The Bonniwells : Unprofitable Servant
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The Bonniwells : Unprofitable Servant

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Many a power ballad has been conceived in the wake of romantic disaster. A jilted lover left with nothing but a compendium of distant memories, a few broken melodies and a burning desire for catharsis. All too often the deep-seated emotion is clouded by self-indulgence and pretension, and the listener is left with the distinct impression the jilting was justified.

Many a power ballad has been conceived in the wake of romantic disaster. A jilted lover left with nothing but a compendium of distant memories, a few broken melodies and a burning desire for catharsis. All too often the deep-seated emotion is clouded by self-indulgence and pretension, and the listener is left with the distinct impression the jilting was justified.

The opening track, I Don’t Need You Know More, of The Bonniwells’ debut album is the anti-power ballad. It’s brutal, harsh and pissed off: the protagonist screams his disdain for his former lover, proudly proclaiming his move across the river to escape the painful memories. Love has turned to hate, the nuclear fall out producing a set of jarring power chords with enough radioactive energy to wipe out a small country town.

From that apex of anger, The Bonniwells’ attitude becomes less personal, and more sub-cultural. The dark three-chord garage wonder, replete with the occasional Gerry Rosalie scream, of Bad Seeds locates the band explicitly on the margins of so-called normal society from whence rock ’n’ roll first came. Hey oozes indulgent nihilism like puss from a festering wound; Cracked Hands is a chaotic blend of fucked-up guitars, lumbering beats and a dysfunctional attitude to life that’d send Andrew Bolt into a perversely satisfying rhetorical tizz.

On Soda Pressing The Bonniwells rake over the still smouldering psychedelic bones of The Sonics and The Wailers with the brand of youthful enthusiasm that’s given the world some of the greatest garage music of yore. We’re Pretty Sick is sociological self-diagnosis through the eyes of Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Predictable Piece Of Shit takes self-deprecation to new scatological levels.

In the middle of The Bonniwells’ sonic violence and discursive knife attack comes a cover of The Kingsmen’s seminal garage track Louie Louie (the title being altered slightly to Louie Lou-aah) through a Stooges lens. Back in the 1960s the FBI spent considerable amounts of taxpayers’ money trying to identify the subversive message at the root of Louie Louie: one suspects J Edgar Hoover’s Feds would see in The Bonniwells the realisation of all their worst fears for society. And that’s not a bad thing at all.