Si hay un sonido de Melbourne, un sonido que impregna las enmoquetadas cervecerías de sus barrios, es el sonido defendido por los adolescentes defensores del rock ‘n’ roll Persecution Blues.
La banda, ha seguido una regla muy simple; Toca tantos conciertos como puedas y ve mejorando. Por lo que han ido dando hasta tres conciertos semanales por el norte de Melbourne, incluida su base de operaciones en la legendaria sala the Tote Hotel.
Era inevitable que la banda eligiera ese santuario dedicado a los riffs más sucios como campo de pruebas; de hecho, es el lugar donde sus héroes y de donde han sacado el nombre de la banda, The Powder Monkeys, arrasaron asiduamente a su público habitual y se convirtieron en algo esencial para el sonido del rock ‘n’roll de Melbourne.
Si bien el sonido de la banda tiene una clara herencia, esta se ve aderezada por las experiencias adquiridas en estos tiempos. Es una mirada directa y desvergonzada a la vida a través de los ojos de chavales jóvenes con toda su vida por delante, pero que viven como si en realidad no hubiera un mañana. Sólo como si estuvieses esta noche, con tus amigos, en un pub corriendo la cerveza y atronando riffs.
Mientras iban sumando conciertos, Persecution Blues contactaron con el productor y músico de Melbourne Phil Gionfriddo en el antiguo estudio Bakehouse en Fitzroy para intentar embotellar ese candente sonido en vivo en el que habían estado trabajando tan duro. El resultado, Downright Dirty, es un compendio de 12 canciones brutales que transcurren entre la barra de un bar y su callejón trasero en Melbourne. Una docena de temas construida sobre riffs sucios, distorsión al 12 y la celebración juvenil de todo lo bueno del pub rock australiano.
If there is a Melbourne sound, a sound that permeates the sticky carpeted beer barns of the inner suburbs, it’s the sound championed by teen rock ‘n’ roll soldiers Persecution Blues.
The band, featuring Joe O’Mahony, Julian Galgano and brothers Jimi and Elmo Trapani have followed the simple rule; play as many shows as you can and get good. Smashing out as many as three sets a week throughout Melbourne’s inner North, including their home base at the venerable Tote Hotel band room.
It’s fitting that the band should choose that Abbotsford shrine to the dirtiest of riffs as a proving ground, it is in fact the place where the band’s heroes and namesakes The Powder Monkeys slayed crowds on the regular and became the stuff of Melbourne rock ‘n’ roll folk law.
While the band’s sound has a heritage, it’s the fact that they are overlaying this sonic template with the experiences gained living in this modern world that makes them so vital. It’s an unashamed, straight ahead look at life through the eyes of young men who have whole lives ahead of them, but are living like there is in fact no tomorrow. Only tonight, with your mates, in a pub with beer flowing and riffs cranking, it’s both ageless and enthralling.
In between whittling literally hundreds of notches into their live show belts, Persecution Blues hooked up with Melbourne producer and musician Phil Gionfriddo at the old Bakehouse studio in Fitzroy to try and bottle that white hot live sound they had been working so hard to develop. The resulting document Downright Dirty is a 12 track, white-knuckled ride through the front bars and back-alley load ins of Melbourne. A dirty dozen built on filthy riffs, saturated gain and the youthful celebration of all that is good about Australian pub rock.
Kicking outta the blocks “Helluva Ride” shows the band’s chosen intent as a driving bassline, and the first of many hot licks are peeled all with the first 15 seconds. As the song suggests, fasten your seatbelts and place your seats into the upright position for a frantic ride into dirty rock’s underbelly, with Persecution Blues as your staggering guides. As Elmo Trapani describes this is PB’s at full tilt, “we are physically unable to gain any more energy, and we cruise at 200km/h into the distance.”
A monstrous bass tone and howling feedback ushers in “Old Dirty Blues” and what gets the feeling this wasn’t the blue notes old Robert Johnson was soul trading for at the crossroads. The band, in a menacing stagger pummel the song’s four note riff into submission as a romantic pub tale of the unrequited desire of an older woman is reckoned with. Julian Galgano describes that the band were keen to capture a resurrection of the classic blues sound, “with an overdriven feel.” The resulting tune coming together as “an effortless and enjoyable experience”.
The staccato riffery of “Monetary Loss Blues” is next and this time the archaic 12-Bar form is battered and bruised against a thrash inspired backbeat. When you are young and full of the devil, the price of a beer is paramount in the equation for a happy life, so as the band suggest, ‘by us a beer and I’ll make it up to you’. For Elmo Trapani it’s a “song about the poor degenerates sucked into Packer’s playpen in the vain of Dostoyevsky’s Alexei Ivanovich.”
“Audience Fright” delves into Helmet style alt metal riffage as another monster bass tone slinks under a steady groove as the band explore the themes of social anxiety in a post pando world. Elmo Trapani describes the track as exploring the concept of “the infinitely greater anxiety brought on by standing up the front in an audience watching a band, as opposed to actually playing in the band.”
Echoing shades of the great Radio Birdman, “Dementor” is another hit the ground running, take no prisoner’s attack on the listener. With amps set to stun you get a real sense of the excitement that this young band bring at their many live performances. Of the tune Jimi Trapani attributes it to the fact that, “We all have evil within us and whether it is an inanimate substance, or living creature, there is always something that will suck your soul away.”
“Done Me Dirty” stretches out in shrieking feedback with bass and drums marking time before launching into the album’s next salvo, a rollicking owed to wrongdoings, the band stepping into their power of turning ever day deceit into a pub burning anthem. Elmo Trapani offers that it’s a song of persistence, saying, “People get you down but don’t let it stop you.”
Bring the pace down a notch, “Curbstomp” lurches like a gutter crawler, before breaking for the classic one liner, “now suffer in your jocks and take a lick of my bollocks,” and ushering in an oi flavoured tale of youthful revenge. “My dad used to say to me when I was younger”, explains Joe O’Mahony. “It was just something he said if I was complaining about something to him. The rest of the song about imagining that you are kicking someone’s head in against a curb. Never done it but sometimes I would imagine doing it to my dad when he told me to lick his bollocks!”, O’Mahoney jokes.
“Toxic Society” opens as a snare driven death march waltz, before again breaking, this time into a mid-paced shuffle with the band at their most melodic as they process the evilness that the modern condition can bring. “Aiia Maasarwe was raped and murdered around the corner from our home,” remembers Elmo Trapani sadly. He recalls his 17-year-old self being barely able to process such a heinous act so close to his home and so far away from the home of the victim. In response he wrote this song which opens with the lines ‘soldiers march, for all the fallen and surviving solders in the war against sexual assault’, as his offer of an allied force to those who need it.
“Mischievous Dance” is a nihilistic power pop anthem to addiction designed for the short attention span, clocking in at a thrifty 2.05 minutes, the band get the point across in record time. Jimi Trapani mentions that,”everyone has that shit-talking friend that reminds them of Jay from the Inbetweeners. This song is about them.”
“Misfit Takeover” over a melodic chordal bass figure inspired by a bass riff by local legends on the rise Stiff Richards, the band rants politically against late-stage capitalism and urbanisation, showing they have more under the hood than just beers ‘n’ bars. The frustration breaks down into an all-out jam before again leaving before overstaying it’s welcome. As Julian Galgano describes, “I remember being amazed by the power of that Stiff Richards riff and wanted to do something similar.”
“Sun Don’t Shine” sounds like it came directly from the Ray Davies songbook with it’s post psychedelic descending bass line pulling against a diving backbeat, wich Elmo Trapani describes as, “A wholesome story of strutting down the street on the way to a raging house party minding your own business when along the way the imposing world intrudes where it is not welcome.”
Putting a full stop on proceedings, “Cats Pyjamas” is an owed to unrequited love and lust, and the Kiss Cat Man Peter Criss, set to a thrashing rumble, the band breaking for the finish line, engines red lining, the sum of their parts colliding to make a glorious noise.
Elmo Trapani explains that the track was “mostly written in the hour prior to its recording.” Despite its late inclusion and spur of the moment genesis he feels the track, “encapsulates the energy of the rest of the album, pouring all the best elements into the same cauldron to produce the forbidden elixir excreted into the Persecution Blues kitty litter. Dedicated to Peter Criss. Shake it for the cat-man.”