Sunday 25 August 2013

Sharp Toys - Nuclear Daisy from Goldfields Rock LP Goldfields Records MA 12304,1980

Before the Cosmic Psychos, there was Rancid Spam. That's some crucial science we learned from the new Cosmic Psychos documentary, Blokes You Can Trust, screening in all discerning theatres around the country. Rancid Spam featured a teenage, pre-Psychos Ross Knight plus - according to Knighty - the two other punks in the small town of Kyneton, rural Victoria. Along with some cool happy snaps, the film also shows a tantalising glimpse of a 1977 Rancid Spam demo tape. Surely we can't be the only ones wondering what treasures might be found on that cassette. The fine fellows at Aarght are giving the early Cosmic Psychos records the reissue treatment - perhaps they might be persuaded to look into it.

The last of those records, Go The Hack, is notable not only for featuring the best Australian song ever to sport a D-beat, but also for being the last release by the line-up with guitarist Peter Jones. Jones was soon replaced by Robbie "Rocket" Watts, allegedly after an audition at which Watts blew up two amplifiers. You won't often find us quoting Ian McFarlane's Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, but his conclusion that the change in personnel didn't alter the Cosmic Psychos' sound might be the most insightful analysis in that book. Yup. Watts had previously played in I Spit On Your Gravy and the Quivvering Quims. And, before that, Sharp Toys.

Um, who? Just as Rancid Spam included the only three punks in Kyneton, Sharp Toys must have been the four biggest freaks in neighbouring Castlemaine - the kind of freaks Rancid Spam would have beaten up as a matter of general principle. Among said freaks were Robbie Watts and older brother Rex. The only trace of Sharp Toys' existence is a handful of tracks on a 1980 compilation LP, Goldfields Rock, released as a fundraiser for community radio station 3CCC-FM in Castlemaine. Of the four songs, Nuclear Daisy is our favourite, a world away from the wah-drenched fuzz-storm of the Cosmic Psychos, but even at this early stage Robbie possessed a nimble set of fingers and the song really opens up when he rips his solo. A song-ending explosion wins brownie points, too.

There are a number of places on the web where the remaining tracks on this LP can be heard, so we'll leave interested readers to explore that for themselves. On second thought, we'll direct you to the Rock On Vinyl blog, which tells us of the band members that "I suspect they didn't go onto bigger and better things". Hmm, perhaps Rock On Vinyl should stick to cutting-and-pasting its information directly from Wally Beat [sic].

Nuclear Daisy [Download]

Sunday 11 August 2013

It Never Ends: The Numbers and The Riptides - Sunset Strip 7" Able AB-003 and AB-004, 1978, 1979

One of the finest Australian records of the punk era is this 'un, Sunset Strip by The Numbers. There seems to be some latter day criticism by wooden ears that this is too poppy or sixties influenced. Those critics should take off the dunce cap and listen again - the pace is definitively 1978, the vocals disaffected, and the band smashing into each other in a completely endearing fashion. If you were born on Mars and haven't heard it you'll know straight away it's from Brisbane courtesy of the handclap solo - all the Briso bands feature 'em. Since this is an it-never-ends feature we're duty bound to point out the film like card the boys used for the sleeve and the miniscule chance of finding one without ringwear at this late stage. After a few decades we found the one above which had been stored separate to the record. It still shows a visible scratch though, ugh.

At some point word filtered in from down south about another Numbers and the band decided to change their name. This was not a major problem as they had already used and discarded The Grudge and Neon Steal (rumours persist of recordings from this version of the band). The Riptides were born. The Numbers single had been taken to Melbourne and Sydney by Robert Vickers and had been well received, so first point of business was to reissue the record under the new name. 

There's been much supposition over the years as to whether this version is re-recorded, remixed or simply remastered. Starting with the easy ones even the tinniest of tinnitus affected ears can hear the recording is the same. Remastered is a yes - The Numbers has a DB matrix scratch indicating Don Bartley at Studio 301 in Sydney. He captured the energy well. The Riptides version is an EMI Custom pressing plant job - new plates and a softer mastering job. Which leaves remixed. After some intense A/B-ing plus study of the waveforms we're gonna say yes. You can compare below but at the very least the hi-hats are way more prominent on the Numbers version. Mark Callaghan explained in Andrew Stafford's Pig City:
The main difference with the remix was we turned off Dennis’ hi-hat microphone, because at that stage he didn’t realise you were supposed to clamp the hat down when you did a drum roll, so you have the cymbals spilling out over everything!
Once again the band went with easily scratched glossy stock and even with 2000 pressed finding one without ringwear is a frustrating exercise. Bomp took 300 copies so our American readers should be well placed. Ours above still has the slightest hint, ugh. After the band moved to Sydney the last few copies were sold through stores there with the stamped sleeve below, a nice piece of it-never-ends to end with.

Well not quite - don't neglect the two b-side tracks! 

Sunset Strip [Download]

Magic Castle [Download]

Rules Of Love [Download]

Sunset Strip (Riptides) [Download]

In case you haven't seen it - the video. Handclaps at 2:26.