KAISER BORDELLO - PRETTY PRINCESSES OF NEW GARAGE - Johnny Yen/Atomic Shack/Holy Curse & Simon Chainsaw (Nova Express)
On "Pretty Princesses of New Garage", three European-based and an expatriate Australian display their take on garage rock.

Johnny Yen open the CD with eight tracks. These come across being quite heavily produced, but mixing up a pecular range of sounds. "Did No Wrong" combines moments inspired by the likes of New York 70s punk acts Television, The Ramones and British ska punk legends The Clash and is a highlight. "Stand by Me" seems a slightly disturbing departure from garage rock with the acoustic guitars and the kind of jangly but funky beat, which can be heard from many contemporary independent music acts. Johnny Yen's take on "2000 Light Years from Home" rights the balance and has that same moody intensity practiced by the New Christs and the Lime Spiders, in their darker, quieter moments.

Atomic Shack provide the next five tracks and open with "Cosmic Gate 3" a sublime combination of British '70s heavy guitar rock sounds and sub-stoner rock, hard rock beats; probably leads to comparisons to Hawkwind and Queens of the Stone Age. The subtle nod to Hawkwind continues and is quite refreshing in a period where songs consisting of big guitar jams are rare. They're spacey but relatively concise here.

Frenchmen Holy Curse (well regarded by fellow I-94 Bar writers Regan and McPharlin) follow with three original tunes. Not surprisingly in "ODed on You" they make good on comparisons to Radio Birdman and the New Christs. "Lame Excuse" is a suprise when they get decidely heavy in the Black Sabbath mould.

Ex-Vanilla Chainsaw from Sydney, Simon Chainsaw, is joined by Holy Curse for the final three tracks. With "Soul on Ice" their combination proves quite impressive. Their third collaboration (and compilation closer), The Babeez' "Dowanna Love", is the highlight. It's enough to have this ex-Melburnian (now Sydneysider) fondly reminiscing on Melbourne garage rock - and indifferently reflecting upon Sydney garage rock in 2003.

"Pretty Princesses of New Garage" is an impressive collection of garage rock for those intrigued by bands playing European guitar rock who don't try to sound like So Cal skate punk.- Simon Li


Hardly a winner in cover art of the year stakes, this compilation of diverse music from France makes up for its visual failings with some steamy, off-the-wall and wonderfully perverse garage rock.

OK, gripes out of the way: Holy Curse is one of the Bar's fave contemporary bands and our major disapointment was that this isn't a full length album instead of three tracks of their own and another trio of tunes with them fronted by Simon Chainsaw (of the Vanilla Chainsaws and countless other bands in the process of having stuff released). A bit of a baseless whinge really as Vinz keeps telling us that they're a pack of lazy bastards. So our real complaint is the lack of solid information on the two other acts represented. It was enough to start some judicious digging.

It revealed that the man behind the compilation is Lucas Trouble, ex-member of the Vietnam Veterans (one of their LPs is buried somewhere in the Barman's collection) and a winemaker of repute in Burgundy these days. He runs the record label and contributes keyboards to Johnny Yen and Holy Curse, as well as a dash of fuzz bass to Atomic Shack, the latter a studio band for Jak Dunce, a singer-songwriter influenced by heavy Brit blues and space rock bands of the '60s.

Onto the music and eight tracks by Johnny Yen open the disc. Drummer-vocalist Johnny L has an attack of the Johnny Rottens on the original "Did No Wrong" while the band's take on Del Shannon's "Handy Man" puts a whole new spin on that mouldy oldie. Keef and Mick never sounded like this on their version of "2000 Light Years From Home". This one's fulled by liberal licks of squally guitar and otherworldly vocals. These guys have a keen sense of humour. "The Beach Boys Blues" gets along on the back of a walking Patosh bassline and scuzzy guitars from Fred D and bears no relation whatsoeverto a surf song. More like an acid trip, which is probably what they set out to capture. If you pick the Ben E. King song "Stand By Me" on first listen to the version here, you're a betetr man than me. Eccentric stuff and well worth chasing down.

Five tracks from Atomic Shack and they DO have that heavy blues Brit sound down pat on tracks like "The (Still Untold) Saga of Our Cosmic Rush" and "Listen to the Colours of the Sea". Jak Dunce's vocals are beefed out to good effect with various effects on the latter song, where guest Jack McMorrow contributes some wicked blues harp. On first listen, I didn't think Jak's voice really suited this style of material, sitting as it did at the higher end of the register. Subsequent hearings proved the first impression wrong - it's edgy and fey at the same time. Great drumming from guest skinsman Pete Sputnik and fluid bass from Fab Jack rounds out the package.

With the New Christs now past tense, their biggest French fans, Holy Curse, partially fill the void, mixing hard-as-nails backing with their own psychodramas. "ODed on You" is as good a song as they've put to tape and "Senseless" is not far behind. Eric's vocals manage to swing between brooding intensity and the high drama that only a Frenchman can muster. Lucas Trouble keyboards fill out the sound nicely. "Senseless" is a singalong and a damn fine one. Did we mention I want to hear a new long player from these guys?

In the absence of that, I'll settle for a dose of globetrotting Aussie punk troubadour Simon Chainsaw being backed onthree tracks, backed by the Curse. "Soul on Ice" is the sort of hi-energy but soulful tune his old band, the Vanilla Chainsaws, used to deliver. "Time to Understand" is a little more downbeat with a melodic chorus and some stinging guitar. "Dowanna Love" is a cover of a punk classic by Australia's Babeez and although lacking the snotty amateurishness of the original has more than enough snarl and spirit to satisfy. Listen out for it on a planned series of limited edition Chainsaw singles.

Just goes to show that Euro garage goodness isn't confined to Scandinavia. Want a copy? Drop Holy Curse a line and they'll chase down the perpetrators. - The Barman