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15 October 2010

Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band - 'Wangaratta Wahine' (Image)

I only know this gang of Australian jug-band revivalists because their first LP was (strangely) released on the ESP label. This is their second, from 1974, and it's a pretty solid effort for what it is. I guess I admit a soft spot for liking this sort of thing, which explains it's presence in these pages (and all the Spike Jones CDs I have). As miners of pre-World War II popular music, Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band are certainly competent. This record is loaded with speedy chops, and relatively tasteful arrangements - they were a fairly large ensemble whose members know when to not play. The harmonica was supposedly the big attraction here and it's nice, certainly preferable to the silly fart-sounding kazoo playing that appears a few times. Eleven of the twelve songs are upbeat, usually built around a rock drum kit, which (in conjunction with the good studio recording) dates this music and gives it that slightly disappointing retro feel. The slow tune is 'Wait for me Juanita', which is actually a beautiful, delicate song that transcends the novelty vibe stuck on everything else. The Aussie accents sneak through at times, on the title track or on the pro-smoking bend of 'If youse a viper'. We get lots of cartoony sections, and plenty of goofball vocals, but there's a dedication to the style that is earnest enough. My tastes definitely run towards the Bohemian vibes of 'Lovesick blues' or 'Half a moon is better than no moon' moreso than silly tunes lke 'Your feets to big'(sic). 'Jug band music' is perhaps their raison d'ĂȘtre, which actually is quite stirring and honest. Of course, my taste in jug bands runs closer to 13th Floor Elevators, but I can sort of understand why ESP was affiliated with these guys. Did I mention I bought this in Melbourne? Maybe this kind of retro sensibility comes around every twenty years - the Squirrel Nut Zippers had a hit in '96 so I guess we have a few more to wait for the next one.

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