Systematics are good and all, but their earlier records - the Pulp Baby EP on Doublethink and the Rural 12" on M-Squared - offer little for those of us who just wanna slam in the pit. Nice of 'em to rectify that deficiency with this fine stab at Metal Urbain via 2nd LP era Ultravox! from their last release, My Life In The Field Of Cows. Of course, this being M-Squared, the bass is a keyboard and the drums are a fucking robot or some shit, but who can hold it against them when the results are this impressive? Dig the outro from the choruses - guitar says up, synth says down; guitar says down, synth says up. It's like M-Squared's relationship with the post-Birdman Sydney scene encapsulated in two notes.
We've discussed before meta-topics like songs changing hands between bands. If you're fishing for thesis topics there's a need for a Carducci-like discursion on bands changing genre through their life, and the almost universal deleterious effect on quality. I mean, we wouldn't read it, but go ahead and write it. Here's our minimal datapoint contribution.
The Marching Girls were Kiwi transplants to Melbourne who recorded a pop-punk high water mark in 1980. Following a few years playing around they lost Brendan Perry, took on a new vocalist in Debra Schulze and set about changing their sound. The recorded result was a 12" laid down at Richmond Recorders in January 1983, and only released in New Zealand later that year. Despite leaving True Love way behind and generically falling in the new wave camp we can't hate it unreservedly. There are some good ideas at play on the record, nowhere more so than on track 3, Plain Jane. Slow tempoed, with interesting percussion and a pretty great refrain, we're happy to champion it. The rest of the EP is less to our taste, being more gothy, atmospheric and dare-we-say-it, dull. If so inclined, youtube is yourfriend.
Plain Jane resurfaced in 1985 on an Australian 7" (EMI, EMI-1438). Re-recorded, and a minute shorter, points are deducted for the 1980's drum sound. On the plus side however the guitar under the chorus is much heavier, placing the song as a precursor to the sound labelled shoegaze in England some years later. The flipside of the 7", The Man Who Knew Too Much, appears to date from the 12" sessions, based on the production credits. It's an instrumental, and we'll leave it to you to search out. There was one further 7" in 1987.
Tactics' second single tends to be somewhat overshadowed by the world class art punk of Standing By The Window, which is a shame as it's a good record in its own right. Both songs are spiky, brittle post-punk driven by clean guitars and staccato rhythms. Hole In My Life is the winner of the two, with David Studdert's distinctive vocals playing off particularly effectively against the eerie riffing, and some fine distorted guitar for those of us who prefer that sort of thing. Outdoors is no slouch either, it's crashing minor chords building to an energetic conclusion. As on the first EP, Steve Maughan of Kevin McLaughlin and the Murrumbidgee Orchestra (here aided by Ian Davies) provides perfectly simple and crisp production. Also like the first single, this was pressed in an edition of 500 copies, but seems to appear less frequently than that earlier record; oddly, it is also one of the more seldom sighted (but not thatseldom sighted) of the Doublethink 45s, and is the only single on the label not to sport a picture sleeve.
One of the very few bands from Newcastle who could rightly be called a punk band, The Mansons popped out one 7" in 1982. Like a revved up Monkees with a gnarly guitar sound and a gruesome sense of humour, the band gives the impression they would have been a fun live proposition. This is supported by the band-members' monikers - Harry, Curly and Monkee Manson, and Donny Anarchy.
The topside is good slice of pop-punk with the lyrics spat out at a fast pace. The flipside is powerpop. The guitar is good but the vocals and rhythm section sound a bit tired; we assume it was recorded second.
The band existed from 1981 to 1983 and seem to have received mostly negative press in a town where boogie-till-you-puke rubbish was always better supported. You can read the extended history and see more photos like the below at the band's useful blog.
I Died Four Times (But I Don't Wanna Talk About It) [Download]
Think you know a lot about Australian records in the punk era? We promise to astonish you with stuff off everybody's radar. We apply quality control so our powerpop has power, our glam has prominent balls, our punk is spiky and our DIY is far, far out there. We'll also do it-never-ends exposés of sleeve variations and inserts you didn't know existed. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.