Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bad Habit - Stormchild LP EMI Custom YPRX-1424, 1977

As promised in our recent screed on Ipswich nogoodniks the Upsets, here's another barnstormer (literally!) from the same locale.

Like many bad habits, this one was formed as a product of teenage boredom - a 15 year old Neil Coombe (g) and buddies Paul Wilton (b,v) and Neal Ward (d) first began making a racket together in 1975. By 1977, after a couple of years of gigging (including a support slot for AC/DC at Brisbane's Festival Hall), Wilton had been replaced by Steve Arthurson (v,g) and John Pankof (b), and the expanded line-up retreated to a rural chicken barn to record Stormchild, Bad Habit's one and only LP.

An online bio of sorts fills gaps in the timeline and provides more detail about the recording of this LP, including the factoid that vocal takes were often ruined by the sound of gumnuts falling from an overhanging tree onto the barn's tin roof (from the sound of Arthurson's voice, those were the only dropped nuts in the vicinity of the vocal mic). It also promulgates some outrageous hyperbole about the record's punk-ness, the most noteworthy claim being that Stormchild was one of only two '70s Queensland-recorded punk LPs ((I'm) Stranded, of course, being the other). To our ears, the teenage amateurism and lo-fi recording herein certainly warrant the adjective "punky", but only as a qualifier to "hard rock". If these kids had heard the Sex Pistols, or ventured in to Corinda to catch The Saints, then it didn't osmose into their own efforts. Tsk tsk, TrippyHippy, if indeed that is your real name.

Punk rock or no, there is much to appreciate across Stormchild's ten tracks, which showcase a fairly advanced sense of composition for those so young. There are quieter passages and lengthier songs - all worthy, mind - but to comply with the Wallaby Beat remit we focus here on the most straight ahead rockers. The astute listener will note that all three songs plunder the same basic chord progression, yet each is distinct in its own right. To a degree, this is testament to the band's creativity in making the most of a limited palette, but the inventive lead work of guitarist Neil Coombe is deserving of particular credit. Coombe's playing runs the gamut from tasteful economy (the stellar dual lead interplay in Don't Touch) to tasteless bombast (see Burning Yearning, surely the most effective use of the chipmunk guitar solo this side of the Bob Seger System, and a WTF? moment that surpasses even our old friends Toxic), but is never anything less than great.

Neil Coombe himself is dismissive of Stormchild and his own contribution to the record:
"It's far from being my best work (I was 17) and I never know what to make of it...it was far down the track before I thought I did anything 'great'. It was my first album and I always dismiss it, but apparently there are some people out there who took to it...Truly bizarre".
Coombe subsequently played with the likes of 42nd Street and Mr Meaner. Though both have their appeal, we respectfully disagree about their relative merits vis a vis Bad Habit (nothing personal - as a general rule, musicians are the last people we trust to appraise their own work).

Scum stats: either 250 or 300 copies (depending on who you ask) pressed through EMI Custom, but it's more elusive than contemporaneous records pressed in one third of that quantity. Where did all of those records go?

Burning Yearning


Don't Touch


Leave It Up To Rock & Roll

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