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Venom P. Stinger - Venom P. Stinger: 1986-1991

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Artist: Venom P. Stinger

Album: Venom P. Stinger: 1986-1991

Label: Drag City

Review date: Aug. 16, 2013

Venom P. Stinger - “Walking About”

Venom P. Stinger churned the most corrosive, skuzz-crusted kind of punk, its fervid evocations of various sorts of madness jacked up on unrelenting, speed-maddened marching band beats. It was pure punk in energy, aggression and noisiness, but the band had some unusual elements. Jim White, later of Dirty Three, was already finding eccentric, abstract ways to keep jackhammer time; his drumming is both rigidly on beat and feverishly imaginative. Mick Turner, who also went on to Dirty Three, unspooled a hallucinatory free-formness from his altered rockabilly licks and blues-rock vamps; he is an element of chaos in a boxed-in, one-two punk structure. Both White and Turner added an extra dimension to the clatter that surrounded Dugald McKenzie, and he himself was almost surreally intense, maniacal and unpremeditated.

Consider, for instance, “Walking About.” It starts in a jittery push of martial drums, White working at crazy, light-handed speed on the snare and kick-drum. A big chord lands, a rapid scramble of bass (that’s Alan Secher-Jensen), a mad tangle of guitar, and McKenzie spits out hoarse lines that don’t so much describe as embody alienation. “They got my car / they got my house / they got my keys to my door / I can’t get out,” he shouts in a rough monotone, a frenzy of guitar and drums building behind him like a stress headache. It’s an enveloping experience, this song, and you can’t hear it without feeling some of the trapped, thwarted energy of the lyrics.

Similarly, the opener “PCP Crazy/Jaws,” from Meet My Friend Stinger puts you inside the awful experience of both being high on PCP and getting eaten by a shark (Turner slips the two-note theme from the movie into this song). Like “Walking About,” the song is sharply defined by rhythm, a boxy one-two beat battered out on drums and reinforced by bass. But as McKenzie’s lyrics turn increasingly manic, the song slips free of its moorings. It speeds and careens and very nearly crashes, White making the turns on two wheels as Turner’s guitar mayhem flares out the sides.

Venom P. Stinger was rawest and most intense on the first album and the “Walking About” single. By What’s Mine Is Yours, however, they were noticeably more skilled at injecting hook and melodic structure into their spew. Nothing is exactly pop, or even conventional rock, but you can hear a Scientist-style rough-housing tune emerging from “Lethargy.” “I Try, I Really Try” has actual chords and strumming in it. It could almost be a Saints song, except for the mad edge to the drumming, the feral quality of the singing.

This two-disc reissue gathers all of Venom P. Stinger’s material from its first run with McKenzie (like Turner, late of the Sick Things), the debut Meet My Friend Stinger from 1986, the ferocious Walking About/26 mg single from 1988, 1990’s What’s Mine Is Yours and the four-song Waiting Room EP from 1991. McKenzie left the band at some point in the early 1990s, Turner and White met up with Warren Ellis to form Dirty Three, and Venom P. Stinger went on hold for a while. When it resurfaced, it had a new singer in Nick Palmer. A resurrected version of the band played in New York as recently as 2010, but if people went, it was because of these late-1980s, early 1990s recordings, long out of print.

A couple of years ago, the guys from from Slug Guts put Venom P. Stinger at the very top of the Listed they wrote for us, saying that “Venom P. Stinger were one of Australia’s most guttural and menacing bands in ‘80s. Their single ‘Walking About’ is one song we have all blasted since we were teenagers. It is a fucked up mess of growled vocals, free jazz drumming, scratched out guitar and messy, demented Australian punk. Music at its most self-destructive and mean-spirited.” Damn right, and good to have it back.

By Jennifer Kelly

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