burning rocking ghetto world 

2003 sampler

BURNIN' ROCKIN' GHETTO WORLD - Simon Chainsaw (Corrosion Productions)
When there's talk about Aussie artists "taking it to the world", the name of Simon Chainsaw (a.k.a. Simon Drew) should come up a lot more often than it does, because he's been taking it to extremes for years. As he proclaims on his web site, "Rock'n'roll has no regard for geography".

This is a sampler distilled from Simon's last four releases, or planned releases anyway. A while ago I decided I wouldn't bother writing about samplers any more. If a sample is good then what's of interest is the actual record that the sample came from and if it's no good then... well, the less said the better.

Only before I was even half way through this CD, I began to feel an uncontrollable urge to start ranting and raving about it. I could have gone next door, battered down technoboy's door and made him cop an earful of what great fuckin' songs these are, but judging by the dumb and bass drivel I so frequently hear emanating from his place at two in the morning, I don't think he has much of a clue about what good music sounds like. I guess that just leaves you and me, but you might be at something of a disadvantage because I suspect I'm the only one of us with the record.

These tracks come from "Basta" (recorded in Brazil with Sao Paulo's Forgotten Boys), "Fire Down Below" and "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" (recorded in Europe with a variety of musicians including members of French bands Holy Curse and Turbolove and most of Sonny Vincent's German line-up, plus on "Fire Down Below" Al Creed from the New Christs) and "Perigo De Vida" (another Brazilian album, apparently with an "all star" cast of luminaries from local bands all over the country). The albums are credited variously to Simon Chainsaw & The Forgotten Boys, Simon Chainsaw's BadAss Roadshow and Simon Chainsaw & The Hippy Killers.

However this barely scratches the surface of Simon's prolific output over the past few years, which also includes the magnificent Chainsaw Men album (a collaboration with members of San Diego's Gamma Men, released variously as "Point Blank" and "Electric Juju", though regrettably not too widely distributed under either title), "Hell Die Glaser Klingen" (by Simon Chainsaw with The Intruders - another collaboration, this time with members of Marky Ramone's backing band), an as yet untitled CD for French label Nova Express (with some of the same musicians from the "Fire Down Below" and "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" albums) and at least an album's worth of classic Oz punk covers (Simon's very keen on Oz's golden decade of the eighties, as he makes plain in "Back to my Roots" on this sampler, but not to the extent of ignoring the present or forfeiting the future).
If you've been visiting this Bar much then you'll doubtless have heard of some of these records already, because the flag has been waved enthusiastically every time it has looked like one of them was going to be turned loose into the wild. Unfortunately when you look at Simon's web site , only "Basta" shows up in the "active" releases section (though it appears he does have copies of both the earlier "Electric Juju" and the Vanilla Chainsaws double CD best of "When Liberty Smiles", also the subject some time ago of an enthusiastic endorsement by yours truly), while "Fire Down Below", "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" and "Perigo De Vida" are all (still) "coming soon".

As if that wasn't enough, he's been back in Australia recently and there's talk of a new band featuring former New Christs Mark Wilkinson and Christian Houlemare, though the latest advice (from that most reliable of sources - a bloke I met in a pub, or in this case a bloke I met at the bar of a floating tavern during the Celibate Rifles Christmas cruise around Sydney harbour) is that some sort of a European tour might happen first, as commitments in Brazil will mean that there won't be time to do anything in Australia before the planned European dates...

One of the major complaints I usually have about samplers is that they tend to be patchy - you just start to get into something and then everything changes. Of course this is an all Simon sampler, so you'd expect a little bit more consistency with it, but then these albums were recorded over a period of three to four years (2000 to 2003) and there's a complete change of personnel every few tracks (each of the four albums gets three tracks apiece), which conversely you might expect would lead to significantly more jarring inconsistencies.

The reality is that there's not too much in the way of inconsistency here at all. Clearly the secret has been to find musicians who want to play the same sort of music that he does and then let them get down to it. He's not afraid to let the other musicians contribute songs either, with Steve Gardner responsible for roughly half the songs on "Point Blank"/"Electric Juju" (including the stand out "Frank Little" and "Meltdown") and Al Creed contributing several songs to "Fire Down Below" (four I think, but I can't place my hand on the cover at the moment and I'm not stopping to look for it now).

The sampler opens with three tracks from "Perigo De Vida", the only album that I hadn't previously heard any promo tracks from, but from the moment that "Get It On" cranked itself up it seemed to be very much the same mixture as before. The Chainsaw trademark sound involves guitars; lots of them. Think Husker Du's hard edged abrasiveness melting into the Buzzcocks' melodic grind, with occasional wailing slabs of lead laid over the top. If you like that sort of thing, then this is definitely the sort of thing you're gonna like!
The other aspect of Chainsaw records of recent years has been the sense of urgency in most songs. Doubtless this has something to do with the "hit and run" circumstances under which they recorded, but there aren't too many slow, self indulgent intros amongst this lot. As soon as Simon's out of the blocks, he's up in your face and going at it full bore. Lyrically there's that same sense of "songs sung as if lives depended on them" that Bruce Springsteen used to have back in the lean, mean days before he could afford his first mansion.

"Get It On" does just that and then "Told Me A Lie" turns everything up a notch. No, that doesn't mean that it's turned up to eleven; there is no eleven. When that guy said that his amp went up eleven, that was just a joke. This is no joke. This is heaving, seething rock action.

For a couple of seconds it seems that "Hard Luck Guy" might be slightly calmer than "Told Me A Lie" but no, this one's a real rager too. Between "Hard Luck Guy" and "Eight Times Lucky" (which manages to work references to both "Eight Miles High" and "Eight Days A Week" into its lyrics) there's hardly a moment's respite to catch your breath. Yep we're out of "Perigo De Vida" and into "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" without seeming to skip a beat (heart beat or drum beat, take your choice).

"Catfight" isn't going to win Simon any fans on the Women's Hour of his local radio station, but I don't think that's his target audience, so no harm done there. Just in case you've been fooled into thinking that it's all stern and unrelenting rock, Simon does have a lighter side which gets a brief airing every couple of albums. The prime example of this would have to be "Joyride" on "Point Blank"/"Electric Juju". Is there a single motor vehicle/sexual innuendo in the English language that's missing from this song? Apparently Jules Normington from Phantom Records once called it the most puerile song he'd ever heard, though given that this is the country where the 3 biggest hits (ever!) are "Sadie the Cleaning Lady", "Up There Cazaly" and "Shut Up-a-Your Face", I'm not sure that this would necessarily be a draw-back, saleswise, if it was true!

Anyway "Catfight" still rocks like fuck and it doesn't last too long (barely two and a half minutes) if you can't get with it and then you're into "Stealin' Fu Manchu", which is an unusual departure for Simon, veering alternatively between muddy stoner heaviness and crisp power pop lightness.

Once again the transition between albums, this time from "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" to "Basta", is barely perceptible. Actually that's not quite right. Out of the four albums sampled here, I'd have to say that "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" comes across as the lightest from this track selection and the "Basta" title track, which is the first of the three chosen for this sampler, is like some sort of aggressive urban renewal set to the sound of loud guitars. It hits you like walking into a shower of falling masonry as the buildings come down around you, so your head is spinning and you're too busy seeing stars to take in the transition.

What you need then is "One For The Road", which is exactly what you get next. The track after that may be "I Was Wrong", but there's no hint of apologies, or regrets, in "One For The Road", which could almost be a hymn to fond youthful memories of cheap alcohol, fast cars and a complete absence of random breath testing; when a bloke could get dumped by his girlfriend, get tanked up (assuming that the "one for the road" being referred to is a drink, although the "I need to unload" rhyme is a trifle ominous) and then just power off into the darkness; not particularly socially responsible I'll admit, but then this is rock'n'roll after all.

I'm not going to talk about the three tracks from "Fire Down Below" at all. That is one fuckin' killer album and I'm stuffed if I know how anyone could pick any three tracks ahead of the other nine. I'm equally stuffed if I can comprehend how that album can continue to languish unreleased...

Having said that, my favourite "Fire Down Below" track at the moment is "Supersonic", which wasn't one of the three chosen for this sampler. While lyrically a flippant couplet like "That rockin' noise is just a tonic/it fills me up like high colonic" might make it sound like Simon's not altogether serious, or else that the song more rightly belongs on "Rock'n'Roll Uranus" (or maybe "Fire Down Below" actually refers to a bowel inflammation?), the tempestuous sea of glorious guitar noise over which the song sails is definitely no laughing matter.

Four albums, with 12 tracks apiece - that's 48 ball-tearing songs in three or four years (well forty seven actually, because "Basta" contains both English and Portuguese versions of the title track)! With Simon chucking so much stuff at the wall, sooner or later something's gotta stick. In the meantime, for an extra three bucks he's chucking this sampler in with anything ordered from his website and I guess that's gonna have to do.

[According to news literally just to hand as I was typing this, the formerly untitled French CD will be called "Down To The Wire", while "Perigo De Vida" will appear as "Told Me A Lie" on Tronador Records some time this year] - John McPharlin