WAVE TO THE GRAVE - The Crusaders (Rastrillo Records/Off the Hip)
Not quite a best of, more like a collection of mostly essential things that might have passed you by if you weren't looking, this is a 17-track package on an Argentinian label. While you might scoff at the band's claim to being "Sydney's wildest garage punk outfit ever", a listen might just convert you.

Of course some of us require no such trip down the Road to Damascus. There's something vaguely ridiculous - no, make that totally ridiculous - about a bunch of guys in knights suits and masks playing Vox guitars but that's all part of the dubious charm. The Crusaders, along with Shutdown 66, have been the best band of their ilk to tread the boards in Australia in recent years. You might toss the Hekawis in there as well, but I'm deliberately excluding the Persian Rugs, as they're no longer a going concern. Ditto the Hunchbacks. I could add The Stems, on the score of their sporadic appearances, but they're a differenty beast. Yep, none of the above can match The Crusaders for straight-out, don't-give-a-shit, wild abandon and audience interaction. Some of the things that have been thrown at this band would do the Iggy of "Metallic KO" times proud.

If you haven't heard the Crusaders sometime in the last decade-and-a-half, where have you been? Think hard-boiled fuzz songs with the safety catch off, spat out scatter-gun fashion and in rapid-fire time. It's ragged round the edges and delivered with a phlegmatic vocal style lifted wholesale from The Sonics and 30 other lesser-known '60s bands, in the best Lime Spiders traditions. And it's delivered by four grown men in masks and knight outfits.

So what's the deal?There's one previously unreleased track ("August Bank Holiday Island") but the balance is from the "Escar Go-Go French 7", a couple from the "She Beats Me Up" EP and six from the "Addicted To Fuzz" 10" (which formed the backbone for the Larsen CD album). Unless you're a diehard you probably won't have all of them, and certainly not on CD unless you did as I did and burned them to disc.

Since this isn't really a best of I'll cut the label some slack for not including anything from their Tim Kerr-produced and hard-to-find Dionysus EP and only one track from the "Fat, Drunk and Stupid" album, one of two fully-fledged local releases. No sign of anything from the other one, the pre-masks era Zero Hour EP "Wylde Tymes at The Castle" either. You can make a case that there are some glaring production faults on what did make it, but if you're an audiophile you're listening to the wrong album.

Picks of the crop to these damaged ears are "She Wants More", the anthemic title tune, the edgy "Waiting for the Day", the insistent "Thee Sugar Shack" and "Addicted to Fuzz". There's a slogan if one's needed. There's also a folder of extras (live footage form the late '90s) and photos, neither of which would open on my Mac.

For once you can grab this Crusaders release at a reasonable Australian price. Holding action it might be, but it'll do until the in-production new album sees the light of day in 2006.
– The Barman



3/4










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