THE EARTH IS SHAKING - The Hydromatics (Suburban)
A brief history of the band, for those who missed the previous “chapters”: In 1996 the Hellacopters’ leader Nick Royale called his Dutch friend Tony Slug in order to record a demo of covers of their favourite group: the Sonic' s Rendezvous Band. The plan is set aside for a quite long period of time, due to the engagements of the Hellacopters.
It stalls long enough for the Swedish band to meet Scott Morgan, the legendary singer and guitar player of SRB. So the idea of Morgan joining Slug and Royale in The Hydromatics started to take shape. After adding Theo Brouwer, former bass-player of the Dutch band Nitwits, The Hydromatics' "Parts Unknown" is finished and released in 1999, their explosive debut for White Jazz (the best Swedish independent r'n'r label at that time).
Though Nick had to leave the band to follow his career with The Hellacopters, the Hydromatics decided not to stop and in 2001 they pulled out a new shining album titled "Powerglide".
Now the band released the third musical chapter of its story. It’s called "The Earth Is Shaking" and features another great musician in the line-up: Kent Steedman, theextraordinary guitarist of Australian legends the Celibate Rifles.
The results are fantastic. "The Earth Is Shaking" is the best effort of this international supergroup. It shows 12 powerful and inspirational tunes with Scott’s voice at his best, an incredibly powerful rhythm engine and three guitars that talk to each other in a perfect way. The attack of the first three songs will take your breath. Tte album starts with the vibrating and Detroit-styled "Standing At The Juke", then follows “Baby Jane” – a mixture of soul music and great guitar sound. The third one is a classic from SRB: the eternal "Mystically Yours".
Also, Steedman brings a song from his side-band Yage called "Speechless" (from their third album “Integration”): a fantastic song where keen guitars cross beautiful rhythms.
But it’s not finished yet. There’s a great Rolling Stones cover ("All Down The Lines"), a couple of tunes showing punk energy ("Streets of Amsterdam", "Funball", "Detroit Leaning") and some mid-tempo ones that are perfect for Scott’s voice: "Power & Glory" and the lysergic title-track. These are beautiful songs that are part of a fantastic album. - Roberto Calabro
If we're surprised that they're back from the dead should we be so shocked that it's so damned good?
The Hydromatics called it a day a few years ago, worn down by one tour too many (the irony being that that last tour nearly didn't happen.) Personal circumstances outside the band conspired to call time for all involved. This being rock and roll (and y'all know well that There's No Justice in Rock and Roll), everyone shrugged, pulled up the tent and did something else.
Singer-guitarist Scott Morgan certainly came up smelling of roses, with soul big band project The Solution (with onetime Hydros drummer Nick Royale) scoring Scandinavian chart success. One-tour bassist Laurent Ciron (ex-The Dogs) went back to Paris and recorded a powerpop classic with his trans-Atlantic band The Cinders. Tony Slug went back to being Tony Slug (by all accounts, a full-time occupation) and blasting half of Europe off the map with his regular band The Nitwitz. Drummer Andy Frost went back to Morgan's Powertrane, and then left.
It's funny how fate behaves when left to her own devices and a re-asemblage of the key members (they'd be Morgan and Slug) fell into place in early 2007, after a few curious twists and turns. On board - for the recording at least - were long-serving Hydros bassist Theo Brouwer and Australia's king of the scorched earth lead break, Celibate Rifle Kent Steedman, who also produced. Hard-hitting Dutchman Ries Doms (The Spades) was along on drums.
Seven months later and one of the stated missions of the Hydros - doing studio justice to Sonic's Rendezvous Band tunes that were only ever heard live - has been accomplished. The lesser known Morgan composition from that era, "Mystically Yours", makes it to this 13-tracker, as does the almost universally unheard "Power and Glory". Brutally scorching covers of the Stones' "All Down The Line" and Otis Clay's "Baby Jane" (you may be more familiar with the version by Dr Feelgood) get a run, and nestle alongside an excellent range of band-penned tunes.
While "The Earth Is Shaking" lacks the soulful warmth of the criminally hard-to-find "Powerglide" album and the explosive exuberance and surprise factor of "Parts Unknown", Kent Steedman's production brings out a crystal-hard veneer that tells you the band means business from the get-go. Latch an ear around the driving rush of the opener, "Standin' at the Juke". It's gritty and hard - just like the rain-swept Low Country streets that are the Hydromatics' turf.
(Here's a tip: Don't listen to this on my car stereo system. It just didn't sound that good. Given a decent set of speakers, I'm now appreciative of its sonic attractions.)
You'd probably have to be a fan of the Celibate Rifles to notice the big streak of that band running through this album, from the Steedmanised tone in "Baby Jane" to the chukka-chukka rhythm guitar part on "Streets of Amsterdam", a searing band composition that might be my fave thing here today. "Might be" and "today", because "Power and Glory" probably pips it, a mid-tempo builder with a masterfully emotive Morgan vocal, and I might come up with something else as a fave tomorrow.
I have to admit I wasn't initally sold. It took a few listens to climb in side this album properly. And while I might have liked to have heard a few more Tube Screamer wah-wah solos from Kent, I can't fault the band's democracy or the guitar company he keeps. While Scott Morgan tends to stow his light under a bushel and concentrate on vocalising, the sounds he lays down are first class. But from what I can make out, it's Tony Slug who steps up to the plate on this album and hits a homer with his axe. Steedman hasn't joined the band for its Euro tour, by the way, but a three-way tag team live would have taken some beating.
Here's guitar democracy in action: There's this breakdown in "Detroit Leaning", a solid enough rocker for sure, but it's taken to another level. Darting, weaving guitars, courtesy of our sonic sponsors Slug, Morgan & Stedman Pty Ltd, buzz around, up and down, and generally just do battle over Theo Brouwer's unruly, pulsing bass line, before the whole thing's shut down emphatically. A long gap punctuates its end and the start of the instrumental mini-journey that's "Monumental", where languid acoustic book-ends a somehow soothing album closer.
Ries Doms has a straight-up, go-for-the-jugular style that contrasts with his predecessor Andy Frost, but he rides out a wild bull of a feel on "Funball", a rollicking lament about digital technology that's rendered all the better by its brutal rhythm. Likewise the strutting tattoo on the title tune, where more layered guitars build before the heartbeat outro.
"The Earth Is Shaking" shows The Hydromatics stepping out from the shadow of Sonic's Rendezvous Band and walking the earth on their own two feet. If you're playing catch-up after the first two LPs and live mini-album went out of print, get your act together. Suburban Records or Scott Morgan's online shop are waiting for your order now. - The Barman
LIVE - The Hydromatics (Pitshark)
If you're going to go out, leave a good looking (or sounding) corpse, and this posthumous release by the trans-Atlantic (read: American and European) Dee-troit mini supergroup fulfills that need, in a brutally elegant way.
Unless you're a stranger to these parts, you'll scarcely need an introduction to the personnel involved. That is, with the exception of bassist Laurent Ciron, the ex-Dogs member who replaced Theo Brouwer for the Hydromatics' 2003, and ultimately last, Euro tour. Laurent came into the ranks at the last moment, via an Internet Help Wanted ad placed by yours truly, so there's a personal kick to see this platter finally in print. But onto the music.
It's a vinyl-only, 10-inch release with eight tunes crammed onto a slab of black plastic that struggles to contain the raw energy contained within. The Hydromatics might have been largely a vehicle to bring the songs of Sonic's Rendezvous Band out of the darkness, but the Scott Morgan-penned newies ring with the same vitality. "Earthy" goes head-to-head with "R.I.P. R n R" and it finishes an honorable draw.
If you're going to play high-energy music there's scarcely a better-qualified guitarist on the Continent than Tony Slug to sign up. (Having him babysit your teenage daughter might be another matter). He and Scott Morgan rip into these eight songs like there's no tomorrow (and before you state the obvious, there actually was for a long while, with a handful of recordings stretching back to the band's beginnings in '99). Original sticksman Nicke Royale does the honours behind the traps on "Dangerous" while the balance of the drumming is down to Michigan powerhouse Andy Frost.
The Hydromatics' second studio album, the sadly out-of-print and impossible to find "Powerglide" (blame the fly-by-night label), remains a criminally under-heard release. One of its best cuts, "Tumblin' Down", makes it hear and even without the horns-and-backing-vox embellishments it still leaves a majestic impression.
So, yeah, it's over for the Hydros and more's the pity more people didn't get to see 'em. This mighty platter makes some amends for fate's failing on that count. It's a strictly limited edition, so don't dally, OK? - The Barman
POWERGLIDE - The Hydromatics (Freak Show)
There was a time when it appeared the Hydromatics might just be headed down to Australia, as support to the Hellacopters. More's the pity it didn't come off (a requirement for a local act to fill the support spot, and the need to save dollars to offset the then ridiculously high $40 ticket price, gave the nod to The Monarchs.) Until it happens, however, this album will have to do.
It's the second CD for the Hydros, the searing trans-Atlantic collision of Midwest legend Scott Morgan (The Rationals, Scott Morgan Band and Sonic's Rendezvous Band) and Dutchmen Theo Brouwer and Tony Slug (the latter two from Loveslug and the Nitwitz.) Hellacopters guitarist Nicke Royale was behind the traps on the first album, "Parts Unknown", but makes way for young Michigan skinsman Andrew Frost on this one. And it's a certified, solid gold, no filler, killer.
From the bruising opener, "Ready to Ball", you know this is going to hit you between the eyes. While any other band might be accused of trading on the past by including half a dozen Sonic's Rendezvous Band covers among the 14 tracks that grace this disc (I know you're out there Freddie!), this band does them so god damn well that such criticism is rendered redundant.
Where the Hydros manage to surprise is by mixing up the remaining seven tunes with liberal lashings of horns, chick vocals and SOUL (bucketloads of it.) I suppose that's not so much of a surprise, considering Scott Morgan's background (The Rationals' cover of "Respect" remaining the definitive one, in this book.) His remains one of rock's most soulful voices.
There's an "Exile" era, Stones feel to "Tumbling Down" and "Soulbone" that makes them runaway winners, while "Hustlin'" stands up with some of Morgan's best solo band stuff. (If you don't believe me, check out the startlingly good retrospective collection "Medium Rare" on Real O-Mind.) The mystery cut, "Starvin'", could well be a latter-day Rationals outtake.
The guitars sting and the engine room cooks. Frost might lack some of his predecessor's manic fills but is rock solid and every bit as powerful. Tony Slug's production gives ample space to the guitars, even if Morgan's vocals are a little back in parts of the mix.
What else do you need to know? Go and buy it. - The Barman
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