Marc Welsh has doggedly forged a career in both rock ‘n’ roll and graphic art – and for that he must be admired, for few of his peers from the mid-80s onwards are still out and about pursuing rock ‘n’ roll in earnest – and those that are do so for the sheer love of it (for as we all know – there’s no money in rock n roll anymore). In spite of that, this doesn’t (and nor should it ever) prevent the artist from creating and releasing inspired, original rock n roll.
Welsh has been on our rock radar since he relocated to Sydney with his band Asylum in the mid 80s. It may be 30 plus years now – but I still recall Asylum on bills with other Sydney bands including the Happy Hate Me Knots, Hard-ons, Massappeal and the Psychotic Turnbuckles. Asylum’s debut effort on Waterfront Records, ‘Home Sweet Home’ still cuts the mustard.
As a fan of Jed Starr, I also remember Welsh when he was with Starr’s band Kings Cross (under the nom de plume of Catweazel). Kings Cross’ ‘Psychedelic World’ LP was played constantly in our household. Welsh’s time with the criminally ignored HAND (Have A Nice Day), and then Starworld were also significant and the reader is encouraged to search out the music of any of these bands Welsh was involved in, (not to mention his mid 90’s band Floor Thirteen).
Any of these aforementioned bands were as good as anything coming from overseas at the time – but the old tall poppy/inferiority syndrome (fostered by a blinkered media who were in the pockets of the promoters) led punters to think that if it was from the US – it had to be better than our home-grown product. Triple tripe! People wanna rave about the Melvins, Lemonheads, Mudhoney or whoever – and the so called ‘legacy’ of those bands – that has afforded all those guys the opportunity to still continue with careers, leveraged off profiles they established back then.
When Nirvana toured here I couldn’t have cared less – they were OK – they were just another band on an independent label. No better or worse than anything else – yet the media zealously hyped them to a level that I still think, belies their quality. The kids made a star of Cobain – when they should have looked in their own backyard. You really think Nirvana stack up against the Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon, Cosmic Psychos or X? Really ? Ian Rilen or Kim Salmon yes – Cobain no. And I will never ever give any credence to the super status that Dave Grohl holds. Anyway – I digress.
Point is, when Nirvana toured I couldn’t have cared less cos I was hip to all those aforementioned bands. Nirvana weren’t doing anything different, or special – and in fact were influenced by these Australian bands (including Feedtime and Lubricated Goat). When Nirvana toured I instead followed the Screaming Tribesmen around who were touring their amazing Blood Lust album.
My eventual point is – as a songwriter and guitar player – Welsh has more than paid his dues – and deserves his place in Oz rock history past and present. It’s an indictment the way the industry has perpetually propped up the upper echelons of Oz rock (Barnesy, Farnham, Diesel, Paul Kelly etc) yet there’s an indifference to guys like Welsh or Darren McCormack (for example) who also created rock n roll that resonated with Australian audiences and the record buying public and should also be afforded the same opportunities as your Barnseys……. Why can’t I see Marc Welsh on the Red Hot Summer Tour ?
All this scene setting brings me in a roundabout way to Marc Welsh’s new album, ‘Superior Firepower’. He writes all the tunes, plays all the instruments and sings all the songs. Like Gwyn Ashton – he’s a one man army. Respect. 12 tracks in all – with a hell of a lot to like. If you dig Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Kiss – you will find something here to your liking. Welsh has always had a penchant for melody and big riffing – and you also get that. Mix in rousing 70’s hard rock, power pop and a liberal sense of humour and you see that ‘Superior Firepower’ has broad appeal.
‘I Love You More Than Van Halen’ is big rock supreme with ripping solos. The Welshman puts more innuendo into this one than 100 Steel Panthers. As Greg Macainsh once did, Welsh manages to slip evocative musings into his lyrics with masterful subtlety. ‘I love you more than charcoal chicken and chips’. AND, the cat (weazel) SHREDS on the solos! How can you not dig it? ‘Surfin Gold Coast 78’ follows a similar Macainsh formulae – being a nostalgic ode to growing up on the Gold Coast beaches in the late 70s. See you at the Playroom. Cars girl surfing beer – nothing else matters here. Dig it.
‘Full Circle’ is a rock epic that captures Welsh’s all round talents. Starting out as a full tilt rifforama before ebbing and flowing with bass rhythms and electronic effects and the ever likeable, distinctive Welsh solo. Big chorus and a feverish melody underscoring it all. Lot to like on this one. The plaintive and pleasant instrumental ‘Song For Star’ has an alluring charm that instantly grabbed me. Really dig this one. The soundtrack to a sunny summers afternoon with the window open and the breeze drifting in. Welsh has a great sense of humour – as evidenced by his upbeat tribute to US monster truck driver ‘Dennis Anderson’, and the inclusion of an old radio advert with US psych band the Electric Prunes promoting the Vox Wah Wah pedal. The album’s plumb for mine through is ‘No Demands 1994’ – hooks aplenty with a super catchy singalong chorus, draped in power pop sensibilities. Forget Redd Kross. This is how a powerpop anthem should sound.
With ‘Superior Firepower’ Welsh reminds you that rock ‘n’ roll was meant to be FUN – like when Lee Roth put E into entertainment.
Today’s scene is littered with melancholic pop charlatans such as Ed Sheeran and all the other derivatives. Pretentious rock ‘n’ roll this aint. Oz rock with tongue firmly planted in cheek it is. With a Chiko roll in one hand, and guitar in the other – it is indeed, time to reclaim rock n roll again – Oz rock needs more people like Marc Welsh. 8.5 out of 10 from me and two thumbs up from the Fonz. Get yourself some!
Marc Welsh’s well received debut album from 2014 called ‘Press The Flesh’ is also worthy of your attention.