A Pilerats guide to the true blue Aussie pub rock revival
A guide to some of the bands bringing it back but this time it's a little different from the 80s.
As I write this article the things that stuck in my head as defining the pub rock scene were blokes in pubs, playing guitars, swilling some jugs and having a bloody good time. But delving into the burgeoning scene now it's fair to say this isn't the case anymore; it isn't exclusively for "blokes" and they don't always just play in pubs, but what hasn't changed is the sound. It's a mix of jangly guitars, a swig of reverb, thudding drums and lyricism rooted in the seemingly mundane aspects of life. For me the defining pub rock act right now is The Smith Street Band, a band beloved by many across Australia but also an act who court such an amazing group of people to be their fans. This list is going to try go beyond the well-known, play a bit fast and loose with the genre and take you through some the acts leading the charge or just doing it bloody well:
These four dudes from Adelaide are another band often mentioned whenever you bring up pub rock. And rightly so with their mix of Australiana, flannels and scruffy facial hair but Bad Dreems aren't a joke. They're the real deal and they have a swag of songs delving into masculinity, bikie gangs, bogans, friendship and a lot more. So don't dismiss Bad//Dreems as some blokes playing on the Australiana trend because it's fashionable but a band ready to get to grips with it. They also released their debut album Dogs At Bay last year and you can read our interview with them HERE.
Our Place is so quintessentially Australian with lyrics like, "It's getting late and you're still on your P plates," but instead of sounding pained it somehow comes across as endearing and rather catchy. Indeed, the whole song is like that and the video; a man meets a bloke who is a giant unless he takes his medication and when he eats a lot he shrinks, is similarly touching. It makes just enough sense to enjoy and laugh along and think, "I should probably play that again." Verge Collection are based in Perth and are on a path to Aussie dominance.
The Goon Sax
Look this band should just be on here for their name alone, a point I'm sure they're reminded of regularly. But goonies aside their song Boyfriend stood out to me as another example of the changing face of the Aussie pub rock scene. Sure there is no belting chorus rather it's more subdued but the lyricism which would of once been about someone's girlfriend is now about having a boyfriend. But despite all the inversion you can still see the hallmarks of the original scene plus it's a great song anyway and aren't the presence of all those goon sacks just great. Boyfriend is from The Goon Sax's debut album Up To Anything which was released via Chapter Music, a mighty good label.
West Thebarton Brothel Party
West Thebarton Brothel Party slide in at the other end of the genre compared to The Goon Sax sonically, they also have a heap of members, seven if my counting is correct and make far more brazen, fist-pumping tunes. A stand out is Red Or White which has also just had a video made for it, encompassing the mania within the song. Filled with twitching guitar licks and coarse vocal lines it's a song to get into the moshpit and lose yourself. Indeed, at times there's an underlying punk element to it but it isn't the dominant factor rather an influence filtering through the changing face of Aussie pub rock. They're also from Adelaide so props to Adelaide to providing the goods musically.
JuliaWhy? first came to my attention in a column I run called 5 under 500 and last year they released their debut album Wheel but I want to draw your attention Bride To Be. Sure JuliaWhy mix shoegaze with garage but they also slot into that pub rock element in the case of Bride To Be. It's raw as hell, grabs your attention with the snarling guitar riffs and easy to sing chorus and it's all over in 1 minute and 35 seconds. Luckily there's an album worth of music to dig through so you'll be okay.
You Beauty have two albums under their belt; Jersey Flegg and Illywhacka - both stand-out releases but I'm going to talk about Jersey Flegg which follows the fictional account of the rise and fall of a rugby player. Comical would be one way to describe the work they do but it isn't so much tongue-in-cheek or satirical the humour rests in how accurate their story-telling in. Note Scent Of My Youth; a song about the smell of his dad's shoes and how they remind him of his youth as a rugby player. It's a rather amusing album as whole but it's jam-packed with vivid storytelling and is an intriguing example of the revival of the pub rock format.
Now I'd be lying if I didn't struggle to spell their name but what I'm not struggling to do is get into Do Rite With Me Tonite and their recently released EP Pillar Of Light, which we had the pleasure of premiering. Do Rite With Me Tonite's main strength is the strong-as-hell chorus it has but when you throw it in with the video they recently made for it, shot entirely in a bowling alley it's hard not to watch on repeat. Especially considering how bowling alleys played a significant part in everyone's pre-teen existence for party locations.
Alongside Adelaide, Brisbane's up there in being a hotspot for bands with a pub rock twist. Major Leagues's Better Off is a fine example of that opening up with a humming bass line, snappy drums and lyrics rooted in moving on. Better Off is from Major Leagues's EP Dream States it's safe to say you'll be better off with this song and EP in you're life.
Tempura Nights are another Brisbane band doing it right consisting of Alice from the now sadly defunct Go Violets and Jay from Major Leagues who I mentioned just above. Studville almost takes the medal for shortest song on this list, but the band below, Empat Lima, knock them out to snatch that award. However, they're up there with one of the catchiest songs on this list with the jangly guitars, rough vocals but enjoyable lyrics that just bounce along with the drum beat.
Now before I started this article I'd never heard of Empat Lima but damn if a band can write their own theme song and make it work then they deserve to be here. So in their own words, "Empat Lima draw inspiration from legendary women in rock, and particularly from those of our neighbours in SE Asia in the '60s. Dara Puspita, Thai pop stars, ESG.....women of rock we love you." And while I know zip about Thai pop stars and women in rock in SE Asia what I can say from the 36 seconds of audio I've heard they're mighty great. And that's also part of the point behind this article; the Australian pub rock scene is growing and hopefully after reading through this article and hearing all the different types of bands involved now you'll realised that too.
This list could be complete without a few honourable mentions and acts that do cross over into the pub rock, so if you're vibing this stuff, get around these guys too: Mining Boom, Flowertruck, Bloods, Waax, Ali Barter, Good Boy, Bed Wettin' Bad Boys, Twerps and look I could really go on forever.