ROCK FORMATIONS – Salmon (Bang! Records/Fuse Music)
I remember the sniggers when this project was first made public. A six guitar band with two drummers? All crowding onto the Tote stage? To be “conducted” by Kim Salmon? And with Dave Graney playing (whisper it) rock music??
Well, yes, yes, yes and decisively yes. This is definitely not a joke. It’s a crack team of Melbourne based musicians kicking it out, letting it out of their systems, with an air of abandonment and glee permeating each and every track.
Most of the personnel present are of a certain age, and so have an involvement or at the very least an interest in music which pre-dates punk- and that deep grained love for the Led Zep, Pink Floyd & AC DC they were listening to in their teenage years before the Ramones et al hove into view is blatantly obvious.
Heavy boogie riffs, falsetto vocals, thumping glam beats, “TNT”-style chants of “hey!”- they are all on plain view here.
You get nine studio tracks, plus a further 13 live numbers recorded at Sydney’s Metro, including a take on Blue Oyster Cult’s “ETI (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)” and version of “Cheap and Nasty”, a chestnut that Salmon co-wrote with Dave Faulkner way back when.
With the band’s own tunes carrying titles like “Prog Suite 1 & 2” and “Licensed 2 Rock” there is obviously a sense of humour at work here, but there is no irony to be heard. This is serious as it wants to be, and as heavy as fuck in the main. There are tunes here that would easily give the likes of Voivod and Slayer a good run for their money.
There are minimal vocals from Kim, mainly confined to some vintage style yelps and roars, screams of “All right!” and such. But it really is an instrumental album at heart, with all those guitars combining in huge overdriven harmonic riffs to give the tunes their body. That said, at times it feels slightly hamstrung by not going the whole hog and giving the songs the sort of lyrical treatment they deserve, and could certainly carry. Short song length is another issue- some of these could have easily been stretched out to true metal opus length of eight minutes or so.
Not sure of the lifespan of this project- due to other ongoing commitments on the part of all involved the band may well never re-coalesce, which would be a shame. The upshot is that this collection may well remain a curious footnote, a solo oddity, in the annals of Australian pre AND post punk rock. Hmm, but I bet Kim could write a cracker of a song called “Solo Oddity” for the follow up though. - TJ Honeysuckle
I think it was the Barman once described Wolfmother as Dead Zeppelin – or was it Led Purple – and professed nothing but spit and bile for the band’s well worn (but celebrated) collection of neo-70s riffs, screeching vocals and iconic rock theatrics. The same objection can be (and is frequently) hurled at Airbourne, and a host of other rock revivalist bands that have achieved local to significant success in the last few years. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of irony – you either see it, or you don’t. In a post-modern world, objective truth is waste of time and money.
Kim Salmon’s six guitar, two drum rock’n’roll hydra, Salmon, is a grab bag of neo-70s riffs, screeching vocals (albeit computer generated) and iconic rock theatrics. But, unlike his artistic juniors or pale imitators, Salmon (the auteur, not the beast itself) has actually thought long and hard about this particular celebration of the power of rock.
Kim first showcased Salmon at the Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne in September 2004; a subsequent show at the Tote was a quantum leap from the previous gig and removed doubts from a few initially sceptical punters. The original cast was impressive enough – in addition to Kim Salmon (with his own trusty axe), there’s Penny Ikinger, Anton Ruddick (former Swedish Magazine), Ash Naylor (Even) and Dave Graney all on guitar, with Clare Moore and Michael Stranges (Ripe) on drums. Since that time Matt Walker has found a spot as the sixth guitarist and rounded out the sound beyond previously imagined proportions.
It’s always been mooted that Salmon might find its way into a recorded format. Kim’s tight orchestral control of the project is well known, and it was only ever likely to be released in recorded form if Kim was perfectly happy with its final form.
With some serious interest from the Melbourne-ophile Basque label Bang! – "Rock Formations" – has been now released and captures the beast in two different settings. The first part of "Rock Formations" is recorded in the captivity of a relatively sterile studio environment.
It’s a survey of rock through the ages: "Punk Fatwa" is the perfect punk rock call to arms, a melting pot of manic drum beats, grinding guitars and patented Salmon screams, "Prog Suite II", by way of immediate (and chronologically ironic) contrast, is a bruising slog through the quagmire of 70s progressive rock, "It Wears A Kilt" is glam rock in a glittering jar, Licensed to Rock is the soundtrack for a journey through the suburbs in a hotted up Monaro, "Speed Metal Rocker" is where most teenagers find themselves after a skinful of cheap vodka and an armful of Black Sabbath records, "Alien Chord Ostinato" is mood music for the metal generation, "Cheap and Nasty" (based on a song written originally by Salmon and Dave Faulkner in their Perth punk days) is a fist waving primitive punk ode, and "The Axes of Evil" might be labelled pretentious if it didn’t come armed with a big stick of hard rock riffage that’d scare the bejeezus out of the most hardened long haired bogan.
The second part of the album sees Salmon unleased in its natural live rock’n’roll environment, with a show recorded at Sydney’s Metro theatre in early 2006. As well as the tunes on the recorded part of the album, there’s some other live favourites, including Blue Oyster Cult’s "ETI (Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)", grinding and gyrating "13th Bar Blues", two minutes of free form guitar self-indulgence in "2 Minute Noodle" and the uplifting prog rock love of "Guitarmony Suite". To cap it off there’s a throbbing rendition of the Surrealists’ "Non-Stop Action Groove", complete with Kim’s distorted electronic introduction of the band members. Save for the occasional technical and sonic glitches, this is the Salmon beast in its most appropriate and comfortable state.
The contradiction that lies at heart of Salmon – a barrage of macho rock riffs as tightly choreographed as an Albert Hall orchestral performance – is also Salmon’s intrinsic attraction. In fact, it’s arguable that on this album Salmon has achieved with appropriate levels of irony what many of his contemporaries continue to strive for without acknowledging their tongues should be in their cheeks. - Patrick Emery
TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR