SUPER REAL - The Domnicks (Citadel)
Remember when billing an LP as the ideal summer music was a prime marketing tool? The ace in the hole for Australian record companies that came around November, with the warming winds and exodus to the beach the first portents of Christmas looming just around the corner. Music as stocking fillers. These days, the Yule season starts when the mall puts up the first decoration (September) and ends when Uncle Rob passes out drunk and loses control of his bladder on the back lounge at the Boxing Day family reunion.

The Domnicks evoke those days - uncomplicated balmy summers, not Uncle Rob's soiled King Gee shorts - with their debut album on the legendary Citadel label. Three things of significance to note here: The Domnicks are the latest direction for Dom Mariani since the demise of the Stems and "Super Real" is a departure for the label from its stock-in-trade of heritage releases. The third? It's not a Mariani album. He's only present on two credits, although his guitar playing's solidly evident.

This is great pop - in the sense of what the word used to mean. Mariani will be well known to most people reading this. On this record, he cedes the spotlight to Nick Sheppard, an expat Pom and former member of The Cortinas and (dying days) Clash. They're great foils; Mariani with his classic '60s pop stylings and Sheppard with his gritty blues and old style rocker-cum-roller touches. Toss in a shared love for soul, probably a dash of competitive tension, and you have a recipe for a classic.

"Cool Runnings" (the single and opening track) is a case in point. Gold-tinged guitars with a glint of summer and Sheppard's agreeable vocal stylings with a sliver of organ to grease the wheels. You looking for soul? Big band brass abounds on "Let's Go Baby (Where The Action Is)", a cover but a solid ("soul-led") one.

"Colour Me Gone" has Mariani's six strings all over it, a masterful mix of Motown feel and garage groove. Top marks to the veteran engine room (bassist Howard Shawcross and Masrz Frisna) for nailing down the beat so well.

Is it dichotomy to have a sitar-driven song called "Winter" sitting smack bang in the middle of such a summery record? Maybe, but debating such a point would be purely academic. It's actually an optimistic song that's placed right after the album's heaviest-sounding track, Shepard's harmonica-flecked "I Don't Want To Live Like That".

The power pop high point is perhaps Mariani's "I Wonder What You're Doing Now", an obvious radio lead track if such things were possible in these times of entrenched playlists. It recalls Dom's best work in DM3. "Too Late" isn't far behind and gives both guitarists room to stretch while horns punctuate.

A dozen tracks and not one sucks. Of course it's better than that but just think how many records released in 2012 you can say that about? - The Barman


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HEY ROCK 'N' ROLLER - The DomNicks (Off The Hip)
Good things and small packages: Only seven tracks long, this debut from the Perth band led by Dom Mariani (DM3, ex-Stems and ex-Some Loves) and Nick Sheppard (a "Cut The Crap" Clash member) is a killer-no-filler collection of soulful rock and roll.

The DomNicks are a band built via a fortuitous geographical association; Nick Sheppard re-located from the UK to Perth, Western Australia, in the early '90s. As if you didn't know, Dom Mariani was a second generation leading light of the '60s pop-punk inspired musical generation that took root in that fine city in the late '70s and bloomed in the decade that followed.

One on the face of it, there's not much common ground between the latter-day Clash and the Stems. In reality - and as much as simplistic critics would like it to be otherwise- bands are rarely homogenous units with fixed influences. Soul music's a meeting place for lots of musicians and proves fertile turf for The DomNicks to explore.

There are no co-writes and Sheppard's contribution (six songs) outweighs Mariani's but the songs complement each other well, recalling a tough strain of Stax soul with a nod to traditional '50s rockers. It might be presumptuous on my part (I haven't seen them live) but it does seem to be more of a Nick than a Dom band, but Mariani's guitar playing is evident. The tunes sound measured and mature with a good deal of lyrical reflection on the advancement of years - especially Sheppard's "Party's Over (Part 2)" and world-weary "Hey Rock 'n' Roller".

"Busted" would be at home in Chicago with swinging horns and rousing chorus. "Not Connected" is its slightly tougher cousin and another keeper.

Of Dom's two tunes, "Honeypot" is a steamy horns-and-organ rocker with an irresistible bass-line and "Already There" comes across like a latter-day Stems track with some cracking lead-guitar.

Vocals are shared and The DomNicks are powered by the choice engine room of bassist Howard Shawcross (The Elks) and drummer Marz Frisina (The Chevelles) with guest sax, trumpet and organ players. Final mixdown was by the team of Wayne Connolly and Rob Younger so you know it sounds great.- The Barman


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