So how do a punky L.A. band that blasted out 11 records in 20 years and an Aussie hard rock band that last ventured to the U.S. in 1987 get tossed together into one of these way-too-infrequent posts?
Rock ’n’ roll, man, rock ’n’ roll. The Lazy Cowgirls and the Celibate Rifles – a play on the Sex Pistols, get it? – certainly share the mission of this blog when it oozed onto the web more than a year ago: dredging up forgotten bands methinks deserve another listen.
Both bands finally caught my ear earlier this year for their pedal to the metal, swaggering music that crawled from garages into clubs and hearts. Both drew comparisons at times to the Ramones, as much for their hard-charging thunder as any adherence to that singular sound.
The Lazy Cowgirls
The Lazy Cowgirls, started in Los Angeles by Indiana escapees vocalist/songwriter/leader Pat Todd and guitarist D.D. Weekday, bring to mind a bar-band MC5, New York Dolls and Ramones, Radio Birdman and other tight and hard rockers. Todd bellows a bit but unlike some L.A. punks of the day, it’s always clear what all the shouting is about.
It’s hard not to imagine Todd leaning into the mic and summoning from his gut every bit of soul as he insists he’ll “Take It as It Comes” or laments that he “Bought Your Lies.” Both those songs come from 1996’s Ragged Soul, released a dozen years into their career and the last to feature the rip-snorting riffs and leads of D.D. Weekday. That record blasts from start to finish, with other favorites including “Frustration, Tragedy and Lies,” “Everything You Heard About Me is True” and the swaggering “Who You Callin’ a Slut?”
Various Cowgirls came and went after Ragged Soul, but a new lineup solidified around the turn of the millennium, not that it brought any big success. Todd remained the band’s core, though, and the long-present hard country flourishes came more to the forefront. The Cowgirls’ last album, I’m Going Out and Get Hurt Tonight, came in 2004, and it was a fine, fine way to go out. It kicks off with the kick-down-the-door “Burnin’ Daylight” and “Are You Ready?” Just as good is the midtempo – at least midtempo for this racing bunch – “Boerne Girl” and an excellent acoustic updating of the band oldie “Goddamn Bottle.”
That was it for the Cowgirls but Todd’s kept at it, showing no signs of letting up by releasing two albums with his Rankoutsiders, including the great and generous 28-song The Outskirts of Your Heart.
The Celibate Rifles
Australia seems to have a special spot for dark, charged and lean American rock of the Detroit variety – Stooges, MC5 – and the Celibate Rifles celebrated that sound while widening their own over a couple decades.
The Rifles, like plenty of other Australian bands, fueled themselves on the ’70s sounds of countrymen Radio Birdman and early Saints. Most active from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s, the Rifles have released occasional records back home since and still play occasional gigs. They made a bit of a critical rumble and earned raves on a couple U.S. tours, but apparently decided to quit banging their heads against the wall and stopped venturing to the States.
There are plenty of Rifles’ CDs to explore, but favorites are Roman Beach Party (1987) and Blind Ear (1987). Both feature the band’s dual-guitar sound – Dave Morris and Kent Steedman – and Damien Lovelock and his deep Aussie singing.
Roman Beach Party has two smoking but melodic Rifles’ classics, “(It’s Such a) Wonderful Life” and “Jesus on TV,” a charming rip at televangelists. Other favorites: “Dancing Barefoot” and “Invisible Man” and its hard-blowing harmonica.
Blind Ear didn’t hit as hard at first – nothing kicks the head like “Jesus on TV” – but it’s become even more of a favorite. Politics are more overt, with of-the-times songs like “El Salvador and two about the Northern Ireland troubles, “Belfast” and “Sean O’Farrell.”
They have another go at one of their best, with the updated “Wonderful Life ’88,” and also show a willingness to experiment with their sound. “Electravision Mantra” starts with what sounds like a sitar solo before a big, chunky riff kicks in (but the sitar peeks in behind the guitar throughout). “Cycle” uses echoing vocals to open, then slowly builds in volume and electricity. On “O Salvation,” a piano out of the Stones songbook sets up the hooky chorus and guitar.
For relatively small countries populationwise, Australia and New Zealand turn out a lot of excellent rock, and not just from the Detroit school. More on that thought later.
Hear a few from the Celibate Rifles at http://www.myspace.com/CelibateRiflesOfficial.
Plenty of videos up, too, on YouTube, including ones of “Jesus on TV”