Saturday 25 December 2010

Fred Cass & The Cassettes - Xmas In America (Australian Branch) 7" Fred Cassette Co 00002, 1981

Hmmm, weekend is here and we're low on inspiration. "What about Fred Cass's great At The Weekend?" said the Professor at the weekly meeting. Alright! Then we remembered it's been blogged elsewhere. Oh, no! We scrambled, and here's Fred's second 7". It's not weekend-themed but we hope you'll find something on it for today.

On this one Fred (a.k.a. Lee Cass) is again backed by various members of the Sports (and their daughters), News, Skyhooks and Schizophrenias. Yong Talent Team Xmas 2001, a medley of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells, is a cool piece of seasonal kiddie punk. Fans of At The Weekend might also wanna check out the Soft Boys/Heartbreakers-style rave-up of Family Fun Parlour, and fans of Let's Get Married should also like Fred's satire on Australian coupling rituals.

Yong Talent Team Xmas 2001

Merry Xmas Merry Christmas

Family Fun Parlour

Marriage Is A Splendid Thing

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1977, after a couple of years of gigging (including a support slot for AC/DC at Brisbane's Festival Hall), Wilton had been replaced by Steve Arthurson (v,g) and John Pankof (b), and the expanded line-up retreated to a rural chicken barn to record Stormchild, Bad Habit's one and only LP.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 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

Sunday 12 December 2010

It Never Ends: Celibate Rifles - But Jacques, The Fish? 7" EMI Custom,1982

After a few years learning the trade at parties and school dances around Sydney's North Shore, The Celibate Rifles (one of a bunch of one-off party names that stuck) progressed to playing pubs and getting a record out - and what a record! But Jacques, The Fish? is just about the finest record to ever emerge from up that way. Four great songs, some hilarious lyrics, and a frustrating set of sleeve colour variations.

As a rule we don't cross the bridge for nothin'. Every few years though one of our scouts up on the North Shore sends a telegram saying another colour scheme has surfaced and we don our radiation suits, jump in the Wallaby Beat detective van and head up there to bring it home. Now, twenty-eight years after this disc first appeared we think we can close the case on it, so welcome back to another it-never-ends session. There's been several years of does/doesn't it exist to and fro-ing with various parties, now let us supply some clarity.

The first pressing was organised by the band and appeared on EMI Custom labels in late 1982, with catalogue number 13355. EMI Custom pressings appear in one of two colour variations which we'll call black-on-white and white-on-black. These sleeves are different to the later pressing in that the sleeve is flapback - the folds are glued outside the sleeve on the back.

Note also that the colour scheme for these is repeated on the back of the sleeve; black-on-white is black-on-white on the rear (seen to the above right), and white-on-black is white-on-black on its reverse.

It's an odd sleeve in some ways - the iconography is from nowhere: a free-standing ewe with a tied off rifle, a foot on a stick with a tapping toe; and But Jacques, The Fish? You might be tempted to start to align our boys with surrealism and dadaism but we won't make the mistake of previous generations and link the motivations of suburban oicks with French philosophers. Just a healthily odd sense of humour, and a certain iconoclasm which came to characterise, and perhaps plague the band's output as time went on. Ultimately, the rarely seen heavy metal umlaut-ed Ä is probably gonna get you closer to the mark.

There are no mistakes to be made about the music though. All four tracks on here are absolutely great. The influences were Radio Birdman and the Saints - not just lazy pick-a-soundalike by us, but admitted by bassist Michael Couvret and lead guitarist Kent Steedman in several interviews (in Away From The Pulsebeat fanzine for example).

Kicking off with Kent's Theme (They Don't Listen) we have one of the band's earliest songs, dating back to their original singer Ian Martin. A comment on smoking and conformity with the great refrain "doesn't listen to the doctors advising, all she hears is the advertising" leading into the lead break appropriating the Marlboro theme. As we mentioned before, local guitarists love themselves some thematic "references".

Next up is possibly the highlight of the EP, Let's Get Married, a song that never fails to bring a smile to our faces, not just from the ferocious wah-wah solo and group-chanted chorus but mostly from the hilarious lyrics penned by vocalist Damien Lovelock.  We particularly like the line "you must be okay coz you went down on my brother". Lovelock's vocals are excellent across the whole EP.

On 24 Hours the band kick back a bit with a more personal lyric. On this side of the disc the band really start sounding more like Radio Birdman, particularly in the guitar licks and backing vocals. Tubular Greens is the band's first surf themed song, a connection they continued occasionally, as detailed by Stephen McParland in Waltzing The Plank. Amongst other things this included pseudonymous gigs as Sandy Pile and The Beach Bums at Mambo's surf band battles, where they did T.V. Eye as Seaweed Eye. Anyway, cool song, great handclaps.

The EMI Custom EP was distributed by Hot Records. By 1983 Hot Records formally became a label and we have a second pressing of But Jacques, The Fish? as HOT 702. The same stampers were used, but the label is completely different and switches to an alternative spelling of Jacques. The sleeve artwork is the same as the earlier issue. The minutiae are as follows:
  • there is no longer any flapback - the folds are glued inside the sleeve;
  • there are four variations: red-on-white, white-on-red, blue-on-white, white-on-blue;
  • the back of the sleeves standardise - the red sleeves both have white-on-red reverses, and the blues have white-on-blue;
  • interestingly (come on, you've read this far) blue-on-white opens to the left, all other schemes we have seen have the more regular right hand side opening.
As far as rarity or otherwise goes, the EMI Custom pressings are harder to find than the Hot. We can't really divine any relative scarcity amongst the Hot sleeve variations - we'll just report that white-on-blue was the last one to land in our laps.

The lyric/info insert comes on white, blue, green, yellow, red or pink paper. Maybe others too. We haven't been able to find any variations on the inserts between pressings, even the handwritten extra phone number seems to be the same on all copies we've seen.

Finally some music - we've decided to just feature one track, the "all samples not cleared" Kent's Theme. 24 Hours, Tubular Greens and Let's Get Married saw release in the UK on What Goes On on the Quintessentially Yours LP. Kent's Theme was on a UK 7" on Shigaku Records backing Pretty Pictures and also made one of the early punk reissue compilations - Back To Front Vol 6 in 1995. All four tracks are on the Platters Du Jour double album/CD compiling the 7" tracks up to 1990. Go get it. Oh and report any other variations (with documentation please!).

Kent's Theme

February 2012 update Two more variations in hand: EMI Custom with black-on-white front and white-on-black rear; Hot red-on-white front with a red-on-white rear.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Little Bands 7" EMI Custom PRS-2675, 1980

Plenty of cities had a pick-up scene parallel to their more formalised band scenes. Vancouver's fuck bands for one example, and the messingly incestuous London DIY scene. In Melbourne the Primitive Calculators and Whirlywirld solved the venues' requirement of having to fill a certain number of minutes with support bands by mixing and matching members and swapping instruments. Add a loose rule that each band could only have three songs and only perform twice, and the Little Bands were born. 

Pretty much the only contemporaneous document was this 7", issued with blank black labels in 1980. 

Later the scene extended to a regular night centred around the Champion Hotel in Fitzroy. A lynchpin of the scene was Alan Bamford, who organised and faithfully documented proceedings. 

Ronnie And The Rhythm Boys - Hey Joe

Absolutely brilliant one note feedback version with dual vocals and localised lyrics. A mix-tape favourite of ours. Stuart Grant and Denise Hilton (Primitive Calculators), Jules Taylor (Thrush and The Cunts).

Morpions - Point Blank
Great distorted guitar over a monotone beat and distracted vocals. Short and to the point. Lee Smith (Bowie-esque guitarist-around-town, also played with early Lisa Gerrard bands), his girlfriend Wendy (Joy) Morrissey, and Stuart Grant (Primitive Calculators).

The Take - Summer
A more straightahead song style here, but the guitar 'solo' is cool. Frank Lovece (Primitive Calculators), Marisa Stirpe (Thrush and The Cunts), Tom Hoy.

Too Fat To Fit Through The Door - Flintstones, Meet The Flintstones
Tomfoolery (as you may have guessed), idiocy, directionless art. Lots of fun. Marcus Bergner (artist/filmmaker/poet), Marie Hoy and Ollie Olsen (see Forced Exposure #14 for a rundown), Michael Buckley, Stuart Grant and Dave Light (Primitive Calculators).

There are plenty of tapes from this scene still extant - the 2010 exhibition at the Potter Gallery in Melbourne temptingly had them under glass, so here's a gentle push to those with access to get them out there. After all, we've lived with the teasing listing of the unreleased No Sin Like Dancing double LP in Inner City Sound for nearly three decades now. Put us out of our misery.

In the meantime you can hear some of the later Champion Hotel era Little Bands on the Terse Tapes One Stop Shopping cassettes which are in most households. If you want to hear some Thrush and The Cunts (and if you don't, what are you doing here?) then check out Chapter Music's Primitive Calculators And Friends CD (which also includes this EP and some Prim Calcs throwaways). Or, go and see the concept live - it's still kicking on!

Finally, a bonus - more Ronnie And The Rhythm Boys from Fast Forward 007 cassette magazine:

Ronnie And The Rhythm Boys - I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend

Sunday 28 November 2010

Klerks - The Groove Tapes 7" Vi-Nil VR010, 1985 (recorded 1979)

If you believe the insert, the Klerks' material was written in the Palm Beach branch of the ANZ bank. How apropos. From that home base in Sydney's northern beaches, the band ventured into the inner city throughout 1979 and became a regular Friday night fixture at the Sussex Hotel (where the EP's cover photos were taken). At that time, the venue was evolving into the epicentre of the Sydney mod scene - the Klerks shared a stage there with the likes of the Sets and rubbed shoulders with other future mod scene-makers.

Musically, stages were about the only thing the Klerks shared with the mods - bar the new wave-ish closing track, The Groove Tapes is raw and menacing punk rock. We have featured The Rider below as the standout song, but Love And Pain and Fun In The Sun are both worthy efforts, too. The EP highlights what seems to have been an ongoing alliance with Wallaby Beat favourites, the Flying Calvittos - both singles featured musical contributions from the mysterious Groove, and were tracked at his Surry Hills studio (here, Groove is responsible for some spastic keyboards, which thankfully tend toward fart noises as often as not). The Klerks' logo, as well as the cover of their only other single, were also designed by a Calvitto.

As for the other single, this is where things get a little complicated. Though The Groove Tapes was recorded in 1979, it did not see the light of day until some six years later, when it was released in a tentative edition of 250 copies on the Vi-Nil label. (Vi-Nil, of course, is best known for the first Hard-Ons single, as well as its other live-in-the-studio archival release, the Lipstick Killers' 1978 recordings). In the interim, the Klerks had expanded to a four-piece and recorded what was to be their first release proper, a two-song single appearing on Vi-Nil in 1983 (K001/2). This outing was incomparably weaker, and included an extended but anaemic re-recording of Love And Pain.

As if the Klerks' chronology wasn't convoluted enough, the matrix etching of The Groove Tapes belies its 1985 release date, placing it firmly at 1981. The most likely explanation would be an aborted '81 attempt to put the EP to wax, with the original plates being rescued for its eventual Vi-Nil release. Another theory involves the great scientific innovation of 1985, the flux capacitor. Keep an eye on our other website, where we intend to expound on this theory at length.

The Rider

Groove: "a wild, wild operator". From the advertising LP The Adventures of Smedley Strongheart (EMI Custom PRX.5667, late-'60s).

Sunday 21 November 2010

Walrus - I Am The Walrus / Wild Time Tonight 12" EMI Custom PRS-2555, 1978

From delicate, fluttering insects to loud, lumbering mammals in the space of a week - talk about biodiversity. Befitting of a blog named Wallaby Beat, we're about to get all anthropomorphic-like.

The Tasmanian mock variety notwithstanding, Walrus is yet another example of an Australian hard rock band named after a non-native species (see also: Buffalo, Rabbit, Bengal Tigers). As anyone who has endured an episode of the Crocodile Hunter would know, Australia has a vast array of beasties capable of reducing your life expectancy, so we're not sure why the unpatriotic nomenclature held such sway (Steve Irwin would surely have approved of this exception). In the case of Walrus, it's possible that the appeal lay in a ready-made theme song, a cover of I Am The Walrus included on the band's lone 12". On the plus side, their version gives the song a tough HM arrangement and is surprisingly listenable. On the negative side, it's still a Beatles cover, so it doesn't appear here as a matter of general principle.

The 12" was recorded in January '78 and released mid-year (three years after Walrus formed in Sydney's western suburbs - click here to read more biographical details in the band's own words). The recording date is remarkable given the musical approach of the standout track, Wild Time Tonight. The tempo, double-tracked guitar riffing, and overall attack are nothing short of NWOB(A?)HM a whole year before the genre's defining bands made it to vinyl in the UK. Add a second kick drum and we're in territory mined by Jaguar three years hence. We can only assume our Westie hairfarmers were dialled in to the same Budgie tunes (Breaking All The House Rules..., especially) as their limey counterparts, and were possessed of the same impulse to trim the fat and hit the accelerator.

Walrus, Jaguar,'s like a fuckin' zoo in here.

Props are also due to the band for dispensing with pragmatism and opting for the 12" format, a decision that clearly enhances the power of the tunes. Spread out over a whole 12" side, Wild Time Tonight hits like a brick to the erogenous zone - reason enough to consider the supplied mp3 a placeholder until you chase down the vinyl. Largely used as a promotional tool, copies sometimes surface with the aforementioned bio and/or the promo photo pictured below.

Though there were no more official releases, a number of other recordings exist which confirm that Wild Time Tonight was something of a one-off - the remainder of the band's repertoire tended towards sluggish hard rock, without the personality or taut execution evident here. With a change of name to The Lads around 1980, the band remained active to varying degrees throughout the following decade (mainly confined to the western Sydney pub circuit, including one memorable afternoon gig at the Viking Tavern on September 2, 1984), but never did reach the level of like-minded long-hairs Boss or Heaven. Or Finch.

Wild Time Tonight

Photographic evidence against the bio's claim of "a lengthy stint of shaving". Seconds after this pic was taken, vocalist Mark Collier deployed his chute.

Thanks to Clint Chapman for help with info.

Sunday 14 November 2010

The Limp - Outer Space Moth / Animal Kingdom 7" no label, 1980

White labels, some handwritten, some not.
The Limp came down to Sydney from Newcastle in late 1980. They shared DNA, songs and attitude with Pel Mel, who became vastly better known (not saying much). Both formed part of the Sydney version of Melbourne's Little Bands, continuing to swap members and ideas with like minds in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills. The Limp released a 7" on Primate records; it's ok but not one of our go-to records for that scene.

What is pretty much unknown is their first 7", recorded and barely released just prior to the move to Sydney. The band was given the chance to play around in the local Teachers' College music department's instrument room and record a 7" in their studio. 100 copies (or maybe 200, sources conflict, memories lapse) were pressed and then given away at an art exhibition at said college, thus pretty much disappearing into the æther. Member Tim McGee recalls more details of the recording at No Night Sweats.

Going back further in time, to 1979, The Limp were probably the first Australian band to embrace the No Wave songbook, covering Helen Forsdale and 3E live. The studied mixture of awkwardness and brash attitude of that scene comes through on the stuttering music and thousand-yard-speed-stare vocals of the A side.

We have no idea what an outer space moth looks like but if this song is any indication it must be a fragile and beautiful insect, and needless to say rare beyond belief.

Outer Space Moth

Animal Kingdom

Embarrassing as it is to admit, we probably don't have the complete packaging for this puppy. If you have a magazine or any other packaging that might have come with this and would part with it please get in touch.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Supernaut - Unemployed 7" Polydor 2079 116, 1978

As mentioned last week, more top shelf Aussie glam-punk is on the table. Here's a tasty treat of dole queue defiance from 1978 by a band better known for gender-bending than genre-blending, Perth's Supernaut.

Ahhh, Supernaut. Famous worldwide now for their absolutely brilliant glam masterpiece debut I Like It Both Ways and the fantastically suggestive flipside to their second 7", Lick My Lolly. There's an LP and five 7"s from their glam era, all but one (Young And Innocent) worth tracking down.

Unlike Branded, these guys tasted massive pre-punk success, I Like It Both Ways being a Number 1 smash. Following the also successful LP, which came out in December 1976, the band set up camp in a Melbourne studio to record their second album (provisionally titled Test Pressing). Recording stretched out over a year or so and eventually the album was scrapped as too dated. Part of this decision must have been based on the band catching a whiff, as 1977 waned, of the new thing coming from England and thinking, "Bloody hell! We can do this!". All that was released from the session was this punky 7" from April 1978. Props to the band for following their noses, especially given that major label land and radio ignored punk pretty much completely here.

Maybe they weren't just looking at the UK but immersed in it. In an online interview vocalist Gary Twinn (an English ex-pat, as were the blonde Burnham brothers) talks about going to see the Clash in London and buying tapes of the shows at the markets the next day, so they may well have spent time in London during '77 and '78.

Wait! Wait! Come back! This doesn't sound anything like the Clash.

So what do we have here. Mid-paced but high energy glam-punk, with a distinctly punk lyric and sneering vocal delivery. It's clearly more East End and Sarf London than Westway. If I had to name names I'd say a bit of Sham with a big dollop of Cock Sparrer - both bands with a history in glam and Faces style swagger. With anglo accents and backing vocals from the (Fremantle Oval) terraces it's definitely LDK-friendly, though those low down kids might wonder what the CES is. We're thinking of reclaiming simple thuggy drum beats as an Australian thing because here's yet another prime example. Maybe this is the true wallaby beat.

The lyrics are great too, we particularly like the couplet "Listen to the news at six, all those lies about statistics". Overall a really infectious song.


Unemployed era Supernaut, working it live. More here.

After Unemployed the band signed with Wizard and issued one more 7" as Supernaut before becoming The Nauts and issuing an album and one final 7". We're in two minds about featuring that stuff here, check back in 2012. Some of the early glam singles (interspersed with songs from The Nauts era) were briefly reissued on CD in the mid '90s, a time when Supernaut was affectionately viewed as a campy joke (at least in their home town). The disc seemed to disappear almost instantly, and amazingly, no subsequent reissues have surfaced.

To avoid confusion over the Englishness of it all,
a special company sleeve exists.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Branded - You Been Branded / Generation Breakout 7" Infinity K-7044, 1978

In our last installment, David Burnette, Lee Cutelle and co. had just released two singles as Beaut - classic pre-punk powerpop on the first, and a disappointing, less realised version of same on the follow-up - both with negligible commercial success. Come late 1977, and after nearly a decade of toiling away with not much to show for it, the changing musical climate in the UK seemingly gave Burnette and Cutelle pause to reconsider their approach (after all, they weren't alone in the scramble to react to punk). The result? A record perfectly attuned to the zeitgeist of...1974!

Reconstituting themselves as Branded, the ensuing single (released in early '78) projects superficially as a Sweet song generator set to one part Chinn/Chapman, three parts Connolly/Priest et al., with the output fed through a Never Mind The Bollocks filter. You Been Branded bludgeons with a powerchord-driven riff and an all-downstroke verse, and continues Beaut's proto-thug drumming absent the "proto". Generation Breakout takes thematic cues from Teenage Rampage (and swipes the chorus for good measure), but delivers its lyrics with a more direct, punked-out attitude. The verse from Fox On The Run makes an appearance as the central riff, and it's all driven by a reductionist Rock And Roll Disgrace beat. An argument could be made that the phased guitar sound dominating both sides is Sweet-informed also, but given the timing, we reckon Anarchy In The UK is the more likely inspiration here.

Now, all parlour game deconstruction aside, this is no mere pastiche. If we can adopt the talkin'-to-the-kidz tone of the Generation Breakout protagonist for a sec, do not let us stand in the way of the geniuses-at-work composition of these tunes, and your enjoyment of said. Anyone can take/copy/play with their influences but we all know it's rare that the results gel as perfectly as they do here. To pull this off requires innate understanding of rock'n'roll, an ability to margin walk the dumb/smart line, songwriting chops (optional) and gonads the size of cantaloupes (mandatory).

In addition, there appears to be a schema of punk rock at play here that genuinely views the likes of the Sweet and the Pistols as interchangeable, and it's that insight that enables the parts to be assembled so artfully, subtracting their sum from the whole will leave you with change. The end result is a glam-punk monster - arguably the most effective collision of those genres produced in this country (though admittedly, competition on that front is slim; we revisit the subject next week).

Unfortunately, we have no hard facts to relate when it comes to scum stats, only the frustration born of personal experience in locating this record. It surfaces less frequently than the Beaut 45s (and even more infrequently with the generic - and purely rhetorical - pocket sleeve pictured below), perhaps indicating the label's diminishing patience and a pressing size closer to actual demand (i.e. none). This would be the band's only single (the Branded who had an LP were a South Australian country band), and the end of Burnette and Cutelle's association with Infinity. As far as we've been able to ascertain, other '70s recordings remain unreleased.

Post-Branded, Messrs. Burnette and Cutelle seemingly went into hibernation for a few years. When they re-emerged, their next move would unleash collector scum nightmares for decades to come. Stay tuned.

You Been Branded

Generation Breakout

Q: And missed this?
A: And missed this.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Upsets - Back To Afghanistan / Heartattack 7" EMI Custom PRS-2899, 1980

"Hey Puddle, what's happening?" The Upsets in someone's backyard.

The Upsets sole 7" was for a long time one of the most obscure Australian punk records. A third tier Brisbane punk band sitting below even our favourite miscreants from the Shake/Savage label, and a long way below the Leftovers, Razar and the Numbers, both in reality and in the revisionist collector scum collective universe. The reasons for this include: the geographical - they came from the town of Ipswich just outside Brisbane's western border (maybe surprisingly we have at least three more records from this locale to feature down the track); that they were a little younger and later than the aforementioned bands; and probably an outsider attitude coupled with a lack of self promotion.

The record itself though is an absolute cracker, further bolstering Brisbane's punching-above-its-weight reputation in punk rock circles. Lots of cool features - mid paced, neat guitar lines with a slightly metallic tone, a great guitar solo on Heartattack, off kilter song structures and lyrical approach, and sound effects (guns, heartbeats). Special mention must be made of the opening scream of Heartattack.

The band formed in 1978 and the single came out late in 1980. 300 copies were pressed. The record should be considered a sleeveless record (copies come in a standard issue EMI custom blue diecut) but a very few copies had the folded promo poster pictured to the right included as an insert.

After the single's release the band attracted the attention of the management company behind Midnight Oil, who were impressed by the songs' energy and the political side of the lyrics. As a result the band moved to Sydney to work but eventually fell foul of big city vices and fell apart.

By 1982 the members had limped back to Brisbane and recorded some more tracks. One of these, Atomic Run, has survived - taped from a 4ZZZ radio demo show in 1982 or so - it shows the band moving in a post-punk direction. The energy is still there and the guitar is still good, but...fucking 1980's drums, spare me. We include it for interest below.

Guitarist and singer Rob Hesp (a.k.a. Vespa) later morphed the band into Resistance. A demo tape was recorded but we haven't been able to track it down. Drummer Brad Cox ended up in Dumb Show and The Skeletones, amongst others. Other members were Neil Roberts on bass and John Armstrong on guitar. Armstrong was replaced by Pat Dow for the 7".

Back To Afghanistan


Atomic Run

Nice waistcoat Brad. No, seriously.
(Hesp, Cox, Armstrong; Ipswich 1980)

Thanks to Cold Sweat for photos.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Toxic - First Time 7" XTO? VUT-004, 1979

A band so mysterious, even its label appears to be having an existential crisis. For the benefit of those whose Cyrillic is a little rusty, "XTO?" translates to "WHO?" in Ukrainian (y'know, as in "Toxic...WHO?". Perfect). XTO? was a small Sydney advertising and production company which, in collaboration with a four-track voiceover/jingle studio called Fly By Night, entered the fray as an independent record label in the late '70s – this fuzzed-out, amateur hard rock 45 is the last of the four singles in its catalogue.

Sometime in early 1979, Toxic laid down the single's two tracks at Winkfast (how's that for an Ivor Biggun-inspired spoonerism?), a small studio more orientated towards the folk pop practiced by its owners than to recording actual rock and roll bands. Unsurprisingly, the band was unhappy with the results, and Fly By Night head honcho (and former Bad Boy) Kim Humphreys was approached to remix the tapes. It's uncertain just how Fly By Night came to be chosen to rescue the project (after all, its output of radio commercials hardly screamed rock and roll either), but we're sure glad it was. The recording itself is suitably raw and loud, but the real stars of this show are the numerous "oh shit" production elements. Check out the much-too-loud, slap-back reverbed backing vocal leaping out of nowhere; or the nasty phasing on the drums; or the Sir Lord Baltimore/Tapeworm-style stereo-panned guitar solo. Indeed, in this instance "WTF?" may have been a more suitable label name. Recalls Humphreys:
"To be honest, the wild mix was to cover up the performance of the band which was a bit loose and out of tune. I just went bananas with the phaser, the flanger, echo and panning".
Kimbo, we salute you. In reality, though, nothing short of an electromagnet applied to the master tape could have masked the looseness of the band. Notes are flubbed, and rhythmic irregularities abound. Now, we're not talking Afterbirth-level ineptitude here, not even close, but it's fair to say that any self-respecting "pro" hard rock band would have recycled the tape rather than immortalise it on plastic. Thankfully, Toxic had the testicular fortitude to follow through.

Having satisfied themselves with the final mix, Toxic requested help in pressing the record, and XTO? was more than happy to oblige. 500 copies were pressed through Powderworks, and like all XTO? releases, distribution was handled solely by the band. The 45 wasn't actively sold through record shops, which perhaps explains its elusiveness.

Musically, First Time sits firmly in the realm of hard rock, though not exactly in the '70s Oz tradition. And though the song has a definite metallic edge (especially in the lead guitar tone), neither is it attuned to the riffs, speed, and anthemic aspirations of the emergent NWOBHM. It's more Sleaz Band than Soundhouse Tapes - think Midnight Man with a bulldozer approach to dynamics and guitars set to "peel paint".

So that's all very well and good, but just who were these mystery men, anyway? Good question. As it turns out, Toxic occupies a place in Australian punk rock history for being, under their former moniker Hot Spurs, the other band on the bill at the infamous Paddo Town Hall gig. If you were lucky enough to catch the Saints and Radio Birdman that night in April 1977, chances are you first had to endure a rendition of First Time at maximum volume. Though the reaction of the hippies, Hell's Angels, and other assorted freaks in attendance remains undocumented, Hot Spurs must have impressed someone as they managed to score a gig at the Oxford Funhouse the following month. And as stylistically disparate as the lineup appears on paper, it's unlikely that our heroes would have felt too out of place among the other longhairs on the bill - we're picturing a band of four Kym Bradshaw lookalikes. Footage of their set would surely confirm. Does it exist somewhere in the ABC's archives?

And finally, what of the rest of the XTO? discography? Unfortunately, those expecting more of the same are likely to be disappointed. The other singles are: Metropolis (XTO? creative directors Val Udowenko and Tony Wong performing lite pop and '40s swing); our man Kim Humphreys (two instrumentals, including an Atlantics cover, which were precursors to his Brave New Wave LP); and Ian Betteridge and the Ramblin' Country Band (work that one out for yourself).

First Time

Sunday 10 October 2010

Benders - You Make Me Pewk, Incognito MA-12228-A/B, 1979

Malvern Country Club (1975) became Brown Eye (1975) became Lois Lane ('76-79) became the Benders. Pub rock with this one punque rocker. I would've stuck with Brown Eye.

The one intriguing thing about this song (from the Picnic At Oakleigh Rotunda LP) is the nominal similarity to Johnny Demon and the Devils' You Make Me Spew and slight musical similarity to Shut Your Mouth - any member sharing or other cross pollination?

You Make Me Pewk

We're the first to acknowledge that some of the actual music featured in September dropped our mean quality index down a tad so we vowed to make October special. However, late breaking news/contacts on the two records we're working on right now means you're gonna have to wait a week or two. How annoying! Mission accomplished then. And to our favourite annoyed Anonymous commenter, consider this song a thinly veiled message to you, with the veil removed.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Sunday Painters - I'm A Car Crash 7" Terminal 003, 1981

Over three 7"s Sunday Painters hit all the touchpoints of international DIY, 1980 style. Each is quite different: the first is rambling non-songs - sometimes engaging, sometimes not, as goes with that territory. The second leads with a fucked up version of Rebel Rebel, followed by Part Two, a polemic lecture on rock music, and a 10 minute rehearsal room dirge. It's all interesting and deserving of your attention, but we feel they hit their peak on this, their third 7".

I'm A Car Crash is a fierce art punker - driven by drum machine and dirty guitar, underpinned with interesting savant clarinet, and finally here the band sound like they get up off the couch and deliver an involved, attacking (dual) vocal. We particularly like the "uuuuhhhhaahhhhuh" bit at 1:16.

Of course we're wrong too. The other tracks on this one are comparatively weak - take Let's Be Moderne: a twee, shooting-fish-in-a-barrel attack on easy targets like Mi-Sex and Stuart Coupe (at the time journalist for national music mags); at least on Part Two they turned the spotlight on themselves and the dichotomy between their own disdain for rock music and the fact that in the end they too are a rock band. Whatever, I'm A Car Crash is one for the ages.

Still, we're right as well. A lot of the first LP, recorded over late 1981 and early 1982, successfully continues the approach of this song: Paths Of Glory, Flesh, and holy shit, check out the frantic 1:01 of Emotion Sickness. Ditto the Surface Paradise side of the Fourth Annual Report LP (recorded 1983, released 1985).

Sorry to tease with these descriptions but there's a full retrospective forthcoming and we aren't gonna step on their toes. So here's a taster to whet your appetite:

I'm A Car Crash

I'm A Car Crash came in an edition of 250. There are three different sleeves but in a handy sop to collector scum teeth gnashing, all three versions come with each copy, phew. Here are the others:

Check the full discography at their website. There are also three live cassettes advertised on the first LP booklet, along with one by sister band the Art Throbs, and a "Wollongong incest" tape of interrelated side projects.

... and they blame home taping!

Update: June 2015

From Michael Train, driving force behind the excellent Sunday Painters reissues on What's Your Rupture? records:

Last week we lost one of the great diy musicians - Dennis Kennedy, bassist for The Sunday Painters, the early-'80s band from Wollongong. Dennis had been working as an IT consultant in Singapore. Although he had been struggling with diabetes, his death was unexpected.

Dennis was a brilliant, footloose, charismatic, garrulous fellow whose passions were worn proudly, so he had stories galore, whether from his punk and activist days in Wollongong, or from his wanderings across the US and Canada. He’d hung out with rock royalty (his brother was a Moody Blues roadie), met Celine Dion, and chatted up Lady Gaga. He was charming.

His music remains powerful. He played fiercely and beautifully; he could deliver the rock-solid repetition crucial to post punk (see the live version of “In My Dreams” on YouTube), go slack on the loungey “Be Objective,” or put the band into overdrive on “Emotion Sickness,” maybe the quickest bit of industrial ferocity to come out of punk. He helped write “Flesh” and “Love Factory,” two of the finest art-punk songs ever. And he is missed.