Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rejected - First Offence 7" EMI Custom PRS-13775, 1985

To paraphrase Buddy Rich by way of Frank Costanza: Australian hardcore...this is not our kind of hardcore. We'll leave it to scholars of the genre to compile the definitive '80s hardcore punk world rankings, but Australia's output sits well behind that of heavyweights like the US, Sweden and Japan. Better than France? Not as good as Germany? Whatever our position in the league table, it's hardly a source of national pride.

There are exceptions of course, and some gems to be found among cassette releases, but in general the vinyl landscape of Australian hardcore is bleak. Some of this stuff has seemingly developed cachet in certain circles, but as support for our prejudices, we'll direct you to the back-catalogues of Cleopatra and Reactor Records as the last word in mediocrity. Not all of it is bad, necessarily, but at best it's undistinguished. In some cases the records simply haven't aged well; in others, it's clear that there wasn't much going on to begin with. And then there's the Crucified Truth EP, which flat-out sucks no matter how you slice it.

So what's so special about The Rejected, then? Well, at first glance, not much. Their First Offence EP from 1985, a 300-press EMI Custom job, is blighted by two elements guaranteed to sink any hardcore record: bad (i.e. good) production and cheater-beats. The clarity of the recording is problematic across the board, restraining the songs from achieving the requisite level of urgency, but it's Personal Gain and You Don't Care which are the main offenders in the cheater-beat stakes - drumming lost in the no-man's-land between traditional hardcore polka rhythms and blast-beats, minus the propulsion of the former and the BPM of the latter. Copper, which closes out the record, is Plod by name and plod by nature, and does little to redeem proceedings.

What is significant about First Offence is its use of the D-beat. For the benefit of anyone reading this from under a rock, the archetytpal D-beat can be found in the first seconds of the first song on the first Discharge record, and thereafter up to the crushing Why 12". Others may have beaten them to the punch, but there's a reason it has come to be known as the D-beat and not the Buzz-beat: Discharge delivered it with such conceptual singularity as to map out the raw punk blueprint for the next 30+ years. In other countries the D-beat was embraced as an important stylistic innovation, but Australians, it seems, were not early adopters. Similar impulses manifested differently in Seems Twice (more on them later), but there's scant recorded evidence of the kind of direct influence apparent in Scandinavia and beyond. Discharge was held in high regard here, as various covers of the era attest (Decontrol by Sick Things; Never Again by Public Nuisance; State Violence, State Control by Mob Vengeance), but those covers are telling in and of themselves - not a D-beat among them. And on the rare occasion that D-beats did show up in Australian hardcore songs, the effect wasn't particularly Discharge-like (check out this pretty good and relatively early example from End Result; various takes by Arm The Insane are also littered across their generally dire discography).

Nuclear War and You're The Victim are notable, then, for being Australian D-beat songs with a heavy Discharge influence in the structures, riffage, and lyrics. The slickness of the recording is still less than ideal, but the songs do have brevity on their side, and they're the definite highlights of an otherwise unremarkable record. Both songs would be re-recorded for The Rejected's subsequent LP, but disappointingly - much like Diamond Head's fate at the hands of some other band - D-beats were conspicuously absent on the new versions. Which means that our interest in The Rejected ends here. Gluttons for punishment may wish to track down their second (and final) LP, but with a pressing of just 69 copies, we wish you luck and a speedy recovery to full mental health.

Personal Gain [Download]

Nuclear War [Download]

You're The Victim [Download]

You Don't Care [Download]

Copper [Download]

Nuclear War, what the fuck is it good for?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Word - I Think I'm Falling In Love 7" Infinity K7781, 1980

You're probably familiar with the Inner City Sound discography, and how after studying it for two decades you think you have a handle on it. Then you realise there's an obscure Infinity label record right at the end - no other mention in the book, or elsewhere really. Damn!

Well here it is. The Word were a punk band from Canberra who started in 1978. In 1980 they somehow got to record this single in Sydney. It was released on Festival subsidiary Infinity, continuing that label's flirtation with powerpop while they sat on money made from Sherbet. Festival house producer Martin Erdman sat behind the desk.

Members over the band's existence included Michael Moriarty (vocals/guitar), Peter Palij (guitar), Terry Sounder (vocals/guitar), Archie Van Der Glass (bass), Frankie Villegas (bass, on the record) and Darcy Deegan (drums).

The record is somewhat over-produced, and, at the best of times, if there's one word to describe the Canberran approach to playing guitar it's tentative. Nevertheless, the band's enthusiasm shines through, and the Only Ones style vocal inflections are effective. As poppy Oz Rock it fit the sounds of the time and we're kinda surprised it wasn't some kind of hit. The flipside, Angel, is less distinguished - ramping up the Oz Rock at the expense of the powerpop. Only Moriarty troubled the compilers of the Who's Who Of Australian Rock again, ending up in the Gadflys.

I Think I’m Falling In Love [Download]

The Word, from Canberra Punk & Beyond on Facebook.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Mopsie Beans - Appearances LP Mopubs SR8101, 1981

Mopsie (a.k.a. Elizabeth Ward) and Jerry Beans formed an ongoing creative partnership in the mid-'70s, the Conservatorium-trained Mopsie writing music and Jerry contributing some unique, funny and unmistakably Australian lyrics. The pair were genuine iconoclasts, especially in Sydney's western suburbs, around which they'd lug their own PA and set up DIY performances (literal train-spotters may recognise the old Blacktown station on the LP's front cover). Initially, Mopsie would sing and play live with keyboards and drum machines; later, backing tapes were introduced, allowing her to pursue an ever more theatrical performance style.

Almost inevitably, Mopsie crossed paths with the fledgling westie Local Label, which issued her One Out 7" EP in 1979 (Local MX189770). Though not our preferred Mopsie record, it does have its charms, and is said to have accrued some prominent supporters. The Introduction to Can't Kick the Sucky Tit and Other Cream Cakes, a self-published anthology of Jerry Beans's lyrics, notes that the EP received airplay from John Peel; over time, this has morphed into a claim that the 7" was one of Peel's favourites. Given its absence from the infamous record box, we'll charitably assign that one a yellow verdict.

Puddy Blew [Download]

Mopsie's next (and final) record, 1981's Appearances LP, may ring bells for eagle-eyed scholars of Incredibly Strange Music, thanks to an incidental, blink-and-you'll-miss-it mention by Jello Biafra in the second of those books. Jello likened the LP to Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy (well, vice versa, actually) - to us, Mopsie sounds more musically theatrical and less experimental, but we fully acknowledge that sans blogs or Youtube, it's not a comparison we'd ever be able to critique. Say what you want about Jello, but the guy was switched on.

Appearances is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the more successful tunes, like L=E/R or Baby Romeo ("A sort of aging embryo"), are the kind of downer minimal electronics which would appeal to fans of the Denial single on M-Squared. Chaos, with its processed vocals, clunky drum machine and anti-rockist tendencies, should find favour with the more art-punk inclined. Elsewhere, however, things descend into absurdist, one-woman-band show tunes, but even then the music is odd and the lyrics unerringly eccentric.

After the LP, Mopsie pursued her interest in drama, directing and acting in plays which had evolved from Jerry's lyrics. A cassette with post-LP material - performed at the likes of Garibaldi's, Cabaret Conspiracy, Glebe's Toucan Cafe - was sold via mailorder, but we've been unable to locate a copy (drop us a line if you have one you'd part with). Mopsie maintained an involvement in the western Sydney theatre community up until her passing in 2007 - you can read an obituary at her posthumous Facebook page.

Chaos [Download]

L=E/R [Download]

Baby Romeo [Download]

The Happiness of Liza Sparks [Download]

Update: 29 June 2012
We're indebted to Roger Grierson for drawing our attention to an uncredited Mopsie Beans work. This advertisement for TDK, surely etched into the brains of most Australians born before 1980, might make Mopsie the most widely-heard performer featured on this blog.

Mopsie Beans (right), 1982

Lyrics for L=E/R (retitled Love Song) and Chaos, from Jerry Beans' Can't Kick the Sucky Tit and Other Cream Cakes (Mopubs, 1984)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Relatives - Picasso (Private Collector) 7" Red Ash RAP-001, 1979

And we're off again. Let's begin year two with a little heard Melbourne punk record by a band notable for their odd iconography - fish, invented calligraphy, and a fairly unique pink and green colour scheme.

Starting as a school blues band at Brighton Grammar School in 1975, the Relatives made their punk debut as The Velvet Underpants at their school dance in 1977. Covers included the Saints, Sex Pistols, plenty of Lou and Bowie, and a fnarr fnarr throwback to their blues roots - Chain's Grab A Snatch And Hold It. After a name change to the Nooney Rickett 4, the band made its public debut beyond school halls and parties in May 1978, opening for News at Bernharts (formerly the Thumpin' Tum in the 1960s, then commandeered by News as a regular haunt).

Post-school the six members stayed together, had a name change to the more serious Relatives in 1979, and gigged aplenty at the regular Melbourne haunts - the Crystal Ballroom, the Exford, The Tote, Prince Of Wales etc. Their first 7", released in June 1979, is highlighted by Picasso (Private Collector) which encompasses all the things we love - instruments all racing to get to the end of the song first, 1-2-3-4s (including one to end the song), and lots of attitude: eventually, Pablo Picasso was called an arsehole. A simple riff and some nice acid guitar underpin Now She's On The Beat, a tale of prostitution. Clock Struck One rounds out the record.

Bassist Simon Kain recalls:
"We pressed 300 of the 1st and gave them all away on our launch nite - many were trashed then and there!"
Which jibes with the record's elusive nature. Some remaining copies we've had over the years also skip during Picasso, but keep at it - playable copies are out there.

The band continued until 1982 with one more 7", which features some more standard punk rock icons - we'll get to that later. Members ended up in the later garage influenced Wet Taxis, post-Sekret Sekret band Red Ochre, Chad's Tree and the Jackson Code.

There are some good Relatives resources on the web: a blog, Andrew Dowd's memorial page (with some live tracks), and some CD-Rs (email addresses at the bottom to get copies).

Picasso (Private Collector) [Download]

Now She’s On The Beat [Download]

Clock Struck One [Download]

Lyric insert
Free champagne at the single launch.
Fish and calligraphy...