BURN ROCK 'N' ROLL - The Flaming Sideburns (Rastrillo)
MOBILE GRACELAND - The Flaming Sideburns (Lonestar)
Given the glut of new releases put forward by labels both large and small on an annual basis, it’s easy for even the hardcore faithful to occasionally miss out on some top-notch gear from their favorite acts. These two Flaming Sideburns discs are a great example of good shit getting lost in the shuffle; a situation not helped by their limited pressing on small labels, semi-official status and an absence of promotion by the band themselves. To further complicate matters, they’re actually kinda the same album. Confused? Let me explain…
Both “Burn Rock ‘N’ Roll” (CD only from Argentine label Rastrillo) and “Mobile Graceland” (LP only from reputable German garage rock purveyors Lonestar) are nicely presented live collections said to be recorded between 2001-2003. With no further details available on the sleeves, the dates, venues and sources of this material aren’t documented (hence the quasi-bootleg feel), but the outstanding, solidly mixed soundboard recordings leave little doubt that they’ve been pulled form Scandi radio broadcasts from the stated period, or were handed over by an enterprising live sound engineer. The tracks, 16 on the CD and 17 on the LP (a handful that appear on the disc are omitted from the vinyl, and vice versa) are a nice cross-section of earlier Sideburns material already well covered on the seminal “Bama Lama Boogaloo”, “It’s Time To Testify…Brothers And Sisters” and “It’s Time To Testify Again…Live At Gearfest 2000” releases.
So why do you want this? Well, aside from steering clear of the much maligned “Sky Pilots” material unleashed soon after, the performances, drawn from what sounds like two separate shows, are argueably superior to the already available live outings (probably the reason why someone saw fit to bang these tracks onto a record in the first place). Thanks in part to more aggressive guitar tones, some serious push from the engine room and an almost totally unhinged senior Martinez, cuts such as “Loose My Soul” and “Underground Confusion” come off as far more raucous than their antecedents on the other live offerings, and overall, the live feel is more convincing.
Material from the monster debut studio longplayer “Hallelujah Rock 'N' Rollah” is favored (as expected from the time period), and completists will be drawn by the fact that some songs such as “Sweet Sound Of L-U-V”, “World Domination” and the altogether previously unreleased “Dog Eat Dog” (Lonestar release only) are available here on wax as live versions for the first time.
Like all great dirty rock bands, the Sideburns thrive under hot lights, and releases like these serve to remind that some of the songs stifled on record are indeed fully realized in a live setting; a fact that I’m sure the Sidbeburns are acutely aware of, and which their discography undoubtedly reflects.
Cynics can readily dismiss these albums under the “more of the same” clause, and they might not be too far off the mark, but there’s enough variance and brilliance here to make for a rewarding listen, and nice addition to the Sideburns live catalog.
Incidentally, collectors take note; the CD comes mounted on a novelty cardboard “fireball”, making it one of the more interesting (if not a bit unwieldly) sleeves in recent memory. The disc is available on import from No Fun Records in the US and the vinyl directly from Lonestar in Germany, but quantities are very limited. - Dave Dutchin
KEYS TO THE HIGHWAY - The Flaming Sideburns (Ranch/Spinefarm)
Returning with another great album, the Flaming Sideburns prove once again why, after it's all said and done, they have earned a legendary status in their consistent approach to rock and roll. Detractors might counter that opinion by stating that The Sideburns, in a career that spans ten years, have only recorded, including this release, three studio albums (last year's great "Back from the Grave" was a compilation of choice meat). I would say that it doesn't matter because all of their recorded output is about quality not quantity.
The Sideburns are a perfect example of what the Australian and Scandinavian bands possess, unlike alot of young American bands, in terms of playing great rock and roll: A sense of appreciation for it's musical history. I think what we are witnessing with this flawless release, along with the popularity of the TSOOL, the Hellacopters and the interest in the Radio Birdman reunion tour, is comparable to what the Brits did in the '50s with the American art form of the blues. They're all re-invigorating a classic musical style then presenting it to a hungry audience looking for a rock and roll bang. Unfortunately, the American audience has fallen asleep at the wheel while listening to emo and rap.
Another distinguishing factor about this band is that they possess an almost encyclopedic, intuitive nature to songwriting/playing. I mean, go ahead drop any self respecting, street cred band/performer from the last 40 years and they have digested those influences. Lou Reed? We got em on a standout track like "Slow Down", what's your next call buddy? The Stooges, you say? I thought you we would never ask, try a track like "Cut the Crap" on for size. Sonic's Rendezvous Band? Come on you must be kidding me Jack .."Roky Mountain Sidegates". To top it off, the band moves so freely from one time signature to the next without ever losing their flair for rock and roll intensity.
The Flaming Sideburns guitarists' Peevo Deluxe and Sky Williamson are absolutely at their peak in their playing abilities on this album - compact, melodic and riff driven to the max. The rhythm section is full of drive and adds a nice touch here and there throughout the album. Great song arrangements.
There's also a nice touch to the album when Lisa K, from the equally great Bellrays, joins Eduardo Martinez on two songs. The two vocalists share duties on the closer "Conspiracy". The song is a slow burner. Great guitar leads end the album.
In years to come, this album will still be a study in how to take righteous influences and inspired musicianship to create a sound that is unique and, above all, fun to listen to. What else can you want from a band? - Arthur S
BACK TO THE GRAVE - The Flaming Sideburns (Bad Afro)
The return of The Flaming Sideburns is a big deal around these parts being, as it is, such a long time between drinks. And it's a back-to-basics feel for this, their first album in three years. While "Sky Pilots" was their most polished to date and heavily-referenced the '70s, "Back to the Grave" throws away the tin of polish and (for the most part) stylistically winds it back to the previous decade.
This is something of a stop gap, culled from out-takes, rare B sides but with a couple of newies tossed in. It's being pushed out there while the Sideburns work on a completely new studio effort. Only three of the dozen are originals. For a collection of bits and pieces, it hangs together remarkably well, and may win back fans from the old days who went MIA in the contrails of "Sky Pilots" and its fairly obvious parlay for wider airplay.
Now, I actually loved that album (its cover of "The Interpreter" being one of the best Roky tributes ever), but am lapping up this one in equal amounts. The new songs, "Runnin' On Fumes" and "Black Moon", lead off and stack up against anything the band's done in recent times. "Fumes" incorporates a funky edge against trademark garage guitar twang, while "Black Moon" is a moody, psychedelic piece dating from the last album but only just finished.
A trio of '60s covers - "Evil Woman" (The Troggs), "Bad Trip" (The Wailers - the US ones, not the reggae cats) and "High Time" (The Sonics) - sit at the heart of the album and are killer. It's a mystery why more bands don't give "Evil Woman": a run - it's one of the Troggs' best. "High Time" is a relatively unknown Sonics song that takes on a new dimension in the Sideburns' hands.
Eduardo's edgy vocal suits "13 Women" to a tee and vaguely recalls "Are You Ready to Testify", while an unlikely James Gang cover ("Funk 49") puts things on a hip-shakin' stylistic tack. The Sideburns' cover of the Del-Vetts' "Last Time Around" isn't a patch on the original (or even the Wet Taxis version) but it's a rare lesser point. I normally walk the other way (fast) when someone flashes a Grand Funk cover, but "Are You Ready" actually works thanks to some rippling guitar. A monster cover of Lou Reed's "Leave Me Alone" keeps things in the '70s and shows the boys still have a massive groove bone most would kill for.
Best news for Aussies is that you can pick this up locally as Bad Afro has distribution through Melbourne's Off the Hip. Granted it's a holding action in much the same way that "Dropout!" was for labelmates Baby Woodrose, but if the Sideburns wanna come to my place to play a party I'll shout them a keg. I might be waiting a while, so the next best thing is giving this a spin.
- The Barman
SKY PILOTS - The Flaming Sideburns (Jetset)
Why the last album (and first full studio effort) by these guys, "Hallejulah Rock and Rollah", didn't sit me on my arse and kick me over the goalposts for a two-point conversion, I'll never know. Maybe, because it was a departure from the earlier long-player, the very garagey "It's Time to Testify...Brothers and Sisters" (really a collection of singles, mostly on Bad Afro). The studio gloss probably did wear thin. Whatever, but I have no such problems with this one.
Neither do a stack of Finns who sent the single, "Save Rock and Roll", to penultimate place on their charts on the day it was released. What an enlightened lot. Says something for their local radio stations, too. Maybe the songs are a little stronger, the production a little less slick, but "Sky Pilots" is a killer platter which deserves to echo in markets other than just their home country.
The Sideburns do have it all. A soulful vocalist in Argentinian-born Eduardo Martinez, a supple engine room in Jay Burnside (drums) and The Punisher (bass - gotta love a name like that). Johnny Volume and Ski Williamson aren't flashy or too heavy metallic and fill the spaces appropriately. And the songs cook, two of the best ("Heavy Tiger" and "Drive On") being written by former band member Jeffrey Lee Burns, now domiciled in the U.S.
"Save Rock and Roll" is the opener and it's radio-friendly but not to the point of offending. It'd have to rate in the same bracket as the Sewergrooves in that regard - tuneful AND rocking, with a heartful of soul. "Effect-O Tequila" betrays the Sideburns' frat band roots in a soul-samba sorta way. "Heavy Tiger" will satisfy the Scandi Rock volume heads while "Let Me Take You Far" borrows some bar room piano and '60s pop sensibilities to nail a killer powerpop song.
The cover of Roky's "The Interpreter" is a bona fide classic, faithfully echoing the original but stamping its own sense of style and individuality. I've always loved the post-Elevators stuff best ("You're Gonna Miss Me" aside) and Eduardo manages to namecheck a few other Erickson highlights in the closing ad lib. Hopefully, the cover will send a few prospective fans scuttling away to track down the source.
The closing "Drive On" could be from a Soundtrack of Our Lives album and shows a willingness to break the mould and push on into a psych direction. Nice.
I used to work with someone who applied the term "sky pilot" to anyone whose plans were far in excess of their ability to execute them. Every second band in this so-called New Garage Wave claims to be out to save rock 'n' roll. Well, fuck most of them. They wouldn't know how to save money on a train fare by travelling off-peak and they're as guilty of using their doubtful appreciation for what's gone before to further their own ends as the sadly ignorant rekkid company saps who signed 'em. Not so, the Sideburns. These sky pilots take you on a round-the-world trip that shamelessly appropriates riffs and feels from a dozen influences, all of them worthy. But they do it in a way that uses them as starting points, not a raison d'être. From the Stones to the Stooges, the '60s and '70s, it's a fun trip and worth the price of the fare.
As soon as I stop playing "Sky Pilots" I'm going back to give "Hallejulah Rock and Rollah" another spin and work out the imponderable.
- The Barman
IT'S TIME TO TESTIFY...BROTHERS AND SISTERS - The Flaming Sideburns (Bad Afro Records)
My buddy, Bro. Dave Champion, the Canadian King of Scandi Rock, recently returned for a jaunt to Stockholm and Copenhagen positively RAVING about these guys, so I was willing to give 'em a whirl.
First of all, don't be deceived by the title -- this isn't another band of Scandis who were inordinately influenced by the sons of the Motor City (not that that's a BAD thing to be influenced by). Instead, try and wrap your mind around the idea of four fire-breathing Finns, fronted by a mad Argentine Jagger wannabe (from the early maraca-shaking daze, not the latter-day cocaine torpor; I also admire the way he smokes cigars on-stage in the live video I've seen, and possesses one of the most blood-curdling screams I've ever heard from a man), pounding out infectiously rockin' R&B-derived garage-ismo.
We've known for years (from all those comps of garage bands from Mexico, Japan, etc.) that garage snot transcends international boundaries; nice to know that's held true over time, too. (Yes, beauty IS in the ear of the behearer; some swear by punk, others power pop; to these ears, it's Detroit and garage that are timeless.) So, no Big Guitars here, although the six-string attack (by a pair of tube-driven Fenders with just a hint of fuzz 'n' feedback) is fine. Bass duties are handled by a fella who goes by the name of The Punisher, who's reputed to like his alcohol in large quantities and propels this juggernaut in the manner you'd expect from someone with a handle like that.
Toon-wise, there's a cover of the Litter's "Action Woman" here, but the real story is the originals that sound like something that coulda come from "Back From the Grave" or one of those (or maybe the recesses of the Estrus catalog). You can even FRUG to this stuff!
The instrumental-with-shouted-interjection "La Bruta" seems to be a popular crowd-pleaser; right now my faves are the R&B romp "Rock'n'Roll Boogaloo" (which has a stop/start section that's reminiscent of the Five's immortal version of "Ramblin' Rose"), "Testify" (can't seem to go wrong with a song bearing that title, cf. the one on the BellRays' album), the '65 Stones-ish "Out of Our Tree," which provides a little change of pace dynamically with a brief piano-driven interlude, and "Jaguar Girls," which sounds like something from the Sugar Shack songbook.Sangre de Cristo!
- Ken Shimamoto
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