Share  CROSSING OFF THE MILES - Chad's Tree (Memorandum)
If you'd told me 25 years ago that I'd be listening to Chad's Tree in 2010 I'd have told you to lay off the bucket bongs and get some Detroit rock up you. They seemed even more low-key than the Triffids who I saw play a faltering set at the Trade Union Club one night, and since they were both coming from the same place (musically and geographically speaking) I never gave them much time. This compilation shows that the Perth outfit was as far removed from ramalama-fa-fa-fa as they could be, but also that their folk-ish, textured narratives have weathered well.

Built around Robert and Mark Snarski, the sons of Polish immigrants who'd settled on the outskirts of Perth, Chad's Tree farmed similar paddocks to The Triffids whose tractor tyre marks they followed to Sydney in 1984. Like The Triffids, the music of Chad's Tree was evocative and dark although not as sweeping or heavily arranged.

"Crossing Off The Miles" compiles both Chad's Tree albums, the sparse "Buckle In The Rail" (1987) and the more lush "Kerosene" (1989), plus singles, demos and live tracks. It's been said before but bears repeating: Memorandum have the re-issues thing down to a tee. "Crossing Off The Miles" is spread over two discs and packaged in a double gatefold wallet with a 32-page booklet.

"Buckle In The Rail" leads the first disc with feature song "Sweet Jesus Blue Eyes" as strong as anything here. It's the song that yielded the most early attention but by no means the only one worth its salt. "Crush The Lily", the single recorded after the band's move to Sydney, is a fine moody piece. Old fans will revel in having the LP on CD with a decent mastering job but I have to confess that the dry sound of these tunes makes me want to listen more to the demo's that flesh out the CD.

By the time the second album came around, Chad's Tree were a much different band. "Kerosene" shows as much and makes up most of Disc Two. The songs seem more fully realised with piano, percussion and brass judiciously added, The playing's more confident, but it would be surprising if that wasn't the case.

I didn't mind Mark Snarski's post-Chad's Tree band The Jackson Code whose dramatic pop songs got a reasonable shake from national broadcaster Triple Jay. "Kerosene" shows Snarski's commanding vocals were already a force and his contribution to the liner notes is far too modest.

Marrying the odd morose lyric to comparatively bright instrumentation, "Kerosene" has the allure of songs like "Take Away Their Blue", "North To South" and "Crossing Off The Miles" that radio was adventurous to play at the time. There's the odd quiet and reflective moment ("The Century Hotel", "Rosebed Baby") as well, to underline the band's serious/non-rock side.

A strings-heavy mix of "The Flood Johanna" and three live 1989 cuts will keep the diehards happy. - The Barman


 

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