The Fuzz: 100 Demons (2005)

This is an older review, rescued from the internet ether. I wrote it for a site I was involved with at the time, and I’m prompted to put it online as I’ve just listened to the band’s album and it still holds up OK if you’re keen on the whole garage-rock kinda thing. Excuse the writing: a lot has changed in 12 years – including lead singer Abbe May, who’s now out of the garage and into the spotlight. 

d74a214_4563After two well-received EPs, Perth quintet The Fuzz has upped the volume (and the dirt level) with their debut album, 100 Demons. What results is an album that’s got the sound of hunger nailed. With young bands, this keenness, this eagerness to rock isn’t unusual, but what marks this bunch of noiseniks out is the strength of vocalist Abbe May’s cords. They’re phenomenal, and bring to mind some kind of scientific experiment wherein Bon Scott and Adalita from Magic Dirt are somehow combined to create the Ultimate Rock Throat.

She’s that good.

The Fuzz’s music is not incredibly slavish in emulation of its influences, but the impact of The Hellacopters, Asteroid B-612, The Stooges and a bunch of other Detroit-styled bands is pretty visible. There’s a certain Joan Jett or Suzi Quatro leaning, also, but it’s not as pronounced as the others. Regardless, the band successfully avoids sounding like a cover act, and manages to convey some measure of their reported live spark across the album.

‘You Must Be Dead’ is the choicest tune on 100 Demons. The verse chords rock back and forth, hinting at larger release to come, before the eminently singable chorus of “Dead fucker, dead fucker, out of my head – oh yeah!” It’s at this point where the best part of the album kicks in: a simple back-and-forth guitar line does battle with a soaring, incredibly reverb-laden solo guitar in a truly showcase moment. A moment’s pause, and then the arse-shake of ‘Palsonic’ is introduced, all thin guitars and Detroit attitude.

This is pretty much the template for how the rest of The Fuzz’s album goes. It’s not a brilliantly conceived song cycle that’ll knock your socks off for dazzling lyricism or trenchant insight. But it is a collection of strong, enthusiastically-played rock songs that’ll occupy you nicely while the album’s playing. Rock, hindrances to rock, and general damn-the-man sentiment prevails. “Got a fridge full of shit beer and this tasteless food” cries Abbe on ‘Shit’, a tune about going nowhere, being stuck and soul-selling, and it’s sung with a sneer that matches the attitude of its backing. Rock isn’t meant to be nice, and you get the feeling that this bunch of musos certainly isn’t.

Seventh track ‘Long Wheel Base Blues’ knocks things back a notch for the first time on the album, but proves that even when they’re trying to be slow, The Fuzz can’t quite manage to cruise comfortably. It’s not a bad thing, by any means – but it perhaps indicates that the full-throated, foot-down rock songs that make up the rest of the album is where their talents are best served. The song’s not bad, but it hits an in-between tempo that makes you feel that the band didn’t know whether they wanted to get into the languid or fevered mood and therefore decided to split the difference. It seems like this speed just isn’t working for the band, and it’s a hypothesis that’s proven when ‘Lemmie’ kicks in, a moment after the track’s finished. Even though it’s not quite as teeth-baring a tune as others on the album, it once more injects a bit of verve to the proceedings.

The guitar playing of Jiah and Doug are suitably scratchy throughout, with the high-end of the spectrum getting a fair workout. There’s no drop-B nonsense here: just a lot of spiky chords and visions of legs-splayed, hell-for-leather strumming. The rhythm combo of Shayne on bass and Ben on drums is good, though not overly flashy. They’re best exhibited on ‘Take The Money’, which opens with a very locked-in section that gives them a chance to shine.

Lyrically, it’s often hard to get a handle on what the band’s going on about. It’s something, though, that rather than alienates, actually endears. Slurs and snarls are par for the course with hard-rocking bands, and it’s certainly the case here. It seems to communicate, strangely, the idea that they mean business, and it harks back to earlier, less tidy days of rock.

The Bon Scott references continue on ‘Chuck’, a very Asteroid B612-styled track – though a little more drawn out in places – that encapsulates a particular trait of that singer. To be more precise, cast your mind back to early AC/DC releases. Ever noticed that on some releases it sounds like Bon’s actually talking to other people in the studio, and that the singing of the song’s secondary to that? That there’s something happening just outside the isolated box of the studio, and that’s what he’s interacting with? That’s what’s exhibited here. Through ‘Chuck’’s duration there’s certainly a feeling that Abbe’s snarling to someone just out of our line of sight, just around the corner. It’s hard to express adequately, but it’s something that, mysteriously, gives the album a more authentically rock feel, rendering parts of it – particularly the bits where her vocals head to the grittier side of things – compulsively listenable.

The production job on the disc is serviceable and pretty close to what I’d imagine the Reverberation sound is: it’s a little thin – so much so that it sounds almost as if it’s on vinyl – and could be coming out of an overdriven AM radio. It suits the music pretty well, but I’m pretty sure that if the album stretched a bit longer than its current length, it’d start to irritate. Additionally, it seems that the band begin to repeat themselves a little – or else, the music becomes a little to familiar – by the end of the disc, so it’s good that they leave the stage at the point they do. It leaves the listener wanting more, which is almost always beneficial.

Minor quibbles aside, 100 Demons is the album that proves that sometimes, half an hour’s all you need. In that time, the band stakes their claim to be the new Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Hellacopters and Suzi Quatro, all at once. It’s a pretty impressive introduction for their sound (assuming you haven’t heard the EPs) and yet it comes across as a snapshot of a band playing big support slots: they’re bloody good, but you get the feeling that there’s just a little more growth to come before they make it into the headliner’s spot. But for now, it’s loud, groovy, and I can hardly understand a word of what Abbe’s singing (in a good way) – but it rocks like hell, and for now, that’ll do.

What comes next will be what makes – or breaks – this band. Here’s hoping that the trajectory’s as upwards as this disc suggests.

Originally posted to FL: September 8, 2005.

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