The name Rose Tattoo may or may not roll off your tongue as quickly as their Aussie brethren AC/DC and certainly the former hasn’t enjoyed the same prolific career as the latter. Still, if you like your rock served greasy and sloppy with a bit of Zeppelin and Faces in addition to the more obvious AC/DC jerks and chokes, then don’t be afraid to admit yourself as a latecomer. Step on up to Rose Tattoo, because even though the band has historically gone through lineup modifications and band hiatuses, when these lads get together, you can count on it being a loud, heel-stomping affair.
Rose Tattoo’s attitude towards their whiskey-soaked crunch chord chicanery is best summed up by their signature cuts “Bad Boy for Love” and “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock ‘n Roll),” the second of which became an equivalent signature cover tune for Guns ‘n Roses. While AC/DC went on with Bon Scott (and even their first few years with Brian Johnson) to become one the most dangerous bands in the world, Rose Tattoo took cue with the blessing of AC/DC’s management (Albert Productions). If there’s a difference between the two bands beyond pinnacles of success reached, it’s the fact Rose Tattoo are more punk-oriented, thus ostracizing them the proverbial bigger and better deal. Consider Rose Tattoo something along the lines of Iggy and The Stooges meets John Lee Hooker, pre-pop superstar Rod Stewart and of course, Angus Young, all set to the shuck and jive spirit of AC/DC’s “Bad Boy Boogie.”
Rose Tattoo’s claim to fame song is “Rock ‘n Roll Outlaw” (better known to eighties hairballs courtesy of Keel’s slip ‘n twang remake on the Dudes soundtrack) from their blistering 1978 self-titled debut album. Though Rose Tattoo might be considered a fair shade better than AC/DC’s Powerage released the same year, Angry Anderson and the boys would quickly be relegated to the cult ranks despite their propensity to blow ear canals to smithereens onstage. As for AC/DC, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which had been released two years’ prior, would find a second life in the early eighties(largely from the dirty title track and the hilarious cloak ‘n dagger raunch of “Big Balls” that had Gen X preteens rolling in school cafeterias), as well as Highway to Hell and of course, their eponymous Back in Black, which helped shove heavy metal on its darkened course.
Anderson has always carried a piss and swill swagger in his stage presence and most certainly his aural delivery. You have to when you’re a survivor of the Sydney pub crawl-and-brawl scene, which is where Rose Tattoo honed their tooth-dislodged style of rock. Though you can hear certain shades of Bon Scott to Anderson’s roughneck vocals, there’s something a bit more classically-trained beneath his wails and croons, a nuance that continues to serve him and Rose Tattoo as of the band’s latest offering Blood Brothers.
Even though “Standover Man,” “Lubricated” and “Man About Town” are more huff-and-puff-blow-the-roof down AC/DC-itched boogie jams, Rose Tattoo are perhaps the most forgivable hijackers of the scores of imitators because of their street bounce—which AC/DC until their latest album Black Ice was starting to lose in increments. You know these riffs like the back of your stankin’ bum, but Rose Tattoo delivers them with confidence and Michael Cocks’ filthy slide notes gives the band proper amplitude, much as he did back in the day before drifting away for a lengthy sabbatical after the band’s 1981 release Assault and Battery.
Though Rose Tattoo has been in a here-and-there stasis following their 2002 album Pain, there’s been no time lost on Blood Brothers, sound-wise. Anderson and his pack of rowdies pump out stamping rockers with unapologetic boom on “Nothing to Lose,” “Black Eyed Bruiser” and the brisk-tempoed “Slipping Away.” The bottlenecked twang of “Once in a Lifetime” is bluntly Zeppelin and Faces, while the slow drag of “City Blues” is basic and primal from the point-of-view of a downtrodden Jack addict.
While AC/DC’s Black Ice is a refreshing howdy-do, put up that album’s title track versus Rose Tattoo’s blood brother (pun intended) “Sweet Meat.” AC/DC throbs with casual candor on “Black Ice’s” strutting rhythm, while Rose Tattoo (in particular Michael Cocks, Stephen King and Dai Pritchard) punishes a very-similar melody with rudely-tugged riffs. Thus between the two, Rose Tattoo delivers more of an asphalt-chewed flavor. That being said, have Rose Tattoo finally bested their more popular peers at their own game? Give Blood Brothers a spin and be the judge…
1. Black Eyed Bruiser
2. Slipping Away
3. Once in a Lifetime
5. City Blues
6. Sweet Meat
7. Man About Town
9. Stand Over Man
10. Nothing to Lose
by Ray Van Horn, Jr.