The two minutemen that make up Sneeze are stalwarts from the Sydney independent scene - guitarist Tom Morgan (Godstar, Smudge) and bassist Nic Dalton (Godstar, Lemonheads, Half A Cow record label etc). Started as one of a myriad of side projects back in the early '90s, the credo on which Sneeze was built was 'if ya can't do it in two minutes it ain't worth doin'. That two minute limit is still the driving philosophy behind the band but they have got a little flabby in the latest venture, Lost The Spirit To Rock & Roll. The 18 tracks clock in at 48 minutes.
The album is dedicated to soul king Don Covay, who wrote tracks like Mercy Mercy (covered by the Rolling Stones and many others) and Sookie Sookie (Steppenwolf). However, the Covay LP that inspired Morgan and Dalton is a mid-'70s effort called Super Dude 1 which sees Covay take on a Clarence Carter/Swamp Dogg type character. The way Dalton describes Super Dude 1 it's based around a central concept that 'while Covay's out on the road 'makin' love', his lady is back home 'making love!'
The flavour of Covay's album is spread thick over Lost The Spirit To Rock & Roll, sharing a pre-occupation with sex, soul inflected tunes and witty lyrics. It directly inspired the LP's best song, Ain't No Love On The Road (the best moment coming with the "woo" accompanying the lyric "group sex"), while also acting as the stimulus for Doctor Of Love ("I turned to my lady and I said scalpel/I've got to make a house call") and the falsetto-led Wu-Li. However, it's not all a funk fest with Deaf Girl, Dumb Guy, Blind Love sounding like Elvis Costello took over the studio for a day.
But it's the lyrics that shine in this Sneeze outing. It's actually rare these days for lyrics to be so up front in the mix and important on records. So many bands are doing the type of medies where it doesn't matter what's being sung, the voices being treated as just another sound to go with the guitars, drums and obligatory dabs of electronica. Lost the Spirit To Rock & Roll makes it known right from the start that the lyrics are the most important feature of the record with both Morgan and Dalton using plenty of humour while singing with straight up conviction.
Again 12" freaks are being looked after as the vinyl has six extra tracks not on the CD version including songs with fantastic titles like (You've Never) Had Sex Sober and Isle Of Lesbos. Also the 'why has it never been said before' Girl, It's Time We Had A Man To Man and the plaintive This Is The Song Only Young Girls Can Hear.
Sydney's pop royalty, Nic Dalton and Tom Morgan at last launch their album, Lost The Spirit To Rock & Roll at the Empress this Friday. So they've lost the spirit to rock. Do they have a contingency plan? What's going to happen? Will it involve golockenspiels?
Lost The Spirit To Rock & Roll album cover, copyright Sneeze 2001.