HULACIDE! – The Dunhill Blues (Off The Hip)
Not to labour the point, but we live in troubled times. Terms like "hardest working band in Australia" are an irrelevance, a relic of the days when Oz Rock ruled our roost and beer barns were places of worship that were embedded in every town and suburb across this wide, brown land. Bands could, and did, play as many as eight shows in a week. Then it all faded away.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule - and The Dunhill Blues are one. They truly do work hard at what they do. In an era of lossy downloads and stripped-back duos, here's a band that has so many members they'd be hard-pressed to squeeze into the Partridge Family bus. Half their peers only want to play every third month, for fear of devaluing their (modest) pulling factor or eroding their performance fee. Perversely, The Dunnies rock up to every two-bit bolt-hole that will have them, content with not just having a good time but using their live show to convert the curious and the disaffected into glued-on fans.
"Hulacide" is The Dunhill Blues' third album and it's tighter and more in your face than those that have gone before. The sense of scrappy irreverence is intact but The Dunnies now sound like a well-honed unit. They still mix it up but have developed their own cohesive sound - without losing many rough edges.
From the opening surf-a-rama-bama-lama title track to the feedback-laced "It's Gonna Look Like a Murder/Suicide" (who said song names have to be uplifting?) this is garage greatness, a 16-tune stylistic smash-up derby that works on almost every level. A song like "I Wanna Tickle Nick Cave" is a thrashed to within an inch of its life with a couple of grinding chords and a shout-sung vocal, but it holds together. It says 'This is not a band that takes itself too seriously'. It's a figurative hot poker up the orifice of the Dark Prince of Torch Songs that his nearest and dearest should play at his next Birthday Party, if not his wake. Like, Nick, don't take it so seriously, man.
These are nagging songs that tug at your jacket sleeve in the queue to the bar and ask you to buy an extra beer for them - 'cos they really can't be fucked lining up. Songs thrust and parry where others might cajole, bouncing along on jagged riffs and (mostly Dan's) barked vocals.
The Dunhill Blues don't only play guitar skronk, however. Horns punctuate "Mescal Madness", a song with the subtlety of "Girls Gone Wild on Spring Break at Cancun", and there's a touch of Morricone meets the military in the martial instrumental, "Cormac McCarthy Pt 1". It's cousin ("Pt 2") also resides on this record and pushes what sounds like a theremin to the fore, along with mariachi trumpet.
"This Barstool" is drooling country punk, with all the irony that the loosely defined genre can summon. "No One Here Is Out To Get You" spins on an axis defined by its horns arrangement with the guitars taking their turn to stab.
I once told Dan I thought there was a touch of the Captain Beefhearts about some earlier Dunhill Blues songs and elicited only puzzlement. If there's an influence it's not a conscious one. The arrangements don't come within a bull's roar of the Magic Band at their most complex but there are parallels with the Captain's more accessible blues tunes, if only in the way the rhythmic undertow carries the songs forward.
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THE HARD TRUTH - The Dunhill Blues (Off The Hip)
You think those Powderfinger guys suddenly became Australia's hardest-working band during their farewell tour? Meh, Think again. The Dunhill Blues play miniscule stages by comparison, but their work ethic makes that of those safety-first blowhards look positively non-existent.
This is the third album for The Dunnies and they played all over the country to tell people about the last one. No doubt they'll do the same this time out. The onetime trio has expanded the ranks to six in their second incarnation.
The Dunhill Blues are still playing nagging garage rock fleshed out, when needed, with punchy brass, but Tilly's keyboards have added another dimension that needs more of a place up-front. And although your grandma's record collection might have told you otherwise, banjo really is a punk rock instrument. See The Monks for supporting evidence. More please, again.
The story goes that "The Hard Truth" was meant to be a sweeping double album - until the band realised its 16 songs only came to 33 minutes. So prepare yourself (yet again) for short, sharp and wholesome doses of Rock Action, diverse in delivery but joined at the shaking hips by guitarist Dan's paint-stripping vocals.
"Like You've Never Gotten" struts around like a countryfied New York Dolls song. "Tall Jan" is Chuck Berry getting all ribald and "Drunk And Done" rages better than a two-day hangover with a migraine knocking on the door to invoke an eviction order and move its things in.
I'm temped to think of "Drunk And Done" as a theme song for a big night out but it's all too obvious. "I Hate Your Favourite Band" might even be an ode to Powderfinger.
Are these songs or fragments? Doesn't matter much; the combined effect is more important. The title tune might be the most developed "song" in terms of having a structure, and those tempo changes owe more to Beefheart than the Sonics. Whether it's a conscious nod is another issue when it's followed by the boogie woogie of "Back On The Rock 'n' Roll". Less than a minute-and-a-half later you're left in no doubt that the Dunnies know their shit better than you and me combined. So get it, already.- The Barman
THE DUNHILL BLUES - The Dunhill Blues (Off The Hip)
Here's an album with more faces than the Devonshire Street tunnel has buskers at Xmas rush hour. It's the first full LP for Sydney's Dunhill Blues and Multiple Personality Disorder rarely sounded so much fun.
Stylistically, you're entitled to scratch your head and ask but you'll be far better off (and the dandruff will stay on your scalp) if you just have another drink and go with the flow. Genres clash on "The Dunhill Blues" like best mates on a buck's night so call it garage rockin' rhythm 'n' blues with a bit of ragtime punk and be done with it. Chicago blues in a dalliance with its dirty Memphis cousin in a cheap Sydney doss house.
From the stuttering garage rock of "Monica" to the skewed skiffle of the banjo-infused "Hit The Wall (It's Getting Old)" or the amphetamine country-punk of "Cash", "The Dunhill Blues" is an unadulterated blast. But so are a lot of garage rock albums. You know, three chords and just add beer...
What sets "The Dunhill Blues" apart is its quirky texture and that indefinable something that makes it sound as if they had a ball recording it. Sax, banjo, keyboards and trumpet mix it with guitar, drums and bass. Mellotron would have made it if the band knew how to spell it. Like me, they probably thought sitar was a word for toilet uttered by someone with a lisp.
"The Dunhill Blues" was committed to tape over just two days in February 2009. Guitarists Dan Batchelor and Greg Bergin share the bulk of the vocals, 'though there's a bittersweet note here: Kristen McCall, who played guitar on all the songs and sang four, died from head injuries sustained in a fall, a month after the recording session. He was 32. The band has decided to carry on in his memory.
There's a simplicity in the songs that sounds so right. A high snot quotient helps - and surfaces prominently in the cranky "Carcrash" where handclaps herald its descent into Hell - while the swingy greasy blues wail of "Jesus May Forgive You (But I Never Will)" works up a head of steam that more mannered bands would be hard-pressed to replicate.
You can even singalong with "Living La Vida Loaded" and the strident "Bell Desk Blues" has a hook broad-minded radio could hang a playlist spot on. Frantic bar-room rocker "You Me Car Park Now" has an intro that it wouldn't touch.
"Midnight Wolf" takes an instrumental side trip to go during in the swamp. Go figure, as they say in the classics, but it sho-nuff sounds good.
Rock and roll has re-invented itself so often sometimes it feels like there's no place for it to go. The albums that say anything stand out because they have character. Case in point.
It's raggedy and ramshackle but "The Dunhill Blues" is punchy and fun into the bargain. Get better acquainted and invite it to your next party. It'll be the attention-seeking one in the corner spinning yarns that have everyone in stitches. - The Barman
THE DUNHILL BLUES - The Dunhill Blues (self released)
It's the New Year after a lazy Xmas break, spent a couple of hundred kilometres away from the Bar, and (as usual) there are twin towers of vinyl and CD cases sitting like unopened presents on the coffee table, waiting to be listened to and then culled or reviewed. You know there'll be some real dross in there but there'll be some gems, too.
A cursory listen outs this in the latter catergory. This self-titled 12-inch EP from a Sydney band I've never seen stands out like the Hope Diamond in a window of Pandora bracelets. Which doesn't mean it's over-polished and sparkling - quite the opposite, in fact.
Just six songs in a supposedly outmoded (and not very portable) format but excuse me for taking a break from this review to rip a copy to CD-R to play in the car. The good news is that if you're not turntable-capable, it comes in that shiny aluminum disc format too, procurable from the band's Myspace.)
The Dunhill Blues are a Sydney four-piece who play a mutant blues-country strain. It's dirty and ill-mannered and all ragged 'round the edges but that's how it should be. They call it country garage blues but the best bands know genres count for fuck-all and only give rude reviewers the chance to use words like "cunt-ry" and snigger behind their keyboards. So I won't. Really.
The Dunnies aren't much for press releases or fancy bios so let's do the same and let the music do the talking: Opener "Wake Up Call" gets along on the back of a swinging beat and greasy blues harp. "Coffee" deals a strutting feel and hammer down guitars that stop and re-start to signal a taught lead-break and break-down, then more wailing harp. Again, simplicity's a winner.
"Cash" unreels chicken-squawk guitars and an anguished vocal and falls to pieces in the middle eight in Beefheartian style before picking up where it left off.
Barroom piano and handclaps augment "Jesus May Forgive You (But I Never Will)" but if this is country (as the radio tear sheet claims) then I'm Willy Nelson's de-tox diet roadie. Over-heated garage guitars run rampant before yielding to the even more urgently riffing "Hell", which sounds like a cousin of the Beasts of Bourbons' "Elvis Impersonator Blues".
"Hell" effortlessly becomes a song called "#92", to the point where it's an extension of the previous tune. Confused? Don't be, it's part of the fun.
I don't know what wisdom dictated going out with a 12-inch EP and care even less. You should do the same and score a copy before bombarding the band with email and asking them why it wasn't a full album. - The Barman
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