Sunday, 25 September 2011

Seems Twice - Non-plussed 7" Doublethink DTDT 12, 1980

In the spirit of today's subject, we'll keep things short and to the point. Salient features:

  1. Average song length = 25 seconds.
  2. There are more building blocks on the front cover than are used in the construction of each song.
  3. Like the Sheiks single, excellent production comes courtesy of Scattered Order and the M-Squared studio.
  4. Heavy influence is drawn from Wire, whose 106 Beats That was covered live. 
  5. Conversely, approximations of the D-beat found in Salient Feature and Warhol are less a direct influence than a shared response to a technical limitation (viz. independent coordination of right hand and right foot).
  6. Check out that guitar sound - monstrous, like nuclear stockpiles; enormous, like a door slamming in the depths of hell. Grown record collectors are said to weep at the guitar sound on certain DIY records. As we drop the needle on side 1, we laugh at those crybabies and proceed to trash our living rooms when the descending riff kicks in.
  7. A live cassette was released on the 2 Tapes label from Wollongong. To maintain the self-contained conceptual integrity of the 7", don't click here
  8. Play loud.

Salient Feature [Download]

Wish It Is [Download]

Non-Plussed [Download]

Side Effects [Download]

Column One [Download]

Warhol [Download]

No Clear Ideas (Absorption Retention) [Download]

Real Arafat [Download]

Metropolitan Recluse [Download]

Look At It [Download]

Abrupt Alteration [Download]

Anglican War [Download]

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Dri Horrors - In The Day The World Ended 7" Horrible HOR-001, 1982

Syzygy is the longest singular word in English with no vowels. So I remember my mum telling me back in the early '80s. Now nearly thirty years later I find out why the word was even in her mind.

On Wednesday, March 10, 1982 the planets of our solar system came within 91 degrees of each other, all on the same side of the sun; a state of syzygy. Astronomers tell us this is a very rare event. Funnily enough it brought out the end-is-nigh crackpots.

That same night freaks of a different kind were drawn en masse to French's Wine Bar, a dingy and much loved basement venue on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. The event was a celebration by the Dri Horrors of the potential end of the world.

The story of kiwi legends Toy Love's time in Sydney has been retold several times - see the epic Chris Knox interview in Forced Exposure 18, or Stranded In Paradise, or parts of the Toy Love website. Towards the end of their time here drummer Mike Dooley expressed a desire to switch to guitar. The band decided it was all too hard to continue, and to incorporate this change. They secretly broke up, telling no-one until they completed a short New Zealand tour. Dooley returned to Sydney and started a twin guitar band with our man Paul Cupples of The Sheiks.

The tale of the Dri Horrors is told here by Dooley in much more entertaining fashion than we can conjure. In summary, they got together, gigged a bit, recorded this EP and an unreleased album, booted Cupples, recruited half of Proud Scum then broke up after the death of their drummer Animal.

What we find interesting is the incursion of the famed New Zealand sound on an Australian record (recognising of course that three of the players are ex-pat Kiwis). We'll leave it to listeners to decide if it's the Dunedin, Wellington or Auckland variant on show here. It's most evident on Drown Or Swim and Maybe Next Time - downbeat, repetitive strum giving a drone-y effect, with a bit of the angular approach favoured by Wellingtonians. Sing Me A Song shows the most similarity to Cupples' earlier efforts in the Sheiks - a bit shouty, the guitar strokes dramatic. Part Of You has a jaunty, bluebeat rhythm (the other six letter word in English with no vowels) that we can't quite come at.

Part Of You [Download]

Maybe Next Time [Download]

Drown Or Swim [Download]

Sing Me A Song [Download]

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sheiks - Ten Times Around 7" Standard SINGLE 1, 1980

You may have read some hype about the Sheiks' first single, released in 1979 by our old friend the Local Label. Well, someone's wallet was lightened to the tune of 110 bucks to find out what we can tell you for free: it sucks. Two parts whitey blues and one part Dylan cover will always a turd cocktail make, and no amount of comparison with Dr Feelgood can render it any more palatable. As with past cases of seller-generated hype, emptors should consider themselves caveated.

The real three-figure Sheiks record is the second single, though Popsike and the unclaimed copy in the Wallaby Beat trade pile might argue otherwise. Perhaps listening to Ten Times Around - which we invite you to do at the link below - will help to redress the balance. Hard to know what happened in the year between records to prompt such a drastic reorientation, but we suspect that the release of Entertainment by Gang of Four might have had something to do with it. The perfectly mid-fi recording (courtesy of Scattered Order and M-Squared) works in the song's favour, and the forcefulness with which it's delivered makes its dissonance sound less "post-" and more "punk". Rondos fans are unlikely to be disappointed.

In fairness to the first single, there are microscopic traces of Ten Times Around in one of its four songs (When You Bring Home Your Pay). Not enough to elevate it beyond being passable - we're talking a generous C-minus here - but just enough to connect the dots. Similarly, Ten Times Around's less strident flipside signposts singer/bassist Paul Cupples' next outing - we continue that story next week.

Ten Times Around [Download]

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Illusions - Mirror Image LP Shark SF359, 1981

Looking like an unknown Music De Wolfe library LP, the eye you see peering over Bruce Lee and Geoffrey Holder's shoulders on the LP cover above is one you're unlikely to have seen staring at you from any record stacks before. An obscure Melbourne powerpop record that truly sank without trace - it has literally taken us over a decade to track down a copy. More on that later.

The Illusions were a pop band from the Blackburn and Box Hill suburbs in East Melbourne. Members were Mark Davis on vocals, guitar and bass, Phil Tregonning on vocals and guitar and Peter Allan on drums. We caught up with Mark recently to get the skinny on their sole LP Mirror Image.
Phil, Peter and I went to school at St Leo's senior school together and in about 1971 I started to learn guitar. I just loved music. The Monkees in particular appealed to me - catchy, fun songs with great melody lines. We got together by chance in Form 4, 1973 I think, and started jamming in a mate's dad's shed, he was a ham radio expert and built us some little amps. We called them the rats' nests due to all the wires amongst the valves. When we left school we would practise songs most nights and weekends, as well as going to see bands like The Aztecs, Madder Lake, Red House Roll Band etc.

As we all worked days we decided that rather than play live at night, that we would do a Beatles and record our songs at night after work. In 1981, we found a studio called Labsonics in South Melbourne run by Gerry Duffy (Labsonics still exists in Sydney today). We would go about twice a week for about two months to put down the tracks. He had a 24 track two inch tape machine which was really cool, as being a three piece we liked the idea of overdubbing a lot to fatten up the sound.

The backwards guitar on Gone Too Far really stands out. How did that come about?

This was an idea I had as I read somewhere back then that the Beatles did it. We just put the tape reels upside-down, played the lead break as normal and once played the correct way that's what comes out. That's my favorite memory of the studio time: beer and experiencing a bit.

I played a 1972 Fender Mustang through a Gibson amp with distorion and chorus pedals and Jazz Bass on all the songs. Phil used his Fender Telecaster. Drums were Ludwig.

The name Illusions was my idea as we were a band that did not play live much, but locked ourselves away in the studio. Mind you, the cost was difficult to maintain as studio time was expensive and all paid for by the band.

We were never a punk band - that scene came a bit later, we preferred our own songs, but loved going out to see all the other groups around. Bands that influenced us? Lots: The Gentrys; Shocking Blue; The Beatles; The Monkees; Suzi Quatro; The Aztecs; The Who; Humble Pie; Madder Lake; ELO; Badfinger; Jo Jo Gunne; The New Dream.
Despite the diverse list of musical mentors perhaps the biggest influences that can be heard on the album are at the poppier end of the spectrum: The Beatles and Badfinger. Given there are only eight tracks on the LP, one problem is that the songs are all a bit long. Nevertheless, there are lots of good ideas at play. Mark is humble about the LP.
I thought only two or three songs were any good: Say It Isn't True, Gone Too Far, I Was There. These songs were written about things I was feeling emotionally at the time. They were personal things. Say It Isn't True for example is about the death of John Lennon. I Was There is about being pushed into a law degree I could not cope with...I wanted to be in a rock band.
You only pressed 100 copies of your 7" Empire Builder, how many copies were pressed of the LP?
Come again?
The reason we only made fifty copies was that I was was not sure how the LP would go. We went to all the radio stations and labels we could find to give our records to - Au Go Go, Missing Link, 3RRR, 3CCR, EON FM, Molly, Deluxe Records, Mushroom, etc. Only 3RRR gave us a chance. I was very disappointed we couldn't go further, but Phil and Peter really didn't have their heart in it after a while. I did some solo stuff but it never made it to vinyl.
No wonder this was tuff to track down. We teased you with a 69 copy pressing last week but as always we like to one-up ourselves from week to week. Here's our and Mark's favourite two tracks.

Say It Isn't True [Download]

Gone Too Far [Download]

Update: Download the whole LP at Girls From Tahiti.