SMASHED ON A KNEE – Powder Monkeys (Freeform Patterns)
Long overdue, this re-issue of an Aussie stone classic from 1993 gets the Rolls Royce treatment it deserves. Re-mastered, wrapped up in a generous set of liner notes and supplemented with two alternate live cuts and a rarely heard studio track, "Smashed On A Knee" shows why the late, great Powder Monkeys were worth the fuss.

They were never going to be big although they deserved to be. Powder Monkeys were too troublesome for their own good. Singer-bassist Tim Hemensley's passing via an O.D. put to one side, this band was too damned hard, smart and loud for all but the most discerning tastes. Really, they never stood a chance in the commercial world of percentages and advances and safe, slick music with images to match. They rarely rehearsed, and struggled to find their sonic sweet spot in the studio but, fuck me, they were great, live. I caught them all too rarely but it was easily apparent that they were The Real Thing, dangerous and edgy with mind-boggling presence and songs.

Hemensley may have been a little bugger but he dominated any room that had a stage to be stepped onto and plenty that didn't. It was hard to reconcile THAT voice with its owner. The other constant, guitarist John Nolan, was and probably is a prickly character, whose tone and fretwork inspire shock and awe to this day. This band could not have existed without either of them. Defiant? Always. Kinetic energy that could not be denied.

You can work out the influences yourself or die trying. Notable antecedents like GOD (Hemensley), Bored! (Hemensley and Nolan) apart, Powder Monkeys were where Sabbath, Buffalo and the Coloured Balls met the Stooges and Black Flag. They were as heavy as fuck with a Motorhead vibe, but more powerful for mine and lyrically several streets ahead.

"Smashed On a Knee" is a lost gem. It's Powder Monkeys as a five-piece, with harmonica player Jed Sayers and second guitarist Adyn Hibberd (most of whose recorded tracks were wiped) before they were pushed out. Mixed muddily before being somewhat rescued by Mike Mariconda, it benefits massively from Mikey Young's 2013 sonic polishing. Nolan's guitar sounds even more urgent, Hemensley's tightly double-tracked vocals more confronting. Timmy Jack Ray's powerfully manic drums are thrown into more relief. This is the best you'll ever hear "Smashed", but even before the makeover, the performances and songs carried it.

The centrepiece for mine, "I Stand Bare" is a brutal trip to the confessional in which Hemensley takes his heart off his sleeve and has it tattooed on his bare skin. The scuttling, momentous bassline sweeps the song along but it's Hemensley's vocal that grabs you by the throat. "Another Night In Hell" (there are two versions to pick from here) starts with a sample of movie dialogue before taking itself to the point of teetering on the edge of a point somewhere between life and death. It's some trip and the come down from this one is a killer.

"Yin Yang" was a single, I recall, and sounds thunderous. "Valediction" has a bass-line so thick you could sink in it but the pay-off is Nolan's inspired guitar work. The same goes for the takes of "Atomic Resolution." The Sam & Dave cover for Lemon zine single, "I Thank You", is battered within an inch of its life. It's a bonus you need even if you own the original album and 7" and Nolan's contribution to the liner notes tells you all you need to know about the recording process.

David Laing (the label guy), Dave Lang (the fan and friend), Mike Mariconda (the recording re-mixer and mate) and Deniz Tek (the Birdman) all make priceless contributions to the accompanying booklet which, incidentally, needed to be printed on fireproof paper because the disc is a scorcher.

This is The re-issue of this or any other year. Got it? Don't question it, buy it. Out on July 12 and procurable here. - The Barman



 

 

OUTTA CONTROL ROCK 'N' ROLL - The Powder Monkeys (Dropkick)
"Outta Control Rock 'n' Roll" the final and long anticipated release from Melbourne's premier punk rock-n-roll powerhouse of the '90s has finally
arrived - and not before time when one considers the state of music.

"Outta Control Rock-n-Roll" highlights live recordings of the last three new original songs the band had been performing live from 2000, following both the release of the under-appreciated "Lost City Blues" LP and the departure of original drummer Timmy Jack Ray (ex-Surfin Poobars) for the addition of drummer Todd McNear (ex-Seminal Rats, Slush Puppies, Cantankerous). It traces the end of the band in 2003; which sadly came following the passing of the bands bassist and vocalist (the late great) Tim Hemensley (RIP).

To open "Outta Control Rock-n-Roll" is the first of three final original songs "Looking through the eyes in the Back of my Head" recorded live at a wake held in February 2001 at the Tote Hotel in Melbourne for former GOD band mate of Tim Hemensley, the late Sean Greenway (RIP). Tim seems at his most personal and emotional, as he sheds the harshest light on those of whom have been the cause of the kind of grief where he has become somewhat of a caged animal, whose life is somewhat characterised by having to have not only look over his shoulder but do the impossible and look through those metaphorical eyes in the back of his head.

It's followed by "Back-stabbing Time" which seems to find Tim was at his most animated and aggressive. He seems ready to take back what's his from those who have probably had their fun at his expense. This finds the band at their primal, punishing, high energy best - which to this narrow-minded reviewer makes the likes of recent French visitors Holy Curse seem like Parisian pansies.

To close the trio of the last three new original songs is "Mitchell St, Scene and Herd" where Tim puts forward his case for why he has to take back as much as he can of what's been lost to him, a situation that's cut so hard to the bone that he's ready for immediate retribution (probably of the harshest, meanest and toughest kind).

Also featured on "Outta Control Rock-n-Roll" are studio recordings of the band including one of the last songs ever recorded by the band with drummer Todd McNear in November 2002, a cover of long lost Detroit band The Dogs' "Black Tea" (which when recorded was to be included for a compilation tentatively entitled "Tribute to the Dogs"), and three other killer covers of Little Richard's "Lucille", The Stooge's "Cock in my Pocket" (both fixtures in the live set for several years and recorded around the period of The Powder Monkeys' one and only European Tour in the late '90s). There's also a cover of "I Like Pills" by The Sick Things (a band whom Tim had been apart of as drummer in the '80s and in the memory of whose vocalist Dugald McKenzie "Outta Control Rock-n-Roll" is dedicated to). The latter were recorded with original drummer Timmy Jack Ray in 1995 at Melbourne's ABC Studios, where the band's scorching second LP "Time Wounds all Heels" was also put to tape.

The Powder Monkeys "Outta Control Rock-n-Roll" may well be the last, but it should never be thought of as least, from the band, whom your reviewer
considers as Melbourne's premier punk rock-n-roll powerhouse, if not the best Australian rock-n-roll band since the '90s. - Simon Li


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BLOOD, SWEAT AND BEERS – Powder Monkeys (Butchers Hook)
LIVE…LIVE…LIVE – Powder Monkeys (self released)
The recent-ish re-availability of "Blood, Sweat and Beers", the Powder Monkeys’ live opus, on an English label would have been as good an excuse as any to run a review on this site. That guitarist John Nolan is unlocking his personal vaults and putting forth a series of limited editions of live shows (in remembrance of departed bassist-vocalist Tim Hemesley) is an even better reason.

John Nolan reckons "Blood, Sweat and Beers" is his favourite Powder Monkeys disc and there’s a lot to be said for this 1998 nine-song snapshot of the band - arguably at the peak of their powers. It certainly doesn’t suffer from the production shortcomings of "Time Wounds All Heels" and "Smashed on a Knee". Having had a tape of the original 3PBS-FM live-to-air from which this springs for more than a little while, it was high time to procure a "real copy" anyway.

Unlike some who grew up with them in Melbourne, I (and most of Sydney) caught the Powder Monkeys too few times, but there’s no doubting these guys were unique and world class. The band managed to fill a room, even if Sydney crowds they drew in the latter days didn’t. There’s still no fathoming where that massive Hemesley voice (and presence) came from. The signature Nolan fretwork holds its own with anyone’s. When Timmy Jack Ray’s drums lock in with the bass, the intensity levels become scary. But if you’re a fan, you knew all that.

"Blood, Sweat and Beers" burns with a flame that only honest and impassioned rock and roll can produce. No "I Stand Bare" but "House Rules", "Beast With Two Backs" and "Turns to Hate" are killers. Covers of the Velvets’ "Guess I’m Falling Love" and the Stooges’ "Cock in My Pocket" are choice.

The packaging is no frills (CD-R with label in a slimline case) but the contents of "Live…Live…Live" are stunning A dozen songs over an hour, the last three from the Melbourne 1995 Big Day Out and the balance from a ’94 Prince of Wales gig. Nolan’s crazed fretwork is heard to best effect on the BDO cuts, which sound a little cleaner, with "Straight Until Morning" and a full-tilt "Persecution Blues" the hit picks.

There might be a few editions of these discs coming down the pipeline but they’re limited to 300 copies a pop, so be warned. A handful will make it into shops like Missing Link in Melbourne, but you can cut out the middleman and buy John Nolan a holiday home in Bermuda by going direct to the source. What price greatness? Just 12 Aussie bucks is an un-missable deal! The Barman





 

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