YOU'LL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN - Vegas Kings (Mere Noise)
Sounds like someone wants to rumble and they're not too concerned about who's trampled for not getting out of the way.

Vegas Kings come from Brisbane and have none of that city's laid-back sub-tropical charm. More like they're casting a (little bit of) light on the seamy side of the town's down-market city-fringes where the more interesting characters hang out. These twin-guitar-no-bass Kings thrash around, howl and generally misbehave over the course of a dozen songs on this, their second album, and sound like they just clocked off from the psychosis factory after a double-shift.

Recorded by ace studio guy Jeff Lovejoy at his Black Box Studios in Brisbane and mixed by Detroit Recorders wizard and ex-Dirtbomb Jim Diamond in the Motor City, "You'll Never Work In This Town" has all the subtlety of a brick through your window without the glazier's bill. It's rough 'round the edges like a five-day growth and its breath smells like it ate a reheated Chiko roll that wouldn't stay down.

Opener "I Got This Thing" is a portent of things to follow; coming across all clammy and nervous like a wayward priest in a packed playground. Things only get more extreme from there. Like on the dials-in-the-red follow-up, "Good Soldier", where edgy guitars mix it with a sitar solo and a distorto vocal. You expected something massed choirs?

Where you place Vegas Kings on the noise spectrum is obvious - at the top end where they stamp your passport Unsuitable For Radio Airplay and ask if you'd like a Mad magazine with that straight jacket. Their songs rip along like slot racers - sparks fly as they touch the track and they stay firmly in the groove, but are liable to slip around and make a racket on the tight corners. This, of course, is the way it should be and in a perfect word this would be the stuff oozing out of kids' iPods on street corners and school buses the world over.

Vegas Kings draw their firepower from guitarists/vocalists Benjamin Dougherty and Peter Collins, who eschew fancy solos for minimalist lead-breaks and cranked-up fretboard abuse. They lock into some acrid jams and drummer Angus Chapman is up to the challenge of keeping the songs from spilling over the crash guards.

The early Beasts of Bourbon-like shuffle of "Six O'Clock Swill" (an ode to outmoded drinking laws) and the wistfully cranky, delay-touched "I Tried To Make You Mine" veer into quasi-country rock territory, but it's nose to the rock grindstone for most of the way with just the right amounts of brevity and variation in the tunes to sustain interest.

On those last two points, Butcher Bird Joanna Nilson drapes a suitably ragged vocal over "Dog Complex" to dress up one of the album's best tunes.

If you're faint-hearted you're probably reading the wrong e-zine anyway, but buy this and revel in its quirkiness and complete regard for almost everything happening in mainstream Oz music. Then play it again. – The Barman

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DEAD MONEY - Vegas Kings (Mere Noise)
Q. What comes from Brisbane has a big swinging bottom end, a dirty mind and a headfull of noise? A. Not a fat-arsed hooker who's fucked up and wearing an iPod while doing business in Fortitude Valley, but a locally-fermented three-piece called the Vegas Kings.

"Dead Money" is grimy, blues rock that hasn't washed in a month...it knows it stinks but revels in it, content to roll up and sleep in the parks, downriver from the Storey Bridge, as long as the money saved on a room will buy the next bottle of rotgut. Hellbound Harrys with a rare swagger and bite in their 11 songs - and a nice taste in covers (the Stooges' "Loose" and Digger & The Pussycats' "10 Car Pile Up", no less.)

But it's all about the originals and these are good 'uns. This is their second album, by all accounts, and I'm kicking myself for not hearing the first so I have something more concrete to measure this against. Whatever. If it's only half as good it would still stand up, 'cos "Dead Money" sure does. Stands up on its back legs and howls, especially on a slide-fueled amphetamine rush like "All By Myself" or a statement of purpose like "I Great Ape".

These songs are not five-chord prog rock work-outs and this is no concept album. This is back-to-basics, backyard blues rock, with a trashy sensibility (dig the none-too-subtle Who nod on "Fade Away"!) and the slightest twang to the guitar, plus lots of churn in the rhythmic undertow. Mostly two guitars and drums with bass only occasionally roped in (the guitars seem tuned down to compensate), it sounds big nevertheless. Props to Angus Chapman and his kit. Messrs Ben Dougherty and Pete Collins share vocals and if it's not often pretty, it's pretty effective.

Chet from the Immortal Lee County Killers and Loki from Spooky Records did the twiddling stuff behind the desk and made a great fist of capturing these raw, bluesy sounds. (Hell, they just probably turned up, guzzled bourbon like there was no tomorrow, flicked the button to record and had a great time - it sounds like the band did!) Seriously, it takes fine judgement NOT to fuck with something like this. More power to them.

If there has to be a criticism it's the lack of lighter tunes - until "My Babe" at the death. The rest of these songs are so angry they need to be taken to the naughty corner for half-an-hour, only to be surreptitiously clipped around the ears when the camera isn't looking. The temptation to apply more drastic measures isn't out of the question either. Spare the ether, spare the child and all that.

Powerpop fans look elsewhere. Power ballads suck anyway and I'd swap 10 Totos for two minutes of the Vegas Kings' re-arranged and un-homogenised "Loose", as wayward as it gets towards the end.

Feel unclean and roll in this shit. – The Barman




 

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