Mongrel Punk Gospel: ‘Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets Volume 1’ by Garth Jones

We take a look at 'Home Brewed Vampire Bullets - Vol 1' by Garth Jones.

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home brewed vampire bullets garth jones review

Aussie writer Garth Jones rips the Oz-Lit scene a New One

Australian writer Garth Jones rips the Oz-lit scene a new one with this first volume of what promises to be a blackly comic epic of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, cults, dodgy politicians (aren’t they all?) and er, bunyips.

A plot summary would do a disservice to Garth’s book, as it isn’t so much plot driven as character driven, and what characters they are: Ed Von Satan, the bassist (and only surviving member) for has-been rockers Tōxxik Shōkk, is a “sinewy vision in ruined double-denim” and a booze and drug-addled wastrel of the highest order.

Equally debauched singer of Switchback, Johnny Platinum rocks along to a similarly hedonistic beat. Maureen ‘Mystic Mo’ O’Grady-Thrumster, is an ex-hippie rock chick with connections to Ed, now one half of the cultish ‘The Trust’ with her husband ex journo, The Right Reverend Sancrox Thrumster.

Throw in the take-no-shit all female punk band Babalōn and conservative politician Duke “Tank” Excalibur-Crusader, the aforementioned bunyip and the scene is set for some rollicking shenanigans and a promised collision between the respective parties as they bumble and stumble their way on their quite possibly pre-ordained journeys.

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Deconstructing the ‘Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets’ Narrative

Garth Jones, Author of Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets
Garth Jones, Author of Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets

The narrative, such as it is, lurches forwards and backwards throughout time from the ‘90s, where Tōxic Shōkk are heading to a gig in regional New South Wales, to 2016 Sydney where The Trust are fundraising for a benignly sinister new movement called ‘The Harvest.’ But the details float along on Jones’ raucous, skittering prose – part Hunter S. Thompson-esque rants, Bukowski-esque barfly poetry and a tip of the cap to the surreal excesses of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace.

But this is no mere hodge-lodge of influences. Jones carves a refreshingly raw vernacular here, one that seems to have fermented and distilled through years of immersion in the music scene, tripping and gallivanting through one sticky carpeted Oz bar after another. Despite the bizarre shenanigans on display, there is a frazzled truth contained within, as if Jones has met variations of these characters over the years, collecting their idiosyncrasies and bad behaviours for this very book.

The formatting of this first volume is a visually stunning mish-mash of styles with album reviews, religious sermons, set-lists and diary entries included amongst the story proper. And if that’s not enough, the book has its own soundtrack by Half-Majesty which can be accessed by QR code in the book.

The opening track Anthem is a thundering mix of sinister Carpenter-esque synths, crunchy guitar riffs and swooping strings, while Pass The Amyl (also the name of Garth’s imprint / website) is downbeat hangover music after the dark night of the soul. And even if the music doesn’t contain the biting wit of the writing, it pulses with a brooding undercurrent of paranoia that, like the book, seems to be building to something bigger and perhaps apocalyptic? One hopes we might see the full soundtrack on vinyl when all is said and done (please?)

The only (very minor) strike against this first volume is that it ends rather abruptly after 120 pages or so, leaving the reader hanging when you’re ready to dive deeper into this highly enjoyable and addictive cesspool. The next installment cannot come soon enough (the next two volumes are to be released quarterly) but I feel a collected edition will serve the book better in the long run, where the character and timeline whiplash will be slightly less jarring. Give me the Infinite Jest deep immersion into this surreal and sleazy world please Garth.

Given the inherent difficulty of describing this ever-changing beast of a book (you just have to experience it man!) I’ll leave it to the author himself who has rather perfectly coined the phrase ‘mongrel punk gospel’, which, despite my minor misgivings about the length, captures the deliberately scattershot, borderline ADD style – a DIY garage EP of a book that gets in and gets out with all the gusto of a 20 minute set by a 3-piece in the back bar of The Tote in 2006.

‘Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets Vol.1’ by Garth Jones is out now from Pass The Amyl.

Have you read ‘Home-Brewed Vampire Bullets Vol.1’?

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