SONIC KICKS: The City Lights

The City Lights have been around the Sydney scene releasing albums in a few different incarnations since 2004 but it was only recently that I first caught them live, as a power pop trio and they blew me away. On the back of their recently released album I Just Got To Believe they played a tight propulsive set which led me claim in my review “… the way they play, like they are leaning into the wind, makes their music sound and feel like a shot of adrenalin.” The brilliance of their show sent me out to hunt down a copy of the record the following morning and thankfully it lived up to the high volume precedent set the night before. You can listen to a stream of the new album via Rdio at the end of the post.

We hooked up with Jimmy Roden (vocals/guitar) to get the lowdown on some of the albums that shaped his life:


The first album I bought – AC/DC / Back In Black

I am very fortunate to say I grew up in a house that had plenty of albums. Sure the albums might have been The Muppets, the Star Wars Soundtrack, James Galway, Aled Jones, The Andrews Sisters, Danny Kaye and eventually my older brother’s mod, soul, and punk albums, but there has always been music. The first two albums I actually chose myself were – AC/DC’s Back In Black and Kiss’ Dressed To Kill – bought for me on vinyl by my mum, with my money. I was about nine. They came out about five years apart so I am not sure what made me buy them together – probably friends. Of the two, I loved AC/DC more. Or should I say, I was more scared and intrigued by AC/DC. The drama of the opening church bells and slowness of the pace of the first track Hells Bells is not really my style then or now so I can only guess that the production was so good and the arrangements so brilliant that I could not resist. As to the sexually charged song topics, I have never been into shock for its own sake so, the fact the album had titles like: What Do You Do for Money Honey had no appeal. In fact, I liked it less when my dad wandered by and pointed out that was not a nice thing to say to a lady. I had no idea what he was talking about but I took it on board and frowned and nodded in furious agreement and outrage at the slur on my metaphorical sisters. Still, I forgave them their barbaric lyrics for I loved the power and the hooks of the music. As to Kiss: I loved Rock and Roll All Nite but even at that age I remember thinking they couldn’t spell ‘Night’ properly. I have always had a lot of nerdy non-rock rules which has made me a little bit of a misfit in both the rock and non rock worlds.


The album that soundtracked a relationshipMudhoney / Superfuzz Bigmuff

Despite being married with child, and despite having the odd lady friend in my time, I have to say I can’t really remember listening to an album and crying together with a lady – if that’s what is meant by a soundtrack to a relationship. I would love to say it’s The Smiths and we used to skip through cemeteries but I have no memory of any of that. So, I think what you are getting at is a memory of having your mind blown by someone new and important. That would have to be having my increasingly closed anglocentric / 60s obsessed mind opened by my new university mate (and to this day one of my top besties) Stu the skateboarder from Deniliquin who turned me on to American rockin’ bands. Bands like Husker Du, Sonic Youth, The Misfits, Mudhoney, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr, Black Flag etc after years of The Who, The Kinks and 70s band The Jam. The first time I heard the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP and Touch Me I’m Sick single by Mudhoney it completed the feedback loop of all garage and rock I had stupidly stopped listening to. Ever since that night, I think I have a clearer idea of how rock all fits together and a slightly less regimented mind as to what is ‘good’. Beer would have helped. So despite it not being an EP and a single, and not an album, it soundtracked an important relationship and period in my life. I even started wearing beads for a while, just like Mudhoney.


The album that inspired me to form a bandSloan / Smeared

I have played in bands since I was in high school, and apart from a few lost years here and there, I have not stopped. But there are the occasional triggers that have re-inspired me at different ages to give it another go. I remember being overseas (snowboarding dude!) and writing a postcard to my Canberra high school mate Pete from my first band The Morticians and saying “we should start a band with Cam and Richard when I get back to Australia”. We started The John Reed Club. I had in mind bands like You Am I and Sloan from Canada. Sloan at that time was probably more what I had in mind as there were four of them like us for a start and they had three or four songwriters (as we did) and seemed both bookish and rocking at the same time – which I thought was a great combo. We started The John Reed Club and we did really well for a while and had loads of fun until we stuffed it all up by taking it all too seriously which we all regret to this day. But that period was glorious – You Am I built up to seven nights at The Metro in Sydney which was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. Track one of Smeared by Sloan is called Underwhelmed and it is an absolute cracker of power and melody. Sloan are often referred to as Canada’s You Am I as they are both popular and critically respected. A rare thing indeed.


The album that reminds me of my high school years – The Easybeats / Easy

The obvious thing would be to say anything by The Jam (despite them being broken up) as that was the band others were measured against for fire and skill. My friends and I saw so many bands in high school in an age when it was easy to sneak in to pubs despite being and looking very young – bands like The Huxton Creepers (saw ’em), The Stems (saw ’em) and the Hoodoo Gurus (saw ’em) through to the Flamin’ Groovies (saw em) or even my brother’s band The Throwbacks (saw em every other week). All were important as were The Sunnyboys (seen ’em at last!) or The Ramones (saw ’em). But I have a huge love for The Easybeats especially songs like Wedding Ring. I know it’s the wrong era, but in high school we all borrowed bits from the various cults that took our appeal – skins, punks, mods, rudeboys etc. I drifted a bit more towards the mod. While not technically mods, to me there was nothing cooler than The Easybeats and seeing their film clips was like looking through a glass wall at the best party ever, but not being able to get in. But was it all over? They reformed just the once in Sydney and a group of us got a lift from Canberra with one of our Mums and danced in the aisles.


The album I’d love to hear live and played in full – The Avalanches / Since I Left You

After the demise of The John Reed Club I was lucky enough to score a job as the label manager for Modular Recordings when Modular put out The Avalanches Since I Left You. I was so stressed by the hard work of it all at the time I would love to see The Avalanches again – they are lovely and talented blokes. When I play the album now, it’s like hearing it for the first time as I was just a bit detached by the workload. Just quietly, that album had quite a few samples.


My favourite album cover art – Rocket Science / Welcome Aboard The 3C10

They were an incredible band! I have had so many nights where I have walked away from Rocket Science gigs, drenched in sweat, thinking there is no way humans can be better live than they are. Musically and personally, they are all both scary and approachable, tough and soft, uncomprisingly rock yet full of hooks and subtelty. I love this album (and of course, all their albums) but I think this album worked artistically the best as the cover photo and videos were done by their mates like Ben Saunders and everything fitted together perfectly. It is both tough (see Roman at the front) and incredibly camp (check out Kit second from left!). I will never forget how terrified I was after the label listened to Burn In Hell (track one) and I was given the job to call Roman Tucker on behalf of Modular asking if we could meet. Fortunately for me, Roman and the band were charming and devoid of ego and Modular signed them; the demo was released as the album and the album turned into an all time Australian classic. On their great nights, they were the greatest band I have ever seen. This cover art reminds me of all their glory and a great period in my life.


My guilty pleasure album – The Grateful Dead / American Beauty

Oh that is too easy. I absolutely love the antithesis of my normal modernist / trousers must be tight / rule book fury – I love American Beauty by The Grateful Dead. I heard the opening track Box of Rain on an incredible and moving TV show called Freaks and Geeks years and years ago and was completely sold immediately. I love it. I play it quite a bit – I pick up my son throw him in the air. It is just so good. It is nothing like the endless jams they are know for. It is a brilliant americana album that makes me feel good.


The last album I boughtCommunity Radio / Serious Magic

Wild Flag’s Wild Flag. I know – so slack as it came out a while ago! But jeezus they were so good at Golden Plains they deserve a mention. And the other week I bought Community Radio’s album Serious Magic by my old mate Cameron from The John Reed Club.



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