If one were to blindly listen in on a Johnny Dole and the Scabs recording, it would probably get lumped into the vast catalog of relatively obscure British punk bands out there. The thing is, Johnny Dole and his cohort hailed from Australia – Sydney specifically. Of course, there’s no way to pick that up immediately from a quick listen. But if we’re paying attention here – and happen to be well versed in the Saints’ catalog – there’s a rhythmic delivery present in the singing here referencing that better known band.
It’s not at all necessarily completely detached from the Brit punk thing. At the same time, though, there’s a reason all that funky post-punk stuff cropped up in the UK and not down under. Partly, that’d be due to different immigrant populations surrounding each disparate scene, but music is a visceral thing as much as a cultural thing. And for whatever reason (we could easily pin it on the criminal element), Aussie bands subjected audiences to a more straightforward, and in some cases more aggressive, take on the genre than elsewhere – Sick Things for instance.
Either way, Johnny Dole and the Scabs showed up in time for the feeding frenzy that prompted major imprints to sign up their very own punk band and crank out poorly produced albums just to cash in. Because of that it seems as if the ensemble were caught up in a professional jive that they weren’t really prepared to engage with.
It basically seems like the same story as every other – the band gets jacked around by label types, deals fall through all while the music suffers. And sadly, at this late date, what recorded evidence remains of the Scabs isn’t too expansive. Granted, the band wasn’t around for that long. But what they were able to get to tape was pretty decent and easily ranks up there with some of the top (second) tier UK acts of the period.
Cobbled together on Scab Animal the band’s entire history whizzes by in just about thirty minutes. There’s a Who cover tossed in for good measure, but it’s not the live stuff that’s of interest – although there’s not really a bummer in the pack. “Lucky Country” works through the no future thing pretty well while a few tracks on scene an incisive scene critic in the form of “Little Lord Punk” shows up. It’s all relatively traditional fair, but rendered in proper, awful punk terms.