Ever since The Fumes exploded onto the Aussie rock scene in 2004 with a self-titled EP and the critically-acclaimed debut album Guns Of Gold in 2006, the infamous blooze-rock duo have left slack jaws, ringing ears and wagging tongues in their wake. But in the case of geetar-slinger and mighty-bearded vocalist Steve Merry and drumming prodigy Joel Battersby, the gushing is with good reason. Not so much making a name for themselves as branding it in the consciousness of punters nationwide, The Fumes have pursued a constant regimen of touring.
Now comes The Fumes’ second album, Sundancer. Produced by Detroit-based garage-auteur Jim Diamond (The White Stripes), the album not only sees them hone their dirty blues-rock aesthetic, smokin’ grooves and classic ‘70s-style gritty rawk, but capture perfectly the ferocious, stripped-down aural assault they deliver live.
In trademark style, they’ve come out swinging. Who Do You Love, the fuzz-laden barnstormer that kicks off their sophomore record Sundancer, is all gristle, brawn and brawling swagger. Riff-maestro and ragged-throated frontman Merry lays down the massive drop-tuned guitarwork, roaring out his lines, while cohort Battersby literally beats the living shit out of his kit. It sounds just like the band does live: raw, volatile, and dangerous.
The Fumes deliver on Sundancer and is all the more impressive because of their two-piece status. After such a blistering opener comes the venomous Slay The Liar, where Joel pounds out a leviathan-sized beat to Steve’s thumping piano line – not so much tinkling the ivories but punching them with his fist. In typical style, the chorus erupts with another huge riff and Steve’s throaty snarl, before a sexy, sinuous reprise unfolds, Steve sounding like he strings his battered Fender with underground coaxial cable, dripping with tar, mud, and blood.
The Letter is all truck-stop blooze, pentatonic licks and tasty grit, with a slide sound to die for, while Python For A Pillow is urgent and serpentine in the way it rolls out under Joel’s skittering drum line, before ramming home big time and displacing air en masse. “I think it’s my favourite track,” says Joel. “I love playing it.”
Steve’s fave is High City Lights, a song where Joel’s tom-line sounds like it’s being beaten out on a piece of corrugated iron, as the singer’s graveled rasp and slow-burn licks build in intensity, then open up into a call’n’response cameo from female vocalist Marihuzka Larenas-Esquivel. “Artistically, High City Lights is the one I’m most proud of,” he says. “It came out exactly like I heard it in my head, a kind of mixture between rock’n’roll and blues. Production-wise, it has this meld of sounds, especially with the female vocal.”
The frontman is equally chuffed with Never Gonna Get Back Home, a bruised, mournful, Tom Waits-esque piano tune. “I always wanted a piano, and last year I finally got one and spent a bit of time plonking away at it. I’m stoked to get a song like it on the album ’cos it was the first song I wrote on piano.”
With Steve’s fiery licks and cotton-field holler, Cuddle Up With The Devil is more straight-down-the-line, incendiary blues – not so much twelve-bar blues, but a pub-crawl through twelve moonshine-hawking speak-easies. Psychedelic Warlord moves from a cantering, countryish bluegrass-style chirrup to the guitar to a thrash-punk gallop in the chorus. Fun, brutal stuff that closes with a swollen, sanguine slide-line, before the straight-up swinging rock ode Rogue River Woman arrives, bristling with muscular melody. “It’s probably the most poppy song on there,” enthuses Joel. “But I like that – I’m a sucker for a bit of pop.”
The album’s title-track, Sundancer is a mellower, more melancholy affair that meanders along like a late afternoon, muttering a sad, husky vocal over broken, dirty arpeggios. The albums winds up with the head-nodding, mesmeric sway of Seven Year Itch – with it’s slow-burn snarl, rock-steady drumbeat and Hammond howling in the background, it’s blues custom-made for a bikie bar. All beard, beer-gut and bad mood.
Sundancer was recorded at Megaphon studios in Sydney with producer Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Electric Six), mixed by Diamond in Detroit USA, and mastered by Don Bartley. Sundancer is the follow up LP to The Fumes debut ‘Guns Of Gold’ (July 06).
Sundancer is out May 8th 2009