The Undermines from Canberra have been at it for a couple of years now – shaping and sharpening their sound and have just released a killer debut album in TENZEROEIGHT. With a sound that fits effortlessly between Radio Birdman and the New Christs, these guys are the real deal who unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeve – yet don’t for a second think that these guys are carbon copying the Ashton/Tek blueprint. Far from it. Points of reference are important, yet they only paint half the picture, or sound for that matter. For the Undermines have their own hi-energy sound that owes as much to the distinctive vocals of front man Mick Preiss and the melodic twin guitar attack of Jason Sharples/Dylan Webster as anything else. All guys who paid their dues and have a pedigree that extend back to some of Oz rock’s lesser known yet no less significant outfits (including Hell Yes, The Fools, Maui Waui Cowboys amongst others).
In today’s day and age, it’s harder than ever for original Oz guitar rock to get a fair hearing ( I wrote a recent article that broached upon that subject here), less so for those playing Detroit-inspired garage rock. Yet cop the tip from me. The Undermines play unpretentious rock n roll the way it was meant to played – full tilt and in your face, not unlike way the Lazy Cowgirls used to ply it, albeit with a little more finesse that the Cowgirls. The band’s press blurb is also pretty accurate when describing TENZEROEIGHT. “The album offers a melodic, hard edged guitar driven collection of rock ‘n’ roll tracks underscored by a heavy rhythm section with vocals and lyrics inspired by dejection, betrayal, and vindication. TENZEROEIGHT is influenced by the angst and revolutionary attitude of 1970s US Garage Rock with the power and edge unique to an Australian guitar band. All true. TENZEROEIGHT has been quietly released without much fanfare, but I’m here to tell you this is a MONSTER album, with all 12 tracks scoring big points for sheer power, melody and intensity.
From an album chock o block with strong tunes, it’s hard to pin point favourites. The album opens with ‘Get Down Or Lay Down’, foot to the floor garage rock intensity that does not forsake the melody. ‘Self-Sabotage’ is pure hi-energy, highlighted by some splintering lead guitar work an catchy chorus. Top shelf. There’s the hi- energy action of ‘Shake It’, and ‘Long Gone’ stands out due to its super catchy chorus and melodic lines. Total New Christs – and that is a good thing. Vocalist Mick Preiss has a strong voice, and he sounds great up front and centre in the mix, as he does on ‘Ghost’. Harmony vocals abound and that only adds further value to these tunes. Many other great tunes on display. There’s the brooding ‘Prey’, and ‘Caged And ‘Broken’ probably the album’s plumb for mine. This is garage rock supreme. This tune, like others on the album is highlighted by some searing lead guitar, neat time changes and a memorable vocal delivery. It ain’t ‘Born Out Of Time’ or ‘Face Of A New God’ , but its heading down that highway – and that is not a comparison I make lightly. High praise but justified. ‘Caged And Broken’ is one hell of a song.
There’s a few key elements that make this is quality album. I have never heard Mick Preiss sound better. His vocal delivery is strong and distinctive. I must also mention the guitar interplay between Dylan Webster and Jason Sharples. These guys are both ripping players who built a chemistry when they played together back in 1990’s Newcastle outfit The Fools and their fretwork on this record is killer. There are some truly blistering riffs and solos on display. TENZEROEIGHT has great songs, and by that I mean tunes that are catchy, memorable and have melodic lines. Plenty of bands have great riffs, power or intensity – but no hook. No hook, no song if you get my point. Melody is just as significant – and this album has it in spades. Whilst the Undermines clearly know where Birdmen flew, there’s also an originality to the material that makes it distinct.
Any rejuvenated interest generated as a result of the recent Radio Birdman documentary and current tour should justly point those fans towards the Undermines –a band who should be on your rock radar if not already. TENZEROEIGHT is a good starting point, and scored 9 out of 10 from Cowboy Col. You can buy CD copies of the album via the band’s website for $15 or digital copies for $9.99. Money well spent. For more information head to www.undermines.net
Take a listen to the tune ‘Transcontinental’ below.