When I heard about this collaboration earlier this year I thought “here we go again, Ash’s smoked some funky shit and thinks he’s on a different musical plane” and in a way I was right. This release from the notoriously under organised blues and roots fiend is an example of why his style and sound are one of a kind. I was never really a fan of blues and roots until I heard Grunwald on the epic release from a couple of years ago, “Fish Out Of Water”. From that point on I was a convert and ever since I have been hunting him down across festivals and gigs trying to catch a glimpse of the dreads, the chaos and the awesomeness of his dirty down and historical take on modern blues.
Previously he has toured and collaborated with Oz Hip-hop funny pricks The Funkoars and they returned the favour on his last album. This time round Grunwald has roped in two-thirds of legendary (but homogenous) Australian punk trio, The Living End. Scott Owens and Andy Strachan must have been getting bored (or were high as kites) to sign on with Ash across this latest incarnation, but it works. It works because to Grunwald chaotic, unrehearsed and raw talent, they bring form, quality and timing which Grunwald needs to keep an album (and live performance) on track. From the first track to the last, this is a hoot.
It has to be mentioned though, only three of the ten songs on the album are new, with the rest either representing existing covers or reinterpretations of Grunwald’s older songs. In a way, this is like Grunwald’s wasn’t happy with their original formats and decided the rockier edge to the sound was needed. For old tracks like ‘Mojo’, ‘Breakout’ and the epic cover of Gnarls Barkely’s ‘Crazy’ these are raised to a level they originally never reached. Unless you know Ash’s previous work you probably would recognise the differences, but for the fans, I hope they appreciate the ad-hoc raw recordings of this classic album tracks. Like I said before, I was a huge fan of “Fish Out of Water” and this was originally because of the powerhouse production from Count Bounce aka Seed MC from always fresh oz-hip-hop darlings TZU. But when you listen to a lot of the blues minister, you quickly realise it’s them whom bend to his will and everything begins to resemble a TV situation comedy entitled “Life with Grunwald”.
The trio are renowned for two of the best live performances you can see in Australia right now and together I can only imagine what they are like. Look forward to their ‘real’ album when they bother getting around to it, but the tour was just seen crossing the country (He’ll be back in October at Great Southern Blues Festival in Narooma, NSW).
It’s like the recording of this happened in the smokiest blues bar you could imagine or at least all done in one take if Grunwald’s voice on the album is anything to go by. I know it’s part of their style to record it raw and uncut but at points it feels like Grunwald is straining himself beyond his usual caterwauling best. And on the topic of sound recording, I think this could have been mastered and produced better. It’s usually for Grunwald to go for a theme, but on this album it’s as if the theme is fucked-up-raw goodness for the sake of fucked-up-raw goodness which is a stretch for most unprepared listeners.
What pisses me off most about this album is that despite the lack of quality engineering, recording and preparation, Grunwald, Owen and Strachan are effortlessly good. In fact, more than good, their fucken hot as. And boy does that piss off most musicians. But for us reviewers and fans it’s a change to see someone prove it can be done with little money, little rehearsal and way too little effort. This is not an album for the un-Grunwald initiated, but for mainstay fans; it’s pure gold.
8/10 Raspy Chaos Magicians