- The Monstrous Blues (High Beam)
Just over an hour south of Sydney, Wollongong used to be a rich breeding ground for bands of all complexions. While Tumbleweed might have been its most famous 1990s export, there were plenty of others who never made it out of the 'Gong. With the general decline in venues in the '90s, the sheen seemed to fade from Steel City. Recent evidence seems to indicate things are looking up. Exhibit A: This long player from The Monstrous Blues.
Well-named they are, too, with an intriuging mix of bluesy garage and grunge (is that a dirty word?) While their first effort, the "High Octane" EP received scads of airplay on the National Yoof Network, this should be the one that cracks things wide open.
There's elements of everything here. Punks' energy marries a vaguely psychedelic wave of guitars. Simple riffs over the top of rock solid grooves, a developed sense of melody and catchy songs. Vocalist Jason Betschwar can carry a tune and his guitar work with fellow six-stringsman Paul Hausmeister is taught and tonally rich. Together, they wrap sounds around a song like "System Emanating Complex Impulse" (try saying that five times fast) and bring it to its rave-up conclusion. Like Mudhoney with manners and less leakage.
"Shin ei" is a dirty guitar instrumental raver with sparse accompaniment (and a hint of '80s snare sounds.) Penultimate cut "Muztard" also takes the instrumental path too and goes interesting places. (It's listed as the final track but is followed by an untitled piece of whacked-out studio experimentation). The title track "Colourblind" is as catchy as sin with a noisy hook. "Podium", with its steady, layered build up and lyrical mysteries, sticks long after the last chord has faded. "Waterlogged" doesn't quite work but shows a band willing to strike out over new rhythmic ground.
Here, and elsewhere, marks go to the engine room of Stephen O'Brien (drums) and Simon Dalla Pazza. They're great players who unobtrusively get on with the business at hand. Production is by High Beam's virtual in-house producer, Russell Pilling, and his touch (a live sounding mix with ample transparency) suits this material down to the ground.
There aren't too many avenues for airplay in the 'Gong these days (the lamentable local radio stations going the way of programmed puff) but while a label like High Beam is taking a punt, bands like The Monstrous Blues will find a way to be heard. Did I mention the cover art is in babyshit brown? But, hey, blue would have been too obvious. - The Barman
BACK TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR