The Hitmen-THE HITMEN 2-CD set; IT IS WHAT IT IS 2-CD set (Shock/Savage Beat, Australia)
Really, I didn't wanna review these disques. Didn't feel like it one bit, but since I got 'em along with the DO THE POP REDUX twofa set a few months back and they were intended "for reviewing purposes" I was obliged to write these things up even if my poor precious nervous system felt otherwise. But really, I gotta say that these two offerings by the post-Radio Birdman/pre-Hoodoo Guru Hitmen had two things going against them...first off they came outta the continent of Australia which might have been a hotbed of high energy rock jamz a good twenty-five years back but whaddabout TODAY?, plus the owner of the Savage Beat label's named none other than Dave Laing, and although that doesn't mean he's another Melbournite who goes by the nom-de-puke Dave Lang (as in Lana Lang, the bitchy high school tart who was always giving Superboy grief by trying to prove that he and Clark Kent were one 'n the same) the similarities are quite startling and perhaps too close for comfort. And if the mere thought of it doesn't make you wanna toss your cookies then you must have a cast-iron constitution!
Sometimes I have to put these prejudices and bigotries aside which is what I did after months of grueling debate and loads of blood, sweat and tearsheets, and for the past four nights I decided to do the dirty deed and play a disque from each of these Hitman collections every night during my pre-beddy-bye settle down and relax time, usually under the sedation of some ibuprofen I've been taking to quell a nagging backache and accompanied by the choice reading of either a classic seventies-vintage fanzine of my choice (or whatever's not packed away in boxes that would take hours combing through) which only goes to show you that I know how to make good use of my precious free time!
Onto disque #1, the self-titled debut of this group going under the hotcha name Hitmen that featured ex-Birdmen Chris Masuak and Warwick Gilbert along with Birdman compere Johnny Kannis as well as Brad Shepard and Mark Kingsmill of the soon-to-be Hoodoo Gurus, a band that never really topped the frosting on my cake because frankly I've heard so little of 'em. I actually own this 'un in its vinyl format, and although I remember liking the platter enough to review it in one of those now outta-print issues of BLACK TO COMM where I even threw in a gratuitous comparison to MX-80 Sound it ain't like I was spinnin' the thing non-stop from here to Kalamazoo and back! But then again, I probably got this one just around the time I began tiring of a lotta the Australian high energy rock when, for all intent purposes, I realized that this stuff no matter how hard it tried just wasn't gonna come close to the avant-rock stylings of the Five and Stooges especially with a lotta the slick production and post-punk credo that seemed to be slipping into the sound at the time.
But believe-it-or-leave-it, THE HITMEN sure tally up a good rockin' whoompa in your cranium despite all the amputations. True they probably woulda had a Grande Ballroom audience heaving the paper cups at 'em, but for a good solid hard rocking group these guys could still cut it a lot more'n many of the post-Birdman Australian acts who seemed to think that they were so "cool". Anyhoo, this double-disc set has the entire first album plus tons of FM live tracks, demos and rare b-sides which feature such seventies fanzine fodder as covers of the New Order's "Rock 'n' Roll Soldiers", BOC's "Don't Fear the Reaper" and "The Red and the Black" as well as the Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action" (amongst other easily-enough identifiable underground rock points including not only the Dictators but the Wailers' '59 opus "Dirty Robber") which has me thinkin' that had they popped up a good six years earlier these guys coulda made the cover of ROCK NEWS easily!
The original moosh is good enough, and even the anti (or maybe even "pro" in a sick way!) wifebeating ode "Don't Hit Girls" has me doing a few cartwheels of joy even if it does seem to have a taint of feminist bleed amidst it. At times as caustic as the Birdmen were in flight, THE HITMEN (and the Hitmen) were worth my time even if I seemed to be dozing off in spots, but I blame that on the medicine.
Wish I could say the same about followup IT IS WHAT IT IS, but something went awry in the process. Was it the curse of the eighties, which turned many a promising high energy outfit of the seventies into snivelling new wave fluff rockers (and they shoulda known better!)??? I doubt it, but then again I wonder what transpired to the point where these guys began sounding more mid-energy hard than crunching. For me, a good portion of IT IS might as well have been typical eighties AOR schlock that had me hating the prospects of being young and alive even more than I did. Despite my usual bitching and grumping though, I should say that I felt that the covers of "Shake Some Action" (again!) and "Godzilla" were fine enough rockin', and the original track entitled "Bwana Devil" was creepily energetic enough, even though the title of the thing would probably have everyone involved branded as a racist these days.
So remember, these Hitmen platters are pick and choose as far as I go. And also remember, when you, like the Hitmen, come "Down To Kill" it's Dave LANG and not Dave Laing, although to be safe I'd just firebomb the entire city of Melbourne and hope that the former gets the crispy critter treatment thus sparing the world from yet another blotch on an already-blotched landscape that we can do without. (And don't worry...SAN FRANCISCO is undoubetly next on the list!)
***Before I tune out I think I should mention at lease one little bit of rockism esoterica that I hope you'll wanna know about given you had the brains to read my rants and raves this far down the line. You may have noticed the link to the Hackamore Brick Myspace page on the left, and if you have I also hope you've spent some time on the thing even though the idea of Myspace doesn't quite ignite me the same way blogging does (which is why I don't really promote or publicize my own Myspace page even though Lou Rone keeps telling me that I should have one not only for myself but for BLACK TO COMM...maybe the thought of being contacted by various blasts from the past tends to nauseate me worse than a bout of Russian cooking). And for once I am not shuddering at the thought of some aged ex-rockers getting back together for one last fling (or something along those lines) in order to recapture lost youthful goals or whatever it is that pushing-sixty types go for these days. The duo of Moonlight and Newman are still good enough as far as singer/songwriters (in the best old-time CREEM sense) go and even stripped down to the acoustic guitars sans bass or drums they're still putting out meaningful enough music. The one track I heard on their site was fine, perhaps like some of the better acoustic acts that played the CB's 313 Gallery space were, and you can bet I'll be heading back to give their other numbers a spin as soon as I finish up this particular post. Let's hope for the best...after all, the Velvet Underground reunion was iffy and the Stooges one boffo (despite what you naysayers think!) and the various Deviants ones interesting even without the proliferation of methadrine into their systems...who knows what'll transpire once the Brick get their followup out as their page seems to oh-so-slightly hint at?
Not much else to gab about right now. Summer and warm weather mean less posts, but I will try to do my doody and keep you eager peons alerted to the fine and dandy whenever something that I know and you don't pops up. Until then keep the faith at an Adam Clayton Powell-esque level, and don't forget that no matter what happens in the wild and wooly world of what used to be rock & roll I'll be here, though whatever for might be way open to discussion these days.
(Two hours later Hackamore Brick Myspace update: surprise surprise, but amidst the current crop of pleasing enough acoustic introspective-yet-strong-enough-for-me numbers from the new edition of the band that are available on HB's Myspace page come some unreleased tracks dating from the seventies and eighties. One song whose title escapes me sounds rather mid-seventies pop-ish as opposed to the Velvets-punk I assumed the band would have been doing at the time which would figure since it was laid down in '76 perhaps when the group was performing under the name "Moonlight"...oddly enough, this 'un reminded me of the Movies, this mid-seventies band that was signed right off the stage of CBGB around October '75 and released an album on Arista before sinking without a trace [see issue #24 for a review], or at least what I'll bet a good portion of those under-the-covers 1976-vintage CBGB bands that never got signed were hinting at. The other track from '84 has a more early-eighties new wave feel to it thanks to the synth drone typical of the time, yet it sorta saves itself with at least one catchy pop hook. Overall, fans of ONE KISS will probably [most certainly] be let down, but hey, I guess I'm more eclectic than everyone else!)