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.