Sunday 26 February 2012

Proles - Police / Underaged 7" no label SF-328, 1979

Orwell probably held more currency as a reference for punk rock when 1984 was in the headlights rather than a speck in the rear view mirror. It has certainly been a while since we observed a Rewrite Squad or an O'Brien and the Newspeak Dictionaries on a gig flier, but we can't really blame the kids for not relating to a dystopian future set ten years before they were born. Or, as Severed Heads/Terse Tapes main man Tom Ellard observed recently at the Sydney Festival, in the age of Facebook perhaps everyone's cool with Big Brother now. It wasn't always the way. The Thought Criminals of course excelled at deft Orwellian references - besides the obvious, the band pilfered Nineteen Eighty-Four for its label name, production credits, song titles and cover imagery. Similarly inspired but less comprehensive - and, Bloodstains Across Australia notwithstanding, less widely heard - are Melbourne's Proles.

Proles was a popular choice of moniker for punk bands of the late '70s and early '80s, and fittingly, the Melbourne version sounds a tad less distinctive than their like-minds-in-thought-crimes north of the border. Taken under the collective wing of News (a big brother band, so to speak), their influence is obvious not only musically and lyrically, but also in the packaging of the Proles' one and only single - screen printed sleeve and label blanks, albeit with a less ambitious design than News' Chop Chop Chop/Fuck Fuck Fuck 45. Police is our pick of the two tracks, following the News template of driving punk with neatly melodic guitar lines. Though not blessed with a guitar player as inventive as News' Jarryl Wirth, nor with Wirth's speaker-shredding fuzz, Police still packs plenty of power and is remarkably catchy to boot. It is paired with Underaged, essentially Banned From The Pubs as written by 15 year olds, and set to a more subdued (but still cool) musical backing.

On this single, the Proles were: Mark Chrisfield (vocals); Paul Greuders (bass, backing vocals); and brothers Darren (guitar, backing vocals) and Wayne Smith (drums). Alas, no Winstons. The band existed from September 1977 to February 1979, and though the single was recorded in the months prior the band's break-up, it was only released posthumously at the turn of the decade. Copies in circulation at that time have the sleeve/label construction mentioned and pictured above, while those from a later quantity find lack the screen printed sleeve (some come with a recent photocopy) and have a printed and pasted on label design (below). Darren Smith would later surface in the Zorros, whose single on Au-Go-Go we will revisit in due course.

Police [Download]

Underaged [Download]

Copies sold in the '90s had stickers pasted on the labels.

Insert, included in all copies.


Anonymous said...

Excellent, catchy tunes.


B.C. Miller said...

Looks like I can finally shelve the copy of Bloodstains Across Australia I bought in the '90s. The one missing flip within that 2nd layer of punk canon has always been "Underaged". "Police" has been a favorite of mine since I heard it. The melody is so top-flight that it could only have come about by accident (a little like "War Or Hands Of Time" or the Desperate Bikes "Advice On Arrest" or the first Go-Betweens - kind of like "Lee Remicks" hook performed with the bitterness of "Karen".)

There's lots of catchy ravers against "censorship by billyclub" but the "Boredom" guitar ciphers and the earnest lyrics - I can't think of many cop songs that hope to convince the police of the error of their ways. (I like to imagine "Police" teaming up with Razar's "Task Force" against the boys in blue as part of a musical good punk/naughty punk interrogation strategy.)

"Underaged" would probably become synonymous with "underwhelming" if it had been disseminated in the KBD era. But I trusted that the Proles be dead-set against wasting vinyl, or repeating themselves. First time through it sounded as if the Riptides-style guitar pickings were being blown across the song by a faulty vacuum or something. Second time and I realize they were well integrated, the chords in the chorus are beefier than I first thought, and the message is just as admirable...something nobody expects from a teenage punk band these days, except if they're paying lip service to some sacred cow. The News chose wisely when they took these kids under their wing. I wish they'd developed into something a little less radio-ambitious than Z-Cars (it's a gem, sure, but whoever talked them into that snare sound must've had Misex on the brain).

Wait...I'm getting the Z-Cars mixed up with the Zorros. Never mind. Y'know I don't think I've heard the b-side of either, I'm pretty sure I haven't.

I wanted to say something about 1984 turning into a sort of tyranny of expectations with the post-84 punks (and probably most paranoid subcultures), to the point where a lot of them wish something like it would happen, if only to justify their pretense of being oppressed. A lot of them probably feel the same way about nuclear war, peak oil, whatever. 1984 IS a pretty reliable cut-off for most record collecting purposes. But I think the chap from the Tactics you quoted summed it up more neatly than I could.

Thanks again to you gentlemen for giving this lowly American so many feathers for his pride hat.

Paul Gruyters said...

I am Paul Prole and I want want to say we tried our best.

Hariklia said...

I cut out the stencil, and Paul and I screen printed the singles in my parents' shed. It was a hot day and we didn't get through them all.