Title:Payin' The Dues
Band:The Hellacopters (Sweden)
Label:White Jazz Records
Sup Pop Records
Highlights:You Are Nothing
Where The Action Is
Twist Action

Payin' The Dues is the second album by Swedish punk rockers, The Hellacopters and from the opening thunderous chords of You Are Nothing, this is one kick arse record. It benefits from having a cleaner and stronger production than their debut Super Shitty To The Max, which gives the band a more powerful presence. Quite simply is one of the finest punk rock albums that I've heard in a long time that mixes the non-compromising nature of bands like Stooges and Sonics Rendezvous Band with the sleaziness of the New York Dolls without sounding retro or derivative.

Payin' The Dues is dominated by guitarists Nicke and Dregen Hellacopter, who are everywhere playing numerous impressive solos and screaming wah-wah duels, especially in songs like Hey!, Soulseller and Where The Action Is. Perhaps more importantly, the songs are also well written to back up their over-the-top playing. However, the most impressive aspect of Payin' The Dues is the band's restraint - the average time of each song is under 3 minutes and the lack of bullshit and unnecessary wank is really one of the albums keys. For plugged in, psyched out, fuel-injected rock action, you have to check out the Hellacopters.

Title:Grande Rock
Band:The Hellacopters (Sweden)
Labels:Psychout Records
Subpop Records
Shock Records
Highlights:Action De Grace
Move Right Out Of Here
The Devil Stole The Beat From The Lord
Heart Of The Matter

The Devil stole the beat from the Lord and then gave it to the Hellacopters. Grande Rock, the Hellacopter's third album, sees the band moving away from the glam/metal inclinations of Paying The Dues and heading down a more rock 'n' roll path. Unlike many similar bands,the Hellacopters actually rock, make you want to move your hips and get down with it. With a title like Grande Rock, it is not surprising that this album is highly indebted to Detroit Rock City with the MC5, Stooges, Radio Birdman and Sonic's Rendezvous Band all strong influences. In particular Fred 'Sonic' Smith no doubt is a primary influence of lead singer and guitarist Nicke Royale.

Opening with the ghost like vocals of Robin Tyner, Action De Grace is a call to arms - to respect the rock if you will. From there the riffs come thick and fast but never overdone through the excellent Alright Ready Now and Move Right Out Of Here. Welcome To Hell is a longer, slower song that mixes Kiss-like stadium power chords with Radio Birdman keyboards and backing vocals straight from the Stones Sympathy For The Devil to be one of the highlights of the album. Other highlights include Dogday Mornings, Lonely and the potential hit The Devil Stole The Beat From The Lord. Like Payin' The Dues, one of main strengths of Grande Rock is that all but two of the songs are less than four minutes in length.

As an added bonus, the newly released Australian version comes with three bonus tracks, Heart Of The Matter, Makes It Alright and Holiday Cramps, all of which are as good as anything on the album. Also included are the videos for Move Right Out Of Here and The Devil Stole The Beat From The Lord, making an already classic album even better. A contender for best rock album of the ninties.

Title:High Visibility
Band:The Hellacopters (Sweden)
Label:Universal Records
Highlights:Baby Borderline
Toys And Flavours
Throw Away Heroes
Truckloads Of Nothing
A Heart Without A Home

Imagine if a band took the Kiss classic, Detroit Rock City and all that it stands for, and made an album out of it. Well, that?s exactly what the Hellacopters have done with their fourth and most realised album, High Visibility. It is immediately obvious that the sound on High Visibility is much more produced than previous albums (hell there are even acoustic guitars on a couple of tracks) which is probably just as attributable to a deliberate approach by the band to emulate their heroes, as it is to their major label record deal, which enabled them to spend considerably more time in the studio.

High Visibility could have so easily become MOR FM rock but thankfully, with the exception of the weak balled No Song Unheard, The Hellacopters rise above such mediocrity. All the trademark Hellacopters riffs and stylings are still present and perhaps one of the most impressive things about this album is the brilliant drumming by Robert Eriksson. Musically, High Visibility isn?t that much of a departure from Grande Rock, although there are a few surprises, including the bluesy I Wanna Touch and their soulful cover of You?re Too Good (To Me Baby), which also happens to feature a cameo from Gluecifier?s Biff Malibu. I?m not sure if all their old fans will dig this (it will be interesting to hear their reaction), but as far as I?m concerned, this is a great album.

Title:Cream Of The Crap
Band:The Hellacopters (Sweden)
Label:Universal Records
Highlights:Thanks For Nothing
Crimson Ballroom
Makes It Alright
Heart Of The Matter
Down Right Blue

This is the first long awaited compilation (in a series of two) of rare, singles-only tracks by Swedish rock band The Hellacopters. The band were almost forced to release this comp due to the high prices people were charging for the band?s early 7? singles, which have until now been unavailable on CD. As a result, Cream Of The Crap is a good but uneven listen. Whilst it is essentially a fans-only release, there are still more than enough good songs to justify its purchase, such as the Scott Morgan collaboration Down Right Blue. It?s also interesting for fans like myself to be finally able to hear their earliest recordings and note that evolution the band has gone through over the years.

Title:Veni Vidi Vicious
Band:The Hives (Sweden)
Label:Burning Heart/Shock Records
Highlights:Die, All Right!
Main Offender
Hate To Say I Told You So
The Hives Introduce The Metric System In Time

Veni Vidi Vicious is the second album from crazy Swedish garage-punks The Hives, who despite being on Burning Heart Records thankfully sound nothing like skate-punks Millencolin. The Hives have an advantage over many of their rivals in that their hyperactive singer/frontman, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, (who reminds me a lot of the New Bomb Turks Eric Davidson), commands a lot of attention. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Hives are a band you can't ignore. Whilst their sound is a bit one-dimensional (not necessarily a bad thing) that falls a bit flat over the duration of an entire album, it's great taken in bite-sized pieces, like the two classic singles, Die All Right! and Hate To Say I Told You So. If these songs don't get you up and dancing around the room, nothing will.

Title:In Blue Cave
Band:The Hoodoo Gurus
Label:Mushroom Records
Highlights:Big Deal
If Only...
Son Of A Gun

Rating: 7.5/10

In Blue Cave, the final Hoodoo Gurus studio album, is unfortunately rather patchy. As always Dave Falkner is in good voice, the band is as tight as ever and the production is strong and sharp. However, the most disappointing aspect is the lack of good album tracks. The best songs are all ones that I've heard before such as Big Deal, If Only... and Son-Of-A-Gun. Down On Me is another good song that I feel is let down in the lyrical department while Why? is an upbeat rocker that namechecks You Am I. Apart from these songs, there isn't much else to maintain my interest. To often, the Hoodoo Gurus come across as playing within themselves. Songs like Mine, Please Yourself, All I Know and Night Must Fall aren't bad but could have been so much more. On the other hand, Mind The Spider is nothing short of embarrassing. All in all, In Blue Cave comes close to being at a classic Gurus album but too often the band seem to be aiming for the middle ground and subsequently they fall short of my high expectations. Far from being disgraced, however, this is still a fine way for the Gurus to end their long career as one of Australia's most popular bands.

Label:Magic Island Records
Highlights:Let It Roll
Crazy For Love
3 Flights Down
Signal To The Stars
Bring It To Jerome

Rating: 8.5/10

Rockin' Chair is the third and most impressive album from The Hunchbacks, who hail from the same breeding ground as The Celibate Rifles and Asteroid B-612. Like these bands, The Hunchbacks have a penchant for raw, honest and uncompromising rock 'n' roll that they couple with their fondness for the blues and R 'n' B. Thankfully The Hunchbacks inject enough passion into their covers of Howlin' Wolf's Sitting On Top Of The World and Bo Diddley's Bring It To Jerome to prevent themselves from becoming the pale white-boy blues imitations that one might expect.

Regardless, it is the band?s original material is of real interest. The majority of the songs are straight ahead rockers, in a New Christs vein. However, The Hunchbacks also manage to demonstrate their sensitive side by including several slower songs, such as the touching From Your Window and the sad Later Never Comes, both of which sound strongly influenced by The Bamboos.

Despite the wide range of styles and emotions on Rockin' Chair, The Hunchbacks pull them all off with ease, thanks primarily to the great voice of Carl Elkman and the no frills playing of guitarists Michael Klarenaar and John South. My only complaint with Rockin' Chair is that the sound is a little thin but this album is still A grade all the way.

Title:Parts Unknown
Band:The Hydromatics (USA/Netherlands/Sweden)
Label:White Jazz Records
Runaway Slaves
Calling LWA

Rating: 10/10

Back in the 70's, Scott Morgan was a member of the legendary Sonic's Rendezvous Band. Whilst the band is best known as being formed by the MC5's Fred 'Sonic' Smith, Scott Morgan's contributions are often unfairly overlooked. His soulful vocals were among the best in the business and he contributed several fine songs in his own right. Now, some 20 years later, Morgan has teamed up with the Nitwitz's Tony Slug on guitar and the Hellacopter's Nicke Royale on drums, to not only record some of his old SRB tunes but also several new originals under the Hydromatics moniker. The result of this collaboration is the Parts Unknown album and while Tony and Nicke both contribute two fine songs each, it's Morgan's songs that form the heart of this record. Undoubtably the highlight of this album is being able to hear his old Sonic's Rendezvous classics (Earthy, Dangerous, Heaven and Getting There Is Half The Fun) properly and powerfully recorded after all this time. If that's not enough, the band then rip through the best cover of the MC5's Baby Won't Ya that your ever likely to hear. Morgan's vocals are amazing regardless of his age while the band play as if inspired the same sense of enthusiasm. The album may be called Parts Unknown but there are no parts missing in this revved up machine.