Tag Archives: punk

A Week of Australian Music – The 80’s Part II

Here’s where things can get a little more interesting and flexible, as I’ve taken a slightly different direction in terms of music that had an impact on me, as well included some stuff I find more interesting now than I did then, with the focus on underground music that I’m not so sure many Aussies are aware of these days let alone anyone internationally – plus I want to elaborate on something I only hinted at yesterday.

’88 and ’89 were my first two years of high school –  a place where hundreds of still-forming identities are vying to establish and distinguish themselves from the masses – but, and here’s the kicker, at the same time, those identities are yearning to identify with and be accepted by their peers. High school is a place where, in amongst the swirl of other things, music often forms part of the language that is developed to help forge a separation from the ‘other’ (i.e. parents, siblings, or pretty much anyone in a position of authority) while still capable of eliciting an immediate understanding between two peers – quite a powerful thing when you think about it, and in retrospect I can see that at first, that phenomenon did influence what I chose to listen to back then.

In those first two years, I had no identity in high school other than “Bomber’s little sister“. My brother was infamous, considered slightly dangerous, and therefore ultimately ‘cool’. I was mousy, hardly spoke a word, and had stones thrown at me because I sat at the bus stop reading books instead of gossiping about which boy I wanted to kiss (for the record, it was the guitar player in the school band. I don’t remember his name, I just remember that he walked around the school in a trench coat and played the guitar).

My first solution to this was to steal my brother’s Black Flag t-shirt and wear it to school, only I felt like a complete fraud for the entire day. Instead of getting nods of approval, stares of admiration or awe (as I thought would be the case), I wound up interpreting even the slightest hint of a sideways glance as containing contempt and a general laugh at my expense for the failed attempt at being ‘cool’.

Anyway…music. Initially, it was something I tried to use to connect to my friends, but as focus for them became more and more about things like who was the cutest member of New Kids on the Block, music became something I used to connect to something else entirely, and in terms of my peers it was something I was completely alone in – which is probably what I wanted. As my taste evolved, my interest in what my brother listened to gradually became genuine instead of an attempt at hi-jacking some of his street cred. Most of this took place post-’80’s, and in some cases there were artists I only remembered a year or two ago and started listening to them.

One of the most important bands to my brother back then was Massappeal, who released their debut, Nobody Likes A Thinker, in 1986… Bloody hell I thought it was awful, to the point where I considered there just might be something wrong with him for listening to it (in that conceited way most young people have of thinking they’re in a position to judge things they don’t understand). I looked at the picture on the cover, heard this aggressive mess of noise coming from the general direction of his room and just shook my head. This leaves me unable to relate first-hand what an album like NLAT meant to the youth of Australia at the time, but I can say that I now have two of their albums and I play them more than I play the Black Flag albums I also have.

There’s very little online that I could turn up, but here’s a track from NLAT, one of my (now) favourites Can’t Forget. Turn it up loud.

The following clip is a 2006 performance of a song called What Are Man’s Fears by Box of Fish, for the launch of an album called Box of Fish Invented Grunge 1984, which was when the song was first released…perhaps obviously. True enough I paid no attention to this when it was released, in fact, I can’t even promise you I heard it in the 80’s, but in listening to the entire album, I found it interesting as a distinct blend of goth punk, grunge, industrial and noise, which is kinda cool for something that while taking a few cues from The Birthday Party and even one or two from Dead Kennedys, pre-dates the explosion of the latter few genres later on in the 80’s and early 90’s with bands like The Jesus Lizard. (NB the two minute clip is unfortunately not the entire song and cuts out unexpectedly, but it’s long enough to get the general jist).

Finding that clip reminded me of another Aussie box-y band, Box The Jesuit. I remember reading about them in the aforementioned magazine Hot Metal, in which they explained where they got their name from and what it meant. I found this a high source of amusement at the time and didn’t really pay much attention to anything other than that, but I decided to look them up – I’m relieved to report that what while they look a bit ‘Adam Ant‘ on the cover up there, they’re again a bit more on the seedier, gothic punk side of things, so here’s their track Sniffing At The Tailpipes of Hell.

Lastly, though I was trying to keep it at only two clips per post owing to load times etc, I think I really need to make special mention of a band called Lubricated Goat. This is one song I remember very well indeed (watch the clip and guess why!) In The Raw was one of those songs that has the capacity to tear a nation in two… Ok, so that’s getting a little far-fetched, but when they appeared on Andrew Denton‘s show Blah Blah Blah, there were generally two kinds of reactions: those who found it disturbing and offensive, and those who found it awesome and hilarious. I’m not sure if I’m embarassed to admit that I belong to the ‘awesome and hilarious’ camp or not. The main reason I’m putting this up, though, is because by some fairly unexplainable reasons, a bunch of naked dudes growling ‘In the raw! Rawr!‘ is so utterly, undeniably, classicly Australian.

For further exploration of 80’s Australian (let’s just say) alternative music, I recommend looking up Hard-Ons for punk / power-pop, Cosmic Psychos and Celibate Rifles for garage punk / rock, The Church for vaguely Joy Division-ish new wave, and if you can dig it up from somewhere (I’ve had no luck myself other than the linked, fairly low sound quality live clip) Hot Tomatoes for a taste of 80’s punk, Adelaide style.

 

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A Week of Australian Music – The ’70s Part II

I decided to do a little bit of research and just had a look at this Wikipedia article, which actually does a pretty good job of summing up the Australian music scene of the 70’s. This quote

Perhaps most influential of the ‘underground’ scenes, however, was Australian pub rock, which began in Adelaide in the early 1970’s with bands like Cold Chisel and The Angels

is of particular relevance to me, as I was born and raised in Adelaide, growing up with an incredibly abundant diet of the aforementioned pub rock. Cold Chisel were especially huge for me (more so in the 80’s), and I think Don Walker is a truly great lyricist, (I love the quote from Richard Clapton: “the most Australian writer there has ever been. Don just digs being a sort of Beat poet, who goes around observing…“) Forming in my home town, Cold Chisel became one of Australia’s most successful bands, with Jimmy Barnes’ (who grew up in the same suburb I did) shouting Walker’s lyrics straight into the hearts of blue collar Australians.

The song Khe Sanh, featured on their self-titled debut (1978) is often considered their signature track, and a perfect example of Walker’s ability to turn a Vietnam Vet’s story into a truly classic Australian ballad. I’m also going to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the friends and family of Steve Prestwich, Cold Chisel’s drummer, who passed away last Sunday. RIP.

I’m going to skip past some of the more obvious choices – namely AC/DC, Radio Birdman, The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party and countless others that deserve a mention – for the following reasons: I never liked AC/DC, I’m not very familiar with Radio Birdman, and I’ve only recently started exploring most of the rest I could talk about.  So I want to focus more on what I’m listening to now. Which means I have to mention The Saints.

The Saints wrote, recorded and self-released a song called (I’m) Stranded in 1976, releasing it officially the following year. This song was everywhere I looked throughout my childhood and well into my teenage years, and is regarded one of the earliest (and therefore most influential) punk songs. By Australians anyway; I don’t think we can claim they invented punk, but they did precede some of the more well known bands, and their influence on what became known back then as garage rock is still pretty undeniable.

I do have to say that I very much disliked this song in particular for a long, long time, and to be perfectly honest, if anyone had told me when I was a youngster that at some point, I would not only appreciate The Saints’ place in Oz music history, but actually really like their music, I would have dismissed them as a raving lunatic.

In recent years, when I started exploring the roots of bands I know and love today, I had to come to terms with the fact that The Saints, and this song in particular, helped shape a fair bit of the music I now listen to. I’ve started buying quite a number of these classic albums – or best of’s – in part to educate myself, and help to understand the history and evolution of  my favourites, but best of all because I can now see how awesome this stuff truly was. So for that reason alone, (I’m) Stranded gets my top honours of the ’70’s.

 

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Tragic Fixation – Dancing Bones, Cannibals & A Mysterious Watermelon Man

I have to admit I visit Amie Street only on the odd occasion, usually just to check up on the latest releases for anything that might take my fancy (the rec system leaves a bit to be desired – I have no idea why, when it’s based on my previous purchases as well as the top 50 artists in my Last.fm library, I keep getting rec’d Patsy Cline, and today, for some reason Pavarotti is up there on my home page. No disrespect intended for either of those two artists, but they’re just not my style…)

Anyway, the point is the above artist – Tragic Fixation – caught both my eye and subsequently my fancy. I don’t really need much more encouragement to download a few songs when they’re tagged industrial & gothic rock (or industrial devil music, according to the artist bio) – the fact that they’re practically being given away right now just makes it a bunch easier. Having had a few listens I think there’s some nuances of punk/post-punk in there, too.

Three tracks are currently available to download via Amie Street – Alchemist’s Broth, Oversized and Cannibals Anonymous – which are all pretty nifty and worth the effort to go grab (you need an account as well as either a credit card or PayPal account to add a minimum of US$5.00 to it before you can start purchasing, but at least it’s rather quick and painless and there’s no reason for begrudging the current price of $0.31).

Just for a frame of reference, at various points I was reminded in part of one or all of the following, to varying degrees: Big Black, Public Image Limited, The Sisters of Mercy, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies; as well as somewhere in the realm of the influences listed over on their MySpace: Nine Inch Nails, Lacuna Coil, Bauhaus… eh, stuff it, better to just let the music speak for itself, methinks. Take a listen to Oversized.

Thanks to that song, I now have an overwhelming urge to find out the name of the watermelon man. (Herbie Hancock doesn’t know, just seems to be a little hot an bothered by it all, The Gun Club don’t seem to know much at all except “he no dead“,  Dick Curless claims to be the son of a watermelon man named Dan, but it’s another name for The Night the Sun Came Out, according to Answers Encyclopedia… Stupid mysteries – I’m now on a quest for a definitive answer).

Oh, and click here to go get Tragic Fixation’s tunes from Amie Street.

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