Thirty years ago, John Needham’s band Minuteman recorded a now-classic single, ‘Voodoo Slaves’. While the song itself has become the province of collectors and the occasional compilation of Australian independent music, ‘Voodoo Slaves’ might be best remembered for being the first release on Needham’s Citadel Records label. At the height of the label’s output – some years before the major labels fellated the independents into corporate submission – Citadel released records by The Died Pretty, The New Christs, The Trilobites, Wet Taxis, The Screaming Tribesman, The Stems and The Moffs. Anyone after a succinct lesson in the brilliance of the 1980s Sydney garage and power-pop scene need go no further than Citadel’s Take Everything, Leave Nothing compilation – if you can find a copy, that is.
Save for the very occasional release, Citadel has been largely moribund in recent years. Now, just in time for its 30th anniversary, comes a rare Citadel full-length release: The Domnicks’ Super Real. The Domnicks comprise Perth garage and power-pop legend Dom Mariani (The Stems, DM3) – whose composition ‘Make You Mine’ remains one of the all-time great Citadel releases – and Nick Sheppard. Sheppard’s pedigree is less recognised in his adopted country of Australia: he was in The Cortinas, one of the more obscure (but still provocative) English punk bands of the 1970s; later on, when Mick Jones found himself turfed out of The Clash, Sheppard was enlisted as his replacement, remaining with the band until it fizzled out in 1986.
Super Real is, in pithy terms, power-pop with soul. The album comprises predominantly Sheppard’s originals, punctuated with a couple of Mariani’s tracks and the odd cover. With the notable exception of the opening ‘Cool Runnings’ – which could be the power-pop soundtrack for an FM radio campaign glorifying the wonders of a Perth Sunday afternoon – Sheppard’s tracks tend more toward the English soul and r’n’b style that lay just beneath English punk bands like The Jam.
‘Colour Me Gone’ is reminiscent of the Orange Juice; ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Like That’, with its dirty harmonica and primitive blues licks, throws back to the r’n’b attitude of Dr Feelgood. ‘Winter’ has a hint of The Lovetones’ pop, but without the psychedelic wash. ‘Super Real’ rolls its hips and shoulders with swagger and mod attitude. ‘Too Late’ might be a lost West Coast soul track from 1978, loitering around on an obscure LA album wasted under the weight of gratuitous production and cocaine psychosis – not that either of those attributes are present here, thank god. ‘Miracle’, the closer, is classic rock ’n’ roll with just a hint of Status Quo’s patented blue-denim rock riffs and a lyrical narrative as simplistic as it is amusing, in a subtle sort of way.
Mariani’s tracks are further evidence of his power-pop genius. ‘Reconcile’ is the time-honoured teenage love song, replete with elegant melodies, bashful attitude and vaguely expressed regret. ‘I Wonder What You’re Doin’ Now’ might be the track Paul Weller left off Our Favourite Shop (or even Cafe Bleu), and sparkles with uber-cool post-mod style. The covers sit perfectly within The Domnicks’ broader context – Robert Parker’s ‘Let’s Go Baby (Where the Action Is)’ is given the sincerest of treatment (though part of me wonders what The Horrortones could do to the song). ‘Black Eyed Girl’ – not the track recorded by The Bob Seger System – is all hip-thrustin’ goodness, while Bobby Bland’s ‘I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)’ is so soft and groovy that you barely even notice the self-pity of the lyrics.
It’s been a long and hard road for Citadel Records, and it’s good to see it’s still around. It’s been super real; so, too, are The Domnicks.
by Patrick Emery