13 April 2009

Hard To Beat

Various Artists
Hard To Beat
Au-go-go, 1989

Okay, this is the final week of rummaging through my favourite rock and roll compilations – but I've saved the best for last. Hard To Beat is a double LP of Stooges songs played by Australian rock bands from the 1980s, including the likes of God, Exploding White Mice, Harem Scarem, Celibate Rifles and the Hard-Ons. In other words, possibly the coolest record ever. Put together by Dave Laing and Bruce Milne, it also comes with a full size, 10-page booklet featuring bios of the bands and a long essay by Murray Engleheart on the influence of the Stooges on the Australian music scene. Rock nerd heaven.

Side two, track one. Stress of Terror, 'Not Right'. I know I said this compilation was full of rock bands, but Stress of Terror are the exception. Formed by John Murphy, drummer of the post punk group Whirlywirld and a member of about a dozen other underground and avant-garde bands, their cover of 'Not Right' sticks out like a sore thumb – a muffled mess of squeals and clangs and the scraping of steel on steel with only the barest trace of melody. Perhaps closer to industrial band Skinny Puppy than the Stooges, but great nonetheless.

Side three, track one. Hard-Ons, '1970'. The single that gave Radio Birdman their name (after they misheard the lyrics) was one of the catchiest in the Stooges' catalogue – a rock song with swagger and swing about getting fucked up on a Saturday night. Hardly a surprise, then, that Australia's enduring punk heroes the Hard-Ons take it, shove a rocket up its arse and watch it spiral out of control. They thrash it out at almost double-speed and somehow manage to make it even catchier in the process. Dear Hard-Ons, I love you.

Side three, track five. NRG, 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. One of the several super groups on this record, NRG featured Neil Rogers from the Bo-Weevils and Bill Walsh and Peter Jones from the Cosmic Psychos, along with a mysterious person called "Dog Meat" on vocal duty (who I can only presume is Dave Laing, but don't quote me on that). They're pretty faithful to the original on this track – it's not as exciting as, say, 'Ann' by Feedtime, which comes up next – but that's hardly the point. As we all know, the point is simply to play some fucken Stooges.

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