MAKIN' IT WITH THE BOOBY TRAPS - The Booby Traps (Off the Hip)
Let the greatness of this not go unrecognised. Sydney's Booby Traps have made the album they were capable of.

You might be over music with a '60s thing - and there are plenty of half-baked, pudding bowl hair-wearing bands out there who think slavish imitation is a positive quality - but give this a listen and try and deny that "Makin' It" is fresher than fruit at a farmer's market. Essential base elements like girl group pop and garage fuzz are mixed with well-written songs and ace production. The take-out is a bona fide gem.

The debut album wasn't a bad one. But today's Booby Traps sound a great deal more confident and self-assured, taking chances and mixing up their material.

There's a big streak of Californian sunshine running through "Searchin'" that betrays an obvious Mamas and the Papas influence. "LA Kind Of Day" reflects the same West Coast smile but with punchy trumpet weaving its way through a laidback feels and bright harmonies. The garage still gets a look in, with the Swinging Neckbreakers bounce of "Stop!", the sass-and-handclaps of "Dig Your Attitude" and the fuzz crawling pigeon pair "Going Nowhere" and "Bad Reaction" being major flag-bearers.

At the heart is Carrie Phillis' warm and sultry vocal, inseparably welded to the harmonies of rhythm guitarist Brigitte Salden. Alex Lukisch (drums) and the well-travelled Kendall James (bass) have melded into an assured but not stitched-up rhythm section, and Brett Barton's guitarwork is more textured this time out.

Engineer/co-producer Mike Burnham has built a warm-sounding sonic glasshouse through which The Booby Traps' strengths shine through. Another feather in the cap for Burnham's Tardis Studio, out there on the Sydney inner-western delta island of Marrickville.

If you didn't already know the album closer, "What a Girl Can't Do", was an adapted cover you'd swear the Booby Traps wrote it because they make it their own. - The Barman


HE BOOBYTRAPS - The Boobytraps (Off the Hip)

Dear Boobytraps:

Sorry I missed your show at The Empire the other week but I had a touch of the flu and a hangover. Actually, more of a hangover than a flu. Whatever. I felt like shit.

I like your record quite a bit, but can't help feeling that you should have relied on the 'less is more' philosophy. It's not that it's bad, as far as debut long-players go, or even "difficult third albums" for that matter. It's just that the production approaches the one-dimensional, and Brett's all-pervading guitar threatens to swamp everything on at least half of the tunes. It's not like most of what's consumed in the I-94 Bar has been honed to a radio-friendly sheen. And we haven't been smoking ice (it goes better in long drinks). But there's so much buzzing fuzztone, being turned off and on like water out of a tap, that "The Boobytraps" reeks of an impending trip to the dentist at times.

The reality is that sitting in a reclining chair having some sadistic mono-syballic overpaid millionaire stick sharp powertools in your mouth bears no relation to cocking an ear to garage rock. And you don't need a headful of happy gas to enjoy what you guys (or gals - as you're in the majority) do. But it took half a dozen spins to get me interested (which is more of a shock to me than it may be to you). In the end, it was the poppier/beat/girl group songs ("I Had a Dream","Tough Times" and "Please") that drew first blood. Must be old age impending, but these more moderated beat offerings are simply great tunes.

I don't have to tell you that you're are mining a rich seam located somewhere between girl groups like the Shirelles and the Shangri-las and the stomp of the Cynics, the Fuzztones and the Sonics. It's a mix of saccharine and the streetwise - a blend of primal pop, the likes of which not many (if any) are doing better in Sydney. For a comparator, I might lean on The Muffs - but for mine, Carrie, you're a better singer than Kim Shattuck. Plus I reckon she wouldn't be much of a retailer of '50s and '60s ephemera.

I digress. You may be the focal/vocal point, Carrie, but the rest of the band sure can play. Brett - you really have your chops down, and I reckon you come into your own on the creeping "Shake Up" and the fab "Some Other Girl" (where the fuzz cuts in halfway through - and thus means more). Fiona - your bass seems to go missing in the live mix sometimes and doesn't get much of a look-in here either. Not sure how much of Brigitte, the second guitarist, we're hearing on this but, if all things are equal on the surf runs of "Ms Fireball", then all is well (and your backing vox are an added asset too). Alex is the ideal drummer for your sort of music, anchoring things with a simple and relentless backbeat. Playing apart, I reckon the songs are what matter most - and these are good 'uns.

I don't want to belt on about some of the ham-fisted production again - OK, I just did - and the thought of overkill being good when applied in moderation won't agree with everyone. But this just sounds like a sledgehammer was applied when a scalpel may have done.

We need bands like you guys - if only to remind us that prefab, mundane music sucks so badly. I really reckon that you could be "bigger" than Dolly Parton (and it took this long for a clumsy breast joke?) given a fair shake and access to a wider audience. That doesn't mean polishing what you do to the point of banality, just applying the sort of balance between hooks and power that made the Hoodoo Gurus a household commodity for all of the '80s and half the '90s.

Yours in Nuggets,

- The Barman