Beasts of Bourbon

The Axeman's Jazz [1984 Bigtime]

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The first sonic blast from this Austral indie supergroup was recorded in one afternoon by members of the Scientists (Kim Salmon, Boris Sujdovic, and James Baker), Salamander Jim (Tex Perkins and Salmon), the Hoodoo Gurus (Baker), and the Johnnys (Spencer Jones). Although several hailed from remote Perth, the band was actually formed in Sydney, where all were based by the early-'80s (Perkins had migrated from Brisbane). Like the Scientists, they were influenced by Hank Williams, the Rolling Stones (see "Beast of Burden" on 1978's Some Girls), and the Cramps. The group wasn't necessarily meant to lead to a career, but for several of the musicians -- most notably Perkins (also of the Cruel Sea) -- it has. Considering how little time was actually spent on recording it, The Axeman's Jazz is a surprisingly accomplished debut. If not quite as successful as 1988's follow-up, Sour Mash, it remains an energetic collection of grungy swamp rock with a side of countrified blues. Things get off to such an auspicious start with lead track, Leon Payne's "Psycho," however, the rest of the album pales a little in comparison. If Perkins sounds like a guilty man on the other songs, he sounds appropriately innocent on "Psycho," the twisted tale of a murderer lost in the depths of denial (as if in anticipation of Nick Cave's Murder Ballads, on which Jones would guest, the self-deluded narrator kills pretty much everyone he meets). "Psycho" was also released as a single backed with the Easybeats' "Good Times" and the Standells' "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White." "Good Times," which is featured on the full-length, was recorded live at the Old Civic Theatre in Perth with Tony Thewlis and Brett Rixon, from a later incarnation of the Scientists, on drums and guitar. If the U.S. were said to have an equivalent to the Beasts, it would have to be the Monkeywrench, which counts members of Mudhoney, the Big Boys, the U-Men, and Aussie band, Lubricated Goat, among its ranks (the Goat's Stu Spasm has even done some time in the Beasts' constantly-evolving lineup).

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