I came across Beasts of Bourbon by way of a long and deeply entrenched (bordering on insane) obsession of Nick Cave. An embarrassing amount of my free time over the years has been spent laboriously pinpointing all of Nick Cave’s influences, as well as all who he has influenced, and combing through the Australian underground of the 1970s and 80s. Beasts of Bourbon have since become one of my favorite Australian/Cave “peer group” discoveries.

B.O.B. began as a side project, including two members of Aussie swamp punk innovators The Scientists and several other musicians (including a Hoodoo Guru), but has since evolved into one of Australia’s longest working and most well known pub rock bands. This first album, 1984’s The Axeman’s Jazz, was recorded for a hundred bucks in just an afternoon’s time, and now stands out as an absolute classic in terms of fractured, drugged-out swamp rock and dirty blues-injected punk. It is honestly the only Beasts album really worth having, despite the irony that it’s their only out-of-print record, as subsequent recordings become less trashy and more standard bluesy bar rock (yawn). Influences are obvious (Cramps, Gun Club, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams) but the Beasts tipped the tables with their own take on aggressive country/punk/r’n’r/blues mayhem.

The album starts out with a fairly delicate version of trad countryman Leon Payne’s “Psycho” (a song that could have easily fit onto Nick Cave’s “Murder Ballads”) and extends outward into an unraveled, hypersexual, swaggering underworld of lust and excess, aka the epitome of  ‘rock and roll’ as it should be. “Grave Yard Train” (another cover compliments of CCR) is a seven-plus minute story-song jam of guttural howls and haunting tragedy lament, traditional American country style turned psychobilly swamp. And the album closer, “Ten Wheels for Jesus,” is a countrified punk stomp, a humorous and sarcastic trucker’s tale that is almost ridiculously Cramps-ian in execution, but stellar nonetheless.

I can see this album being written off fairly easily due to preconceived notions of swamp rock and “psychobilly” styling. Trust me, I have my own reservations about such things. But the early Beasts of Bourbon lineup seriously excels, and this record is a true gem in a sea of shit. I credit this to the fact that they’re Australian (the Outback must be conducive to some really fucked up and awesome art/music). Check it.

— Melissa Geils

Beasts of Bourbon: The Axeman’s Jazz (1984)
1. Psycho
2. Evil Ruby
3. Love & Death
4. Grave Yard Train
5. Drop Out
6. Save Me A Place
7. Lonesome Bones
8. The Day Marty Robbins Died
9. Ten Wheels for Jesus

Man can’t live on beer alone . . .