SUBTERRANEAN NIGHTMARE - The Prehistorics (MGM/Green)
These guys can't get arrested in their home town (Sydney) in a gig sense, and their last album was an OK but ultimately forgettable slice of Detroit guitar histrionics. There's no shame in either. The live scene is struggling and being in the thrall of influences without a voice to tell you to make a song your own can make a first album a mis-step. A couple of years down the track and The Prehistorics are back with a record that's a step forward.

"Subterranean Nightmare" crackles with energy and good ideas. Some of them might have come from Michael Carpenter, uber pop producer from Sydney's Inner-West Delta. A lot of garage bands are wary of sonic craftsmen like Carpenter because they think he'll polish their act too much. In this instance, he seems to have brought out a nice but nasty streak of glam, and the playing is focussed.

The ramalama-cruisin'-down-Woodward-gonna-find-me-some-action reference points are still there but there's a buncha hooks sprinkled through the 11 songs that lifts them from the obvious. The Prehistorics have stepped up to the plate and connected with the ball.

It's not a home run that's going to change your musical life and determine the course of history - how often do they come along? - but it's getting more than respectable CD player time around these parts. If you were of the rock and roll persuasion as it's understood here, it's what you'd call A Good Little Record without a hint of patronisation.

"Attack of the Klingons" opens the innings in a style not distant from "School's Out"-era Alice. It strolls along before tapping you on the back of the head with a big chorus. The harmonies have been brought right to the top on "Nightmare" and that's often a good thing. Scything slide (presumably from lead guitarist Stuart Greenwood) takes us out and bobs up on a couple of other songs.

"Tragic Town" and "Petrified" are super effective. The former has another killer chorus while the later breaks down into guitar sparring in a jungle of toms. Choppy piano from Michael Carpenter adds a nice trimming to "Rock 'n Roller-Coaster." The barreling "Medusa Touch" is another minor gem with an undulating melody line and great dynamics.

These 11 tunes are mostly "songs to strap yourself in by." They are about girls and jealous people and fashion addicts. There are no ballads. They motor along at mid-tempo or better with lots of guitar riffing. The allusions to psychedelia in the band bio seem incidental and if you're looking for a comparator, Melbourne's late Specimens spring to mind.

In the end, The Prehistorics are among a handful of Sydney bands still fighting the good fight while the night is closing in. Invite them to Brisbane or Melbourne or Europe, even. Show that you care, too. - The Barman

3/4

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PETRIFIED - The Prehistorics (Turkeyneck Records)
It's a brave band that bandies around the tag "Detroit Rock" these days - especially when they come from Sydney. Most Michigan music types have not the faintest idea that their state capital's name was commandeered by one of their own expats Downunder in the '70s and has since been applied to any Aussie rock and roll band with the slightest hint of guitar aggression and Motor City attitude. On the other hand, many Sydney music types now treat the whole thing with disdain and say it's all in the past.

Sydneysiders The Prehistorics have plenty of attitude but not the requisite songs to shape up to the likes of Birdman et al, front-on. Which is to say this ain't a bad record; it just doesn't sound like it vaguely hits its mark until halfway through.

The current Prehistorics are Brendan Sequeira (vocals and guitar), Martin Fletcher (drums) and Kane Futler (bass). Fletcher over-dubbed lead guitar for most of these songs. While the playing's pretty good, "Petrified" was recorded by Sydney pop alchemist Michael Carpenter and suffers from polite production.

If you're looking for the meat on these bones, fast-forward to the album's mid-point. "More Than You Can Chew" gnaws away determinedly on a monster riff that rises above mundane lyrics. "Just Another Girl" sounds like it fell off the Younger-Thorne production line circa 1988 with a strong melody and thorny guitar from guest Paul Hopwood.

"Bad News Walking" sounds uncannily like The Angels - which would normally make me mark it down but somehow it works, although the song needed some sort of hook or resolution to make it truly stick. Closer "Hang 'Em High" is a cut above the rest - a cross between Buffalo and Grand Funk Railroad that kicks up a storm. Maybe it should have been at the start. - The Barman


 

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