Song: "Hard Work Drivin' Man"
Album: Sour Mash
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While in many cases, a band comes together and runs a full course, there are other situations where outside factors prevent such from occurring. In these situations, unless the timing is perfect, some of the greatest possible often never come into existence; but every once in awhile, the timing works perfectly. Though they had been experimenting with different lineups and sounds for nearly a decade, in the late 1980's, due to the break-up of The Scientists and The Johnny's both closing out their careers, if provided a perfect moment for what would become the definitive record from the Australian super-group known as Beasts Of Bourbon. It is perhaps due to the fact that the band began as a side project, playing "bar style" rock, that the music is far more loose, yet aggressive than work of their other bands, and one can feel the enjoyment that each member is having throughout their stunning 1988 release, Sour Mash. Blending together blues, country, punk, and outright experimental sounds, Sour Mash truly knows no peers, and one can trace both its roots and influence across the entire Australian music landscape. Though each song on the record has it's own distinctive feel, there is no question that all the power and sleaze that defines Beasts Of Bourbon is on full display in their 1988 song, "Hard Work Drivin' Man."
The moment that "Hard Work Drivin' Man" begins, the entire intent and personality of the song and band are instantly clear, as there is a hard, dark groove and sway immediately set into place. The tone from drummer James Baker is almost unsettling, and one can hear a close sonic kinship to the almost chaotic sounds of fellow Australians, The Birthday Party. The way in which bassist Boris Sujdovic emphasizes this looming, intimidating mood completely captivates the listener, and there is an aggression and power within this rhythm section that has rarely been matched elsewhere in recorded history. The blues-based swing that the duo put forth absolutely reeks of a smoky, dirty bar in "the bad part of town," and yet it is this very tone that makes "Hard Work Drivin' Man" such a fantastic song. The addition of the dual guitars of Spencer Jones and the great Kim Salmon only add to this already phenomenal mood, and they also present a fantastic sonic contrast. As the song progresses, the guitars begin to ring out, adding more to the bluesy undertones, as they cross in and out of a slide-guitar sound, seeming to shoot through the rhythm at random angles. The combined sound also leans heavily on the post-punk sound, and this is where much of the dark mood comes into play, and the overall raw, unrestrained feel is what sets "Hard Work Drivin' Man" so far apart from everything else being created musically at the time.
Though there are have been many great pairings of vocalists with bands, few present as perfect a match in sound and style as the combination of this musical lineup of Beasts Of Bourbon and legendary vocalist, Tex Perkins. Bringing a rough, gritty growl that is far beyond that of others who attempt such a sound, Perkins' voice adds even more to the overall mood, as there is simply no other vocal sound that would have sounded proper on "Hard Work Drivin' Man." Furthermore, his raw, gruff sound lends even more of an "everyman" quality to the music, and it is very much his voice that helped make "Hard Work Drivin' Man" and underground classic. It is also the fact that the lyrics which Perkins sings are equally appealing to the "working man" which push the song to such a status, and few bands have ever been as unrelenting and honest about the frustrations of "getting through the nine to five" as one finds here. The sound and swagger with which Perkins sings the lines, "...boss man needs a kick in the pants, I'm gonna give it to him..." quickly brings a grin to the face of nearly everyone, as this is one of the most universal sentiments one can imagine. As Perkins sings other thoughts of the difficult of getting through the day, only to be left exhausted in the evening, it is clear that there is a proximity to the words, and this reality, combined with the unapologetic lyrics are the key to making "Hard Work Drivin' Man" such a special moment in music history.
Though the band ha gone through a number of lineup changes and hiatuses over the decades, it is difficult to argue that Beasts Of Bourbon sounded any better than one finds them on their 1988 release, Sour Mash. Clearly hitting their artistic stride as a group, much of the overall greatness of the band is due to the fact that even though many of the members had already made a name for themselves with other projects, there are no egos at play here. The result of this collectively unselfish approach is one of the most powerful and dirty rock records ever recorded, though it also remains one of the most overlooked outside of Australia. Yet if one compares Sour Mash to music from any other place on the planet from that time, it easily buries nearly everything else being recorded. The sheer sonic force of which Beasts Of Bourbon are capable is at its high-point on "Hard Work Drivin' Man," and it is also this song that largely defines their overall mission as a group. The rhythm section is nothing short of intimidating, and yet there is a dark, bluesy edge to the music that makes it brilliantly unique. The addition of the dual guitar sound only makes "Hard Work Drivin' Man" more musically robust, and one can picture the song being played in a run-down bar as easily as on an arena stage. Quite simply, Beasts Of Bourbon manage to pull off sleazy hard rock in a way that no other band has achieved, and one can experience this unique musical greatness within their 1988 song, "Hard Work Drivin' Man>"