Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#943 in the Series) is Angel City, Face to Face. When locating the epicenters of rock and roll, music fans instinctively fixate on New York, California, London, and (maybe) Manchester, England. Very few look down under to Australia. How could people overlook the home of AC/DC, Midnight Oil, The Saints, Triffids, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Hoodoo Gurus, The Church, and Birthday Party? For a nation of less that 23 million people, this is quite an impressive output of quality bands. For me, though, Angel City, also known as the Angels, ranks with any band from any place.
Formed in 1974 in Adelaide, Angel City is a no frills kick you in the teeth tour de force. The group centered around guitar playing brothers John and Rick Brewster and charismatic frontman/livewire Doc Neeson. Many people have referred to Angel City as a poppier version of AC/DC. While this is probably an appropriate comparison, it seems a tad simplistic to me. Angel City, when at the top of their game, were just damned near perfect. The guitars attacked like buzzsaws, the rhythm section of Buzz Bidstrup and Chris Bailey pounded relentlessly, and Doc Neeson was amongst the absolute best. Anywhere.Doc was the loveable nutjob that is often so lacking in modern music.
Face to Face was released to the Aussies in 1978 and the rest of the globe in the spring of1980. It is the Angels’ second proper studio long player. The album starts with its best tunes and never lets up for 39 glorious minutes.
“Take a Long Line” starts with Doc’s declaration of “This is it folks, over the top!” The band describes an interrogation of an old geezer who used to be someone special. As the tale winds down the old codger places the joke on his captors with “They put him on a well wound whirlwind, pulled out his teeth and told him to grin, he gave them a smile, pulled a bottle of wine , and said ‘I never existed you’ve been wasting your time.’” It reads like a demented and psychotic situation, but it works.
“Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?” morphed into Angel City’s live calling card. Neeson pines over a former girlfriend in a decidedly non-traditional manner. “Can’t stop the memory that goes climbing through my brain, I get no answer, so the question still remains, am I ever gonna see your face again?” The joy in this song is how Aussie audiences got involved. As Doc asked the iconic question, the crowd would chant “No way, get fucked, fuck off!” Oh, the brilliance.
The lp’s show stopper for me is “Shadowboxer.” I first stumbled on to this gem in one of those pre-MTV late night video shows (Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert? In Concert?). The combination of the Brewster guitar army and Doc Neeson as the demented stage hog had me hooked. Forever. Why wasn’t this album number 1 all over the world? Why didn’t Angel City play in baseball stadiums? Maybe it’s just as well. The Angels are our little secret, just don’t tell anyone.
After their heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Angels split into two competing factions in 2000. Both camps continued to play Australia. Sadly, Doc Neeson passed from brain cancer on April 4, 2014 at 67. Most of the world has no clue as to what they missed.
- “Take a Long Line” – 3:00
- “Marseilles” – 4:50
- “After the Rain” – 3:11
- “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again” – 3:40
- “Shadow Boxer” – 2:44
- “Comin’ Down” – 3:20
- “Out of the Blue” – 3:17
- “Can’t Shake It” – 4:49
- “Waiting for the World” – 3:13
- “No Exit” – 6:44
- Doc Neeson – lead vocals
- Richard Brewster – lead guitar
- John Brewster – rhythm guitar
- Chris Bailey – bass guitar
- Graham “Buzz” Bidstrup – drums