Sunday 27 November 2011

Quintrex Bop - Effigies 7" EMI Custom 13005, 1980

Another "graphic design clusterfuck"
Ever wanted to reach into your gramophone, grab the guitar player by the scruff, and dare them to play a downstroke? We mentioned before what seems to be a Canberran tendency to not want to put in on the six string. There are exceptions, but unfortunately today's featured record ain't one of them.

Quintrex Bop were part of the small punk scene in the nation's capital in 1980. The band members were Eddie Evils (vocals), Glen Grattan (guitar), Rod Nonstop (bass) and Mark Fraser (drums). They recorded a four track 7" at Grool Sound in 1980, and that was it.

So, half-hearted guitar slinging aside, what does the Quintrex Bop EP offer? We feature the best two tracks today and you'll see what makes it vaguely attractive is a bit of mean-spiritied nastiness in the lyrics. On Judith the target of the singer's ire is the eponymous lady friend. "Judith is a fatty and a liar and a cheat", it starts, and the impression given of the poor lass doesn't improve. "Judith, I'll whip you with barbed wire, c'mon Judith, and set yourself on fire" and "Judith, you're the girl I hate, woah-oh Judith, you're overweight". O...K..., shots on target, but when paired with decidedly nancy drumming and non-committal guitar wavering I'm unsure of whose side I'm on. Think I'll go with Judith, she sounds like a whole lotta Rosie.

So, onto Royalty Sucks where again the lyrics are fairly forthright, if a little confused: casual anti-semitism ("she never wears the same clothes twice, she ain't no filthy jew") in the verse followed by a nice use of Yiddish in the chorus - "The king and queen are full of shmuck". Yeah, it didn't make sense to me at first either. I thought it was a minced oath for "full of shit", but then they rhyme it with "but I don't give two fucks", so that theory dies. We all know shmuck is slang for dickhead, but the lyric still doesn't make sense. It turns out in Yiddish, a shmuck is the foreskin removed in circumcision, now making the line a decent insult.

All in all it reads like it was whipped up on the back of a school pad in a few minutes. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps if your band is providing an absolutely raging backing track to distract from any obvious shortcomings. The vocal delivery is fine, but, like the guitarist's stayed hand, we can't commit to the whole thing with much enthusiasm. As an anti-monarchy song it's more Corgi Crap than I Hate The Bloody Queen.

The other two tracks, Effigy In Plastic and Household Garbage, despite the promising names, aren't going to excite anyone. As always though, track 'em down and make up your own mind.

Judith [Download]

Royalty Sucks [Download]

Eddie Evils also sang in Glass, from Ripchord fanzine, 1980.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Jackson Zumdish - Flyblown 7" Agro Fish 13081, 1981

"Relentless art school mirth", or RASM for short - it's what led Johan Kugelberg to reserve a place for Jackson Zumdish in not only the Worldwide Punk Top 100, but in his Top 100 DIY list as well. RASM is also the reason we dealt with Jackson Zumdish so flippantly back in August 2010. Truth be told, we're quite partial to the odd piece of RASM - the first Avant Gardener 45 is a personal favourite, and it might be the quintessential RASM record - and in retrospect, perhaps our dismissive tone didn't do justice to JZ's first single. Which is not to say that we don't have our reservations - we do - but if we can treat pissweak singles like PJ Hooker with some dignity, then Jackson Zumdish deserves at least the same level of respect.

The full Jackson Zumdish story is revealed by the Kuge's interview in Ugly Things #22, combined with a dig around various sections of the band's website (which is like a Tardis journey back to 1994). In short, the band began in late-'70s Adelaide as a high school recording project for Antony Kimber (a.k.a Kimber Dean), Baden Smith, Michael Spargo and Andrew Bayfield. Musical inspiration is cited as the Sex Pistols, Bonzo Dog Band and the Tubes, a triad that manifested perfectly in the recordings which followed. After a couple of low-key cassettes, now compiled on an equally low-key CD, the band released the (I Wanna Be) Dr Who/Knup in Your Eye 7" in 1980, for which they have become best known. Less widely recognised is the second Jackson Zumdish single, the Flyblown EP, released in an edition of either 650 (according to the JZ website) or 500 copies (see below) in 1981.

In the Ugly Things piece, Kimber described Jackson Zumdish's lyrics as "an expression of anarchy and madness", but here is where our reservations kick in. Like Alain de Botton doing a karaoke rendition of Paralyzed, what comes through is an intellectual play at being unhinged, rather than any semblance of the real deal. That feeling is exemplified here by Internal Organs, a song interpreted by some as a pisstake on the morbid fascinations of Throbbing Gristle et al., but which sounds to us like something that might have been heard at the 1980 Adelaide Uni Med School Revue. However, what makes the song a success is that its skewed take on "It's what's on the inside that counts" is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. We're particularly fond of the redundancy in "Pancreatic juices come from the pancreas" - the "Tonight I'm gonna rock you tonight" of Adelaide DIY - but the kidneys and the appendix turn out to be connected to the funny bone, too. Unfortunately, the joke wears thin over five minutes, especially in the later spoken section, and a Just Urbain-like edit would have given things more punch.

Internal Organs [Download]

The real sleeper on the EP has turned out to be the title track. Initially overshadowed in its whimsy by the sledgehammer approach of Internal Organs, Flyblown has revealed itself over time to be the record's highlight. We're compelled to slot its entomological vocalisations between those of I'm A Bug and Human Fly, but the real insight into the band's inspiration comes from the alto sax solo which references Flight of the Bumble Bee (we recommend headphone listening for maximum bug-like effect). And unlike its subject matter, at a relatively economical three-and-a-half minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Flyblown [Download]

The record is also notable for the inclusion of two early JZ compositions, dating back to 1978. The House Detective wins points for the use of cardboard boxes instead of drums (something of an Adelaide DIY tradition, but we'll get to that later); and marriage to a potted plant, as detailed on Plant Phase, is duly noted as being fraught with pitfalls. Musically, though, these songs are less impressive - readers are invited to track down the EP to make up their own minds.

Lastly, this record has added a useful term to the Wallaby Beat lexicon. The state of being flyblown - in which flesh becomes infested with blowfly maggots - is an apt description for vinyl housed inside a PVC sleeve for 30+ years. Flyblown's cover, an elaborately printed plastic wallet, is prone to inducing the same "clouding" effect as that caused by the bane of every record collector's existence, the thick plastic protective sleeve. The hissing you hear in the sound files above is from our particularly flyblown copy.

"The music is nonsense, but the approach is no-nonsense": from the Adelaide Advertiser, 1981.

Sunday 13 November 2011

It Never Ends: Everybody Loves Just Urbain 7" Shake SM4 (PRS-2815), 1980

Here's another it-never-ends which is guaranteed to send OCD collectors polishing doorknobs in their record cribs over, and over, and over again. Actually we toyed with starting a new tag, it-never-starts, for this one because just finding a copy, let alone one with a sleeve, any sleeve, is a conviction-challenging conundrum facing many an Aussie completist. What we're looking at today is the second record by Briso punks Just Urbain. Released in 1980 as part of the second batch of Savage/Shake 7"s, it appeared in a mind-bending brace with the also amazing second Young Identities 7", New Trends.

This is a great record and one well worth the time and effort to track down. One thing that sets it apart is Rod McLeod's filthy guitar sound running through all three tracks. A feature which has only really hit us recently is John K's belting piano on The End - probably the same set of crazy 88s used on the Fun Things EP, which was recorded at the same North Coast hinterland studio. Singer Peter Miller's lyrics are always interesting - sometimes reflecting on darker topics (here, failed suicide (on Hospital Bed), and capital punishment on the first Just Urbain record), and other times adolescent railing against the trend following Brisbane music scene (Everybody Loves).

What you see up above is how we think the first batch of copies appeared: naked, no band name. The front silk screened picture is glued to the inner bag as is the classic JU symbol rear sleeve (right), thus making a standard, two-sided, pocket picture sleeve inside which the record sits. Remember you can click on any of our pictures for full size versions.

Hand-numbered inserts should appear in all copies. As it says on the insert - 200 copies. The CD reissue says 300 and we've never got a straight answer on the actual amount.

Insert, "Your number" is in pen on originals.

We've had a few copies of this record cross the Wallaby Beat desk over the years and noticed there was a batch of copies with a somewhat differently constructed set up. These ones start by having the EP name (and thus band name) written on the front sleeve in highlighter pen. Highlighter pens had been around since 1963 but got a kick along in 1978 when fluorescent inks were introduced. There's a fluorescent yellow variation to a Victims sleeve, but, uh, we'll get to that. Anyway, we think these are later versions as they answer the question obviously worrying the Savage/Shake executives - how do you sell a record with no band name anywhere?

This time the front part of the sleeve stands alone as a one-piece, single sided print. These copies also have the insert pictured above (albeit with higher numbers), but also have another mini-insert repeating some of the information. Again, this mini-insert helpfully has the name of the EP and the track titles, thus ensuring mega-sales around Brisbane, and the world, or not. Here's how the rest of the sleeve works - the red and black silk screened JU symbol sheet sits inside the die cut inner sleeve so the JU appears through the die cut label hole. Then the little mini-insert slides in horizontally below the hole. Clever! Here's how it should look:

Phew, landed both of those variations. Mission accomplished. Then things like this appear in the mailbox, with penwork (allegedly) by Peter Miller:

The tracks on Everybody Loves can these days be heard in two places. First track down the Shakedown CD released by Dropkick (BEHIND022). This compiles the entire output of Savage/Shake and also features two great sets of liner notes by Rod McLeod and drummer Dave Holliday. A slightly different version of Dave's piece can be found at the essential Break My Face Just Urbain page. Secondly, 540 Records from Austin, TX, is reissuing all the Shake/Savage gear on 7"s, with awesome photos inside the gatefold sleeves and nice, clean mastering from the CD versions. Everybody Loves is available as we speak, late 2011.

Which brings us to today's track. As told to us over the years some kind of mistake was made when the tapes were sent down to EMI Custom in Sydney and an unedited version of Everybody Loves (the song) made it on to the original EP. The wailing guitar goes on for nearly a full four minutes and the song unnecessarily repeats a verse towards the end. The Dropkick and 540 releases have a 2 minute 40 second version which is how the band would have liked it to originally appear. We're not arguing with the band's preference for the shorter version but thought you'd like to hear it all:

Everybody Loves (1980 edit) [Download]

Everybody loves.... hunting thylacines.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Armchairs - Party Time LP Reverse/Missing Link MLB002, 1980

As noted previously, Melbourne pub rock (a.k.a. the Carlton scene) has never been our bag. It was well before our time, but firsthand accounts from a punk perspective range from the dismissive ("flawed" and "an outgrowth of hippiedom" - Inner City Sound), to the antagonistic ("We were the exact opposites of the Carlton scene" - Ash Wednesday). But, all cultural prejudices aside, our main gripe has always been the music itself. The Prof summed it up best: "not enough stomp or belligerence". Still, re-evaluation of the Carlton bands has begun, albeit in a minor way, and in that spirit we too have started to dabble. We're not yet at the point of subjecting ourselves to Jo Jo Zep, but as time marches on, some of the scene's major players have begun to make more sense to us. Where Skyhooks once seemed wildly incongruous on the UK pressing of the New Wave LP (tellingly, a second Flamin' Groovies track was subbed in on the local version), they now seem only mildly incongruous; as we have aged to appreciate small doses of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, a fresh listen to the Sports reveals that they may not have been so shitful after all. Even that first Dots single - a record that has perennially teetered on the edge of the "purge" pile - is starting to sound listenable. Come 2015, we may even upgrade it to "not bad".

Still, we cannot claim to speak with any authority on this scene. Indeed, the exact relationship of today's subject to Melbourne pub rock isn't entirely clear to us; however, given Inner City Sound's explicit exclusion of "the Carlton School", and the Armchairs' absence from that book, that's where they have been filed in the Wallaby decimal system. That said, as an example of Melbourne pub rock, the band does seem to represent a tangent with definite inclinations toward the new wave. At the Armchairs' core were Ian Stephen and Johnny Topper, with a revolving door of Melbourne musos fleshing out the band. Stephen will be known to readers of this blog as the vocalist on Marriage Is A Splendid Thing and Family Fun Parlour, the latter being one of the standout songs from the second Fred Cass and the Cassettes 45 (Fred/Lee Cass was also an early Armchair). On that record, Stephen mingles with the who's who of Carlton scenesters comprising Cass's band. Johnny Topper, on the other hand, should be familiar from his recurring role on the Fast Forward cassettes, the jokiness of which is carried through to much of the Armchairs' output. Both Stephen and Topper had previously released singles under their own names which the highly motivated may wish to seek out, but frankly, we'd advise against it.

The Armchairs' "new music" leanings are evident in the venue at which they debuted in 1979 (the Crystal Ballroom), and in the lyrics on their first single which rail against "that turgid crap that you hear on the radio" (the Ski Lo Lo 7", released on Stephen's own Reverse label, can be found here). The single is lightweight and light hearted, and much of the follow-up Party Time LP, originally written for a musical theatre production called The Zig Zag Follies, follows suit. Various internet sources tell us that the version of La Bamba which populates most of its B-side is either 17 or 20 minutes long, but we value 17 or 20 minutes of our lives too highly to settle that discrepancy. Among it all lie two songs of merit: the catchy if overly-long pub rock of Can You Guess? (with vocals by Graham Barker [sic]!); and Into The '80s, which has a certain punky attack in the drumming and guitars, and is our track of choice. It ain't The Now, but then again, not much is.

More detail about Ian Stephen's subsequent work (most notably with the Slaughtermen) can be found at his website. Allegedly, his latest release is a CD entitled This Is Really Gay, on International Art Wankers records. Johnny Topper can be heard each Wednesday as presenter of New & Groovy on Melbourne community radio station RRR.

Into The '80s [Download]