We all have those people in our lives who act as our musical sherpas, guiding us on paths we would not have otherwise taken to discover aural delights that reverberate in our souls and ears. Over the last six or so years the largest of those people has been Henry Rollins, via his weekly KCRW radio show (seriously, listen here) as well as his collection of Fanatic books where he provides liner notes for every radio show. Through him I discovered the hotbed of great music that’s been coming out of Australia for years, specifically the swerving, booze-drenched blues insanity of The Beasts of Bourbon, here represented by their second album, Sour Mash.
Led by Kim Salmon, who also fronted the amazing band The Scientists as well as Kim Salmon and the Surrealists, the Beasts of Bourbon were originally an outlet to blow off steam and trade in the dirty, garage rock that worked so well in the bars at the time. Quickly becoming its own thing, Sour Mash feels like Nick Cave circa the Birthday Party crashed a bar with Tom Waits and Thurston Moore and decided to lay waste to it via their twisted interpretation of barroom rock. It’s filthy and more than a bit ramshackle, but in the way some of the best rock and roll is – even when it doesn’t completely work, there’s a spark of wit and passion and fire that carries through.
There’s a strong sense of roots through the George Thorogood on crack opener “Hard Work Drivin’ Man” and the cover of 70s country hit “Today I Started Loving You Again.” But there’s a gnarled inflection on even the more straight ahead tracks that keeps it from being a simple retread of more popular music. When things get a little more nasty and atonal like on “Playground” the Birthday Party influences really start to come out. There’s a Billy Gibbons’ tone on “These Are the Good Old Days” that I hear in my dreams and one day aspire to re-create.
There’s something about the music coming out of Australia that’s been fascinating me ever since I started digging into it, the way bands can take a style and subtly tweak it to make it uniquely their own, whether it’s the black metal of Mesarthim, the psychedelic rock of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard or the garage brawl roots stew of the Beasts of Bourbon, it’s something I’m drawn to and will continue to investigate.