Once more for old time's sake
Rock and roll will never die, we are told, again and again, as a steady stream of oldies flits by on radio shows (most of them, ironically enough, by dead or retired rock stars). The rebellion that is rock is forever in danger of slipping into a coma, canonized by Mojo and enshrined in any number of television ads. But the thing is, rock and roll never will die, because it will be reinvigorated repeatedly, given CPR by bratty young punks with today’s lock on melody and mayhem. The Skybombers, out of Melbourne, Australia, are just another in a long tradition that started with the Beatles, the Who, and the Stones, and has lately wound through Oasis, the Strokes, the Libertines, and the Arctic Monkeys.
All of which means that there is nothing much new about Take Me To Town, from its blustery power chords to its raggedy vulnerable vocals to its twitchy and angst-filled rain of strumming. For god’s sake, there is even a track called “Teenage Dreams”, a blistered barrage of guitar fuckery and pulsing bass that the boys of Skybombers may well be singing—and rather sick of—in their reunion tour a decade or two hence. And yet, however straight-up Skybombers’ approach to garage-into-stadium rock may be, it is undeniably fun. It always is. That’s why we keep coming back.
“Always Complaining”, for instance, is a sheer headlong adrenaline rush, surging recklessly on Cheap Trick power plays sped to Ramones-like speed. Tough guy poses melt into effortless harmonies, ‘50s rockabilly guitar bends jackhammer pretty-boy pop melodies. The girl at the center—and there is always a girl in these kinds of songs—is nattering on about her jeans being too tight, the sort of problem that elicits paroxysms of guitar joy.
“Time, Money and Me” is almost as good, kindling in an undulating menace of a bass line and catching fire to classic punk 4/4 beat. There’s a shout-and-response chorus pumped to the gills with testosterone, a fists-in-the-air refrain that leaps right off the record. And “6 a.m.” jitters and screeches into motion, aggressive and vulnerable at the same time. Who cares if the melodies sometimes veer into predictable emo-punk directions or if the prodigious energy seems a little monotone after a while? The paddles are charged, the shock surges to the heart, and rock and roll stutters to life again.
It must be admitted that Skybombers have yet to find their “Wonderwall”. Their slower songs fall along the continuum from almost there (“If You Want to Be the One”) to embarrassing (“Eleanor’s Lullaby”). But these things take time, you know? Not a one of these boys has been arrested, had a super-model girlfriend, or punched a paparazzi yet. They just haven’t suffered enough for a power ballad, but that’ll come.
Meanwhile, here’s a record that’ll clear your acne and get you through your shift at McDonald’s. Who said rock and roll was dead? It was just resting.
// Notes from the Road
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