Ten definitive Australian rock tracks, according to The Casanovas

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Ten definitive Australian rock tracks, according to The Casanovas

Words by Will Brewster

The 2000s Aussie rock survivors lay down their top ten picks.

With their furious blend of alternative and hard rock and carrying all the sensibilities of a good pub rock band, The Casanovas played fast and hard throughout the 2000s, with their eponymous debut and 2006’s All Night Long establishing them as a true force to be reckoned with.

After an extended hiatus without new material, the band regrouped later to record 2015’s Terra Casanova, resparking their passion for the longstanding project and eventually seeing them continue writing to create their latest album: Reptilian Overlord. 

Recorded with the legendary Mark Opitz (The Angels, AC/DC), Reptilian Overlord promises to be the best Casanovas album to date, with singer/guitarist Tommy Boyce, bassist Damo Campbell and drummer Brett “Wolfie” Wolfenden working with Opitz to refine their sound for a new generation of listeners.

Judging from the strength of previously released singles ‘Lost and Lonely Dreams’ and ‘Red Hot’, it seems that The Casanovas could just be getting started all over again, making for a true Australian rock ‘n roll survival story for the ages.

Before Reptialian Overlord arrives later this August, we linked up with Brett, Tommy and Damo to find out what their favourite Australian rock tracks are, tracing the lineage of The Casanovas’ place within the canon of Aussie rock.

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The Saints – ‘This Perfect Day’

Tommy: ‘The Saints at their most ferocious here. That hypnotic, searing B minor riff through the verses that explodes into that stomping chorus in F# always gets me. They sound so primal it makes me think they didn’t even realise they were changing key for the chorus.

‘When we started The Casanovas I remember thinking it’d be easy to write songs like The Saints because they are pretty simple musically. In fact the opposite is true; the more limited the palette of chords and melody, the more creative you need to be to find song ideas that have something special and The Saints managed that many times. Their pissed-off, punk attitude always seems so genuine and uncontrived. They’ll always be my favourite punk band.’

Sunnyboys – ‘Alone With You’

Tommy: ‘The best ’60s surf rock song from 1981 by a mile. Love the the driving simplicity of the rhythm section and jangly guitars in this. Jeremy Oxley’s vocal delivery is so disarmingly honest and I love the way he doesn’t have to rhyme all the time 😉  “Watching you walk/ You know you’re really attractive” is pure genius. I have fond memories of my older brother showing me this record when I was little.’

Hoodoo Gurus – ‘Bittersweet’

Tommy: ‘What an epic song. I love the way the Hoodoo Gurus can balance rock’n’roll with pop melody. For me, bands that do can do this well are the greatest. It’s not too sweet and poppy but also not just rocking out without melody or emotion… Just perfectly bittersweet, like a good dark chocolate.

‘The Hoodoo Gurus were the first band I saw live; Festival Hall in 1988 on their Blow Your Cool tour. They were magnificent. I used to bash the shit out of the couch in our lounge room with drumsticks to this song. It’s remarkable to me how great they sound with Dave Faulkner’s baritone voice. Rock’n’roll usually sounds better with a high voice that sits above the midrange tones of the guitars but the Gurus had their own unique sound.’

Masters Apprentices – ‘Undecided’

Brett: ‘The blistering debut single of arguably Australia’s finest ‘60s beat group. In their formative years they were a garage/R&B proto punk outfit before veering their style more towards psychedelia and prog. Co-written by original member Mick Bower whose early songs propelled the band in it’s first wave before leaving the group shortly thereafter. Mature, powerhouse vocal by 20 year old Jim Keays and I was privileged to perform this song live onstage with him before his untimely death.’

You Am I – ‘It Ain’t Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore’

Brett: ‘From the energetic count-in to the driving floor tom and insistent guitar riff, this track showcases the band’s rawness at its finest as they would when performing onstage. Taken from the 2006 album Convicts, the entire LP is a roundhouse of furious punches track after track and has the band in scintillating form. In my opinion, there isn’t a bad You Am I album in the crop, and the mark of any truly great band is their ability to consistently release album after album of top shelf quality.’

The Easybeats – ‘Sorry’

Brett: ‘From the searing guitar intro, this song is a cacophony of howling and screeching six-strings that just doesn’t decrease in intensity at any point. When you’ve the Vanda-Young song-writing team cooking up the formula for hits, this song for mine is the height of their pre-’70s gold prior to their production indulgences. The simplicity of singing one-word for the chorus is extremely catchy despite being a tricky device to execute.

AC/DC – ‘Let There Be Rock’

Damo: ‘What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this song? Just a perfect rock song, if there is such a thing. In fact, this whole album captured AC/DC better than any other in my humble opinion. ‘Let There Be Rock’ just has that pumping rhythm section drive that doesn’t let up. Always just ahead, pushing the beat. The riff is one the best that showcases Malcolm’s Gretsch through the Marshall, classic sound. I love the second part of the song, in the verses where it changes in the riff, just takes it up a notch.’

Freeloaders – ‘Dead Before My Time’

Damo: ‘One of my all time favorites, with one of the best and toughest riff you will ever hear. This was always a go to song when hijacking a stereo back in the party days! The song, while tough, still has a really great swing and groove. Guy Lucas’s vocals are supreme. The scream into the guitar solo is wild!

‘Just when you’re thinking it can’t get any better… the key change! Not many rock bands can pull off a key change this successfully. After the lyric, ‘I just fell and spilt my guts’.. I genuinely get goosebumps when the stereo guitars meet on the ‘E’ chord in unison at the very end of the riff at this point. This is one of the toughest sounds you will hear.’

Celibate Rifles – ‘Cycle’

Damo: ‘I absolutely love this song. The haunting riff of this song is amazing. I love the stereo vocal mix of Damian Lovelock and Kathleen Stewart. The song builds beautifully with a great organ sound over the riff and then eventually kicks in with the whole band. I remember being on tour driving in a Tarago going through the South Australian desert listening to this. Just set the scene perfectly in the sparse desolation.’

Fridge – ‘Get What You Want’

Damo: ‘This is where rock ‘n roll started for me, live and up close. My foray into tough, sweaty pub rock, back in a day when there was still danger in rock ‘n roll. This track is my all time favourite from Tassie band Fridge. The recorded version of this song, whilst really great, never really captured the power and energy of the band live. Growing up in Tassie, I still remember the first time watching the pure raw energy of Fridge playing in a jam packed pub. Alex Lynch playing a Fender through a Big Muff is still the loudest guitar sound I can remember.’

The Casanovas’ new album Reptilian Overlord is out on Friday August 28.