The Celibate Rifles, perhaps more than any other Australian band, took Radio Birdman‘s hammered chords and The Saints‘ blurred-riff overdrive at face value, creating a faster/louder sound tailored to their own needs.
The Rifles formed on Sydney’s surfie North Shore in 1979 and took a few years to find their legs before cutting a swathe with their prolific writing and recording and the atomic resolution of their performances.
With guitarists Kent Steedman and Dave Morris providing the band’s gut instinct and heart, and vocalist Damien Lovelock providing its laconic wit, they brought both an irreverence and a social consciousness to the somewhat uptight and insular scene.
24 Hours, from their bazooka-powered debut EP But Jacques, The Fish?, features the phenomenally air-tight pump of original rhythm section Phil Jacquet on drums and Michael Couvret on bass, as well as future bass player James Darroch of Slaughterhouse 5 on backing vocals.
The band issued its debut album, Sideroxylon in May 1983, and as the album came out, Kent Steedman joined The New Christs when that band supported Iggy Pop on his June 1983 Australian tour.
In 1986, Australian garage rock & roll finally made it to New York City’s CBGB’s, where The Ramones, Patti Smith and Television had made their own garage-rock noise and kick-started ’70s Punk Rock in the process.
The Celibate Rifles were enthusiastic ambassadors for the sound of their town and planted a scorching version of Radio Birdman‘s Burned My Eye on the hallowed stage like a flag for Aussie rock & roll.
Couvret and Jacquet left the band in September 1986 to be replaced by Rudy Morabito (bass) and Paul Larsen (drums). The band toured Europe and recorded Roman Beach Party in Holland during June 1987.
The band members undertook various extra-curricular activities between 1988 and 1990. Lovelock had already written and produced a one-off single in 1984, Summertime (All Round the World) for Australian world female surfing champion Pam Burridge (issued under the name of Pam and the Passions in 1984) and in June 1988 he issued his debut solo album It’s a Wig Wig Wig Wig World followed by the single Disco Inferno.
In October 1990, Larsen left The Rifles to join The Screaming Tribesmen. Nik Rieth took Larsen’s place.
At the end of 1991, the Rifles signed to Festival and issued the double album Heaven on a Stick before embarking on the ‘Live Stick ’92’ world tour which took in dates across the UK, Europe and the USA.
Spaceman in a Satin Suit (1994) was arguably the Rifles’ best studio album since Blind Ear.