[feat Mick Harvey and guests]
'The Wallbangers is a loose project devised by The Bad Seeds' Mick Harvey where he can vent his spleen in relative obscurity. 'Kick the Drugs' is the band's first EP and the title track is as much a celebration of the substances in question as it is a plea for people to desist with their abuse of them. Lyrics on other songs have been co-written with old comrades Tex Perkins & Loene Carmen and as a rhythm section Harvey has resuscitated Rocky Features (drummer on Lydia Lunch's 'Honeymoon in Red) and introduces Rod Bottoms on bass'.
The Dwarf - Melbourne
Kick the Drugs is the debut EP from new band The Wallbangers. Before I say anything else, I shall say that the CD features the best picture I've seen in a long time. It is simply a picture of a creepy man with a beard tiptoeing along on all of his thirteen legs. Imposed in black on a red background, it takes me straight back to my Monty Python and "Coles Funny Picture Book" upbringing. Hooray for the weird, creepy and comical!
The Wallbangers are a sort of grungy, garage-rocky, indie type of music, sounding vaguely like I imagine Queens of the Stone Age does when the listener is high. Formed in 2006, the band is the project of Mick Harvey from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and he is steering the music. As one can expect, it is strange, but has some interesting innovation and a few searing riffs. These might just work to pull the band out of obscurity. Then again, the annoying guitar droning and muddy editing on all songs apart from the title track might just keep it there.
The EP features just four songs, all of which are listenable-to on the bands MySpace. The clear winner of the songs is title track Kick the Drugs. The tune features a nice, repeated winding guitar hook, and listing lyrics talking about drugs and what they do - the sort of lyrics that you listen to until you have them memorised partly because it sounds so interesting, and partly so you can quote them at your friends (or is that just me?..). All the other tracks have a few interesting ideas, but the afore-mentioned muddy editing and annoying guitars ruins it for me. Still, the potential is still clearly seen in Kick The Drugs. Check out their MySpace and see what you think!
I-94 Bar - Australia
It's like some Melbourne-via-London underground rock royalty game of one upmanship, this: Nick has Grinderman and Mick has The Wallbangers. Lazy comparison it may be, but there are undeniable parallels.
The Wallbangers live on the same welfare housing estate as Grinderman but instead of lounging around the back verandah, drinking pre-mixed bourbon and complaining about middle-aged spread and a lack of pussy, they're busy in the garage getting down and grimy while working on a re-birthed car. Both on the dole...different output..same delinquent streak.
When not tinkering with a re-bored 356 Hemi, Mick Harvey is of course Nick Cave's musical right arm, a multi-instrumentalist, arranger extraordinaire and solo artist in his own right. While Grinderman allows Cave the chance to wallow about in the mud like a rock pig and wear a shit-eating grin, The Wallbangers are the side project that affords Harvey semi-anonymity and a similar degree of fun.
It's a four-track EP and most prominent among the collaborators is Tex Perkins, who vocally tackles the title track like it's an end-of-tour post-mortem on a train-crash Beasts of Bourbon tour (which it could be except Harvey wrote it.) It a straight-up guitar kicker, a bit preachy but still pretty cool.
There are three more errant children to like. "Sex Appeal" gets along on a cast-iron metallic guitar line and a seething vocal. "The World Keeps Spinning Around" casts you adrift in a buzz of guitar that's positively Beastly in its own weary tone, while "Love Assassin" (in which Carmen Loene had a writing hand) rides a bubbling funk bassline and more (jagged) guitars and grows with successive listens.
This was originally a Bang! Records 7" EP from 2007 that's now well out-of-print so do two things when you wind up reading this: Score a copy from Spooky and keep an eye out for a promised follow-up EP in 2008.
RTR FM - Perth
Well, Nick Cave has gone and got himself a minimalistic rock side project with a sense of humour so why not fellow Bad Seed Mick Harvey, too? The Wallbangers is quite a different prospect to Grinderman though, steeped more in the long and fine tradition of Melbourne garage blues/rock sludge than some kind of mid-life crisis experimentalism. The Beasts of Bourbon spring to mind and it's not surprising considering that Tex Perkins collaborates here, as does fellow Melbourne songwriter Loene Carmen.
The tracks are simple and raw, with a dirty lo-fi sound and sly lyrics. Hearing Tex preach about the dangers of drugs and alcohol on the title track - sample: "Drinkin Beam is just for rednecks - Too Much beer is for the henpecked" - is wonderfully perverted and the definite highlight of the EP, although Sex Appeal, co-written with Perkins, also has its sleazy charms.
Clocking in at only 13 minutes, this EP is all over far too quickly and definitely leaves you longing for more, which is apparently on the way in the new year. Hopefully Mick can also get The Wallbangers out on the road at the some stage because you can't help but feel that their music would be best experienced boozed up late at night in a grimy pub.
Beat Magazine - Melbourne
Legend has it that the frequently lethal Harvey Wallbanger cocktail can be traced back to a Californian surfer named Harvey who, after a particularly poor surfing performance, retired to his local bar to recuperate in concert with his favourite brew, a screwdriver with an unhealthy dose of Galiano. Some many hours later, Harvey bounced violently off the walls of the bar as he stumbled off into the night - Harvey Wallbanger, they called him.
Another Harvey - Mick Harvey, a musician revered for his musical, rather than drinking, abilities - lies at the centre of The Wallbangers. They're Harvey's latest musical escapade, comprising Harvey and a gaggle of supporting actors, including Tex Perkins and Loene Carmen.
Listening to the title track of Kick the Drugs - and, more importantly, reading the brilliant lyrics - you could be forgiven for thinking Harvey has only now allowed himself a moment of catharsis to purge himself of pent-up hatred for his fellow punk rockers who've drunk, smoked snorted, tripped and injected their way into pharmaceutical oblivion. But whereas the average reformed LA rocker errs on the side of insipid piety in describing their wicked ways, Kick the Drugs is a gutteral garage rock track that demonstrates that it's possible to just say no, and kick some fuckin' serious ass.
And then you've got Sex Appeal, co-written by the institutionally sexual Tex Perkins, hopefully with his tongue in his cheek and not loitering around a hitherto unexplored groin region. The World Keeps Spinning Around should be the companion piece to the opening track, as the narrator tries, and regularly fails to grasp reality while his mind fights for supremacy with whatever natural and unnatural toxins loiter in his head. Finally there's Love Assassin, closer in style and theme to Tex's Sex Appeal, but with a grinding garage soul feel that sends shivers down your spine in expectation of imminent sexual excitement.
For all its irreverent look and feel, The Wallbangers are a grindingly good musical experience. Tighter than Tex's Axeman's Jazz era stovepipes and heavier than the yoke carried by Harvey for his band mate's excesses, Kick the Drugs is the record the Beasts of Bourbon failed to make last year.