Sunday 29 January 2012

Tactics - Long Weekend 7" Folding Chair PRS-2653, 1979

The key to Tactics is singer Dave Studdert. To get an insight on what inspired their first and best record we're gonna quote liberally from Bob Blunt's great interview with him in Blunt: A Biased History Of Australian Rock.
As a kid growing up in the 1960s I moved around a lot to wherever the family landed, meat work towns. I only had two records, Hendrix's Smash Hits and the Stones' 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!'. I wasn't musically trained or anything and, to tell you the truth, from my late teens into my early twenties I was more into cricket than being a songwriter or musician. It wasn't until I was about 21 that I started feeling lost in all that suburban marriage bullshit. I started reading NME and hunted down records by Love, Bob Marley, Syd Barrett and Dylan. I was drawn to that because I had always constructed myself as an outsider, so I hunted down dub albums and some Burning Spear. I was on my own a lot in those days. I developed an antenna for what was deemed good or bad.
In the mid '70s in Canberra, Studdert dropped out of uni and formed a band. Punk had arrived in Australia but he didn't like the Australian copyist take on it.
Everyone was copying stuff straight out of the NME. All that punk stuff was kind of funny in retrospect but I had heard the Stooges and didn't want to sound like that. The music in punk never did anything for me. I preferred Jamaican stuff and Arthur Lee, Television and Talking Heads, which was more rhythmical with lyrics that weren't so straightforward and narrative, but more symbolist and double edged. Punk to me was an attitude and a kind of spirit. It was like the old is dead and the new is antibodies. I used this attitude because I was angry, very angry. I was doing shitty jobs, like cleaning out incinerators, and being hassled by my parents because I was 22 and didn't have a real job. With all this psychological tension in me, I wanted to release it all. I was wired, all the time. I was reading Rimbaud and Nietzsche and going out at midnight and driving around Canberra until the sun came up. I really related to Travis Bickle because I went a year or so without speaking to anyone.
Tactics began as Studdert and Angus Douglas and another soon to be famous Canberran.
Steve Kilbey was this computer programmer who couldn't play bass very well. We played a few shows with him in Canberra. Our first show we played two of his songs that I could never get quite right.
Oh well. After losing Kilbey and adding Geoff Marsh and Bob Whittle on bass and drums the band supported The Thought Criminals at ANU. Tactics followed them back to Sydney for shows, the first at Garibaldi's in Darlinghurst with The Thought Criminals and Crime and the City Solution.
I remember the joint was really packed. We played first and we weren't very good in comparison, but because I was this maniac it had something. When we returned to Canberra people slowly started to like us, mainly because Sydney bands liked us. The crowds still didn't get it. Copy bands were still the flavour of the month, especially the ones who belted out I Wanna Be Your Dog. Everything and everyone was a shadow of another. To this day that annoys me about this country because poor old neo-colonial Australia has always been good at copying. It's part of not wanting to be the excluded other.
Taking the tenets of originality and otherness with us, we leave the interview here and focus on the band's first recording, the Long Weekend EP. From the "postcard from another dimension" sleeve on in it delivers on the fronts Studdert wanted it to. The quest for originality doesn't lead the band up their own backsides; rather the visceral energy of the playing and the uniqueness of the structures deliver in spades. For us, Standing By The Window is the highlight with the double tracked spoken parts and the great guitar refrain. One of the best art punk tracks from this country, and while Studdert's voice can be an acquired taste, it's a pleasure to hear a Canberran guitarist play with conviction.

It was a surprise to rediscover Watch My Hands while researching this post - a sublime drum led track with, again, some great, gnarled guitar playing; landing somewhere between the first and third Urinals eps, without sounding like the second. We'll leave the third track, Buried Country, for you to track down. Tactics' story is long, and we're not going to cover any more of it here today. Maybe another time...

Standing By The Window [Download]

Watch My Hands [Download]

Standing By The Window was reissued as the b-side to the Gold Watch single.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Mr Meaner - Ripped Off Again / I Dig the T.V. 7" Peanut Republic PRR 002, 1980

We try to approach our work here with something approximating scientific rigour. It's an approach which clearly also informed The Professor's earlier research at the Australian Punk Discography. Budding practitioners of the scientific method will note that the Discography follows the general format of a peer-reviewed academic publication: Introduction, Methods, a series of Results paired with Conclusions, and a Reference List for good measure. Indeed, it is "in the interests of Science" that The Prof subjected himself to the "metal-tinged pub-rock" of La Femme. Why? Because a credible source once described them as "punk", of course. Hypotheses are there to be tested.

Like the eligibility criteria for a randomised controlled trial, the Discography's Methods section establishes the scope for inquiry. It is from the list of exclusions that scholars of that work are likely to be familiar with Brisbane's Mr Meaner, a band ignored for being "so...unpunk that they don't deserve comment". But wait! What was that about metal-tinged pub-rock? Loose application of the description "punk"? Check! And check! It seems that the peer-reviewers at were on the bong the day The Prof submitted his manuscript, as that methodological inconsistency has remained unchallenged.

So today, in the interests of gender equality, we apply the old adage that what's good for La Femme is good for Mr Meaner (or something like that). The latter's sole single, the second and final release on Peanut Republic, delivers two slices of metallic grillfat in the vein of the Angels - palm-muted twin guitar riffing akimbo, and in I Dig The T.V., liberal use of our old mate the four-on-the-floor. What's missing is the Angels' melodic sense and knack for a hooky chorus. Still, the songs are carried by brisk tempos and energetic performances, and as metal-tinged pub-rock goes, the single has established itself as a keeper. We've presented the songs in the order determined by the single's matrix numbers as the A and B sides, but note that an alternative pressing exists which has stickers reversing the labels. This version has an EMI Custom catalogue number on the labels (in addition to the CBS number) with a corresponding matrix etching.

Mr Meaner were: Chris Greentree (vocals); Chris McWhirter (bass); Jim Poulos (drums); Brian Butler (guitar/vocals); and Dave Nelson (guitar). More from this line-up can be found on the That's Queensland compilation LP, released in 1980 by radio station 4IP (YPRX 1742), which includes the song Russian Roulette. Neil Coombe from Bad Habit joined the band after these recordings, but later line-ups weren't documented with vinyl releases.

June 2012 update: check out an article on Peanut Republic Records here.

Ripped Off Again [Download]

I Dig The T.V. [Download]

Alternative (second?) pressing with EMI Custom catalogue number and stickers on the labels.

What's seen cannot be unseen.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Toy Watches - Too Long 7" Peanut Republic PRR 001, 1980

A year ago Ipswich was under water; surely you remember the claim that a shark was seen swimming down the main street, 30 kilometers from any ocean! Today we revisit the city, but failing the emergence of any more unknown records from there this is our last visit.

The Toy Watches were a punk/pop band based in Ipswich and Brisbane between 1979 and 1981. A popular live prospect, they were picked up by aspirational label Peanut Republic. The result was this obscure 45 - highlighted by the punky pop A-side, Too Long. To be honest we've always neglected this 7"; it's good but doesn't reach out and grab you by the balls. However, in researching this piece we came across the video below, and the photos at rhythm guitarist Ian Davies' myspace site (also see below), and the sense of fun surrounding the band endeared the record to us one more time. The flipside, Hawaii, sounds half-written by comparison, perhaps too much fun was being had.

The iconography on the label starts with a map of Queensland (let's be thankful they weren't Tasmanian). Bursting through is state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the kiwi of Dutch extraction who ruled the state from his farm in Kingaroy, the state's centre of peanut production. Don't be fooled by the cheeky grin, as detailed in many places, it wasn't fun politically. See Task Force, Pig City, the band Gerry Mander and the Boundaries, the Dead Kennedys appearance etc., for more musical evidence. Whatever, like the Credits, this is a love song, not political polemic. Davies and later bassist Russell Sky ended up in the great paisley pop band the Colours, whose wistful song Blue Shirt, which really unfortunately never made it to vinyl, was a 4ZZZ hit. I was interested to find out recently that that song is about the cops: "in my blue shirt, nothing touches me".

To round things off the other members were Shaun McGrath on vocals (the tall drink of water in the photo below), John Spresser on lead, Noel Howe on bass, and Cameron Howe on drums. McGrath and Spresser ended up in the Skeletones with Brad Cox.

June 2012 update: check out an article on Peanut Republic Records here.

Too Long [Download]

Hawaii [Download]

The savage, young Toy Watches, more here

Sunday 8 January 2012

The Barons - Greatest Hits 7" Doublethink DTDT-5, 1979

"The Barons' maxim was So?, meaning Do you expect me to justify this - I won't" - Michael Tee.

Read The Barons' story straight from the horse's mouth at the always excellent No Night Sweats site, the web's definitive first-hand account of Sydney post-punk. In short, we have a loose assortment of prog rock obsessed stoners from Sydney's northern beaches prone to wasted jams in the privacy of their own living room, the conclusion of which would be signalled by a tape of crowd noise culled from Kiss Alive!. Among said stoners numbered Michael Tee and Mitch Jones, future two-thirds of Scattered Order and the driving force behind the M-Squared label, not to mention Mark Tremlett and Fred, designer of the M-Squared logo and landlord of M-Squared's Wilshire Street HQ, respectively. Though released by the Thought Criminals' Doublethink label, Tee considers The Baron's Greatest Hits to be the first true M-Squared record. The songs were recorded in 1977 and 1978, but by the time of the record's release in 1979, the pair had already begun cobbling together studio equipment and documenting the Sydney scene (see the Sheiks, Seems Twice, Nervous System); the experience with Doublethink served as a catalyst for the formation of their own label.

As can be heard in the likes of Always Lurking and Dog Squashed, The Barons could barely hold it together long enough to work their way through a barre chord. We can only imagine that steadfast lack of ability applied to covering the turn-on-a-dime Frippisms of 21st Century Schizoid Man ("where we would play along with the live version off KC's USA LP. We used to play along with records a lot; it was easier as we could not be bothered working out how to play our instruments properly"). Instead, on Greatest Hits, we have an assortment of originals ranging from inspired amateurism to a painful lack of ideas masquerading as minimalism - Boiled Dinner explores the lower reaches of the tempo dial on the Hammond organ drum machine, and is every bit as compelling as that description implies. As with The Popes, the influence of They're Coming To Take Me Away rears it head in the cadence of Just In Time, highlighting a certain self-awareness about the absurdity of this whole mess.

The Barons' only other official release was a cover of Paint It Black on M-Squared's Growing Pains compilation 12". There's a disappointing lack of playing along to Aftermath to be found, but it does make for a nice companion piece to The Residents' Satisfaction. These days it can be heard on Ascension Records' Terrace Industry 4xCD. More home-recorded nonsense is available via Mutant Sounds.

Always Lurking [Download]

Boiled Dinner [Download]

Dog Squashed [Download]

Inch x Inch [Download]

Just In Time [Download]

Sunday 1 January 2012

XL Capris - Dead Budgies 7" Axle 101, 1979

While Mopsie Beans didn't make it to John Peel's glory box, one Australian record did. It's an old favourite of any follower of the Australian punk canon - XL Capris' great punk version of Tommy Leonetti's nightly signoff song from Channel 7, from back when 24 hour broadcasting was still a thing of the future.

The original XL Capris (Nancy Serapax on drums, Errol Cruz on guitar and vocals, Alligator Bagg on bass and vocals and Dag Rattler on guitar and vocals) were a fine, quirky punk band who played their first gig on New Year's Eve 1978 in the foyer of the Nimrod Theatre in Darlinghurst (now the SBW Stables Theatre).

Over the next year they gigged aplenty around Sydney (see a review below), and made an early trip to Melbourne. We particularly like this snippet of info from the band's history in Aberrant's Why March When You Can Riot LP liner notes: "Mid January 1979; first 'real' gig at Garibaldi's. The band was banned from this venue because an excited fan threw the men's toilet out the window". Continuing their connection with today's date, the year culminated with the release of My City Of Sydney on New Year's Day, 1980. There are all manner of stamped variations of the white paper sleeve, some busy, some sparse.

Apart from this first single, the best way to hear the original line up is as a download, Live At Georges. Skylab (Son Of Telstar) from these recordings appeared on the aforementioned Aberrant compilation. With various members leaving, the band became less interesting as they evolved, eventually releasing two albums and three more singles. Some later live stuff can be heard here.

Today we feature the less heard flipside of My City Of Sydney, Dead Budgies. It's a strange amalgam of punk rock, bird calls and parody; the song title getting twisted to "dead Bee Gees, dead bodgies" and "dead bludgers". If you never flipped over My City Of Sydney, here it is.

Dead Budgies [Download]

In a small piece of it-never-ends action some final copies were sold at a later gig. Rather than do up more stamped sleeves the band simply applied a sticker to some found sleeves (and stamped the back with the red XL CAPRIS seen on regular versions).

Live review, Choke #3, 1979
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