Thursday, November 11, 2010

A friend alerted me to the YouTube clip above just the other day, and it damn near knocked my head clean off. It's that good. It's The Coloured Balls live in the studio in 1973, pummelling their way through "The Devil's Disciple", a track whose origin remains a mystery to me, in the sense that I can't locate it on any of the Aztec reissues. Whatever the case, it's one of their best songs, and showcases Lobby Lloyde - I like to call him "The Lobster", even if no one else does - and co. ripping it up in a fashion not unlike a Groundhogs/Pink Fairies hybrid. That description certainly suits the music, even though the band weren't really an "underground" phenomenon in Australia. That's not to say they packed out arenas or sold records in any great quantity - they didn't - it's just that the band were more akin to their buddies (and gig partners) Rose Tattoo and AC/DC than any kind of "rad" concept a la the MC5. But now we're just talking context: musically, none of any of the bands I just mentioned are that radically different from each other, sonically speaking. The only thing is, their buddies in Rose Tattoo and AC/DC stuck around longer, garnering bigger and bigger audiences throughout the latter half of the 1970s, and at least for one of them, the hard work paid off in spades. Lobby was too restless, his mind and music darting in a thousand different directions to stay still for too long. The Coloured Balls called it quits in 1975, after having released two excellent albums such as Ball Power and Heavy Metal Kid (are there more?). The Ball Power LP earned a certain hip cache down here in the late '80s after Bored! covered "Human Being" on their debut 12" mini LP, though Lobby had already earned a rep as a r 'n' r lifer after having produced X's epochal X-Aspirations in 1979 (an LP which definitely rates as a Top Fiver for Aussie platters from moi), along w/ an eclectic mix of artists which range from the Sunnyboys to Painters & Dockers to Depression(!). Ball Power has a more bluesy yet high-energy hard-rock approach which lifts it far beyond what most of what passed as "blues-rock" was doing in 1972; from what I can gather, most of the UK blues-rockers were intent on terminal instrumental masturbation by that stage, whilst the Coloured Balls kept it tight and punchy. Sure, they could drag a tune out for 10 minutes, if need be, such as on "GOD", but that's an exception, and it don't drag.
1974's Heavy Metal Kid has a different sound: shorter songs, less blues damage, and an almost '50s/rocker/boot-stomping feel not unlike Slade (who made a huge splash out here in the early '70s when they toured, especially w/ the sharpies [foreigners are going to have to Google that one, life's too short to explain], who were the Coloured Balls' core audience). It features possibly Lobby's worst ever song, "See What I mean", an insipid ballad not unlike the clunkers featured on 'Sabbath albums from the same period, though it's balanced out by some proto-punk rockers like the title track, "Private Eye" (an excellent, sneering twelve-bar rant), and "Back To You", probably the best song on the album, and one which drones in an almost cosmic, Hawkwind-ish manner. You need it.
Lobby's music then went in all manner of directions: Obsecration was released in 1975 and veers towards a psychedelic roots-rock direction, rollicking jams interspersed w/ Lloyd's spikey guitar jabs. 1976's Beyond Morgia: the Labyrinths of Klimster remains the strangest in his discography; unreleased until 2007, it's an instrumental album based on a sci-fi novel (and hopefully film) which Lloyde had written and then destroyed in a fit of rage before he split for the UK at the time, and it sounds little like any records being recorded in 1976, let alone in Australia. It's more along the lines of Saucerful Of Secrets-period 'Floyd, w/ perhaps some first-LP Hawkwind thrown in. More than just a curio item, if you're going to spring for Lobby's more well-known discs, you should definitely throw this one on the pile, too. Last of all is Live With Dubs, recorded live to air for 2JJ in 1979 and later overdubbed w/ vocals by Mandu (singer in Lloyde's Southern Electric on Obsecration) and Rose Tattoo's Angry Anderson. Released in 1980 in a miniscule pressing, it disappeared from sight quick, though its no-BS loose, punk-ish hard rock still sounds hot to these ears in 2010. Informed of and inspired by punk, but not a part of it, Live With Dubs, much like the other Lobby Lloyde albums mentioned, can't be easily compared to bands from overseas. Sometimes the music can pile a wall of guitar aggro on top of the blues just like the Groundhogs, sometimes it can reach the astro-boogie stratosphere like Hawkwind, and sometimes their war-against-the-jive punk-ish tone gets me thinking of the '5, but ultimately everything sounds so Australian that trying to measure up what Lobby did during this period to what was happening overseas at the time does it no justice, and doesn't really illuminate its appeal. Lobby's now dead - passed away in 2007 - though his music is still alive and well catered for by the folks at Aztec, and you oughta be happy about that.

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