-cool swinger, "Johnny Was a Bad Boy", that's more switchblade than six-shooter and "The Sacred Surfer" takes it all down the beach to suck on mescaline-laced milkshakes.

Ya also gotta hand it to a band who twist the classics radio classic "Radar Love" into something more horny than hoary, insert a wave-riding drum solo, bend it back into shape and kick its clog-wearing arse all over the studio with a dose of horns, sweet-and-sour harmonies and a killer feel.

This album's like the loud guy in the Hawaiian shirt telling jokes at the end of the bar in your local pub early on a Saturday afternoon. He's got more stories than Hans Christen Andersen, drinks like an S.A.S. trooper on a 20km forced march and even if his bets on the races on SKY channel put him only modestly ahead after a win on the country dogs as night falls, he's still sober enough to play a handy game of pool. Plus the prick walk outs with a girl and the meat raffle.

Some bands spend all of their miserable existence trying to be cool. Billy Pommer Jnr and the Guilty Plea just are. - The Barman