DO THE POP! REDUX PART ONE - Various Artists (Savage Beat/Shock)
Hard to believe it’s been a decade now since I first interviewed Deniz Tek for a U.S. fanzine and got my coat pulled to this whole alternate universe y'all had going on down in the Antipodes, wherein bands I'd idolized and taken shit for liking since I was a snotnose (Stooges, MC5, Velvets, Dolls, Nuggets garage punkers, etc.) were actually the basis for a whole subculture and set of bands that started in the early '70s with Radio Birdman in Sydney and the Saints in Brisbane.
Once we made contact ca. '99, the Barman (and later, compadres and fellow Bar scribes Geoff Ginsberg and John McPharlin – hello, Johnny, wherever you are) spoonfed me an edjumikashun in the glories of Oz rawk, introducing me to the masterworks of the New Christs, Died Pretty, the Celibate Rifles, the Hitmen, the Hoodoo Gurus, the Screaming Tribesmen, the Lime Spiders, the Sunnyboys, Dom Mariani, Ed Kuepper, and on and on.
By the time the 'riginal incarnation of Dave Laing’s monumental "Do the Pop!" comp – surely equivalent to Lenny Kay'’s monumental "Nuggets" or Larry Harrison and David Campbell's "Fort Worth Teen Scene" in encapsulating and showing the importance and greatness of a musical milieu that was ignored by most of the world at large while it was happening – appeared in 2002, I'd moved on to scribing on matters more Fort Worth-centric for the local giveaway arts rag, but the set provided a convenient way of bending interested listeners’ ears to the '70s-'80s Orstralian scene. Last year, Laing released the first of three projected volumes of a follow-up series – 52 tracks on two shiny silver discs, and not a single one a repeat from the original set; hooray! It took me awhile to lay hands on a copy of thisun, but it was well worth the wait.
While the original set focused, of necessity (historical import plus the compiler's perspective), on Sydney-based bands and key/classic tracks, "Redux Part One" widens the frame to take in Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne developments, presenting some of the most raw and raucous sounds imaginable on its first disc. All-needles-on-red recordings by the Babeez, the Reals, and the Geeks hold their own against iconic Saints sides, the original Birdman recording of the set's title track and a rabble-rousing, feedback-pealing Paddington Town Hall recording of "New Race". The early X and Scientists earn their considerable reps, while the Leftovers, the Manikins, and the Rockets display a surprising (Ramones-inspahrd?) pop sense.
The second disc shows how pervasive was the influence of Birdman on these musos and bands as they grew in chops and sophistication – perhaps as attributable to the belated and posthumous appearance of the sophomore Birdman album "Living Eyes" in 1981 as it was to the presence of ex-Birdmen and fellow travelers in the lineups of the Hitmen, the Visitors, New Christs, New Race, et al. (An exception would be Chris Bailey’s Saints, who quickly settled down to manifest a bunch of influences far removed from what y'all generally categorize as "Detroit" -- today I think of him as an Aussie Van Morrison or something damn near like it.) Disc 2 also documents the mini-trend of women-fronted bands in early-'80s Sydney (Passengers/Angie Pepper, Shy Imposters, Flaming Hands). Laing brings it all back home with the two "bonus tracks": a rare and storied recording by Deniz Tek's pre-Birdman band TV Jones, and the Saints when they were still Kid Galahad & the Eternals, essaying an explosive "(I'm) Stranded" in somebody’s garage in Brisbane, ’74. Yeah!
The phrase that pays is "treasure trove". - Ken Shimamoto
An online dictionary defines "mother lode" as "principal vein of an ore or mineral..." or, figuratively speaking, "a rich source of something". Add a third definition mentioning the latest "Do The Pop!" package of '70s and '80s underground Aussie music and it'd be totally on the money.
Compiler Dave Laing has played a smart game over the course of 52 tracks. He's included the standards (Birdman's "Do The Pop!", the Saints' "This Perfect Day") and sandwiched a good sprinkling of the obscure and the totally unreleased. "Shakedown USA" is a Lipstick Killers B side and this weill be the first time many have heard its driving barrelhouse piano and stuttering guitar, but "Mesmerizer" is an unreleased demo (not making it to the live album of the same name.) The Hitmen demo of "No Clue" wipes the floor with the released version.
There's more plenty to gawk about. Like "Time Moves Fast", one of the demo's cut by The 31st, the legendary Brisbane band that featured Ron Peno, Mick Medew, Tony Robertson and, briefly, Brad Shepherd, or the lost great powerpop of "Last Kiss" from Sydney's Lonelyhearts. There's a previously unheard Shy Imposters recording ("She Can't Win") and rough but rare offerings from Slaughterhouse 5 (the late James Darroch's band, pre-Celibate Rifles and The Eastern Dark), The Reals (Gary Gray's Sacred Cowboys antecedents) and ME-262. By the way, it's enlightening to hear how much Slaughterhouse 5 sound like the Visitors without keyboards.
The Flaming Hands song is a pearler too and poses the question how much unreleased material Jeff or Julie have in the vault .And of course here's another band worthy of exhumation in the live sense too.
The odd track from 2JJJ's December 12, 1978 Paddington Town Hall live-to-air of Radio Birdman has made it to official releases and now there's another to grace your player, in the form of the blazing "New Race". Could it portend the release of the whole gig? We can only hope.
The Survivors' demo of "Undecided" is simply a scorcher. Of course being in Brisbane never helped their prospects but this is proof that they could have carved out a bigger place for themselves, if the cards had been dealt right. Pre-Died Pretty Brisbane outfit The End's hard-to-find "Just Skin" (reprised by the former of course) is here to add to the treasure trove. About time the rest of their recordings were digitally restored and put out there, I'd say.
If "Do The Pop! Redux Part One" is Sydney-centric in its spiritual leanings - meaning the selections are mostly high-energy rather than art rock - that's a reflection on its compiler's tastes and, of course, perfectly acceptable around these parts. There is a good geographical spread in evidence. For example, The Numbers/Riptides, The Leftovers and The Fun Things are from Brisbane, The Manikins, The Geeks, The Scientists and The Victims are from Perth.
While not attempting to be complete (the "Murder Punk" bootlegs might be your best bet if you're looking for something to ease your collector jones), this collection is varied and cleverly tracked. With many tracks having to be sourced from original vinyl, the restoration and mastering jobs are top-shelf. You're unlikely to hear much of what's on "Do The Pop! Redux Part One" anywhere else, and the stuff you do know you'll never hear sounding better.
It would be redundant to label yet another release "essential" - but life's tough sometimes, so deal with it. - The Barman
DO THE POP! THE AUSTRALIAN GARAGE-ROCK SOUND 1976-87 - Various Artists (Shock)
A set like this almost defies rational reviewing, but we'll do our best.
The mid-'70s onset of Radio Birdman and the Saints is an event that has (rightly) attained legendary status. I won't play my usual game of rating Birdman well ahead of the Brisbanites - let's face it: they both mattered - but the early '80s is when the floodgates truly opened. The likes of the Lipstick Killers, the Hitmen, the Scientists, the (sadly unrecorded) Other Side and the Visitors were all playing within half-a-dozen blocks of each other in their central Sydney playground. (Sydney was The Place, and those bands were The Shit.) In their wake (or interstate) were Died Pretty, the Screaming Tribesmen, the Lime Spiders, the Stems and The Eastern Dark to name a few. They were the leading edge of the second wave of home-grown, garage-inspired rock that became a tidal wave, the impact of which was felt as far afield as Scandinavia, lower Europe, the USA and South America.
"Punk" might be the label most of these bands wore back in the day, but this is more of a "Rock" compilation. The unbridled energy is there, but most of these groups were more musically adept than the two-chord thrash artists that briefly burned at places like the White Horse and the Grand Hotel. For the most part, the bands on these discs had roots that ran all the way back to the Music Machine, the Remains, the Sonics or the 13th Floor Elevators (to name a few.) It's the similar bloodlines that make comparisons to Lennie Kaye's "Nuggets" valid, and should ensure a place in CD racks overseas.
Compiler Dave Laing hasn't missed too many essentials. You could quibble about the absence of the full version of Died Pretty's "Mirror Blues" or the lack of a Wet Taxis, X or Beasts of Bourbon cut. Others might also bemoan the absence of the Thought Criminals (who didn't sound anything like any of the bands here anyway.) Some - not me - will question the total absence of the Birthday Party (or any Victorian bands, for that matter - before you e-mail me, the Philisteins were from Tasmania, though did finish up in Melbourne. The likes of Bored! and God will, no doubt, be covered in depth on the forthcoming "Best of Dog Meat" compilation.) It could be argued that girl groups are sorely under-represented with only the Passengers rating a place of the trio of female-fronted acts that occupied similar turf in Sydney in the early '80s (the Flaming Hands and the Shy Imposters being the omissions.)
None of the tracks are staggeringly rare either, though you will struggle to find copies of the Victims' "Television Addict", the Scientists' "Last Night" and the New Christs' terrifically sullen "Face a New God", at least in official digital form. It's great to see Dave went for the earliest versions of some of the better-known songs. Birdman's "New Race" and the Sunnyboys' "Alone With You" are the original Trafalgar black album and Phantom single versions, respectively. The Saints' wonderful "Simple Love" is also the "Paralytic Tonight" EP take (which craps all over the one on the "Monkey Puzzle" long player.) The jungle-drumming 45, "Leilani", was re-recorded but never bettered on the Hoodoo Gurus' first album, so it's great to hear it here in all its primal glory. Good to see so-described court jesters of the Sydney scene, the Psychotic Turnbuckles, also present with the thunderous "Groove to the Eye" from their Rob Younger-produced debut mini-album.
The Headstones are a surprise - but worthy - inclusion ("When You're Down" has always been a fave around these parts.) Was "Igloo" never going to be the Screaming Tribesmen's representation? Two decades later, it still sounds great and otherworldly. Good to hear the underrated "Ice" also weighing in (Chris Masuak's sustain guitar spray being a highlight.) The early Hard Ons hit "Girl in The Sweater" still sounds like a sublime piece of Ramonish pop. "Don't Look Down" is the best thing Decline of the Reptiles recorded. "Johnny and Dee Dee" wasn't the best thing The Eastern Dark put on tape - that honour goes to "Walking" - but both are inclusions. You want to know the roots of grunge? Listen no further than the (late period) Scientists' track "Atom Bomb Baby".
Three Hitmen songs "Didn't Tell the Man", "I Don't Mind" and "Bwana Devil" (the alternative, revisited mix) all sit well. Their presence also underlines that, in spite of their critics who saw them as too commercial/too cover reliant/not trendy, the Hitmen influenced a helluva lot of contemporaries. Zeus himself gets a guernsey (with Radio Birdman, sans Dr Tek and plus Charlie Georgees) on "King of the Surf" (which Dave Laing's now defunct Dog Meat label released as a 45 a decade or so back.)
The Lime Spiders, Celibate Rifles, Stems and New Christs all command strong representation (though I would have plumped for "Born Out of Time" ahead of "I Swear", though rival label Raven seems to have covered that base on their release of Oz '80s stuff, being reviewed else where here soon.)
Added bonus: The voluminous liner notes and unpublished pix in the accompanying 28-page booklet, mostly a Laing effort but supplemented by Steven Danno.
Put this album on now, slip into your old winklepickers and most comfortable leather jacket, flip the lid on a can of KB (remember cold gold?), ease back into your rocking chair and turn up the volume. Some of us still remember. And if you're too young to remember, this collection will be the ideal starting point. It's indispensable. - The Barman
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