Sunday 30 October 2011

Differentials - Thriving Metropolis 7" EMI Custom 13061, 1981

Record collector dreams, part 317. What if there was another Brisbane punk record? Maybe one from the fallow period between the giants of the late 70s and that short second period around 1982-3 (Public Execution, Mystery Of Sixes, Vampire Lovers). Wake up, daydreamer! Here it is.

The Differentials were a punk band who played around Ipswich and Brisbane from 1978 to 1983. Ted Elliott explains:
The Who's Who Of Australian Rock described us as Radio Birdman influenced. Not true. We played a couple of Ramones covers and very early Cure (10:15 Saturday Night) but mostly were a kind of pop punk outfit that eventually sounded like the Sunnyboys.
In 1981 the band recorded an EP and sent it off to EMI Custom for pressing. In a Spin̈al Tap-esque mix-up, when it came back from the plant the band's name failed to appear on the labels. Rather than print picture sleeves the band took the path of least resistance.
It was meant to be the name of the EP! 'Thriving Metropolis' by The Differentials. So the band changed their name to Thriving Metropolis for a couple of years.
While not an out-and-out classic, the record's a good'un, and a grower. The pick of the tracks is probably the Oi!-ish Think For Yourself with She's Nothing Special not far behind. All three tracks have a slow instrumental build before kicking in. Good, simple choruses all around though it must be said - some of the worst guitar solos you'll hear, and not in a good way. There are more Differentials recordings out there that it would be cool to hear some time.
I've got the (never-released) follow up EP on tape somewhere. I played a gig once with The Kremlin and a guy came up afterwards and told me he had heard a 'live' recording of us on 4ZZZ. I didn't know anything existed and, of course, I've heard nothing since.
This is the third record we've featured from Ipswich, all of them previously unknown and unheralded. We leave Ted with the last word on this small but happening scene.
Ipswich had a real band scene in those days and I always find it amazing that Gailes and Goodna alone produced The Upsets, The Differentials, Dumb Show, Limited Life, Resistance, The Fits/La Fetts and The Kremlin.

She’s Nothing Special [Download]

Don't Leave [Download]

Think For Yourself [Download]

Sunday 23 October 2011

Finch - Stay / Roses 7" Eagle ES1001, 1976

In theory, Rose Tattoo and Lobby Loyde jamming out a tribute to the Hippie Love Weed* should be a stoner's wet dream. The reality is somewhat different; Realise Legalise's go-nowhere noodling is all leaf and stem, and - much like being dared to drink the bongwater - it'll leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Fortunately, primo stoner grillfat is out there and findable if you have the right connections. Today, we open our secret stash.

Finch was active from 1973 to 1979, initially as Stillwater, then later as Contraband to avoid confusion with a similar ornithologically-inclined Dutch band. A number of releases document each phase throughout the '70s, but our focus here is on Finch's mid-period, a relatively brief window when three records were released on the band's own Eagle label. A debut LP, the well-regarded Thunderbird, appeared in May 1976, and was ushered in a month prior by a 45 with an album track as its A-side. Stay is not a bad song, highlighting the proggy tendencies noted elsewhere, but for Wallaby Beat purposes it's the non-LP B-side which delivers the goods.

Roses, an excellent sub-Quo dotted-rhythm crunch, first appeared in 1974 as one of three Finch contributions to the Drouyn soundtrack LP. The rawness of the original is appealing, but the re-recording showcases a more forceful performance from a band in its prime, captured perfectly by crisp and heavy production. Of course it's the lyrics, with their singular preoccupation and paranoia about the fuzz, which are the icing on the hash cookie. We can't vouch for the horticultural accuracy of the chorus, but there's no arguing the catchiness of its hook. And thankfully, the original's pre-solo declaration - one of grillfat's cooler exclamations this side of "Stick this in your fuse box" - is retained from the Drouyn version. Download it, pack it in your iCone, and get real, real gone for a change.

Roses (1976) [Download]

Roses (1974) [Download]

A second single from Finch's self-released era followed in December 1976 (Short Changed Again / One Nighter, Eagle ES 1002). Regular readers will know that we're as partial to the odd piece of long-haired misogyny as the next bogan, provided selves are not taken too seriously and sick riffage abounds. Alas, Short Changed Again falls at the first hurdle. Don't these dorks know that they'll keep getting cock-blocked until they learn to stop tripping over their own knuckles? As for the riffing, the song presages Finch's descent into mersh hard rock - decent enough, but proceedings would benefit greatly from knuckles and musical balls occupying adjacent real estate. Compared with Roses, you will certainly feel like you got less than you bargained for. A live version of the song, featured alongside AC/DC and Radio Birdman on 2JJ's Long Live The Evolution LP (AA9042, 1977), is included here for educational purposes only.

Short Changed Again [Download]

Short Changed Again (live) [Download]

After the release of Short Changed Again, Finch moved south to Melbourne and embarked on a tour with Supernaut. Line-up reshuffles ensued, including guitarist Bob Spencer exiting for Skyhooks (and, eventually, the Angels), and Mark Evans, freshly ejected from AC/DC, joining the fold. The new-look Finch released the major label Nothing To Hide LP in 1978, along with a number of singles. There are a handful of passable songs on the LP (Nothing To Hide, Leave The Killing To You; both issued as 45s), but on the whole it's characterised by a lack of inspiration and tepid production. 1979 saw more rotations in the line-up, the name change to Contraband and a final LP which continued the downward trajectory. Grillfat ultra-nerds can keep themselves entertained with pressing variations on these records, but that's a level of It-Never-Ends mania beyond even us. We'll leave the grilling to you.

* With thanks to The Mummies.

Form an orderly queue, ladies.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Seven Ballerinas - Sometimes I Feel 7" Jump 13176, 1982

Last week's piece of Joy Division worship reminded us of another one from a more unlikely location - Queensland's Gold Coast, home of Surfers Paradise. The rock'n'roll history of this strip is short and uneventful. It didn't become much more than a holiday destination for Brisbanites until the '50s and its first dent in the collective consciousness of rock fans is when the Creatures, of Ugly Thing fame, set up shop there for a few months in the mid '60s. The locale is perhaps best known to readers here as the scene for the photo on the back of the Riptides' 77 Sunset Strip sleeve. Miami was also the home of the Magic Castle immortalised in a song on that 7".

Homegrown talent from the area is pretty thin on the ground. In the late '70s it was cover band hell, and although the OC hardcore sound and look took hold amongst the surf grommets in the early '80s, any punk bands that did form unfortunately never released anything, at least until Asylum in the mid '80s. There are only four (and a half) records from the Gold Coast from the era we cover, and only two we'd consider documenting. Apologies to the Ballistics, Sigh Of Relief and Squadron Leader. This 'un sees a band straddling Joy Division's transition into New Order. The vocals and guitar echoing the former, with the latter being represented by the strong rhythm section and the synth. "Hey, press that button that makes a sound like steam escaping again". We take the piss, but note that this one has survived the cull pile here on several occasions over the last few decades. Something keeps drawing us back. Needless to say it's not the further transition into new romantic horse shit evident on YouTube.

Sometimes I Feel [Download]

Sunday 9 October 2011

Nervous System - Pied Piper 7" no label 13195, 1981

Readers with well-worn copies of Inner City Sound will know Nervous System from the tantalising description "raw, arty neo-punk", accompanied by artwork resembling a rejected SPK single sleeve. "Neo-punk" is evocative but, 30 years after the fact, a little ambiguous. The translation in the Who's Who of Australian Rock - "hard-edged new wave" - is more specific, but misses the mark somewhat. We prefer the summary of an anonymous 2JJ announcer: "More Joy Division than Joy Division".

Nervous System's core members - Anthony (vocals, guitar), Emmanuel (bass), and two Jameses on synth and sax, respectively - were arts students attending the same Sydney college in the late '70s. A year or so after the band's formation, drummer David completed the line-up. Throughout 1980 and 1981, Nervous System played a total of 13 shows in Sydney and Newcastle, supporting the likes of the Laughing Clowns and the Go-Betweens, as well as the usual M-Squared suspects at that label's residency at Brownies (the Paddington Green Hotel). The band recorded the three songs comprising their single at the M-Squared studio (see recent entries on the Sheiks and Seems Twice), prior to playing a final show supporting Models at the Trade Union Club. The 45 - an EMI Custom pressing - was released posthumously in December 1981.

Saxophobes should not be deterred by that instrument's appearance in the line-up, the honking being limited to just three notes on one of the tracks (the best one at that: Rendition). The Joy Division influence is pervasive - Rendition, for example, has overtones of Transmission, but elements of Unknown Pleasures are present throughout. Small touches, like the use of tremolo on the guitars, and indeed the sax, add some necessary points of differentiation.

Worthy of note is the single's excellent sleeve, a screen printed oversized envelope, with the band's name hand-written on the front and a contact address stamped on the reverse. It's a cover almost guaranteed to confound the condition-OCD afflicted collector - not only is it subject to the tattiness common to oversized sleeves, condition is further compromised by the envelope being sealed with the record inside. The precision with which original owners cracked the seal varies considerably.

After Nervous System disbanded, various members played in Idiom Flesh, 3 Musketeers and the Loop Orchestra. A 1985 Nervous System single (Stranded / Islanders, on Art & Graft Records) is the work of an entirely different Melbourne band.

Pied Piper [Download]

Last Avenue [Download]

Rendition [Download]

Sunday 2 October 2011

Cartoons - Feel My Heart-beat 7" Ready Steady RSVP001, 1980

If you've ever sat and listened to us for long you'll know we require powerpop to have at least an inkling of power. Nasty Facts, Numbers/Riptides first, and similar are our reference points. Occasionally though we'll drop our guard and let something twee, sappy and lovelorn through our defences.

The Cartoons were an all-but-forgotten Sydney mod/pop band. We've never seen a record of them ever playing live. Neil Sheridan, Bruce Parker and John Voulgarakis popped into Basilisk Studio in 1980 to record their only 7". Of the two sides Watchout! Beware! is the weaker, the TVPs style vocals offset by some almost jazzy guitar playing.  Feel My Heart-beat is much stronger - a few cool melodic ideas and the counterpoint backing vocals under the chorus revealing a songwriter willing to try a few things. Perhaps his efforts are only let down by the song's length, proceedings going on a tad too long. Remember, aspiring pop song writers, to take a tip from the strippers' handbook - leave 'em wanting more.

Feel My Heart-beat [Download]