Sunday 28 October 2012

Puritans - Start to Finish 7" Puritan Records MD-A/B2, 1981?

What little we know about the Puritans - and their (presumably) only release - comes from the handwritten note from brothers Matt (drums) and Jon Dickson (sax, bass, guitar, vocals, and songwriting), included with our copy. It reads thusly:
What can I say about the record? Start to Finish is basically the A-side, recorded about 2 years ago. Love/Bitter was the first thing we played when we got our instruments.

Jon is now playing bass and sax with Kill the King, who should be appearing shortly at the Trade Union Club with Sardine.

We regard the record as jazz rather than rock, as is most of our inspiration. You could say the music for us illustrates what we believe. It's an end in itself. It must have the power of conviction and be derived from your own experience and intelligence. Just as you believe in certain principles, the music must come from those principles.
Righty-o then. Love/Bitter sounds exactly as described - an attempt at free jazz by two dudes who just picked up their instruments. It is tedious. Start to Finish is much better, and fits neatly into the continuum of Laughing Clowns-inspired Sydney jazz-punk. Here, the basic musicianship and four-track recording work in its favour, lending it a feel closer to skronky no wave than Mr Uddich-Schmuddich...

Start to Finish [Download]

Jon Dickson's tenure in Kill the King must have been relatively brief - the definitive No Night Sweats site doesn't include him as a member, for example. By 1982, he had joined Jeff Cannon (guitars, tenor sax, synth) and Bill Muysken (drums, percussion, alto sax, synth) in Little Pieces, who issued their Patrick Gibson/M-Squared-recorded LP The Bright World (Park Avenue Records PA 001, 1982) without having played a single gig. The album has some interesting moments, being a more refined, wholly instrumental take on the Puritans approach with the inclusion of some repetitive, droney tendencies. Brief album opener Lord Tony would not have been out of place on Quarterstick Records in the 1990s (think June of 44, Rodan, and their post-Slint ilk), whereas the driving, droney overtones are used to best effect on Party, our other pick from the LP.

Lord Tony [Download]

Party [Download]

Sunday 21 October 2012

Mystery Of Sixes - Skull In My Cave 7" EP Sundown SUN 0045, 1983

Mystery Of Sixes seem to have more rumour and misinformation floating around about them than just about any other band of the era we can think of. Some of the stories are even true. Formed in 1980, with dreams of supporting Razar (who had already split...), the band's first recording, Azaria, was officially banned from airplay by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal as the Chamberlain case was still sub judice. There's tales of being on the receiving end of bashings and being shot at, both true.

Perhaps the dominant tale of their time was when they were accused of stealing a PA system. Rumours abounded that it was wrapped in plastic and buried in a band member's backyard. The band were subsequently blackballed in Brisbane - 4ZZZ wouldn't play their first single, shops wouldn't sell it (though Skinny's stood by them) and venues wouldn't let them play. Eventually, according to Out Of The Unknown magazine, three other blokes were charged with the theft. With everyone happy again the band was back on ZZZ. Well, no one else was going to play them. To round things off, when the ban on Azaria was finally lifted in 1986, ZZZ made a special point of playing it.

The bans fuelled the song Black Banned on the band's second record, a four track EP from 1983. The record highlights the unique sound of the band, with its complex and jazzy (without getting overly technical) structures setting them apart from other bands from the time. While such a sound would not have been out of place on SST, we need to put to rest one final rumour that has persisted - the EP never came out on Alternative Tentacles, even if the band did slip a copy to Jello when the DKs were in Brisbane. Grong Grong, Hack and The Hard-Ons remain the only Australian bands on Alt Tent.

I Don't Know You [Download]

Skull In My Cave [Download]

Black Banned [Download]

Something Mechanical [Download]

Sunday 14 October 2012

The Noise - Think About Tomorrow, Tomorrow 7" Think THK-001, 1981

We saw last week the perils of choosing a popular band name. Unlike the great, the good, and the ska Leftovers, the Innocents from Adelaide didn't even have the decency to tackle a different genre to their namesakes, both falling under the loose umbrella of power pop. So, after one single in 1980 (Identikit Girl / Let's Get Pissed, Distressing Records PRS-2784), a move east necessitated a sensible change of moniker.

Relocating to Sydney as The Noise, the band - Arturo "Arch" Larizza (bass), Richard Daniel (drums), Chris Purcell (guitar), and John Cavuoto (vocals) - would release just this one record in 1981. Think About Tomorrow, Tomorrow is great, moody, expansive pop; a retort - we presume - to hometown heroes the Master's Apprentices. It also belies our lazy comparison to the other Innocents, showcasing a band intent on stretching itself and squeezing the most out of each song - meaning that the arrangement has everything but the kitchen sink. Those who like things more straightforward and upbeat may get more out of Cold Hard Cash, though it will require a tolerance for brass (provided by the excellently named Mourning Horns). Rat Race follows suit, though it's back to the compositional tricks with an extended switch to 3/4 time.

In the following years, The Noise would revert to their former moniker, releasing two further singles as the Innocents ([I Am Not] A Magic Man / Staying At Home 7", Payer Douze FTW666, 1984; and Strange Cults and Customs / After A Fashion 7", Chase SP5, 1985). Larizza went on to join The Saints, but teamed up again with Purcell to release the You Want Everything 12" as the Tall Poppies in 1987.

Think About Tomorrow, Tomorrow [Download]

Cold Hard Cash [Download]

Rat Race [Download]

Sunday 7 October 2012

Funhouse - Conspicious Consumption 7" EMI Custom 13634, 1984

When Adelaide band Gun Control moved to Sydney in 1984 they changed their name to Funhouse. Being an Adelaide band we revert to our modus operandum and pull out the DNA fanzine stack from the shelf. For balance's sake we'll note that this is our only source as the Wallaby Beat tape deck is out of commission and we couldn't listen to their interview on Public Eye cassette fanzine from 1983.

Singer Rip Savage started in 1979 as a roadie and sometimes vocalist for No Action, a Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks cover band completely lost to history but being the starting point for Ian List (Dagoes, Assassins, Falling Spikes) and Tim O'Connor (of Frente). Rip next moved onto Dead Image with Justin Flint (ex The Victims (no, not those Victims)) on guitar, Phil Perm (né McTaggart) on bass, and Paul Loughhead on drums. They played mostly parties. Flint moved to Perth (still not those Victims) and was replaced by Kelly Hewson from Agent Orange (no, not that Agent Orange, or the other one) and the band rebranded as Gun Control.

The band's first mention in DNA is in May 1980 as bottom of the bill at the Dead Azzaria (sic) & the Dingo Dance, "bring a toy doll and get in 1/2 price", which got cancelled due to adverse publicity in the norm press. Over their first year they developed a set consisting of equal parts punk standards (Sex Pistols - Satellite and Did You No Wrong, Damned - Liar, Ruts - H-Eyes, Dead Boys - Ain't Nothin' To Do, UK Subs - Warhead, Clash - Cheat and White Man, Buzzcocks - Autonomy, Lou Reed - Sweet Jane, Iggy - Funtime) and originals (Political Crimes, Why Are You?, Ignorance, Soldier, Asylum, No Tactics, Clee Chay, Death In An Overcoat). Writing styles were summarised as:
  • Kelly - non-sensical sort of stuff;
  • Phil - political (he's Irish);
  • Rip - about people he knows and their attitudes or various neuroses. 
Herein lies the story of the band as laid out over the next twenty odd issues of the magazine, disparate personalities, disparate tastes, disparate interests, and yet a band which stuck together for four years, trying to get the mix right over and over again.

September 1981 sees them recording their first tape, cutting down the number of covers in their set, and aiming for some of the bigger venues (the Tivoli and the Arkaba). In a live review Harry Butler says "they should be producing a wall-of-noise type sound like Never Mind the Bollocks, instead they're pumping out something like the first Clash album (really thin)"; the mix of political punk, guitar hero soloing and metallic influences seemingly proving difficult to combine. They kept working at it and in a review of a New Year's Eve show Butler says the wall-of-sound is coming along.

In the July 1982 issue, over various gig reviews, Butler notes too many metal moves from Hewson ("he claims it's a piss take but it looks bloody real"), at the next gig "a good show but still too many covers" and by a third gig there is only one cover, and good new songs, but "slow, dirgey metal tunes" are spoiling the set. Rip Savage is noted as developing into a great frontman. Seemingly aware of their faults, the band is able to self-correct, a good sign.

In mid-'82 the band recorded a four song tape with No Tactics / Give Me Security / The Boss / Wooden Doll, which DNA reviewed as "coming across like Generation X backed by a semi-hard rock band". In October another four tracks were recorded, Fly The Flag / Mr Callan / She Belongs To Me / Wake Up. Greasy Pop was to release them as an EP but the band deemed them "too commercial". Doug Thomas recalled in Underground In A City of Churches that it was "no great, lost classic", but "four good songs that should have been released". Two of the tracks did turn up on the A Greasy Selection tape in 1985.

DNA records a gig or two each month over the next year, occasionally reporting on the same lines - a mixture of sparks of energy and slabs of turgid dirge. By late 1983 a move to Sydney was deemed necessary. The band recorded two originals in December, Conspicuous Consumption and Retaliation, ditched the turgid originals and covers (but strangely started doing Interzone by Joy Division (and Search And Destroy (oh dear))).  Their last three local gigs received good reviews in DNA - being described as tighter, more focussed, and a "non-stop blitzkrieg". In February 1984 they headed for Grong Grong and on to Sydney.

Sydney was somewhat successful, they made progress and got good gigs. They changed their name to Funhouse after being asked too many times in interviews about their existing name (sounds like this time the rock 'n' roll arm of the band won the clash with the political arm). The two tracks came out as a single around September. However, one night after a gig most of their gear was stolen. They got by borrowing gear for a while but couldn't rehearse, and they broke up. One more time on their return to Adelaide for final shows, Butler described them as "punk flavoured hard rock".

Savage next landed in Mushroom Planet, Loughhead as Paul Larsen for two long stints in the Celibate Rifles, and Hewson in any number of Adelaide punk and hardcore bands through the '80s - Skunks, Hot Tomatoes, Raw Power (not that one) and Grunter amongst them. The Too Drunk To Funhouse 12" was by an unrelated Melbourne band from later in the '80s.

While there's a metally guitar tone and solos on the record we really just hear the stronger influences of the Dead Kennedys and the Ruts coming through, and oddly with both tracks being credited to Hewson they are both definitely political, not "non-sensical".

Conspicuous Consumption [Download]

Retaliation [Download]