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1977, after a couple of years of gigging (including a support slot for AC/DC at Brisbane's Festival Hall), Wilton had been replaced by Steve Arthurson (v,g) and John Pankof (b), and the expanded line-up retreated to a rural chicken barn to record Stormchild, Bad Habit's one and only LP.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