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Rose Tattoo Pain

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, June 27, 2002 @ 10:03 AM


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Halleluiah!!! The bad boys from down under are back in action after all these years and have never sounded better. Yes folks, the mighty Rose Tattoo have delivered the reunion album to beat all reunion albums with their latest platter Pain, a 16 track hard rock testament to the fact that some bands actually do get better with age and that nice boys do not, in fact, play rock n’ roll. Lead by original members Angry Anderson (vocals) and Pete Wells (slide guitar), the illustrated men of Rose Tattoo return with a vengeance after giving fans a taste with last year’s 25 To Life double live opus (recorded at their triumphant Wacken gig) and a handful of incendiary live shows. Pain not only delivers on the promise of those appearances but it delivers the goods in full.

For those of you who don’t know shit, Rose Tattoo was an Australian band outta the ‘70s that played AC/DC-style blues rock sped up to punk rock tempos and sauced in sleazy slide guitar. Housed by the gravel-throated wail of pint sized powerhouse Anderson (a cross between a pissed off Rod Stewart and Paul Rogers on biker crank) and the fiery guitar strut of Wells, the band released three epic albums (their self-titled debut, Assault & Battery, Scarred For Life), one so-so affair (Southern Stars), and one crappy ‘80s effort (Beats From A Single Drum). At that time, they were huge in their homeland but never really broke through in the States. However, several of their classics have been covered over the years and their rep has grown to cult hero status. Even the most casual hard rock fans know Guns N’ Roses’ cover of “Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock n’ Roll” or the many covers of “Rock N’ Roll Outlaw” (recorded by Nashville Pussy and Keel among others). Some may even remember Anderson from his role in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome or as a charitable variety show celebrity in his homeland. Well, now it’s time to get to know the Tats all over again with their 2002 entry into the rock n’ roll history books…

From the opening howl of “Black Magic” to the closing barroom brawler “One More Drink With The Boys,” this album takes listeners straight back to vintage Tatt -- monster riffs that would make Angus proud, blood curdling blues-soaked screams and vocal histrionics, working class tales of struggle, drinkin’ songs for the common man, and rock so hard it’ll cause blood clots. The album is a mix of neck breaking up tempo rockers (“No Mercy,” “17 Stitches,” “Satan’s Eyes,” etc) and some choice mid-tempo headbangers (“House of Pain,” “Hard Rockin’ Man,” the title track, etc) and every tune is a winner. Check the bruising “Stir Crazy” or the ass kicking “The Devil Does It Well” to see if these guys are back in top form and you will surely come to the same conclusion I did, no one does it better.

The big difference between the Tatts and their Aussie mentors AC/DC in 2002? Brian Johnson lost his vocal firepower a decade ago, while Anderson still sounds like he’s in his 20’s and has something to prove. The man is an absolute beast on the mic, with pipes that hit the highs and lows with ease, and a scream that rattle cages for miles. He oozes charisma and tells stories with conviction and purpose. Generally he sings about the struggles of life and the fun of blowin’ off some steam at the pub with the boys, but he does so with an eye for detail and a penchant for personalized characters. He spills his life story out on the pavement on “17 Stitches” and describes his relationship with his hard as nails father and the lessons he was forced to learn at an early age. He speaks for the working class heroes and their plight to make ends meet in “Union Man” and does so with complete authenticity. You know this is a guy who has worked some shit jobs in his life just buy the way he wraps his voice around the anti-corporate messages and pro-union jargon. Believable? You bet. Convincing. Definitely. Still rockin’ despite the occasional heavy topics? Fuck yeah. ‘Cause rockin’ is what the Tatts do best, and there’s plenty of it here.

The best tunes on Pain are really the ones that sound like they could be right off the first album, the straight ahead rockers that chug along at a brisk pace and feature catchy choruses. On “Kisses and Hugs” Anderson wails, “I don’t want no kisses and hugs, I just wanna fuck!!!!!” and sounds every bit like the horny teenager he is portraying, all hot and bothered and ready to spread some seed. On “I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky” and the aforementioned “Union Man” the band keeps it simple, 12 bar blues based barnburners with anthemic, melodic, fist pumpin’ choruses that any dumbshit can sing along to. “Living Outside My Means” is a song any lower to middle class bloke can relate to and “Illustrated Man” is a call to arms for the ink colored masses and biker rock sect. There really isn’t a bad tune here, folks, I gotta tell ya. I could name check every one but let’s just say that if you dig this kind of music or are a Rose Tattoo fan, then this album is a must.

It’s really pretty amazing actually that after all these years the Tatts could return with such full force and authority. It’s a testament to the power of rock n’ roll and proves that good rockers never die they just get better with age. Like Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and Lemmy, Rose Tattoo is making some of their best music in the twilight years of their career. We can all only hope to be so relevant and rockin' at 50 + years old….


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