HIGH TECHNOLOGY - The Reactions (Off the Hip)
Australian mainlanders joke a lot about Tasmanians. That's because they speak the same language, their island is a lot closer than New Zealand and we think the locals won't hit back.
The Bugs Bunny Show did the tiny Apple Island state no favours internationally when it depicted their most famous denizen, the Tasmanian Devil, as a destructive, foaming-at-the-mouth crystal meth head with the co-ordination of Mr Bean on acid. But at least he was only a cartoon character. Some of Tasmania's politicians are real people. Just don't get me started on Max Walker and those lame insurance commercials...
So what's the connection to The Reactions? Coming from a place of contrasts with an album title like "High Technology", you might expect an ironic pack of moss-eating, mulled wine-swilling conservationists singing "Rip Rip Woodchip" around a campfire. Or a bunch of bearded, flanno-clad coal miners from a one-pub hill town channelling the Foo Fighters via their iPods (whatever gets you through a cave-in, fellas.) But no, they're on Off the Hip, so you can bet your cock that they rock like a parked panelvan after singles night at Battery Point Pub.
These guys are killer and just for once the accompanying press release is drastically understating their case. Yes, they've supported The Drones, the Gurus, the White Stripes, The Black Keys and most anyone else with a rock and roll pulse that's bothered to make it off the mainland and do a run through Tasmania, but I'm more impressed by the 12 songs on the aluminium disc inside the plastic jewel case.
It's high-powered pop with truckloads of melodic energy and it only takes a couple of spins to get hooked. The Reactions have a direct brashness and have cleverly sequenced this album for maximum impact. It's also a considerable advance on their debut, a split EP with fellow Taswegians The Styles.
But onto the album at hand and the opener "Some Things Just Ain't Right" is a driving left-and-straight-combo that heavyweights like the Hoodoo Gurus and DM3 deliver. "This is the Sound" (and "Strange Condition" to a lesser degree) comes on like Teenage Fanclub, but The Reactions aren't entirely in the thrall of jangle-jangle and there's plenty of earthier riffing to balance out the sweet stuff.
So if the plucky "Sweet Tallulah" recalls the "Supersnazz" Flamin' Groovies with tight sax accompaniment, this is mostly an album about sharp guitars and singalong choruses. Old fashioned, I know, and parts of this album will take you right back to the powerpop that seemed more prevalent in the '80s, so don't expect the guys to pop up on Idol.
Now I gotta say I didn't relish the prospect of yet another cover of "Who Do You Love" but James Maddox's guest sax and the band's clever re-arrangement really elevate this one. The other cover, "Wild About You", takes a leaf out of Chris Bailey's book vocally, but wisely bends the song way out of shape.
Vocalist-guitarist James Dilger stamps enough vocal authority on "High Technology" to get the band through the night and neither he or his compadre on six-strings, Matt Moller, are slouches on their instruments. (By the way, Moller may or may not have left the building by now and there was a lot of delays and label frustration in the background before The Reactions landed a nice, clean deal with Off The Hip, which enabled this long-player to see the light of day.)
Forget the Tassie Devil and "twin dogs" beer, here's the real export from the Apple Isle. Hopefully we'll hear more. - The Barman
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