For those of you who think Australia is a land of sunshine, cuddly koalas and Vegemite sandwiches, consider the following: AC/DC. Cold Chisel. Rose Tattoo. All three bands formed around the same time (the mid to late Seventies); all comprised of sweat, whiskey and rock n roll; and all are still going, proving that Aussies are nothing less than a tenacious bunch of bastards.
Rose Tattoo – who, in that typical Australian way of shortening long name became almost immediately known as ‘The Tats’ – began life in scungy bars and sheds in the rougher end of Sydney in 1976. In the intervening years, they have split up, got back together, split again and temporarily reformed to support Guns n Roses on their 1993 Australian tour at said band’s request, reformed again five years later only to split again, and announced a new lineup as recently as last year. Their past and present members read like a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Aussie rock, including such luminaries as Lobby Lloyde and Dai Pritchard. They’ve played the likes of Reading, Wacken and Download, but amongst the triumphs there’s also been tragedy, with the deaths of six former members weighing heavily on the band throughout its lifetime.
2007 saw the release of Blood Brothers, an album packed with bombast and testosterone which was eagerly received by fans and critics alike. To celebrate their upcoming UK and Europe tour the album is being reissued by Golden Robot Records on May 18th, with six bonus live tracks added on; it’s only fair, really, since onstage is where The Tats truly come alive.
For those who haven’t heard the original album (or listened to it for a while), a refresher is in order. Blood Brothers is, to put it bluntly, a stone cold classic album, and one that shows both the progression of the band musically since their humble beginnings and their determination to stay true to those roots. Opening track ‘Black Eyed Bruiser’ is a perfect example: all snarling riffs and bucketfuls of attitude, it’s as macho as they come and harks back to early tracks such as ‘Bad Boy For Love’, but with a hefty dollop of the blues injected, as well as some truly excellent guitar work.
In fact, the guitar work is uniformly brilliant throughout, particularly Dai Richards’ slide guitar. It lends a rather surprising air of sophistication and melody to many of the tracks, such as ‘Once In a Lifetime’, the sleazy and suggestive ‘Sweet Meat’, and the rollicking toe-tapper ‘Stand Over Man’. That’s not to say that they can’t write a proper dirty rock n roll song anymore; far from it. Have a listen to the brisk, no-nonsense ‘Man About Town’, or the bluesy pub rock ‘Nothing to Lose’, if that’s your thing.
Rose Tattoo have always embraced the blues, pretty much right from the start, and that dedication has resulted in an absolute stomper of an album that effortlessly combines old school blues (check out ‘Slipping Away’, which could have been written by Chuck Berry, or slower track ‘City Blues’ which drips with sadness and resignation) with proper Aussie pub rock, the likes of which clearly influenced the Gunners (‘Lubricated’ even sounds like GnR’s ‘Garden of Eden’).
If you thought the album couldn’t get any better, then wait for the live tracks…as previously mentioned, Rose Tattoo were always in their element live, and the chosen six tracks demonstrate that in spades. Each track is turned up to 11, given a kick up the arse and played with infectious gusto. Even when Angry Anderson, the band’s inimitable frontman, chats to the crowd, you can hear the glee and pride in his voice.
Album closer ‘Nothing to Lose’ (live) ends with a huge, drawn out roar from the crowd – and a richly well-deserved one at that. From once less-than auspicious beginnings (have you seen the video to ‘We Can’t Be Beaten’? Hoo boy!), Rose Tattoo have overcome an often-revolving door of changing members, cancer, retirement and solo careers (‘Suddenly’, anyone?) to become world beaters, influencers and one of the most triumphant and revered rock bands in the world. If this reissue of Blood Brothers shouts out one thing, it’s this: if you get the chance to see The Tats live, TAKE IT.
UK/Ireland tour dates with Girlschool supporting:
- 6th September, O2 ABC, Glasgow
- 7th September, Limelight 2, Belfast
- 8th September, Voodoo Lounge, Dublin
- 11th September, O2 Academy 2, Birmingham
- 13th September, O2 Academy, Islington, London
Review by Melanie Brehaut