Australia’s folk-punk troubadour!
Just a few days before we review the new EP from Tasmania’s premier folk-punk outfit The Dead Maggies and it’s more of the same with more Aussie fare from Benny Mayhem. Not a name known to us till recently it would seem that Benny has blessed Europe quite a few times before as both a solo artist and as the shirtless, writhing front man of kick-arse smart alec punk rock party band Project Mayhem. He tours as both solo and with a band and if plans go to plan he will return to England with both in 2017 while inbetween Benny will be studio-bound applying the finishing touches to his latest LP.
From his home base on the west coast of Australia in Perth, Benny Mayhem has toured the world as a wandering troubadour and in England has gone from busking outside tube stations to the festival circuit in only two years. The EP begins with the title song ‘Song For Absent Friends’ and is an ode to the multitude of people that have helped Benny on his journey’s around the globe delivering folk-punk to the masses. It was in the Fuelled By Cider Studio in Somerset that Benny realised the three original songs delivered here needed the backing of a full band to realise their full potential. Returning to Australia he set about mixing the songs and gathering the right musicians for the job.
“Now I’m sitting in my room,
Thinking of times I shared with you,
And I wouldn’t be me today…
If it wasn’t for you”
He wrote the opener in a hotel room in the Austrian Alps and its poppy’ness’ and Cali-punk style belie its snow laden roots! It may not have much in common musically with The Dead Maggies but the Aussies seem to have cornered the market in great song/story writing.
(acoustic version of the full band song on the EP)
Benny and his acoustic guitar start the show next with the amazing ‘Mother Nature Will Have Her Revenge On Old Fatty’. Great well thought and inspiring lyrics as well as a great sense of humour. Listening to this song especially you can tell it would have worked as just Benny and that guitar but the band takes it into a different territory and will I am sure open many more doors for him.
“You’ll watch the jungle close in
Just as it always has before…
And the waters will rise
Just as they always have before…”
‘Bulwer Street Waltz’ is next and again it’s mostly Benny and his guitar with minimal but crucial backing from the band. A tale of mis-spent youth that ends with the absolutely fantastic line
“We were glared at in clubs
But we didn’t care
My only regret is that I didn’t dance”
What a line. I love it.
Song For Absent Friends ends with a class acoustic version of the Stiff Little Fingers standout ‘Suspect Device’. Jake Burns spits the original out with real bile while Benny plays it much calmer. Perhaps taking inspiration from Anto Morra who did an amazing job with SLF’s ‘Wasted Life’ proving you can do an angry song without an angry voice (here) Benny nails it regardless.
“Inflammable material, planted in my head
It’s a suspect device that’s left two thousand dead”
You can file Benny Mayhem in the folk-punk section with fellow Aussies like The Rumjacks and The Go-Set but just don’t be expecting the same celtic fuelled raucousness of said bands but more hook laden, catchy and contemplative songs from an artist whose journey has only just started. Whether that journey will lead him away from his trademark folk-punk sound who can tell but wherever it does end up you can be sure Benny will be delivering it straight from his heart.