INTELLECTUALS - The Hekawis (Wild Eagle Records)
Garage, as a musical label, means different things to different people. To performers who profess some competence in the playing of their instruments, 'garage' can mean nothing more than a euphemism to describe poor musicianship, cruddy sound and simplistic lyrics. But to those (of us) who believe otherwise, garage is a term of musical endearment, a contemporary musical philosophy that celebrates the paradox of embracing an unashamedly amateur aural aesthetic in an era when computer techniques allow you to splice seamlessly an Elvis vocal over a contemporary backing track. That shit might be clever, but it ain't honest.
Brisbane's Hekawis are clearly in the latter category of garage interpreters. Taking their cues clearly from the fuzz filled sonic moments of the 1960s, The Hekawis' new album (their fourth, as well as a bunch of EPs and 7"s) "Intellectuals" – I'm sure there's some subtle-as-a-sledgehammer subtext about that title – is typically primitive, but equally inspiring, a conversely stripped back and lavish illustration of the energetic potential of keyboard, guitar, harmonica and simplistic drum beats. It's what you get if you took Rocket Science and reduced it to its barest essentials.
The aptly titled "Screaming Stevie" delivers his vocals with passion (and sounding like he's in a booth furnished with corrugated iron) – and in a manner that would cause pain to any trained vocalist – while balancing his organ and harmonica duties (which invariably spark the tunes into action); Gavin 'The Shiek' Ross's guitar has that spiralling bent metal character that can be associated with old episodes of "Get Smart", most appropriately demonstrated in the opening track "4 Flights Up", or the "Louie Louie" inspired "Changeling". The lyrics skirt around the edges of emotional contemplation (viz. the exciting "Not My Girl"), but who cares about lyrics anyway. If there's a criticism – it's not a big one – it's the lapse in pace toward the end of the CD.
Like so much garage influenced music, this album doesn't purport to make a quantum leap in musical composition, performance or production. But if it did, it would have lost the greater part of its appeal. - Patrick Emery
THE HEKAWIS - The Hekawis (The Hekawis)
SWEET SOUL MUSIC - The Hekawis (The Hekawis)
More gold, some of it old, from an Australian group mining the rich vein of '60s punk in their own distinctive way. The self-titled album is their second full-length release this year, while "Sweet Soul Music" is from the archives and finds the Hekawis in line-up change mode.
The Hekawis owe paternity to all the usual suspects but manage to be closer to Australia's own Missing Links, at least in spirit. Central to their sound is the omnipresent Farfisa and vocals of Stevie Zillman and the bass and songwriting talent of James "Wild Eagle" Pierce. If you've read the review of their 2002 album "Born Yesterday" on Corduroy, you'll already know they're from Brisbane but have spent time in Melbourne.
"The Hekawis" was recorded in April 2002 at Birdland in the southern capital and pits six "Born Yesterday" songs against half a dozen newies (one a spirited cover of the Shadows of Knight's "Shake".) It's a more aggressive recording than its immediate predecessor; better produced with a crisper bottom end and guitar up front. "In the Band" could be the Hekawis' anthem with its warped story of a musician bent out of shape by Mary-Jane and its new, tighter version loses little in comparison to the single. LIkewise "I'm a Rolling Stone", while "The Pigeon" winds up the insanity level a notch with the sole lyrics being Stevie's coo-ing and backing whistles and "oh-yeahs". If it's a better album overall than "Born..." it's a near-run thing, but I'm leaning that way.
"Sweet Soul Music" finds two earlier line-ups in transition, the band having grown from a surf-songs-and-cover-music-party-machine into something altogether more interesting. Their own take on "Sweet Soul Music" opens this disc of 15 songs that range from lysergic rants ("Back to Mexico") to instrumentals (the surfing "Yokozuna" and the poppy "60 Second Scalp Treatment"), from a ragged, fuzz-borne singalong ("Hey Girl") to a folky shuffle ("Here Comes Trouble".) Some of the playing is a little primitive but that adds to the charm. It's an amazing, no risk bargain from their web site at five Aussie bucks, too. Save on postage and get 'em both there. - The Barman
1/4 - The Hekawis
- Sweet Soul Music
BORN YESTERDAY The Hekawis (Corduroy)
Yep, theyve managed to nail it. After a string of OK singles, Brisbanes Hekawis have delivered an album (their second, in fact) thats thankfully far removed from the mainstream, yet not a retro parody.
For those who dont know, the Hekawis are a four-piece revolving around Indian headgear-wearing bassist Jamie "Wild Eagle" Pierce and singer-organist Screamin Stevie Zillman. Originally leaning towards surf-instro stuff, their trip is now sneering Seeds/Music Machine/Mysterians-styled garage punk. Theyve been around for a few years with a few line-ups - convening in Melbourne for a time - and a string of singles on the quirky and eminently worthwhile Wild Eagle label, as well as a prior album ("Sweet Soul Music" - available for the ridiculously low price of $5 from their web site.)
Polished, the Hekawis are not. This is rough-hewn and occasionally edgy stuff. Screamin Steves lyrics swing from downcast and detached to downright demented disdain, with the odd blood-curdling scream now and then, just to keep it interesting. The Sheiks guitar is more twangy than fuzz-laden, ducking and weaving as a counterpoint to Stevies swirling organ lines. The engine room of Pierce and Voodoo Man manages to lay down a loose-but-never-sloppy bedrock, not really driving the backbeat but not plodding either.
The sum of the parts is a unique thing, closer to spiritual forebears like the Missing Links and the Elois than other modern Australian contemporaries like the (apparently departed) Crusaders and Sheek the Shayk or poppier cousins like the Finkers. Think Question Mark and the Mysterians (without Question Marks more soulful excursions) or Mono Man of the Lyres in his more melancholy moments.
Four of these tunes have appeared on 45s and "In the Band" is still the pick of that crop with its sullen, treated vocals and moody melody line. Kudos to "The New Breed", "When I'm Gone" and "I'm Gone", too. This is an album of good tunes.
Mining the 60s punk vein with little regard for commercialism almost certainly assures youll stay off the major labels radar screens, but the garage is a crowded place (and it seems to be getting fuller by the day.) The Hekawis manage to stand headgear-and-shoulders above most of the retreads by being off-beat, and therein lies the charm. - The Barman
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