Saturday 31 July 2010

Real Traitors 7" EMI Custom 13234, 1982

At various times the Real Traitors have been a hit in San Francisco (see below) and Hell, Norway, but remain practically unheard everywhere else, including their hometown of Sydney. The Kuge's "primitive shit music" nomenclature probably tells you all you need to know - the terms are even arranged in descending order of importance.

There's been much discussion between your humble correspondents about the influences at work here, but pinning them down feels like jamming a series of square pegs into frustratingly round holes. Can anyone name who these guys were channelling? Not us. One is tempted to dive down the rabbit hole of international DIY to contextualise this racket, but on the balance of probability, and given the year, our subjects were more likely spurred into action by the weirdness on the Bullshit Detector comps. Certainly the first (more, uh, "structured") side would not be out of place among the bedroom anarcho gurglings collected on those records. Early, dirgy Amebix with chromosome damage? Six Minute War (c. Slightly Longer Songs) trapped in a mine shaft? Sure. But then again, not really. The turd is polished with discernable influence from local heroes SPK - some white noise from Slogun here, a dive-bomb from Germanik there - but the strident, jackboot-wearing crunch of early industrial is conspicuously absent.

Things go off the deep end on the second side. You're on your own there.

Blackmailing You is the recommended starting point for those wishing to dip their toe in the cesspool - the band's murky, rhythmless riffing is at its most effective here. Still, as Jello rightly noted, this is not for the squeamish. For those with delicate musical palates, consider the first song title in relation to your bandwidth before downloading.

It's A Waste

Blackmailing You

Death Meaning

I Just Don't Know Where I'm Leading To

Jello Biafra reviews the Real Traitors EP, from Maximum Rock 'n' Roll #10, December 1983. We think the supplied address, the multi-storey terrace on the corner of Fitzroy St, was a squat back then.

Addendum 7 June 2011
As pointed out in the comments the Real Traitors were another fruitful Australia/New Zealand cultural merge. Ages ago Graham Osborne sent us the pertinent info, here it is:
The line-up was Max Katterns, Grant Freeman and Graham Osborne.

Since you asked, I think we were probably channelling LSD, but we had listened to everything around at that time and stretching back to the Velvets, Stooges, Eno, Can, Cale. We hardly ever recorded without acid, it was like a house rule, and we were evicted from one studio in Sydney when things got too weird for the engineer. We tried to play out just once, at the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross, I think it was, but the manager threw us out as we were setting up, saying "we don't like your attitude," which came as a complete shock because we hadn't even started playing. But we were tripping then as well and maybe he noticed we'd grabbed a carton of beer from behind the bar to try to ease the visions of blood dripping down his anxious face.

Two of us recorded some stuff in NY, then went to England and did some more over there. We had an album deal with Dan Treacy's (Television Personalities) label Dreamworld, which was distributed by Rough Trade, then just before it was due for release Dreamworld declared bankruptcy.
Labels - Graham's facebook is in the comments - let's get that unreleased LP out there.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Beaut - Goodbye Judy / Paper Chains 7" Infinity K-6496, 1976

Contrary to the one word review written on the label, Goodbye Judy is an astounding piece of pre-punk powerpop. I'm sitting here reading the Bomp powerpop issue from '78 and feeling this captures every element Greg Shaw talked about within: "short, catchy, hook-filled, built on bright uplifting major chords... the element of urgency, the possibility of (uncontrolled) violence". OK, while the beat is thuggish, there's little threat of violence (unlike the other notable Judy from 1976).

But what is the story? Chuck Warner wrote eloquently in the Teenline liners on the genre's "basic mise-en-scène: a hopeful but hopelessly single guy, so, so alone in a world where, somewhere, inevitably lurks the perfect girl. It’s just that she’s already going out with someone else - or she’s one or more of the following: hiding, vain, spiteful, oblivious, older, unapproachable, unaffordable, too shy, too pretty…or simply a little too boy-crazy to settle for just our hero!" He stresses he's writing about America, 1973-80, and yes, we hope a band playing suburban Melbourne halls and high school dances was a bit tougher than that... our singer here has at least loved and lost. And while it's not exactly a put-down song at least he's showing a bit of spine and self esteem - it's her loss!

What about some of the musical and production elements? Horns, great multitracked vocals punctuating the lines, the whispered backing vox "Is that you?", the glorious "iiiiiiii, I don't want you" chorus, again - the keep-it-simple proto-thug drumming, and the delicate acoustic guitar under the third verse. All up a tip of the hat to the songwriters, producer and arranger.

While Judy is the undeniable hit, Paper Chains is no slouch either – great innocent 1970s pop, this time with a glammy, power-chord driven middle-eight stomp. Evocative of pashing your main squeeze after a spot of BMX riding in the bush near the creek. One can imagine this going over well on Beaut’s support slot for the Bay City Rollers’ November 1976 tour. Anyone willing to own up to being there?

Goodbye Judy

Paper Chains

Unfortunately, the second and final Beaut 45 (Infinity K-6715, 1977) doesn't match the success of the first (creatively, at least – I’m sure sales were roughly zero for both). The horns, piano, even the acoustic guitar embellishments of the first single are no more, in favour of more pared-back production. One can only speculate that the Infinity coffers slammed shut after Goodbye Judy bombed. Why Baby Why attempts to compensate for the lack of additional instrumentation with dense vocal harmonies and some interesting guitar interplay throughout the chorus. The problem is that it’s saccharine as all get-out – bittersweet, sure, but this stuff will rot your teeth. And let’s face it, the band’s balls aren’t exactly dragging on the ground in Goodbye Judy, but at least they’re not stuffed into a purse. 

Over And Out is the stronger cut, and is the closest thing we have to the sound of Beaut belting it out live. Ordinarily something to be lauded, but one can’t help but wonder whether the production values of the first single would have elevated it to something special. Overall, the whole affair comes across somewhat flat, a bit of an afterthought. Still, a Burnett-Cutelle afterthought is better than many a band's A-game, and there's evidence that the suits at Festival had ongoing faith in our dynamic duo...but that's a story for another day.

Why Baby Why

Over And Out

A Beaut promo sheet for the Goodbye Judy single. There's another one floating around proclaiming Scheaut Beaut! Onto your playlist!. Wishful thinking, and dangerous waters for those with English as a second language.

Saturday 17 July 2010

V/A - A Terse Sample 7" Terse TRS002, 1980

Speaking of fine Australian DIY, next up is some genius bedroom four-track fuckery from Severed Heads' Tom Ellard and co., wrapped in an unrivalled of-the-era sleeve pastiche (a home-made approximation of A Factory Sample using tin foil and a marker pen). In order, we have:

Wet Taxis - Donny + Marie/Polio Baby/Riso Riso/Max And Peter Marmite Jar
A four-song medley, crudely assembled on what sounds like a twin cassette deck. The “punkest” of the tracks on this record, it begins with sped-up Peter Gunn-inspired riffing, ends with a mess of guitar noise, and has something to offend everyone in-between. At this stage the band is the Knuckey brothers with renowned tape fucker Garry Bradbury.

Mindless Delta Children - Go Go Dancer PVC Apron
Plink-plonk synths, distorted vocals, synthetic screeches and radio static. Catchy, yet sombre enough to ruin your holiday. Severed Heads fans may recognise echoes of Hawaii/Torso/97 Cigarettes from Terse's first vinyl offering, the Ear Bitten split LP with Rhythmyx Chymx.

Agent Orange - The Uncle Song
Discordant, lo-fi, floor tom-heavy post-punk, recorded ("in the toilet LIVE") over an old Sex Pistols cassette (a neat little Easter egg in the intro). Post-punk, indeed.

Rhoborhythmaticons - Knife + Fork
Nonsensical tape manipulation augmented with more bleepy synths, distorted vocals, and a lyrical allusion to Severed Heads.

Inserts available here, here, here, and here.

For those inclined to do so, there is an agonising number of Terse label cassettes to track down (including the Mysterious Kitchens and One Stop Shopping comps). But for those with short attention spans, this is arguably the document of early-'80s Sydney DIY. As far as we know (yes, that's quite far), neither the proposed reissue of this EP mentioned above, nor the 1981 sample ever eventuated.

Addendum: 4 May 2011
Steve, a regular contributor to the comments section, has kindly scanned his Terse Sample inserts and made them available to other interested readers. Besides the printed page with band info and other nonsense (the Pope really gets around), the magazine clippings and other ephemera are of course unique to each copy. Thanks, Steve!

Saturday 10 July 2010

Sparkle - Crazy Like A Fox 7" Infinity K-6318, 1976

I see ex-high school Rugby League players flouncing down Oxford Street in 1975 in stacks, tight pants and blouses. I see them stopping at Taylor Square and swapping mascara tips with Rob Younger who is sticking up posters for his new band at the Oxford Funhouse ("hey, grouse name, man, but The Rats was better"). I see them shooting shit on the pros and cons of the New York Dolls and Keith Moon's solo album.

1976 sees our heroes releasing one of the pinnacles of Aussie glam, a camped up, Dollsy version of a song off Moon the Loon's '75 LP. Awesome. The flip is a lesser offering - not bad, but those with punk sensibilities may find these honkies overdoing the tonk, and underdelivering on mental illness (a la Napoleon XIV). Still, some nice guitar throughout.

Anyway, the truth is probably more mundane - there's a brother and sister from Perth involved, but the band was based in Sydney. This is their one and only...

The Infinity label has some real hidden treasures, but I wouldn't buy the label willy nilly, you'll get burned.

Crazy Like A Fox

Coming To Take You Away

Saturday 3 July 2010

Flying Calvittos - Squeal Like A Pig 7" Groove PRS 2728, 1980

One two three four, squeal like a pig!

We open with the punk track from Goodbye You Spaghetti Punks, an obscure Sydney record by an equally obscure band.

Facts are a little thin on the ground for this one. It's two brothers of Italian extraction, possibly even called Calvitto. Production is by later producer to the indie stars of Sydney - Phil Punch. The studio was called Groove, we think on the North shore somewhere, and Groove, owner of the eponymous studio and label, plays drums on here. We hear he was also the lender of the punk influence on this track. The rest of the EP is DIY in nature; we hear the influence of the Residents. Not to say the rest isn't worthy - it's some of the finest DIY from Australia, and we'll feature it somewhere down the way.

Squeal Like A Pig [Download]