Van Walker’s Swedish Magazines Are Back!

Van and Cal Walker’s unsung early 2000’s high-energy outfit Swedish Magazines return with a new best of collection entitled I Wish Life Could Be…, to be released on LP, CD (with bonus live tracks recorded by 3PBS-FM in 2005) and digitally. The collection will be released in November – exact date to be announced once vinyl arrival date is confirmed – but in the meantime they’re releasing the digital single Bottles & Barstools.

The Bottles & Barstools video is a bit of a laugh with darker undertones – and not just because it’s about going to the pub and that is an impossibility for many of us right now. It features footage of some of rock’s hardest partiers in Bon Scott, Shane MacGowan and Lemmy alongside legendary literary lushes Charles Bukowski and Brendan Behan, intercut with a veritable history of drinking culture, including barfights and RSA failures galore. The video is quintessential Swedes in its unpolished and unapologetic messiness.

Conceived in 2000 when Taswegian brothers Van and Cal Walker traversed Bass Strait in search of their rock’n’roll dreams, Swedish Magazines hold a middle spot in an esteemed Melbourne punk rock’n’roll lineage that includes the Cosmic Psychos and the Powder Monkeys and Amyl & the Sniffers and Civic. They blew away every other band in town back in the day but were ultimately too real to catch a ride on the worldwide post-Y2K new rock explosion that brought up the likes of Jet and the White Stripes. They were too busy having fun to get their act together quickly enough anyway. They released one brilliant album – Eat More Baby! – that stalled out of the gates in 2006, and then broke up. They got back together with a different line-up and new album in 2011, but by then Van and Cal were also working on different projects and in more rootsy styles. Indeed, Van’s fledgling solo career had already produced several albums and received the acclaim of reviewers and the odd music-loving AFL footballer alike. The Swedes faded again, only to appear for the occasional benefit show or memorial.

Fast forward to now. 2020 saw Van’s career reaching new highs on the back of the acclaimed album Ghosting (voted #2 best album of the year by the readers of Rhythms mag). In a good space, and with other band-based projects (including The Livingstone Daisies, which saw Van and Cal teaming with Liz Stringer and former Paul Kelly & The Messengers mainstay Michael Barclay; and The Heartbrokers, Van & Cal’s bluesy rock’n’roll combo, also featuring Melbourne blues/roots greats Jeff Lang, Ash Davies, and Ezra Lee) having gone quiet, Van and Cal have decided 2021 is once again the year of the Swedes.

Original members Anton Ruddick (lead guitar) and Tim Durkin (drums) are on board. New music has been written and at least partially recorded. And with a deal in place with long-standing Melbourne indie Rubber Records (The Casanovas, Even, Icecream Hands etc), the band have decided to bring new and old fans alike up to speed with a new best of collection – also their first ever vinyl release – entitled I Wish Life Could Be…

The Swedish Magazines’ original sound was varied and richly toned high-energy sound that mixed classic Bon era-AC/DC with early 70’s Flamin’ Groovies and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. With the occasional bit of the Sex Pistols and Stiff Little Fingers for good measure. The second incarnation of the band – that which produced the little-heard second album Wino Havoc amid Van’s solo thing – made music in somewhat more pop-punky style (“… to suit our new drummer at the time,” says Van. “I couldn’t be bothered trying to teach him our style; it was easier to write songs to his style, which is fast and busy, rather than rock’n’roll swing.”) But they still powered along like nobody’s business.

A standout track from Wino Havoc is now the band’s new single. The barrelling street-punk anthem Bottles & Barstools – its singalong chorus perhaps influenced from Van’s folk forays – should appeal to fans of Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys and is an unmistakable classic in that style. As should other tracks from the era including You Never Wanted It and Think Tanks A Million. These second album tracks, which feature the band’s second line-up with Johnny Gibson on drums and Lachlan Rimes on bass, are great songs with great melodies and wry, literate lyrics – plenty for fans of Van’s solo work to love too.

I Wish Life Could Be… is the first time the Swedes songs will be available on wax and is now available to pre-order via the Rubber Records website, alongside the Deluxe CD featuring 5 exclusive tracks from PBS sessions in 2005.

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