Melbourne six-piece, Dirt River Radio make dirty blues in a vein that, from The Angels to Spiderbait, was once ubiquitous in the Australian music scene. But times have changed, and if you feel something’s missing in the current milieu, then Sun City White is here to plug that gap with a refreshing chunk of rock’n’roll swagger.
It does a disservice to the outfit, however, to frame this material merely in terms of past glories; Dirt River Radio make music on their own terms and in a way that feels fresh and vital. And while they do love a blues riffs and the sound of a distorted guitar, these guys have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. The songs here are varied, both in construction and style and, aided by the honest clarity of Richard Stolz’ production, Sun City White is a quite an accomplishment.
‘Fukushima Blues’ serves an effective mood-setter; the mostly instrumental opener boasts a catchy groove and lets the guitars do the talking. Then follows ‘Ballad of Jackie Flavours’, a stylishly executed Americana blues romp.
The title track offers a well timed change of pace and tone. Here the distorted guitars give way to gentle reverb and harmonies, leaving room for some poignant story-telling.
‘Black Eyed Mondays’, a triumph of song construction, is the highlight of the record. The song covers quite some territory, beginning with Latin rhythms and journeying through Paris before ending up somewhere in Eastern Europe. Frontman, Alex Ruanjak channels his inner Tex Perkins, playing off against the perfectly sultry backing vocals, while a killer guitar solo is the song’s crowning glory.
Dirt River Radio appear to love nothing more than jamming on a blues riff, and on lead single ‘Cocksucking Blues’ they let loose in large measure, while the tongue in cheek lyrics lay bare the hypocrisies of current sexual mores.
‘Seven Billion Wake Up’, with its acoustic bluegrass-tinged guitar, delivers a timely call for ‘revolution or revelation’. While on ‘Postcards From The Road’ things get even more country, starting in Johnny Cash mode before building to a raucous bar-room sing along. Great fun.
Bringing the record to an atmospheric and slightly unsettling close is ‘The Vampires’ which plays out over solitary guitars and judiciously used strings; the album leaves us on an ominous note.
The songwriting on Sun City White is multi-dimensional, while the instrumentation is consistently well executed, played in a visceral fashion that perfectly complements the worldly gravel of Ruanjak’s distinctive voice. This is first rate rock’n’roll delivered with energy and authenticity, the kind of album that makes you want to see the band play live.
Sun City White is released 29th April via Spank Betty Records, with orders available here.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor