LIGHT THE FUSE - The Volcanics/The M-16's/Fourstroke (Out of the Loop)
OK, no cliches about there being something in the Perth water. If you have to know, it has too much body for an East Coaster and, although still a short half-head in front of Adelaide, you're safer sticking to beer. Let's just say that the Rock Action-attuned denizens of the world's most isolated capital city are unusually blessed, and not ponder the reasons why. In spite of the lack of international touring bands calling by, or maybe because of that, The Volcanics, The M-16's and Fourstroke are three of the best bands in the wide brown land. That makes "Light The Fuse" one highly desirable CD.

The idea is a good one: Ask each band to dip their lids to a Perth band from that city's rock and roll past with their own interpretation of one of their songs, then lay down three more tunes of their own. Since none of these bands yet have what you'd call a substantial discography under their belt (The M-16's have released a single and an EP, The Volcanics an EP and Fourstroke a solitary seven-inch), anything coming down the pipeline is sure to get the converted stirred up. It's the rest of you we have to preach to.

There's a good case for rounding up everything the Bamboos did in the '80s and re-releasing it as a compilation, but until that happens The Volcanics' cover of "Snuff" will do as a taster for today's generation of punters. Not that it's a faithful copy - it's far removed from the swampy, rollicking twang of the original as these guys are Volcanic by name and nature - but John Phatouros manages to impart some of the same dark edginess to his vocal. The Bamboos go to Detroit.

The Volcanics' other three dynamic are dynamic and punchy, with an adept swing to the engine room. When they get around to laying down an album, it's going to be special. Until then, "Getting Round" is up with the best of their "Nothin' For You" EP. "Searchin' " has a lighter touch with The M-16's Ken "Killer" Watt weighing in with distinctive guest guitarwork. Don't miss 'em if they play live in your city. (I did and remorse and I are on talking terms).

"Television Addict" was an obvious choice for a cover by The M-16's, growing in stature over the years as a marker of sorts for Perth's take on punk. While it's hard to match the frenzied buzz of the original (and the Hoodoo Gurus still do a storming version - not surprising since since that's where former Victim Dave Faulkner has ended up), this take is pretty damned good.

The M-16's may not be breaking any new stylistic frontiers with their brand of mid-period Sonic's Rendezvous Band rawk, but there are few bands pulling it off as well. The battle between chorus and lead guitar in "Too Much, Too Soon" and the deft but firm touch of "Remains" won't surprise anyone but those who didn't know hi-energy rock doesn't stop and end with the Hellacopters.

If you have a taste for the heavy and an ear for two guitars and drums, Fourstroke could be your favourite new band. They're very different to their labelmates. These four songs are their first recordings in almost as many years, but they make up for the apparent lack of studio activity by filling out half the disc. "Dying in the Dark" is a rough-house, rumbling song released way back in the '60s by The Bakery, reputed to be Perth's first non-cover band. Don't know the original but this one emits smoke. If it were a truck, it'd have the starring role in "Duel".

"Long Time Coming" is 10-plus minutes of layered riffs, firmly in the style of the power trios that launched out of England in the late '60s. If you're not into tempo changes and songs that threaten to, and sometimes do, lurch off into all sorts of obscure places, you may give it a miss. If so, resistance is futile: You'll fast-forward to collide with the seven-minutes heavy skronk that is "September Action", another formidable fucker of a song that falters, stops and blooms, as if punk never existed. It might not be as stylistically elastic as the psych-tinged stuff Nunchukka Superfly is turning out on the other side of the country, but it's pushing down some fences.

The closer, "I Stab They", is almost a brief after-thought by comparison. It rises, falls and fades before you notice. And it's an instrumental. These Fourstrokes are men of few words (there aren't many in "September Action" either), but my, can't Luke Margetic and Simon Stefanoff play their guitars.

The album title comes from a song by yet another past Perth band, The Rockets, that The Volcanics covered on their EP. It fits well because rock and roll could do with some fireworks right now. Craig Hallsworth (Bamboos) and James Baker (The Victims, et al) contribute brief liner notes, but it's the music that will make people sit up and pay attention. You don't need to know a lot more other than your life will be less significant without a copy.
– The Barman