by Chris Familton
Lenny Kaye compiled the seminal garage/punk-rock collection Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 forty years ago and to mark the anniversary two new compilations have been released to celebrate the equivalent Australian scenes in the late 60s and in 2012.
Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 is the closest you’ll come to a snapshot of the always fertile and currently blossoming garage-rock scene in Australia. Sure all the bands are carving out their own geographic and stylistic niches but these covers of songs from the original album show they clearly draw influence from many of the same bands. Some have chosen to replicate the original recordings while others have sought to lay down new interpretations imbued with their own character and sonic imprint.
More often than not the boldest diversions reap the greatest rewards and the widest swerve is taken by Melbourne’s Baptism of Uzi who lay down an incessant Krautrock groove on ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ and smear it in tense kosmiche psychedelia that pushes and pulls the track in and out of The Amboy Dukes orbit for a solid and mesmerising eight minutes.
In a number of cases songs that didn’t particularly standout on the original collection are given a new lease of life. The Frowning Clouds give ‘Let’s Take About Girls’ a tough-edged yet eminently melodic makeover that rescues it from the world of album filler while Eagle & The Worm clean up ‘An Invitation To Cry’ and invest some angst and drama that the original lacks. Mouse’s ‘A Public Execution’ was always a complete Dylan rip-off and Love Migrate wisely shift it into a nervy beat shuffle and making it sound all the more rewarding, freed from the shackles of Bob. Davey Lane rescues ‘Moulty’ from its near novelty song status by adding some sneer to the chorus and cheekily throwing in a snatch of The Ramones’ ‘Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio?’.
The Murlocs have the Nuggets sound down pat – rough, raw, rollicking and with plenty of snarl and swagger and their version of Count Five’s classic ‘Psychotic Reaction’ is one of the highlights of the Antipodean tribute. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard do similar things to The Nazz’s ‘Open My Eyes’ but their take has more of a punk edge, less garage and more open highway. Elsewhere The Laurels overcome a pallid start on their version of ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ to totally own it and end up sounding like a primitive Hoodoo Gurus.
There are a handful of tracks that just don’t work though. The closer ‘Farmer John’ is a garage rock staple but Bloods butcher it with a shrill and thin version that lacks any of the original’s boogie stomp. ‘Oh Yeah’ by Living Eyes is another that sounds more like a piss-take than a homage and The Palms sound flat and devoid of the spark that is required for The Remains’ ‘Don’t Look Back’.
The other companion release as part of the Nuggets anniversary is Down Under Nuggets: Original Australian Artyfacts 1965-1967 which collects similarly unhinged and loose limbed garage-punk tracks from the likes of The Missing Links, The Easybeats and Bee Gees and gives a great overview of the healthy interstate scenes of the era. There is real gold scattered throughout the set, particularly The Atlantics’ ‘Come On’ which rocks and rolls with edgy energy, the hook-laden gem that is The D-Coys ‘Bad Times’ and a stunning never-before-heard extended version of The Sunsets’ ‘The Hot Generation’ with its MC5-styled testifying. Now all we need to complete the circle is for the Antipodean Interpolations acts to also cover these Australian originals on a follow-up release.
this review was first published on FasterLouder