hile many armchair critics—and a few ‘professional’ ones, too—criticized Jet and The Vines for not having paid their rock’n’roll dues, sometimes it seemed like The Casanovas were doomed to doing nothing but paying their dues, with nothing to show for it. They spent years slogging away at rock pit after fleapit after mosh pit while their more fortunate brethren laffed-it-up in LA. For the uninitiated, let me tell you a story: The ‘Novas have been a longstanding staple of the Melbourne rock scene, playing their AC/DC and Kiss-lovin’ party rock to rabid crowds while Jet played out their Rolling Stones fantasies in sticky-carpeted dives to the cleaner and his dog—the ‘saviours of rock’ even supported The Casanovas as late as the November of ’02. But somewhere along the line, Jet’s ship came in and left Tommy Love and his boys behind, resigned to playing the pub gigs that couldn’t handle Jet’s commercial-radio over-capacity crowd. But playing smaller gigs wasn’t the stench of death—there’s a lot to be said for intimacy in live rock. It was, more importantly, the fact that their releases were scant—an EP here, a single there—edging them ever closer to rock’s abyss with no album to hold them from plummeting into irrelevancy. Thankfully, those days are about to change.
The Casanovas goes from 0 to 100 within a few seconds of its opening clarion riff, “Livin’ In The City”; a clanging guitar line somewhere between “The Globe” and “Highway To Hell” that heralds a tale of rock disaffection in the vein of the greats (AC/DC’s “Down Payment Blues”). Though some might consider it too low-key an affair for the opening number, it suits the band to a tee—its journey from country boredom to big city rock Valhalla is back-story, almost an introductory explanation as to the lateness of the album. From there, the trio stay in high gear: “Break Your Heart” takes the ZZ Top basic model and supercharges it with a “Detroit Rock City” shout-along chorus and chrome-plated solos. The previously sedentary “No Time For Love” is re-energized and zips along with relentless cowbell and “Simply Irresistible” bass. The band’s early classic, “10 Outta 10”, has also been reanimated and though it misses the hysterical falsetto, it feels fresher and has shaken the Van Halen-aping of the original version. The album highlight is the brilliant “Heartbeat”, a snake-hipped happy party track to rival AC/DC’s “Rock And Roll Damnation”. Unlike so many of the new rock calling cards that might check classic sounds but forget the soul, “Heartbeat”—as the rest of the album—is unique in recalling and celebrating the relentless, unselfconscious fun of rock’s golden days. I mean, sleigh bells? Great! Jet or The Datsuns might have the riffs or the prowess, but The Casanovas have got the joy in their hearts that makes even the simplest guitar refrain sound vital.
If there’s one disappointment to be found—or rather, not found—on The Casanovas, it’s the omission of the brilliant “Nasty”, which would have pushed an impressive album into the realm of the classics. But that’s clutching at straws, since the album is sparkily delivered and the track order is well thought out. Where most bands worry about replicating their recorded sound when playing live, the problem for The Casanovas has always been making their recordings convince the novice of their live prowess. With their tardy debut joyously one of the best Australian rock party albums since Power Age, The Casanovas could convince a brick to dance. They might be starting their term a little late, but The ‘Novas are here to reclaim their leadership of the local rock scene. It’s Time.
Reviewed by: Clem Bastow
Reviewed on: 2004-05-06