Electric Six’s debut album, 2003’s ‘Fire’, was a runaway success. On that record, the band’s disco/garage rock hybrid sound caught the ears of a generation and, back when such things were important, its massive singles gained heavy rotation on the music TV channels. The live shows that followed stoked up the fun, with “dance commander” Dick Valentine, indeed, showing a decent command of an audience looking for big grooves and cheap thrills. Things might not have worked out quite so well in a tent at the Reading Festival that year when the attendant crowd heckled endlessly for ‘Gay Bar’ – and only wanted to hear ‘Gay Bar’ – but being a smart cookie, Valentine managed to keep everyone under control while working through really spirited renditions of the album tracks until the restless crowd finally got their wish. A lesser frontman might have allowed things to descend into chaos, but despite half the audience’s indifference beyond the hits, it ended up being a superb show.
Following a couple of DIY recordings, UK hardcore/noise punk duo Get The Fuck Outta Dodge turned their hand to the covers album. ‘These Songs Aren’t Ours’ brought an equal mix of punky chaos and fun when James (bass/shouting) and Ren (drums/more shouting) hammered their way through the expected (tunes by Black Flag, Misfits and Rollins Band), to the inspired (a fuzz heavy version of The Cure’s ‘Screw’) to the joyous and bizarre (hardcore reworkings of tunes by the oft forgotten Whale and 80s pop stars Fuzzbox). It showed why a covers album need not be lazy or uninspired. After what felt like about thirty six hours, the never resting duo returned with a new EP, proving their minimalist hardcore had a lot more to give, before ending the year with another full-length. At the point you’d expect their drums/bass/shouting approach to be wearing thin, ‘Buzzkill’ actually presented GTFOD at their most visceral on one of the best releases of 2020.
Four months later, the duo released a second onslaught of cover tunes, ‘These Songs Still Aren’t Ours’, which very much follows the same pattern as their first covers release. Nothing is off limits; everything is subjected to a barrage of distortion, and as before, their choice of material is both classic and off-piste. With twenty two tracks filling a strictly limited cassette, it really gives fans a lot to enjoy.
Covers albums can be a hit and miss prospect. For every band willing to take risks, there are three dozen hacking out uninspired versions of other peoples’ songs in the name of a quick buck. As proven by Jorn Lande, metal based covers albums can be an even trickier thing to pull off successfully, since not everything needs – or even suits – being “heavied up” in the name of entertainment. In fact, the experience of hearing Lande wail his way through Don Henley’s ‘New York Minute’ could be enough to put you off metal oriented covers albums for life…
There are a lot of Australian bands that have never had a huge breakthrough outside of their home country. For example, Powderfinger, You Am I and Killing Heidi all became massive Aussie stars, but only managed cult followings elsewhere. Even with bands like Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel – very much known entities in Europe and beyond – audiences at their UK live shows have often been packed out with expats on a night out. Maybe it’s merely about geography and finance; Australia seems fairly self-contained and self-sufficient. The lack of major overseas success for many Aussie bands certainly has nothing to do with a lack of talent.
Even are another Aussie rock band that probably won’t mean much to audiences in the northern hemisphere, but they’ve worked hard to build a following since the mid 90s. They’ve worked with Yeah Yeah Yeahs producer Nick Launay, had the legendary Ian McLagan guest on one of their albums, and their 1994 debut ‘Less Is More’ was voted one of the all-time great Australian albums by readers of Melbourne newspaper The Age.
When K7s debut album ‘Take 1’ appeared in 2018, it presented itself as an instant classic. In the middle of a pandemic of emo inflected punk, and a bunch of pop punk releases that had too much focus on the pop, the US/Spanish combo gave everyone a perfect reminder of the punk sounds they loved in the 90s. Its half an hour packed in riff after riff, drawing from Ramones, Screeching Weasel and The Apers, quickly setting itself up as an unmissable disc.
The world waited for ‘Take Two’. …And waited. Then, finally, at the beginning of 2021, the band returned with a new work, but fans would still be left waiting for a new disc of self-penned bangers.