NIGHT OF THE COBRA – The Breadmakers (Off the Hip)
Here’s the drill: Roll tape one winter night in a crowded upstairs bar at Melbourne’s Rock and Roll Central (aka the Tote Hotel) over a bunch of determinedly retro R & B fans pumping it out in front of their fanatical fans. Add alcohol and 15 fine tunes. This is what results.

The Breadmakers are a bunch of Melbournites from various bands who’ve been moonlighting under this moniker for God only knows how long. Must be two decades. Good luck finding any of their five albums. To the best of my knowledge, they were only ever on limited-run vinyl and are impossible to locate. Or maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places.

Working mainly with moderately obscure R & B stompers from the twangier end of the spectrum, the band makes ‘em all their own, throwing in two fab originals for good measure. They collect old vinyl like Imelda Marcos gathered shoes. Stepping into one of their shows is like taking a time tunnel trip back to Eel Pie Island or The Cavern. I reckon their loungeroom carpets would be sticky and covered in cigarette burns. Speaking of which, former Mine Host of the Tote Richie Ramone says this album was recorded in his living room. Which is undoubtedly true.

The Breadmakers recipe (ouch) is timeless. Vocalist Lazy Dic sings rather than bawls and blows a righteous harp. If you’ll excuse a parochial Sydney reference, he sings a little like Continental Robert of the Dynamic Hepnotics with a touch more grit. Sonically speaking, Cajun Spice throws in a generous amount of keyboards, engine room duties are more than capably handled by Deadbelly Stilton (drums) and Cadillac Slim. Blacktop Brierley is a humdinger six-string strummer who pulls out some occasionally eccentric, tightly-wound balls of lead-pickin’ stonk.

This band brings home the dough (groan) time after time on this album. It’s a relentless steamroller of suave. Even the Atkins diet couldn’t put the skids under these Breadmakers; their brand of Louisiana stomp is as crunchy as homebaked wholemeal.

Desk recordings generally come off sanitised and unbalanced. You only hear what’s going through the mix and if someone’s stage sound is unfeasibly loud, their instrument goes MIA unless it leaks into another channel. No such problem with this recording, captured in 2006. Even without a crowd effects mic, you get the sense you would’ve needed to wring out your shirt before going gently into the Collingwood night.

You’ll know a few of these tunes off by heart (The Easybeats’ “For My Woman”, a really tough “Hipshake” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor”) but they’re all delivered with ample twists and turns. The Breadmakers’ own “Memphis Train” is a soulful rocker with shiny licks, while the likes of “Hurtin’ On Me” (The Music Machine), the sultry “Voodoo Workin’ (Charles Sheffield) and the swinging “Lovin’ Machine” (Rodge Martin) especially are simply ace covers where the band’s lovelight shines through.

The bonus is a live clip of The Breadmakers in action at The Cobra, complete with nude male go-go dancer. Oddly, no-one seems to bat an eyelid.

As a live document, this is straight to the point. There’s no inbetween song patter, just 45 minutes of Maximum R & B. Fans of the best stuff will love it.The rest can go listen to Britney.
- The Barman