“I wish life could be Swedish magazines” –– Iggy Pop, “Five Foot One”, 1979
THE SWEDISH MAGAZINES‘ NEW BOGAN POWER BOOGIE BEST-OF COLLECTION I WISH LIFE COULD BE… OUT TODAY!
ALBUM LAUCH SHOWS COMING UP IN NSW & VIC!
FRONTED BY ACCLAIMED SINGER-SONGWRITER VAN WALKER AND ALSO FEATURING HIS BROTHER, FORMER TYRANNAMEN GUITARIST CAL WALKER, MELBOURNE’S UNSUNG HIGH ENERGY ROCKERS THE SWEDISH MAGAZINES ARE BACK!
(OR, MELBOURNE ROCK’N’ROLL DIDN’T JUST START WITH AMYL & THE SNIFFERS YA KNOW. SO CHECK OUT THE SWEDISH MAGAZINES AND LEARN HOW THEY RELEASED THE GREATEST OZ-ROCK SONG OF THE CENTURY 15 YEARS AGO WITHOUT ANYONE HEARING IT!)
BUY/LISTEN TO ‘I WISH LIFE COULD BE… SWEDISH MAGAZINES’ HERE
“Rock’n’roll oozing in its rawest, most primal form. Echoes of “Stray Cat Blues”, “Personality Crisis”, “Slow Death”‘, “Anarchy in the UK”, “Shake Appeal”/”Tight Pants”, “Stay with Me”, “Know Your Product”, “Persecution Blues”… One day a Swedes’ song will echo thru the speakers of some future band of hosts… but NOW, when the Swedish Magazines play, you will move as that restless spirit takes hold of your body.” – Kim Salmon
“Like that classic brand of footy the punters love and the league is hellbent on eradicating, The Swedes play it hard, rough but straight at the ball.” – Patrick Emery
The Swedish Magazines – Melbourne punk rock’n’roll greats who took their name from Iggy, hit a mark sonically somewhere between AC/DC and the Sex Pistols, and who filled the breach between the Powder Monkeys and Amyl & The Sniffers – return from a decade long near-slumber to release their first ‘Best of’, and their first ever LP vinyl release, I Wish Life Could Be….
in addition to the LP release, the collection is also available on CD – with five addition tracks drawn from two live-in-the-studio sessions recorded in 2005 by Melbourne’s PBS-FM – and available digitally.
They group has also just announced a run of album launches in Victoria and NSW, and shared a laugh-a-minute chat between main Swede Van Walker and Melbourne-based rock writer (and author of an upcoming Spencer P Jones biography) Patrick Emery. Check it out below the dates.
‘I WISH LIFE COULD BE… SWEDISH MAGAZINES’ ALBUM LAUNCHES
NOV 26 Marrickville Bowlo, Sydney
w/t Leadfinger & Jupiter 5
NOV 27 Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland
Dec 3 Old Bar, Melbourne
w/t Warped, The Devours & The Cha Cha Cha’s
Jan 14 Barwon Club, Geelong
w/t Warped, Future Tongues, & Cha Cha Chas
BUY/LISTEN TO ‘I WISH LIFE COULD BE… SWEDISH MAGAZINES’ HERE
Click to play the video for the Swedish Magazines’ “great lost Oz rock song” ‘HEAD ON ICE’, which has “all the hallmarks of classic Vanda & Young”!
Ahead of I Wish Life Could Be… Swedish Magazines, the group also released a video and single for “Head On Ice”.
“Head On Ice” originally appeared on the band’s debut Eat More Baby, and features the classic Swedes’ line-up – the one that is back together, comprising Van Walker, Cal Walker, Anton Ruddick and Tim Durkin. It is, if you’ll excuse the hype, one of Oz Rock’s greatest lost classics, and in my opinion, maybe the greatest Oz Rock track of the 21st Century. I’ve said it before so I’m just gonna quote myself :
“‘Head on Ice’ is the great lost Oz rock song and one of the greatest recordings of the early 21st Century. It has all the hallmarks of classic Vanda & Young in terms of dynamics, swing and tone, but higher-energy levels and a springier clip. Van Walker is one helluva great singer, songwriter and guitarist, and the Swedes are great rock’n’rollers.” – Dave Laing, Dog Meat Records
Of course you won’t believe me. Check it out below, turn it up LOUD, and maybe give it a few spins to let it sink in.
I hate it when people say “blah blah blah are the best band you’ve never heard”. It’s arrogant and assumes your audience knows less than you. So I’ll just say this: the Swedish Magazines are the best rock’n’roll band you’ve maybe never heard.
Existing originally in the first half of the first decade of this century, the Melbourne band, formed by Taswegian singer/songwriter/guitarist Van Walker together with his brother and Cal, played – and are about to play again – a varied and richly toned high-energy sound that mixed classic Bon era-AC/DC with early 70’s Flamin’ Groovies and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. With the occasional bit of the Sex Pistols and maybe the Stiff Little Fingers for good measure. Or something like that. They had – have – great songs, a superb vocalist, and a hefty sound. In terms of then-contemporary comparisons, think Sweden’s Hellacopters with a bit more punk and a lot more Oz Rock.
The Swedes were, for a while, mainstays on the inner city Melbourne rock’n’roll scene centered around venues like The Tote. They followed the likes of the Cosmic Psychos, Hoss and the Powder Monkeys, and set the scene for today’s world-shakers Amyl & The Sniffers and others like Civic and Mr Teenage.
Swedish Magazines mainman Van Walker is the same Van Walker who has collaborated with Liz Stringer and Jeff Lang and released records on Mick Thomas’ Croxton labels amongst other labels and is known in roots/folk circles as one of the finest singer-songwriters this country has to offer. His latest solo album Ghosting on Green South Records has received universal raves and was voted #2 best album of the year by the readers of Rhythms mag, and he brings that lyricism and depth of soul and his great voice to his rock music as well. Don’t just take my word for it:
“Songwriting isn’t so much something Van Walker does – it’s more something that defines what he is. It all seems to be a means geared toward the end that is some sort of ideal of an illusive classic song. Already he has scraped far closer to this end than many could ever, or will ever hope to get. ” – Mick Thomas
“Van has rock’n’roll pipes and is some sort of Beat/Fellaheen player. He could play a bit part in Deadwood, or work on a road gang, easy – big shoulders but he throws it all into music. He puts out!” – Dave Graney
“A captivating storyteller, reminiscent of Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt or Bob Dylan.” – Denise Hylands, Twang, RRR
“Rarely has an artist worn so many cloaks – be it Rogue, Sap, Stud, Sook, Seer, to down right Evil Bastard – quite so effortlessly.” – Bob Murphy, Western Bulldogs LEGEND!
Brother Cal Walker is the same Cal Walker who played guitar in much- loved Melbourne outfit Tyrannamen, whose debut album in 2016 gained international acclaim and who played Golden Plains, got themselves a 3RRR Album of the Week and more. Tyrannamen were appropriately described by The Age as making “ragged garage nuggets and proto-punk power-pop”, while members of the Smith Street Band told UK website Louder that Tyrannamen were “great live and probably the only band to come anywhere near the amazing Royal Headache in Australian garage-punk.”
The Swedish Magazines kind of got caught up in that early 21st century rock resurgence. They had the briefest moment in the sun, but that tide turned before they even got warned up. Conceived in 2000 after Van and Cal left Tasmania for the golden shores of Melbourne – hot on the trail of heroes like the Powder Monkeys, in honor of whom they would later form a tribute band, just for the hell of it – they began as as a songwriting partnership between Van and guitarist Anton Ruddick. Brilliantly taking their name from the 1979 Iggy Pop solo classic “Five Foot One”, they earned a reputation and lived the life. They released an EP called What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Deadly, then their first album, Eat More Baby, in 2005. (“‘Eat More Baby’ was Collingwood graffiti which I thought summed up the rampant king consumerism world we find ourselves in, as well as the fact the album was an extended version of the EP,” notes Van.)
Eat More Baby was noted for its controversial cover art, about which Van says: “I thought it summed up rock’n’roll perfectly, angels fucking and Satan being blinded by the light (as well as Mr Walker getting some action). The front cover collage is by Swedish Artist Ulf Rahmberg. I thought it was perfect, and ironically, the only thing I thought that might be a bridge too far was the actually depiction of penetration, so I thought ‘well, we can cover that up, so I covered it up with the guitar,’ and that’s the part everyone had a problem with because their myopic knee-jerk reaction saw the guitar as going into the woman, not covering it up. Now, not sure what Freud would have to say about that, but that’s their dirty minds, not mine!”
Regardless of reasons, the album stalled out of the gate – despite the obvious quality of “Head On Ice” and other highlights including “Movin’ Shakin'” and should-be local anthem “Girl From the Tote” – and the group – which alongside Van & Cal and Anton featured another Tassie boy Tim Durkin on drums, called it quits soon after. Van again: “The band was so short lived because we were forced to spend so much precious time and energy just trying to put the band together and find a drummer who could do the music justice. I’m a prolific writer of different styles of music so I had many other projects I wanted to do (still do!) and the Swedes was the first and most difficult.”
A handful of 2005 live recordings, taken from two live-in-the-studio sessions for Melbourne’s PBS-FM and including a bleedingly great “Head on Ice”, are included on the CD edition of I Wish Life Could Be… and prove the band were an immensely powerful live unit the Swedes were at the time (and why Kim Salmon enlisted Anton Ruddick for his high-concept multi-guitar hard rock group SALMON, alongside other local luminaries including Dave Graney, Clare Moore, Ashley Naylor, Penny Ikinger and Matt Walker).
Van Walker then fell into a solo career – releasing a succession of acoustic-based singer-songwriter records that contained much of the same spirit – and found himself a completely new audience. A brief Swedes reactivation with a new line-up – including Johnny Gibson – of Raised By Eagles – on drums and Lachlan Rimes on bass – produced another Swedes’ album Wino Havoc amid Van’s solo thing. Highlights included the barreling punk anthem “Bottles & Barstools” – it’s possible Irish feel perhaps gained from Van’s folk forays – and “You Never Wanted It” and “Think Tanks A Million“. (“The songs on Wino Havoc were written in a more pop punk style to suit our new drummer, Johnny. I couldn’t be bothered trying to teach him a new style, easier to write songs to his style, which is fast and busy, rather than rock’n’roll swing.”)
Van’s restlessness and insatiable appetite for making music kept him and Cal busy. Van kept the solo thing going, and other bands came and went, including The Livingstone Daisies (Big Star/Tom Petty-inspired, also featuring Cal, as well as local folk figure Liz Stringer, and former Paul Kelly & The Messengers mainstay Michael Barclay), and The Heartbrokers (bluesy rock’n’roll, with Cal again along with Melbourne blues/roots greats Jeff Lang, Ashley Davies and Ezra Lee ). Van puts it this way: “I think you could call it restlessness, but really it’s just the machine spins so much slowly than I do. I write and work at my own pace which is a lot faster and more productive than the industry, so it’s actually put me out of step and, perhaps prolific and diverse creativity is a disadvantage in an industry which is not.”
Cal also kept himself busy in much-loved punky garage-popsters Tyrannamen, who had a bit of a similar vibe stylistically to Cal and Van’s occasional Reigning Sound tribute outfit The Reigning Men, who backed Reigning Sound mainman, Memphis great Greg Cartwright, when he played down under in 2015. Cal also frequently performed solo and in partnership with others, and played in other bands including Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies and Go Go Sapien.
Van’s solo career reached new levels in 2020 when, amid lockdown, he released his first album in a decade, Ghosting, which came in at #2 on the Rhythms Magazine end of year Reader’s Poll and garnered much acclaim.
With Van on the ascent, now it’s the Swedes’ turn for another crack. And with a deal in place with long-running Melbourne indie Rubber Records (Even, The Casanovas, The Liquor Giants, Icecream Hands etc) and the original line-up back together and maybe, just maybe, the whiff of a new resurgence of rock in the wind, 2022 could be their year…
Van Walker yacks to Patrick Emery – click to play! Please share!
THE SWEDISH MAGAZINES’ I WISH LIFE COULD BE… is out now on Rubber Records, on LP, CD and digital formats. The CD includes five extra tracks drawn from two live-in-the-studio sessions recorded in 2005 by Melbourne’s PBS-FM.
BUY/LISTEN TO THE ALBUM HERE