THEN AGAIN/REVIBE - Evil Roomers (self released)
A bona fide chunk of Australian punk history. Before X, there was Evil Roomers, whose four members all went on to play with that band at various stages. Evil Roomers - at least in their original form - never got past rehearsals, but some of the songs went on to become X standards.
What you have here are two discs, the first being a warts-and-all 1977 rehearsal, recorded direct to boom-box and featuring Ian Krahe and Geof Holmes on guitars, Ed Fisher on drums and then veteran Ian Rilen on bass. Teenagers Krahe and Holmes had been jamming for about three years. The pair met Fisher in a record shop, asked him to play with them and he roped in Rilen, who'd just bailed out on Rose Tattoo (after writing them a hit single) because he didn't like their direction.
Rilen was impressed with the untutored youngsters but eventually drifted away. Krahe followed to become a founding member of X. They carved out a fanatical following in less than a year playing Sydney's dives and punk pits before drugs took his life at just 19. X, of course, lived on and both Fisher and Holmes served in their ranks, years after the subsequent Evil Roomers band broke up.
The collection has been issued by Geof Holmes 30 years later as a tribute to Ian Krahe.
Evil Roomers worked up 25 songs, 16 of which survived on this tape. The sonic quality might be so-so - probably a notch above X's lo-fi "Live at the Stagedoor Tavern" - but there's no missing the raw vitality in most of the material. "Automatic Head" and "Bleeding Me White" show the same savage attack that Krahe and Rilen especially brought to the first line-up of X.
Vocals are divided between Holmes and Rilen.
"Air Boy" is very obviously a precursor of "Degenerate Boy" and interestingly got its start due via Townsend and Bowie. The version of "Hate City" that Evil Roomers rehearsed isn't far from the one that X demo'd, and eventually recorded after Krahe's passing. "Revolution" too re-emerged on X set lists, along with the unrecorded "Rock and Roll Eyes".
Three covers - "Runaway" (made famous by Del Shannon), "You Really Got Me" (Kinks) and "Stroll On" (Yardbirds) - give a clue to various people's listening tastes.
Disc Two throws up 11 studio reconstructions of the pick of the material, with Holmes on all instruments except for drums, which were played by Mental as Anything's Dave Toothill. Recorded at Holmes' own Glebe Studio, The Clubhouse, they're cracking songs, unadorned but burning bright with a nice intensity. There's ample separation so you can make out what Krahe and Holmes would have played, had the originals been properly recorded.
"London New York" is close to Rilen's "Revolution", while "Air Boy" takes a step away from "Degenerate Boy" with a different set of lyrics that tell the story of Evil Roomers and were apparently quite cathartic to sing. "Revibe" holds up well on its own without trying to be anything it isn't.
Evil Roomers (with surviving members Holmes and Fisher) are playing occasional shows around Sydney. You can pick up this one at those gigs or via Geof's myspace. – The Barman
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