Ian Rilen And The Love Addicts : Family From Cuba
The practice of rock’n’roll is replete with style. Leather jackets, stovepipe denim jeans, gym boots and a pirate’s hat worth of garish tattoos. A sneering anti-establishment attitude and the abrasive discourse of rebellion. Nobody ever conquered rock’n’roll with complicity and acquiescence. Profanities and substance abuse, behavioural excess and public offence. Buy the manual, learn the script, take the classes.
And then there’s Ian Rilen. Rilen, it was noted in arguably the most astute of the obituaries published after his death in 2006, was a man born to rock’n’roll. According to legend, Rilen decided to become a bass player while enduring a short stretch in Sydney’s notorious Long Bay gaol. Not long after Rilen joined the prog-styled Band Of Light. In the mid '70s Rilen formed Rose Tattoo, composing one of the first of his nakedly autobiographical tracks, Bad Boy For Love. Rilen left the Tatts to form X, becoming the degenerate pin-up band for aspiring outlaw rockers across Australia.
By the time Rilen died in 2006, aged 59-years-old, his mark was everywhere, both musically and sociologically. His live shows are the stuff of fame and infamy – no-one ever saw an Ian Rilen show they didn’t remember. Rilen’s infectious personality loomed dominant in any situation; his capacity for indulging life’s hedonistic pleasures encountered few boundaries it couldn’t tell to fuck right off. Nobody fucked with Ian Rilen – unless he wanted them to.
Family From Cuba is the long awaited posthumous release from Ian Rilen and the Love Addicts. Presented in an elegant book style package, this is the labour of love Ian Rilen deserves.
Family From Cuba is a triptych of Rilen the musician, and Rilen the man. There’s Rilen the songwriter, creating deceptively simple rock’n’roll songs with a freakishly attractive pop sensibility. Wishing Well packs the force of a Mack truck, helped into gear by Kim Volkman’s vicious slide guitar. Steal It sparkles with pop beauty, You Can’t Find Me is all denim rock and Cuban heels, and Margaret River is a trip down a back road to powerp-op only Rilen knew existed.
There’s Rilen the human being, aware of the impact of his excessive behaviour on those he loves. On Without You, Rilen is the hopeless romantic, lamenting the pain of loneliness, but always acutely aware of its local causes; Missing You continues the theme, and You Don’t Love Me is as much an admission of responsibility as an accusation of emotional desertion. On Song For Romeo, Rilen is the loving father, singing to his young son in a manner not ordinarily associated with a hardened rock’n’roller.
And then there’s the Rilen the personification of rock’n’roll’s dangerous edge, the man for whom rock’n’roll was always a spiritual calling. On Bad For Good, Rilen is dark and foreboding, wading through the sewer of humanity, rendering George Thorogood to the status of bow-legged, latte-sipping hipster in comparison. Two Days Off (Five Days On) – co-written with Rilen’s sometime contemporary Spencer P Jones – is Rilen’s tribute to the peripatetic rock’n’roll lifestyle. On Rock N Roll Rilen cuts to the chase: many have presented a flimsy case for the title, but there’s only one Ian Rilen, boots, battles, bruises, tatts, warts, attitude and all.
It’s been six years since Ian Rilen departed this mortal coil. But the memories live on, and the legacy burns as bright as the evening stars. Anyone with a skerrick of pretence for rock’n’roll needs a copy of Family From Cuba.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Rock N Roll Man
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: X, ROSE TATTOO, SARDINE V, HELL TO PAY, BEASTS OF BOURBON
In A Word: Rock’n’roll