SLOW BURN - The Vandas (Liberation)
This one's been a while in the works but it's been worth the wait. While I'm sure I've crossed paths with Melbourne garage-country rockers The Vandas live I'm buggered if I can remember exactly where and when. No matter, because their debut album reveals them to be two steps beyond their earlier recordings (two EPs, a single and demos, compiled on the giveaway "How Come You Never Came To The Party?") and shaping as real contenders.

If a year's a long time in politics then five of the suckers is an absolute eternity in a band's life. So chalk one up to longevity when you give this a spin. Time certainly helps a band to know what each other is playing and it's often a failking when an act goes into the studio too soon. The Vandas have spent plenty of time recording when they can but the album came second to getting out and playing.

A great deal's also being made of the recruitment of Hoss/ex-GOD member Joel Silbersher as producer and rightly so on this evidence, although let's also not forget that the band's soundie Justin Hermes engineered. "Slow Burn" has beautiful, warm guitar tones running through its 10 tunes and I'd go as far as to say there's more than a nod in the direction of Hoss happening here. The songs sound stronger and more realised without eschewing the loose-tightness that sets great rock and roll bands apart, and there are some clever tonal variations filtering through.

Production is one thing with but it's the songs that matter most. The Vandas come to the gun-fight armed with high-calibre weapons with "Go Getter" an obvious radio pick, although I won't argue with "Know It All" getting the gig as lead-off single. Vocalist-guitarist Mikey Madden sounds sounds Bailey-esque with mid-period Saints horns fittingly creeping in at the end.

The title track, the mellow but substantial "See Me 'Round", and "So Happy Now", which sounds like an emigrant from "Highway 61 Revisited", are other stand-outs. If you borrow ytour band's name from half of one of Australia's greatest soing-writing duos, you gotta deliver. These Vandas do.

Before you get second-thoughts about buying something that carries a mention of "country" in this and other reviews, be assured that The Vandas still get their ya-ya's out and you can happily sit this album next to "Let It Bleed" if you're a non-alphabetical filer. The point is that Madden and main songwriter Chris Altmann indulge in some superb guitar interplay throughout and this is an album that has real depth and lasting vitality. How many recent releases can you say that about?