The Hyde Park Hotel – known locally as “The Hydey” – is one of the last character pubs left in Perth catering for original rock bands that haven’t broken through to widespread commercial success.
There was once a thriving Perth indie circuit, with roots going back to the 70s. The Vic Hotel, Steve’s, the Shents, the Fitzgerald, the legendary Hernando’s Hideaway (Perth’s own short-lived CBGB’s, home to The Victims and other first-wave Perth punk bands) – all once great alternative band haunts – have been turned into samey faggoty glass-and-chrome hotel-cum-eatery-cum-café yuppie joints, or have been demolished in the advance of ‘progress’. Perth’s good at that. Anything with character is targeted and eradicated. What a shiny little city we have here. Perpetually just-unwrapped.
Anyway, I popped into the Hydey for the first time in a while a couple of Saturdays ago. Roddy Radalj had invited me to check out his new band, The Smokin’ Eldorados. Great name. And from what I saw, great band.
As with most small alternative rock venues, the Hydey Front Bar has crappy acoustics, so I can’t attempt a serious critique of The Smokin’ Eldorados here – guitar tones get lost, as does the mix, no matter how good (or bad).
In the end, you gets what you comes for at the Hydey. Loud rockin’ moozic with the band on a stage only slightly elevated and a handful of dancers immediately in front, close enough to be sweated on by the vocalist. Reasonably priced beer. A disparate, interesting bohemian crowd ranging from young groovers to dorky misfits to spaced-out bar-hangers to sad old farts and fartettes trying to look cool who have stayed at the party way too long but who ain’t admitting that to no one, least of all themselves.
Rod Radalj and I go back a long way. Back to 1977, to the early rehearsals of Perth’s first punk band (or so we thought – see www.perthpunk.com for the full story). I had followed his progress through the years since, from the first incarnation of The Scientists, to The Rockets, The Hoodoo Gurus (he left after Stoneage Romeos, to my mind their best album), The Johnnys, Roddy Ray’da and The Surfin’ Ceasars and other musical ventures. But I hadn’t seen him on stage since 1978, in The Invaders! 30 years make quite a difference…
For starters, he plays pretty tasty guitar these days – a long way from the thrash-chorder of the late 70s. Still looks youthful. Slim, lithe, lotsa knock-kneed guitar posturing. Wears glasses, which give him a dignified look – a bit Elvis Costelloish. But the most singular aspect of his on-stage presence is his beat-up square box electric guitar a la Bo Diddley. And if that old axe looks like firewood, it doesn’t sound like it – Roddy wrung some serious noise out of it, sometimes fat and splintered, sometimes mellifluous and honeyed yet rough-edged, like seasoned vocal cords well lubed with nicotine and whiskey.
One of the defining features of The Smokin’ Eldorados is the way Roddy and fellow frontman Matthew De La Hunty spark off each other’s guitar work. There’s real chemistry happening between these two. And both rock like they’re possessed…. But I’m straying into review territory, and that’s not where I was heading with this post.
Where to then? I guess I just wanted to alert those who might be interested to check these guys out. Why? The Smokin’ Eldorados are different. Not wilfully musically deviant or avant garde (grawk!) but…different!
Imagine the soundtrack to a Tarantino remake of a Pekinpah western. They sound like that.
I’ll go further. Imagine the soundtrack you might get if you locked The Four Kingsman and Dick Dale in a studio with The Cruel Sea, made them listen to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion until they couldn’t bear it any longer and yearned to lay back and relax, then fed them peyote and said “ok boys, those of yas who really wanna, play!” Clear? Didn’t think so.
Try this. There’s a spaciousness about their music, desert-like – a dusty panoramic Mexican desert with cacti and butes and an improbable ramshackle hotel in the middle of nowhere that might be an hallucination, swing doors opening into a den of rattlesnakes, human ones, lined up on stools along the bar, wearing sombreros and Zappa moustaches and chewing and looking at you through narrowed glinting reptilian eyes so malevolently you wanna laugh. Yeah, there’s irony at play in The Smokin’ Eldorados’ music, irony and an edge. Listen to Roddy’s vocals. That’s where the key resides.
Ah shit. Words and music – they’re miles apart. Just grab a listen to them on their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/smokineldorados
And if you’d like to hear them at close quarters, catch them next time they play The Hydey. Don’t wait too long, though. News on the grapevine is that Woolworths is planning to knock down the Hydey (which they have owned for some time, I’m told) and replace it with a gigantic fucking liquor store.