Triple 7” Boxset
6 Track, LP (2012, Mere Noise)
In 1987 the Party Boys came to Adelaide, playing the Bridgeway Hotel in Pooraka in the colourful northern suburbs. Already five years into their rotating existence, this was arguably the “classic” line-up (with apologies to Angry Anderson, Buzz Bidstrup and Joe Walsh). The band was fronted by former Elizabeth resident John Swan, with Kevin Borich and The Angels’ John Brewster on guitar and Alan Lancaster from Status Quo on bass. With a repertoire replete with covers of AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo and the like, it was – according to local lore – a killer gig. The audience was a sea of marble-wash denim and standard issue Adelaide mullets doused with West End Draught. This was a celebration of bogan pub rock, writ large, with all the iconic trimmings you could dream of.
Fifteen years later, The Dirtbombs toured Australia for the first time off the back of Ultraglide in Black, an album of covers that paid tribute to the soul music of singer Mick Collins’ childhood. The Dirtbombs tore a succession of rock’n’roll orifices one Tuesday night at The Tote, providing yet another highlight in the pub’s already illustrious history.
At first glance, there’s absolutely nothing to link the two aforementioned events – culturally, demographically, musically or aesthetically. Yet the blurb for sometime Brisbane party group The Horrortones’ 7” boxset suggests the listener investigate the history of the Party Boys while listening to Ultraglide in Black as the preferred means of understanding and appreciating the band. Not to say they’re a band in the institutionalised sense, more an ad hoc event.
Notionally centred around Pete Collins and Ben Dougherty – principal members of the sadly defunct Vegas Kings – The Horrortones were conceived in the afterglow of a Dynamo show, when Collins mused about the potential for a party band. The idea lay dormant for a period, before manifesting for the first time at a “Ramone-athon” in Brisbane. Over succeeding years The Horrortones have benefited from a rotating line-up including Spencer P Jones, Andy Moore (Digger & The Pussycats), Geoff and Ben Corbett (SixFtHick), Jo Nilson (Butcher Birds), Tony Giacca (SixFtHick), Kate Jacobson (Texas Tea) and Ben Salter (Gin Club).
Having eschewed the temptation to either record, or even step outside their Brisbane comfort zone, The Horrortones have managed to take a small step towards institutionalisation by releasing this triple boxset in preparation for the band’s first appearance south of the Barassi Line. While a recorded product is frequently a diluted representation of a band’s live appeal, The Horrortones’ set does everything in its limited power to remind us what a real party band should be. The prevailing aesthetic largely reflects a “horn and harmony”-fuelled soul-blues style triangulated between Philadelphia, Chicago and Memphis, with the occasional excursion down to the badlands of Louisiana.
‘Mojo Hannah’ – originally written by the great and dirty Andre Williams – laces its narrative of a bad-assed southern hitwoman with a booze-and-pills rock’n’soul attack. ‘Whole Lotta’ Woman’, an early Smokey Robinson co-write (first performed by The Contours, and later with the Sam Cooke treatment), appears courtesy of The Oblivians’ warm and wonderful southern hospitality.
Like a charismatic local identity found wandering the streets of Chicago with a cluster of amusing stories and no clear social, familial or professional association, ‘They Don’t Know’ has been plucked off a radio show on the basis of its mere noisy attraction. It’s wild, slightly psychotic and all over in less than two minutes. Bob Seger will be forever tainted for his ’80s rock association with Tom Cruise via Risky Business. But like Darth Vader, there’s always good to be found in old Bob, and The Horrortones offer substantive evidence with ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’.
‘Living For the Weekend’ – a Gamble and Huff (and Carl Gilbert) track, originally performed by the O’Jays – is re-cast in its Dirtbombs celebratory guise; an homage to the unregulated social, sexual and alcoholic pleasures of the weekend. Finally, there’s ‘W.A.S.T.E.D.’, an old Bobby King song that bounces off the walls like a chemically enhanced lovestruck teenager.
Putting aside the blend of artistic pretension, emotional drama and egotistical battles that tends to saturate contemporary music of the notionally popular type, live music should be a vehicle for personal and collective enjoyment. It’s a philosophical perspective The Horrortones both understand, and practise in spades. Get thee to the dance floor, and get on down.
by Patrick Emery