SIGN OF THE TRIANGLE – The Holy Soul (Reverberation)
Did country rock that’s a trifle unsteady on its feet ever really go away? It might be a mind trick, but it seems that a slightly mixed-up take on the genre has been a fixture in Australia since well before the shitty West Coast sound polluted radio airwaves in the ‘70s, and made people think it had to be clean to be good.
The cowpunk wave of the mid-‘80s married beer to hay bales, silly hats and a backbeat, with bands popping up all over Australia like goldtops in a Mullumbimby paddock. Nothing like a (pre-“Motorbikin’ “) Johnnys to get a fan’s drinkin’ arm working. Today, none do it better than the Dexateens on Estrus with their sometimes restrained but often electrified cowswamp-blues, (or if looking for a rockier/sleazier take, pump for The Hangmen out of L.A.) But I’ll take time here to dip the 10-gallon hat that sits on my two-gallon head in the general direction of Australian exponents like The Holy Soul.
With a liking for derivation but applying an electric blender to their recipe is The Holy Soul, a bunch of Sydney kids who laid down their first recordings in an outer-suburban shed. They cross ‘shambolic’ with ‘intense’ but avoid sounding forced or contrived.
It’s a sound that reels in or repels, with opinion sharply divided on the merits or otherwise of this band live. Can’t speak to that but in the studio there’s little concession to sounding contemporary – which is not a bad thing in these parts. Label honcho Russell Hopkinson reckons the aural impact is Citadel Records circa mid-‘80s. (That sounds like a cue for Reverberation to do a Bamboos retrospective – over to you, Rusty). The songs themselves run the gamut from Gun Club rave ups (“This Geography is Killing Me”, “Sign of the Triangle”) to mournful swamp outpourings (“Never Trust a Friend”, “Mainline”).
There’s an element of soul to The Holy Soul (yep - groan at that pun) and it’s all black or, at best, a murky shade of grey. “Cheer Up Charlie” sounds like the Scientists at the Trade Union Club in 1985 and might just be the best thing here. Until you hear the closer, “Road Master”, that rocks like an unregistered pick-up truck coming to grief on a dirt track riddled with chassis-deep potholes.
“Dead Town” has creeping, funereal rhythms that yield to scarifying slide guitar. “Ain’t Done That For a While” is Tex Deadly and the Dum Dums-styled clattering cowpunk, no more, no less. Poison Ivy’s (early and distinctive) guitar sound is summoned up to god effect on “Mary’s Tainted Lemonade”.
Very convincing, very dark and very alive. Got a feeling these guys will continue their descent into the bowels of hell for a whle yet. It shapes as an interesrting journey. - The Barman
LOVE HAS LEFT THE CITY LIMITS - The Holy Soul (Reverberation)
It's an election year in lots of places. Who you'd give your vote as Best New Australian Band will obviously vary, according to what you're into and what you've heard lately, but consider casting it in the direction of The Holy Soul. Digging deep into the dark recesses of Blues, Rock and Country and coming up with a variation entirely their own, these Sydneysiders sound like something special.
It might be fashionable to evoke darkness in music: Pack in five parts angst to the pound, sprinkle on some minor chords, maybe some fucked-up rhythms, and off you go. Bent Blues is all the rage. It's a hell of a lot harder to be convincing in the telling of those tales. The Holy Soul pulled it off with "Jesus Caught the 5.19" on Illustrious Artists' stunning sampler "Playing Favourites", and none of the other four songs on this EP suggest it was a fluke.
That song, the opener, "Dream Last Night" and "Love Has Left These City Limits" are languid, bluesy tracks, just this side of maudlin. In many ways, they recall the Beasts of Bourbon in earlier days, but then again, they sound like something entirely fresh. "Psychotic Notions (You, Baby)" is a Bad Seeds-styled stomper that proves The Holy Souls are blessed with the ability to rock out and express barely-controlled rage. "Wrong End of Town" sounds like a clean Wreckery or The Drones with the white noise and the lights turned down.
Vocalist/guitarist Trent Marden has an arresting voice (and should be worth catching in his occasional shows around Sydney in solo mode). Drummer Owen Penglis is the son of Theo, a former member of The Atlantics (the bloodlines are mentioned only because dad was a lead guitarist). Tim Malfroy's occasional lapsteel gives The Holy Soul a dark country flavour.
The mail is that, for young blokes, The Holy Soul have unashamedly retro record collections that'd do most Bar patrons proud. That's most apparent with the production. Recorded in a shed in Sydney's north-western boondocks, it shares a raw and full sound with a host of the Citadel 1980s bands, in whose company it would sit comfortably.
Take a tip and vote with your heard-earned. This is pretty cool. - The Barman
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