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Flash Lads
Review of Wheeze and Suck Band CD

By Bill Quinn
Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Every few years an album comes along that totally captivates one's imagination and demands your full attention.

‘Flash Lads’ is such an album.

The Wheeze and Suck Band at the 2006 Music at the Creek festival, Majors Creek, NSW

I bought my copy hot off the presses (almost literally) at Kangaroo Valley in early September 2007 where the Wheeze and Suck Band were playing the first of many album launches.

By the time I'd driven as far as Goulburn (approximately 1.8 plays later), I was totally smitten.

Every few years an album comes along that totally captivates one's imagination and demands your full attention.

I don’t bandy about the phrase ‘All killer, no filler’ without due reason, but there’s not one track on this album that feels like it’s making up the numbers or padding out the marquee tracks.

It’s that good.

The Sydney-based Wheezers have built a reputation over 10 years of pleasing crowds and mixing it up: from heart-breaking ballads to rollicking sea shanties; from lively tune sets to lyrical parodies.

Their live sets are an un-missable feature of any festival they’re playing at. However, the Wheezers succeed where others occasionally falter in their ability to translate the sensory overload of their live performances into solid studio albums, the sort you want to play again and again.

The Wheeze and Suck Band launch 'Flash Lads' at the 2007 Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival

More than just ex-Morris musicians who’ve decided to have a bit of a warble, as another reviewer so accurately and succinctly opined, ‘These boys can sing’, with harmonies that you’re so glad they’ve managed to metaphorically bottle.

... there’s not one track on this album that feels like it’s making up the numbers or padding out the marquee tracks.

On ‘Flash Lads’, the Wheezers have assembled an excellent mix of original songs and tunes, traditional makeovers and a cover. From the introductory count-down to track one (‘TNT’ a.k.a. Tony’s New Tune) this album builds, ebbs and flows, and reaches a crescendo with a feature of their live shows, their party piece: ‘Roll the Woodpile Down/Yellow Girls’.

The Wheezers are justifiably proud of the journeymen three-part track which we’ll call ‘The Flash Lads’ here for brevity’s sake. It’s a collaborative, improvisational piece that’s a mark of how the Wheezers’ music has evolved to free-form and experimental pieces.

Other highlights include a very sing-a-long-able version of Richard Thompson’s ‘Ditching Boy’, the subversive and timely ‘Down Workers Down’, and the wistful ‘William Walker’, the tale of a 19th century diver who rebuilt the foundations of Winchester Cathedral but had the image of another person initially featured on his commemorative statue.

For a bit of good old vaudevillian fun, the lads serve up ‘The Day the Virgin Mary Came to Coogee’, an hilarious treatment of a surreal incident from beach-side Sydney in early 2006 that was fairly screaming out for a parody. And finally, the tone gets tweaked straight back to ethereal as Nigel “Muddy” Walters et al bid you adieu with the haunting ‘Cornish Leaving Song’.

Nigel 'Muddy' Walters and Tony 'Pyro' Pyrzakowski take a stroll through the crowd while playing sea shanties

After putting the Wheezers’ 2005 Elsie Marley’s Mates on high rotation and wondering how they could possibly better it, the answer is very simply two words:

‘Flash Lads’