DONE AND DUSTED – The Naked Eye (Off the Hip)
Hopefully the title isn’t a reflection of the state-of-play for The Naked Eye, one of Melbourne’s best rock and roll bands but not exactly an outfit with a lot of profile anywhere else. Things are different in France where I’m reliably these guys sold a small swag of their debut album, “From Here to Obscurity”. If it’s a fair and just world, “Done and Dusted” should do even better business – and not just in Europe.
This was a a sleeper, arriving in the I-94 Bar just before the traditional Xmas-New Year bug-out when we all go bush and leave the stools to be propped up by only the most hardened Barflies. It’s a different beast to its predecessor (whose recording process required a rescue mission) and isn’t as immediately sonically confronting. In the long run, though, “Done and Dusted” is a more mature and accomplished effort, full of songs that demand constant re-visiting.
If you doubt this album's a keeper, fast-forward to track nine, “I Need More”. Not the guitar-emasculated mid-80s Iggy song, but a full-blown, razor-edged psychedelic opus and the only tune penned by the whole band rather than just its principal writer, guitarist-vocalist Scott Anderson (creator of the "Alternative Animals" package, you may recall). . There’s not a wasted second in its six-and-a-half minutes, and it suggests parallels with The Eastern Dark’s “Stay Alone”, which The Naked Eye covers to close down the disc. Not a comparison used lightly and one that shouldn’t be overplayed, but the same dark tone runs through this album as did that band’s final studio effort, the wonderful “Long Live the New Flesh” EP. (The Naked Eye’s version is a good ‘un, by the way, involving no radical makeover but doing justice to the original. Sometimes it's best not to tinker with greatness just for the hell of it).
The Naked Eye also draw inspiration from the more troubled moments of the Sunnyboys. Cock an ear to “From Obscurity to Nowhere”, “Clockwork King”, “All Talk and No Action” and “Nothing in the Book”. Not many bands will ever hold a candle to the Sunnyboys when mixing danceable rhythms, sustained pop melodies and hi-energy guitarwork, but The Naked Eye gives it a good shake. Like their illustrious predecessors, Anderson, bassist Jim Lewis and new drummer Don Venosta are tight, economical players without pretension, and can carry a melody without bludgeoning it to death.
Addictions – physical and emotional – are a lyrical theme that runs deep through these songs. “Clockwork King” for example, nods to the Powder Monkeys with its mention of “the king of chemistry”. But if you listen hard enough, you’ll also find the odd quirky excursion into left-field. The cautionary “Never Going to Kill Myself Again”, for example, name-checks controversial 1960s cricketer Ian Meckiff. No mean feat and something I picked up on the run through but verified by perusing the lyric sheet.
The phrase “without pretension” was used before and it’s both a strength and a curse in attracting wider attention. While the majors have put small fortunes into promoting the (forced-sounding) Datsuns, the (blatantly derivative) Jet and the (worthy but ultimately more flashy) D4 in Europe and the USA, the likes of The Naked Eye deserve to make a mark beyond their usual Saturday night audience at The Tote. - The Barman
FROM OBSCURITY TO NOWHERE - The Naked Eye (Corduroy)
Back in the mid to late '90s, yours truly one evening went to the now defunct Punter's Club hotel in Melbourne. On this particular evening, I was there primarily there to see the Powder Monkeys for the first time in the flesh.
Prior to the Powder Monkeys taking the stage were another trio, The Subzeros featuring Steve Agar, bassist from Melbourne's 80s garage group The Shindiggers, Myles Gallagher, drummer of She Freak (now defunct), Hellenic Zeal/The Zeal and now The Double Agents and singer-guitaris-songwriter Scott Anderson.
The Subzeros ended soon after this gig and a couple of years later Scott Anderson would form the first lineup of The Naked Eye with drummer Dave Rice and bassist Ian Wettenhall (ex-Philisteins/Freeloaders/Seminal Rats/Cantankerous/Hands of Tyme). Wettenhall would eventually depart and ex-Red Shift/Casanovas bassist Jim Lewis was drafted into the fold and from there The Naked Eye have set about writing and performing the kind of rock-n-roll that is not and should not be forgotten in a hurry.
"From Obscurity to Nowhere" follows their "Through a Keyhole" 7" and showcases 13 storming tracks. The opening cut "Blessington Way" is a sharp, energetic and at times quite melodic rock-n-roll tune that was made to begin the CDLP.
This killer opening track is followed by some dynamic, yet also melodic high-energy rock-n-roll tunes including "Too Far Gone" (which has a classic lead break with a strong Sonics Rendezvous reference), "Saccarine Twin" (with a killer rhythm work followed by one pummeling lead guitar work from Anderson), "Back from the Void" and "I Will Defend" (a tune of which The Sunnyboys would probably strongly approve.)
These are combined with some malevolent scorchers such as "Teenage Skin"' and "Next to you".
Throughout, Scott Anderson delivers awesome rhythm guitar work and some classic leads while the rhythm section of drummer Dave Rice and bassist Jim Lewis provide constantly rock solid backing.
Possibly the highlight of the CDLP is "In the Early Hours". This features guest appearances from Cameron Peters on organ (ex-Breadmakers) and ex-God/Hoss/Tendrils/Melonman/Tex Perkins Band Mr. Joel Silbersher on guitar. This great track blends some amazing guitar work and some understated yet highly effective organ.
"From Obscurity to Nowhere" features twelve original compositions and one cover- The Squires "Going All the Way" which 60s garage compilation collectors would be well aware of a staple of The Naked Eye live set.
With The Naked Eye CDLP "From Obscurity to Nowhere" the kind of Australian high energy guitar rock begun by The Missing Links and carried on by the New Christs and The Eastern Dark. - Simon Li
Opening cut "Blessington Way" sets the scene from the get-go for this Melbourne three-piece: Tough, unrelentingly melodic rock, with more than a passing nod to the Sunnyboys in their harder moments. The Naked Eye sing songs about the dark side of the street and this is one of them, but it never gets over-wrought.
There's nothing too complicated about the Naked Eye, and hopefully it'll stay that way. Melodies abound and are powered by tightly-wound guitars, uncluttered arrangements and a strapping engine room. Scott Anderson's vocals put me in mind of Jeremy Oxley - cock an ear to "Next to You" or "Too Far Gone" - and he adds some tasty lead guitarwork ("Back From the Void", in particular.) "Recovery Time" is classic, tough pop that would have sat well on the Sunnyboys' first album. The Oxley et al influence, is strong but not all pervading.
There's enough variety here to carry the day and songs like "Teenage Skin" show a band not content to be boxed in. This is a world removed from their first and promising single. Co-producer Joel Silbersher added occasional backing vocals (and along with Barry Stockley is credited by the band for helping rescue the early tapes from oblivion.)
These guys could easily get picked up by a big label - this album's that good. We all know what majors do to most acts they sign. There are exceptions to every rule. Let's hope the Naked Eye are one of them. - The Barman
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