Friday, March 27, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 132 - Ammonia - Mint 400

By: March

Album - Mint 400
Artist - Ammonia
Key Players - Allan Balmont - drums. Simon Hensworth - bass. Dave Johnstone - guitar and vocals.
Produced By - Kevin Shirley

Release Date - 1995

What caused me to blow off the dust?
Scanning the cd rack for something that I haven't listened to in a while..didn't have to get out of the A's this week.

Overview - This was the debut studio album for Australian band Ammonia. The record, named for the car race in Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was a stripped down rock record capturing booming drums and guitar lines. The band would see a radio play with a strong single , and a little MTV play but being young guys, and touring a lot they'd be done after two records. Still, the band would manage to crack the top 30 US album charts.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - We slowly fade up with a guitar on "Ken Carter". The riff is repeated a little before the drum roll comes up and the bass joins the mix. Johnstone has vocally delivery that fits well with the sounds of the band, just that mixture of "high" and "gruff". Hensworth bass has a good steady punch. The lead off single "Drugs" opens with what feels like a wall of guitars and some cool, yet buried in the mix, bass riffs. As the verses are sung we keep it musically mellow but leading to the chorus they step it up to overdrive. The apathy towards drug use is focused and this song was looked at as both a pro and con about drugs in general. The formula is repeated but the band sounds full and alive, a great single from the record. As the song wraps up Balmont hits em hard and Hensworth runs the bass, a great closing. With a roll on the high hat "Sleepwalking" kicks off. This is more rocking at the outset with the bass once more getting pushed up in the mix. The track has a 30 second instrumental intro and the bands is really rolling as the vocals come up. Johnstone runs his voice thru some compression so the vocal track is a little less "up" but it is not buried either. They might not be a "power trio" in the classic sense, but they are pretty tight and keep their focus. The track ends abruptly before the far calmer feeling "Face Down" begins. There is a mixture of acoustic and electric guitar and the drums keeps a simple tempo. The band has hit their first "quiet" moment on the record. Everyone sort of sits back some, but suddenly it is like they get bored and we kick it off good. The guitars crunch and the drums get rolling once more. There is a big wall of sound again. In reading, the producer had worked with bands like Slayer, so he was no stranger to getting a big sound. Another stand out track is "In a Box". Opening with guitar before a "punched up bass" drops in. The lyrics are dished out quick, but the bass "sound" is the stand out to these ears. Balmont hits them hard once more and Johnstone tosses in some oohs and ahhs that fit the mold of the track. The guitar blends fuzz, buzz and crunch a cool vibe to the track. Balmont feeds off the single guitar on the intro to "Suzi Q". We have a very similar feel to prior tracks. The sounds is really full and Hensworth shows off his chops once more while Johnstone gets the first real feel of backing vocals on the track. Sure there have been some in the past but it sounds like he has more support here. "Little Death" is an odd track at the intro. Out of one speaker is a guitar, while the other appears to be a person really..ummm "enjoying" themselves. The vocals are slow, the tracks feel is dark and Hensworth bass feels like the lone instrument at times, as he is the most active. Single drum beats with occasional guitar riffs. The return to form 2+ minutes in to the track, but it feels out of place for some reason. The title track "Mint 400" and feels like music you'd hear in a car race. Everything is fast on this song, the vocal delivery the drum line, the guitar. Johnstone gets a stronger workout vocally later on the track bending his pitch some for a unique sound. The instrumental "Burning Plant Smell" follows. Once more Hensworth gets to be the focus at the outset before the band comes in, we do a little "rinse-lather-repeat" but the second time around a monstrous bass fill brings up that "wall of sound" that was very fitting to the music of the mid 90's. After the bass riff Johnstone gets a chance to show off his guitar chops. I've always dug this track for some reason. A very fuzzy bass opens "Z-Man" and the band bangs in before the lyrics come in. By this point we are used to the sound, feel of the band. Not a bad song, but pretty straight forward as part of the collection. "Million Dollar Man" follows the same suit. Not bad songs and all good fits for the records, but nothing new is happening. The payoff is the album closer "Lucky No. 3". Opening with a marching band drum and single guitar we do a few bars of that before the bass comes in and before we know it we are off. This could have been a massive single, it sounds like it should be out now. Johnstone really cuts loose on this track vocally and pushes himself. The guitar has a great fuzz and the band just locks it in. Musically it might be "simple" but its got a monster of a hook. Check the download and fire off..I think you'll be sold.

Where are they now? - The band released a second record and then toured but disbanded by 1999. In doing some searching there is some information, but not sure how updated it really is. What I have read is that Balmont is a tour manager for the band "The Living End". Johnstone is/was working with a band "The Lazybirds and Hensworth was in a band called Potato Stars in 2001. If anyone has any updated links etc please feel free to leave a comment and I'll update.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- I saw the band two times. The first was May 5, 1996 at the Paradise in Boston. What stands out most regarding this show was how grossly undersold it was. I think there was 100 people there, if that. The band was still great. On that tour they were touring with Skunk Anansie and Skunk was the opener..but after a few shows Ammonia decided they should open. Skunk Anansie was a great live band. The second time was part of a WBCN River Rave show, but I am not 100% sure of the date..I'd assume the summer of 96 though at Great Woods in Mansfield.

FDF Overall Take - What grabbed me, like most was the infectious sound of the single "Drugs". It was similar to the rock/grungy stuff that was out at the time, but offered a slight twist somehow (perhaps being from Australia?) The record didn't break a lot of new ground, but its still a decent listen. If you can track it down, (it is out of print) it won't set you back much, grab it.


A fan created myspace page.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

mp3s have been removed...
Lucky No. 3
In a Box

The tracks were taken from "Mint 400" which you can find here for as low as ONE PENNY.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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