chainsaw men

ELECTRIC JUJU - Chainsaw Men (Smokin' Troll)
Criminally under-rated collaboration between Simon Drew/Chainsaw of the Vanilla Chainsaws and San Diego drummer (Gamma Men) and NKVD Records/Noise for Heroes zine Steve Gardner. Simon flew in, Steve summoned up a band and the result is a 12-song CD full of impassioned rock and roll. Melody and guts. Try it - what have you got to lose? Read the story about the album's recording here but don't forget to come back and buy it.

ELECTRIC JUJU - The Chainsaw Men (NKVD Records):
This is a tremendous CD. It rocks in a way that reminds me of the Trilobites, an under-rated '80s Sydney band that never got their just desserts. That's probably an inadequate comparison - this is better than 90 percent of their output and there's a definite English feel to some of the songs. It's the result of a musical collision of Simon Drew, the ex-singer from another Sydney band the Vanilla Chainsaws (a band I never really got - I should have listened harder), and drummer Steve Gardner, late of San Diego's Gamma Men and an expert on - and flagbearer for - most Aussie and European indie music via his late, lamented fanzine Noise for Heroes. The project was organised over the Internet and laid down in San Diego by host Garder, a holidaying Drew, Gamma Man Dave Elizondo and studio owner Richard Livoni. You can read the full story of how this CD was recorded here (it should be called What We Did On Our Holidays) - suffice to say songs like Bad Timing, Meltdown, 100 Miles Away, the sublime Took My Love and You Used to Matter to Me are as catchy as hell. Poppy and rocking - shit, NKVD's own slogan says it better: Energy, Melody and Guts. E-mail Steve and see if you can buy a copy. Better still, if you're a major label, give this the distro it deserves. Link to Simon "Chainsaw" Drew's web site here.


This full lenght debut album reveals a set of 12 intense, hard rockingf songs that burn with the sort of energy that the best Australian bands are known for. Influences from Australian bands like Radio Birdman and the early Saints, but also echoes of UK punk bands like the Clash and The Sex Pistols. Feat Vanilla Chainsaw frontman Simon Drew and Gamma men/ Noise For Heroes creator Steve Gardner.


Fred Mills (Magnet #47 website)
In just the space of a dozen songs, the Chainsaw Men reignite the long-smoldering spirit of punk rock -- the aggressive, soul-on-ice '76 spirit, not the whining, emasculated, noise-for-the-sake-of-boys 2000 spirit -- channelling the twin Detroit/Oz axis and delivering manifestos with the kind of ripped-jean vigor so rare, and therefore precious, nowadays. Small wonder: the Chainsaw Men sprung from the ashes of Australia's Vanilla Chainsaws and San Diego's Gamma Men (hence the combined moniker), a not-to-be-missed transcontinental summit meeting for fans who like their hi-nrg material both tuneful and meaningful.

Marky Ramone endorses the
Chainsaw Men

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Jack Rabid (Big Takeover #47)
STEVE GARDNER is not only one our favorite Big Takeover writers and the former Noise For Heroes editor, he’s also a boppin’ drummer whose three LPs with THE GAMMA MEN are tough rock’n’ roll punk smackers. So it’s no stupefaction that his collaboration with like-minded VANILLA CHAINSAWS frontman SIMON DREW from down under would blast right off the CD player, even bettering the Gammas. Anyone who admires the Detroit Stooges/MC5 seed as honed by the early Saints, Radio Birdman, Celibate Rifles, Jam, Chords, Clash, and Sex Pistols (and 500 fine Aussie bands those titans inspired) the way these two do is bound to let ‘er rip: thick, quick, harsh, powerful and thrilling. This is what punk was so naturally: Heavy, wild, and big-riffed, with strong vocals, nonstop energy, edgy-hot production, Thunders/Kramer guitar leads that stab (kudos, RICHARD LIVONI), and plain old non-stop, burning rock’n’roll attitude. Again, most punk outfits now are worthless throwbacks, but that doesn’t mean the genre has expired. It’s up to the people making it to put their own stamp on it, to make it relevant, rather than mimic a staple. And songs such as the well-titled "Meltdown", "Took My Love" and the devilishly catchy "Start of the End" here are all over it. Electric Juju will have you reaching for The Saints’ (I’m Stranded) to hear "The Story of Love" and "Demolition Girl" and that’s no idle recommendation.


Exploited frontman
endorses the
Chainsaw Men

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Brett Leigh Dicks (Images and Words)
If the bellowing guitars that so passionately blaze away through the introduction of "Angry Man" do not solicit a degree of recognition then the arrival of the vocals certainly will. "Electric Juju" is the maiden release from the Chainsaw Men, a collaborative endeavour from local singer and songwriter Simon Drew and Californian musician (and former Gamma Man) Steve Gardner. Whilst Simon Drew's absence from the local music scene has been somewhat conspicuous of late, it is rather refreshing to see that he has not been lying idle. In fact, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the former Vanilla Chainsaw frontman has been anything but stagnant.

Recorded last year in San Diego, "Electric Juju" is but the first in a succession of new releases from our roaming son. And while such undertakings will certainly have afforded the composer with a range of experiences upon which to draw, it is refreshing to see that this release owes as much to his hard-hitting foundations within the Australian music scene as it does to its American heritage. The essence of the Chainsaw Men is one based simply upon honesty. Riding on the back of crunching guitars, pounding bass and rolling drums, the sentiments that emerge through the songs on this album are at times as brutal as their orchestration. From the destructive desires of "Angry Man" to the apocalyptic "Meltdown", this is nothing short of a deluge of intent.

Through the course of the album we progress from love found ("You Took My Love"), through deep disillusionment ("Start Of The End") and finally on to a tale of love long lost ("You Used To Matter To Me"). We graphically encounter a bout of "Bad Timing" and are literally dragged through a "Red Scare". But perhaps nowhere does the lyrically subjection come to a greater climax then within the verses of "Joyride". Here the similes are thrown as hard and fast as the guitar lines, with this six and half minute barrage fittingly culminating in a blur of wailing guitars. The album is closed out with the liberating overtones of "Break Those Chains". Not only does this song present a fitting release from the preceding onslaught but, I am suspecting that, it may also offer just a hint at what is yet to come.




Toxic Flyer Fanzine
Hard pounding, powerful rock’n’roll with a Detroit Rock City edge and a last of early punk rock that comes out like THE STOOGES, MC5, THE SAINTS, CANDY SNATCHERS, DEAD BOYS and THE CYNICS. Well, CM sound is pure rock with a garage rock edge as well as blasts of guitar action rock’n’roll that’s as dirty as THE STONES. This CD features 12 powerful tunes such as Angry Man, Bad Timing, Joyride, Took My Love, Meltdown, Take You Down, 100 Miles Away and more. Just fucking sweet shit. (TTTTTT1/2)



Ken Shimamoto (Savage Beat fanzine)
San Diego's Steve Gardner has gotta be some kind of unsung hero of rock'n'roll. As editor/chief scribe for Noise for Heroes, surely America's noblest and most underappreciated rock 'zine of the eighties and early nineties, Bro. Gardner bore the torch for honest rockin' music with heart at a time when the U.S. rock scene had deteriorated into a bunch of spandex-wearing clowns with big hair on one side (the metal contingent) and the increasingly fragmented remains of the punk movement on the other. His features, interviews, and reviews of bands -- many from Australia or Europe and unknown on these shores -- who continued making music in the tradition of the Dolls-MC5-Stooges on one hand and the Ramones-Pistols-Clash on the other, were like a Candygram from the gods for those with eyes to read and ears to listen.

But that's not all. Steve was also the mastermind behind NKVD Records, releasing killer punk discs by the likes of Australia's Exploding White Mice, Finland's Hitmen 3 and Jalla Jalla (whom he compares to "Johnny Thunders with a slight twang," but I prefer to think of as ski-jumping Replacements), and his own Gamma Men (for whom he drummed and wrote). His great compilation The Violence Inherent In the System is persuasive evidence that the Scandinavians and French are producing rockin' music comparable or superior to anything waxed in these United States the past decade or so. Under the NKVD umbrella, Steve also runs a mail-order service that carries only the finest overseas jams that no one else Stateside would stock. Pretty impressive stuff.

If all that wasn't enough, Steve was also responsible for one of the best records of last year, which you haven't heard yet 'cos it hasn't been released. One week last spring, Steve recorded an album with the vox and rhythm of Simon Drew, late of Australia's Vanilla Chainsaws (whose work I'm now anxious to check out), the bass of former Gamma Man Dave Elizondo, and guitar solos courtesy of recording engineer Richard Livoni. After searching in vain for a label with the balls to put it out, Steve broke down and decided to finance an American release on NKVD (as James Bond said, "Never say 'never again'"). The album will be released in the U.K. by a label to be named later, and in Australia by one Simon Drew is putting together. Dates haven't been nailed down yet, but my job here is to convince you that you need to hear it.

The Chainsaw Men's Electric Juju brings together a lot of elements you probably thought had left the rawwwk for good -- thrashin' punk energy from the rock-solid engine room, combined with plenty guitar damage (the confluence of buzzsaw rhythm and soaring leads) and anthemic tunes. Sure, the post-grunge era is the Age of the Non-Singer, but Simon Drew's got pipes AND tunes, and Bro. Gardner matches him shot-for-shot in the compositional stakes. The NKVD slogan -- "Energy, Melody, Guts" -- definitely applies here. Listening to the work these guys do, it's hard to believe the circumstances under which this album was recorded (go read the article on NKVD's website); they sound like a band that's shared the experience of blowing up against the back wall of many a sweaty club, not one that was pulled together in a studio over a few manic days. From the aptly-titled opener "Angry Men," the energy doesn't let up until the brief acoustic interlude at the front end of closer "Break Those Chains." Hear and be amazed.



Fred Mills (Phoenix New Times, 10-05-2000)
Once upon a time, Led Zep front man Robert Plant plaintively inquired from the stage, "Does anyone remember laughter?" Not so much flower-powerish drivel as a genuine lament for rock 'n' roll's loss of innocence, it could be paraphrased these days along the lines of, "Does anyone remember aggression?" "Aggression," as in the pent-up, long-smoldering, soul-on-ice, Spirit of '76 punk-rock kind of aggro, not the sputtering, jimmy-capped roars of emasculation that today's mook-rockers and faux-rapsters try to pass off as "punk."

Transcontinental rockers the Chainsaw Men, luckily, have long memories not stunted by excessive exposure to Gameboy and Real World radiation. In just the space of a dozen songs, they reignite punk, channeling the venerable Motor City/Bowery sound of the '70s and delivering manifestos with a ripped-jean viscosity that's all too rare these days. It's a summit meeting between Australia and San Diego, the group's members hailing from legendary Oz combo the Vanilla Chainsaws and our own Gamma Men, hence the combined moniker: The former's singer/guitarist Simon Drew is joined by the latter's Steve Gardner on drums and Dave Elizondo on bass. With lead guitarist Richard Livoni (ex-Blitz Brothers, also of The Shambles) in tow, the Chainsaw Men assembled this set at Livoni's San Diego studio last year, ultimately opting for an unusual triple-distribution scenario via Welsh punk label Smokin' Troll, Australia's Corrosion and Gardner's own NKVD. (Gardner may additionally be familiar in 'zine circles from his efforts with the late, great punk rag Noise for Heroes; he maintains a superb Web site that's loaded with intelligent commentary at

With elements both old-school (MC5, Radio Birdman, even a touch of Dead Boys and Jam) and more recent (Bad Religion's brainy investigations and the Lazy Cowgirls' amped-up Stones rawk come to mind), it's safe to say that this band can't miss. Or can it? These days, kids over-weaned on metallic hip-hop and aimlessly riffing "songs" based on open-tunings might not "get it." But that's okay; the rest of us with graying temples and a jones for straightahead rock 'n' roll understand.

From opening cut "Angry Man," which finds Drew snarling out his frustrations in his best Mike Ness voice over propulsive buzz-saw guitars and a full-tilt rhythm section, to the closer "Break Those Chains," an anthemic gotta-be-me number given an expansive, New Christs-style acoustic/electric arrangement, the Chainsaw Men deliver the goods, inspired by several decades' worth of musical heroes and intent upon carrying the torch proudly. In between are numerous highlights, and with both Drew and Gardner divvying up the songwriting chores, there's never any risk of repetition or formulaic regurgitation. At the same time, the band carves out a singular sound, full of an unforced swagger and combined vigor that's inspiring to witness as it unfolds before the ears. Given the geographical logistics, here's hoping a collaboration this empathetic continues.