FROM PILLAR TO POST - Mike and the Ravens (Playground Music)
In a barely lit corner of the Sandringham Hotel in Sydney, the Barman slides me a white plastic bag stuffed full of CDs. I peek inside. Veteran tour manager Peter Ross looks on, shaking his head.
“Those poor bastards,” he mutters.
It seems I have a reputation for putting the boot in hard. The hopes and dreams of many struggling artists have come to the inevitable brick wall of my impossible expectations. I have not been gentle and politically correct. I have crossed the line and called a pile of shit what it is. It doesn’t matter how many five bottle reviews I throw around now. I will always be the bad guy.
And look. I have shitloads of CDs. I love listening to music. I hope and pray that each and every disc that falls into my lap is going to be extraordinary. I want to find wonders I never thought possible. I sift through the pile and look for contenders. I short-list. Mike and the Ravens. A '60s garage band revived. I’ve never heard of them. Maybe it’s a joke press release. It wouldn’t be the first one. A record company in Finland?
Still. Maybe it’s a corker. Mixed at “Kick out the Jams!” studio? It does sound promising. Maybe it’s like the Sonics or the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Maybe it is the holy grail of Rock and Roll. That’s how the press release kind of sells it. And maybe it is not. Maybe it is a perfectly adequate southern twinged rock record with a few hold out Frat rock edges. Maybe it just rocks along with everyone playing totally adequately. True, there’s nothing soft cock here. Mike (Brassard) growls and hollers with a fine intensity that bellies his years. There’s nothing cringe worthy or poorly conceived. They’re certainly not trying to re-live the past and all these things are points in their favour.
But I’m not a “points in their favour” kind of a guy. I’m not going to be the one who nods his head and says that it’s cool. I want to be shaken and stirred. I want to do an embarrassing little dance as I listen to a record. I want to give a “Hell Yeah” and slug down a bourbon when I listen to it. I want to feel joy or sorrow or pain. I want to fall in love with a song.
Maybe it’s just that I just hear a song like “Trailer Park Girl” and think I’ve rolled up at one cliché too many. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this disc. It happily chugged away in the background. It pressed all the right buttons and ticked off all the boxes. I didn’t pull it out of the machine and throw it across the room as is sometimes my want. Instead, I got bored and started cleaning my desk. A great rock and roll record should not encourage me to tidy my desk.
Is it too much to wish for more than you expect? I thought about how surprisingly great Ian Rilen’s posthumous album is. (I expected adequate and instead got a classic). I thought about how many times I played the “Good Heavens” album despite it having members of Wolfmother involved (you surely know how much I hate that band). And I thought “why the hell am I listening to this?” But I did. I gave it its chance. I tried to let it grow on me. I waited to see if the closed on a note of genius. Meh! - Bob Short
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