THE GOOD THAT’S BEEN DONE – Happy Hate Me Nots (Feelpresents)
More archival goodness from Feelpresents, this time from a Sydney ‘80s band that never received its proper dues. Three of them are back treading the boards in a reconstituted HHMNs line-up (founding member and bassist Peter Lennon, having long since moved on and died, and long-time guitarist, Tim Mackay, is also deceased) to something of a rapturous welcome . This comp ties almost all their studio output (save the odd gig giveaway track) to some 2JJJ live-to-air stuff. Forty-one tracks in all, with a whopping nine previously unreleased.
The HHMNs were a fixture on the Sydney scene from 1983-91 – so much so, that many of us probably took them for granted. If they weren’t in your top bracket of headline bands to catch no matter what, they were always a good night out and full of energy. Their name on a bill was a bloody good reason to be there early and consistency was their byword.
Strong interest overseas never translated into offshore touring and the HHMNs travelled their Australian backyard in seemingly ever diminishing circles over the course of a well-received LP (“Out”) and two EPs (“Scrap” and “A Place to Live”) and various singles. By the time they took their leave, a Nirvana-led industry takeover of left-field was underway. The band might regret missing the chance to be part of it and storming the overseas battelments in their wake, but that’s a rose-coloured view. The cruel reality is that most passionate powerpop was steamrolled by the flannel-clad grunge machine, and their best European markets were flooded with substandard crap. As singer-guitatist Paul Berwick observes in the voluminous and well-penned liners, the band probably missed the overseas boat a few years before when its overseas label had a staff purge.
The HHMNs story starts on disc with two cuts "the very English-sounding "When the Chips Are Down" and "The Build Up") released on Abberant's Sydney compilation "Not So Hum Drum". Both gained airplay on 2JJ. Also on the second disc is the debut 1985 single, the rather low key "It Won't Do Any Good", while the second single, “You’re An Angel”, leads off disc one. Here's where things got interesting. Was I the only one to buy that second Waterfont single on the strength of the Chris Masuak production credit? Of course it was nothing like Radio Birdman or the Hitmen - the HHMNs were always a powerpop band with mod and punk-ish inclinations – but the rush of energy that Masuak and engineer Alan Thorne captured was first-class. Paul Berwick’s plaintive vocal leads the way and the characteristic sound of neither guitar overplaying the other is firmly in place.
If the rush of blood of "Angel" was great, the "Soul Rejection" single (off 1988's "Out" album) was even better, and the high-point track for mine. The Rob Younger-produced "Out" bristled with great songs and showed a band willing to experiment stylistically and trying new things (like brass arrangements - with which they'd also dabbled on the preceeding "Scrap" EP, also involving the same Younger-Thorne production team).
These discs are littered with great pop and rock moments (and then there's their version of Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" - which you'd have to think would induce apolexy for Sly and Robbie and wake the man himself). If the tracking occasionally jumps around rather than works through things chronologically, the liners are there to refresh the memory. Compilers Paul Berwick and Christian Houllemare (who took the bass spot after Peter Lennon) have sequenced the tracks for maximum listening pleasure.
On balance, disc two drifts a little towards the end and a couple of the live cuts seem a bit superfluous, but if you can't find plenty to please yourself you're a hard judge. The only remaining questions are why it took so long and are when are we going to hear some new stuff? God knows, the radio could do with some HHMNs goodness. – The Barman
TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR