And we’re back! It’s been some time since I’ve inflicted a 5 for Friday post on you all. Blame Real life ™ and the fact that editing has a tendency to crowd all other considerations out of my teensy, tiny little mind. What has also occupied my mind, at least that section devoted to music, while I’ve been editing is an old, old favourite band of mine. The Angels have been on high rotation, jacked up to 11, and making the walls bounce.
I’ve spoken elsewhere about my love for this band, particularly in response to the death of their iconic front man Bernard ‘Doc’ Neeson a few years back. While every bogan that surrounded me in my teenage years was obsessed with AC/DC, The Angels were my particular escape of choice. They were nastier, edgier. AC/DC celebrated drinking, sex, and a particular thick form of fuck-the-police-ishness that resonated with the junior thugs of Rockingham. The Angels were more pointed, more personal, political without the fine edge of rage (and also without the overweening smugness) or Midnight Oil, describers of street level culture and community rather than the nebulous drinking culture reflection of AC/DC. I once described the two bands in the terms of a bar fight: AC/DC was the loud, drunken thug throwing beer glasses and overturning tables; The Angels the guy who waited quietly at the bar until the combatants stumbled past, and then silently shivved them in the ribs with a flick knife.
The machine gun rat-a-tat of Rick Brewster’s guitar. The heavy, never-ending artillery fire of Buzz Bidstrup’s– and, subsequently, Brent Eccles’– hyperactive drum work. And in front, that buzzsaw whine; that most distinctive voice in Australian rock and roll history; that mad, bad, and terminally off-kilter one man show that was Doc Neeson.
The Angels weren’t just heavy, weren’t just rockers without equal. Their music, their personas– and as those of us who were addicted to their live performances, as I was for the better part of 20 years, knew– their shows, felt dangerous. Australia has never, and I mean never, produced a better live band.
They are an indelible part of the Australian psyche, with a list of hit singles that read like the playlist to every party you’ve ever been to: Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again? (and you know you automatically responded with the chant we all automatically respond with.) Marseilles. Take a Long Line. Shadow Boxer. We Gotta Get Out of The Place. Night Attack. Dogs Are Barking. After The Rain. No Secrets.
Here are five of my favourites.
Five for Friday: No Way, Get Fucked, Fuck Off.
1. Mr Damage
My favourite Angels song on more days than not. This is, for me, the quintessentially perfect Angels song: anchored by a hard, rat-a-tat guitar attack in the inimitable tak-tak Angels style; a thunderous bass chord and drum line anchoring the whole thing down; lyrics that straddle a very, very thin line between surrealism and social commentary; and above them all, Neeson’s nasal voice spitting the words out like a personal attack. It’s hard and fast as fuck, an unapologetic thrash rock song, and it’s absolutely fucking brilliant.
Anthem, anyone? The Angels specialised in call-and-response songs live: I’ve seen very, very few bands as adept at getting an audience to be part of its own experience (The Painters and Dockers spring to mind, but other than that…) and this is a classic example of their style: big, thumping beats; a mosh pit going utterly batshit bananas, and Neeson egging everyone on until the whole thing is a singalong on a football club sing-when-we’re-winning scale. Guaranteed, you’ll be doing it too by the end of the clip.
Damage was the stock in trade of Angels lyrics. Personal, psychic, cultural… so many of the band’s classic songs seem to capture a moment of chaos and reflect it back to the audience, distorted and magnified. Maybe it’s Neeson’s delivery, but every song seems filtered through the perceptions of a narrator made from shattered mirrors. This one is more overt than most– a cascading torrent of self-hate and paranoia, topped off by an other catchy-as-fuck chorus designed to get the listener shouting along in sympathetic resonance.
Love Takes Care.
Every concert needs its singalong, wave-your-lighters-in-the-air moment. The Angels didn’t have many quiet moments. In point of fact, I can only think of two softer songs that were regulars in the set list: I could have gone with Be With You, a straight-as-a-die love song with simple lyrics and a catchy rhythm, but Love Takes Care is more complex– part love song, part lament on the failure to capture and control a wild spirit, it’s still a classic ballad with all the wet-eyed, arms-around-shoulders bonhomie a concert needs while it catches its breath, ready to barnstorm towards the finish.
Oh, the derision. Oh, the scorn. Oh, the (and pardon the pun) frigging bite of this song. How many times have you heard the truism that what counts in art is not necessarily what you say, but the voice with which you say it? That, ultimately, what grabs your audience in the groin and refuses to let go is attitude. This is the Angels’ attitude, distilled down into three and a bit minutes of pure venom. I love it.