HARM'S WAY - Timid Joe (High Beam Music)
Melbourne three-piece puts out a debut, four-song EP recorded in a Byron Bay studio on a Wollongong label. That'll mean little to the geographically-challenged, so let's leave it at saying Timid Joe cover a lot of ground, in the physical and musical senses.

Not that this is an innovative CD - it's no-nonsense, groove-strong, guitar rock. There are few trimmings, apart from the prominent (and very '70s) phaser and wah wah guitar effects. Singer-guitarist Matt Wicks was a guitar tech for Nashville Pussy, Fu Manchu and Queens of the Stone Age in the States, and if you like them or the similarly '70s-influenced Brisbane band Rollerball, chances are you'll like this. Wicks' guitar-playing is full and fluid (he sure does love that phase pedal) and his vocals more than passable. He also does the band's artwork which must save on overheads.

Drummer Stephanie Bryce was with Hecate (a Melbourne band I couldn't stand) and knows her way around the kit without over adorning things. She's also founder of Rock and Roll High School, the esteemed starting school for a host of current Oz players. Bassist Jon Bryce played with Subsonic in Brisbane and The Eugenes (who I think are still around).

"Skinny Moe" is straight out of the SubPop school with lashings of wah wah, a la early Mudhoney. Opening track "Fandangler" is a rude little riff hanging off the back of a Nebula song, while the title track is the most disposable tune here. "The Nazz" (no relation to the Yardbirds song of similar name) starts with squalls of guitar that climb into a catchy chorus. It's almost stamped with a pop label. A big backbeat and Wicks' guitar excess keep it bubbling.

Don't know if I'm totally sold on the '70s angle but at least this stuff doesn't plod. Plenty of punters will lap this up and it's unlikely to bother the programmers at Nova-FM so that's fine by us. - The Barman