Sydney three-piece The Walk On By are a band who through years of hard work have secured a level of respect amongst local audiences that few bands have the longevity or tenacity to achieve. Their music, brooding bluesy explosions of energy and emotion, taking inspiration from the post-punk tradition and rolling it all up in a doom laden package that will send the weak stomached and narrow minded running for some mediocre slab of rehashed pop/rock nonsense, is not by any stretch of the imagination what you might call widely accessible or appealing. Theirs is a music made for themselves and those like them, and there is little or no compromise to try and please anyone else.
Their album, Eurotrash, sees the band wandering through the winding walkways of their sound, with the mood and energy of each song casting the band in a myriad of different lights, from the wildly spasmodic to measured and menacing. Across all the songs though there lies a sense of intimidation, a sort of challenge if you will to some imaginary or real foe that is never specified. The album seems to me to evoke a sense of confrontation, when the band sing and play you feel it is directed at someone, as if after all is said and done they will pounce on some enemy or foe to vent the anger and frustration displayed throughout the album.
This is somewhat of an exaggerated opinion, more an impression that comes to mind when with eyes closed and volume up I listen to the album, but it’s not one that I think the band themselves would be in too much disagreement over. Seeing them play live the passion and highly charged sense of feeling in their stage presence has in my mind always suggested a kind of twisted cabaret, somewhat in the vein of a Tom Waits performance, although less drunk and more violent.
This is where the band, and the album’s true strengths lie, in their ability to ignite the imagination and engage the emotions, to provoke a reaction. This is not music to put on in the background while sipping on a cleanskin shiraz, it is not music to listen to on your iPhone walking between lectures, it is an assault and one best experienced with that in mind.
Methodical and plodding opener I’m You is a highlight, evoking images of sleazy honky tonk dives with it’s repeated blues bassline and singer guitarist Solomon Barbar‘s harsh vocals, with later track Glass You continuing in a similar bass driven, desert vibe, although this time featuring drummer Leah Keramea on vocals. Songs like Vile Devotion and Men Kissing Men almost drop into stoner rock a la Kyuss or Queens Of The Stone Age, while Alexander and The Rant explore the outer fringes of the band’s sound, both in their often confronting, psychopathic and character based lyrical style in the former and their love of erratic guitar noise, relentless punk inspired screaming and high octane rhythms in the latter, both featuring bassist Dave Bourke‘s singing/screeching/talking.
The album has it’s fair share of flaws, both in terms of production and songwriting with some ideas not being realised as well as they could have been. What redeems all this though is the sense of honesty at the heart of it, and the undeniable dedication and love the band have for their music. A band most at home in a live format where their dramatic and direct style can find a more direct and instant target, they have nevertheless done a great job of translating into the album format music that I never thought would truly work outside the bounds of the stage. This is not music for those of you who want your bands polished and pretty, this is rough and raw. It’s in possession of the sort of quality that early rockabilly held in its day, only updated in ferocity and calamity.
Due for release in early April, for more info check out their MySpace.