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Howzat! Archive - February 8th 2012

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When Jim Keays hit the stage with Davey Lane at a "Rock of Ages" show, you could almost see the light bulb switch on above Ted Lethborg's head. How 'bout making an album, the Aztec Music executive thought, the type of record that made Jim unique, vital and popular in the first place? When Ted pitched the idea, he gave Jim a disc containing about 25 "no-hit wonders". Initially, Jim was not sure, telling Ted, "I don't do garage punk any more." He was also worried. "There was one thing I knew I didn't want - I didn't want to sound like a 65-year-old doing garage punk, making a fool of myself, becoming a laughingstock."

Ted suggested a trial run in the studio, enlisting Davey (who Jim dug straight away, exclaiming, "He looks like one of the Masters Apprentices from 1968!"), and Davey's old Pictures buddy Brett Wolfenden on drums. Ted took on the bass playing duties himself, explaining, "I wasn't going to be missing out on all the fun." One of the first tracks tackled was the Flamin' Groovies' Whiskey Woman, which ended up becoming the album's first single.

Garage punk, freakbeat ("At the time, we just called it rock 'n' roll, sometimes R&B," Jim smiles) whatever you want to call it, Dirty, Dirty (out Friday on Shock Records) is an exhilarating excursion. Ted, as producer, has managed to capture the sound of both a fan and a music master. Indeed, Jim was both in the '60s, which is the source of most of this material. He still remembers John waving at him when he saw The Beatles in Adelaide in 1964. By the end of the decade, Jim was one of our biggest rock stars, fronting The Masters Apprentices, a band that sits comfortably alongside The Easybeats as our finest band from that era. As legendary DJ Stan Rofe said, "The Masters are to Australia what the Rolling Stones are to England, and The Doors are to America." Not that Jim is stuck in the past. He remains a music fan, citing The Black Keys' Lonely Boy and The Jim Jones Revue's High Horse as two current faves.

Dirty, Dirty is a masterful musical education, with Keays cutting songs from Canadian band The Haunted (125), the wonderfully named Wimple Winch (Save My Soul), Crazy Horse without Neil (Dirty, Dirty), The Move (Do Ya; "We used to do a few Move songs in the Masters, we loved 'em"), The Chambers Brothers (Time Has Come Today, a song Jim recalls hearing on the boat taking the Masters to the UK in 1970), and Van Morrison's Them (Mystic Eyes). There's even a track from '60s-influenced '80s band The Dream Syndicate (Tell Me When It's Over), plus Jim's take on Midnight Bus, a song he heard in Adelaide in 1961 when it was a hit for Melbourne's Betty McQuade, who sadly died on Boxing Day. "The Bus is the black sheep on the album," Jim notes. "I wasn't sure it fitted, but everyone else was like, 'We love the Bus!'"

Never has a record screamed "I'm still alive!" as emphatically as Dirty, Dirty.
Jim was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable cancer, when his kidneys failed in 2007. His medication includes doses of thalidomide. Though he does about 100 gigs a year with Cotton Keays & Morris, he's no longer capable of fronting a full-on rock band, though he hopes to do a couple of album launch gigs. "My medication can really knock me around, though most of the time I'm okay. I can handle shows with Darryl and Russell because I only have to do a third of the work, but I can't really do my own gigs."

Dirty, Dirty has already earned comparisons to the revered Nuggets compilations, which is appropriate because the Masters were featured on Nuggets II. Making a covers album is the easiest thing in the music business. Making a great covers album is one of the hardest. Ted jokes that he's "worked with a lot of old farts" as co-ordinator of Aztec Music's re-releases, "but you couldn't do this record with just anyone." Very true. Dirty, Dirty works because it's authentic. It's 2012's first great rock record.

A friend recently got in touch after seeing the name I, a Man. "Add this to your list of shit band names," she said. Fortunately, they're good. Their new single, You're Boring Us All, is just as striking as their debut, Sometimes, reminding Howzat! of early Fauves, particularly The Doctor's melancholic output. Intelligent pop.

Four Aussie hits in the Top 10.

Into The Flame EP MATT CORBY (number three)
Boys Like You 360 & GOSSLING (four)
Set It Off TIMOMATIC (seven)
Somebody That I Used To Know GOTYE (13)
Don't Worry Be Happy GUY SEBASTIAN (16)
Good Night REECE MASTIN (29)
Awkward SAN CISCO (32, debut)

Three Aussie albums in the Top 10.

Falling & Flying 360 (number four)
Moonfire BOY & BEAR (five)
Making Mirrors GOTYE (seven)
Vows KIMBRA (12)
The Big Red JOHN WILLIAMSON (15, debut)
Reece Mastin REECE MASTIN (21)
All For You COLD CHISEL (30)

Time Has Come Today JIM KEAYS
You're Boring Us All I, A MAN
Song For Grace ANIMAUX
Endless Summer THE JEZABELS

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