WEEKEND Volume 2 - Various Artists (Laughing
Outlaw/Zip Records) Another
Lost Weekend rolls around. Is it that soon? Australia's premier powerpop festival
has gone tri-state this year and the usual accompanying compilation CD is on
the shelves. News is that it's as good, if not better, than the
The Lost Weekend is a celebration of guitar-fuelled pop. Nothing less. We at the I-94 Bar have a rep for being into the heavier end of the dial, but we do recognise a great melody when we hear one. There's plenty here. Twenty-three tracks, enough power to light a small city, an abundance of melodic arrangements and more hooks than Rex Hunt's tackle box.
Powerpop's a varied thing but permit a generalisation. It is that the prevailing attribute as far as the Australian version is concerned is that our bands (mostly) lack the twee pretension of their English cousins or the taut slickness of the American exponents. There's a rough vitality in the local product (Starky, Challenger 7, Pyramidiacs are three on this disc who spring to mind) that's something to do with its pub origins. In short, we can tell our Dom Mariani from our Don Perignon. There's enough variety on this disc to prove me wrong but even when its being derivative, Aussie powerpop's embracing its own backyard.
Starky's "That's How I'll Know You" is 24-carat pop smash hit material. Infectious as all fuck and sharp as a pin. It's the opening cut and sets the scene for the rest of the disc. It might be too cutesy with a bubblegum feel (and may or not be a song about a crappy TV soap) but Sarah Sarah's quirky "Dawson's Creek" has a hook that's stickier than flypaper. Brisbaneites Shifter sound nothing like their Wollongong namesakes (who had to change their name to Rifter) with the edgy pop of "Julie-Anne". City Lights sound like tough mods with a dash of synchopatic bluebeat in the guitars with "You Stand Accused".
Is anyone surprised that Michael Carpenter played on, mixed or produced a third of these racks? Didn't think so. If you like his solo stuff, "Here It Comes" (from the latest "Kingsrdworks" album) will satisfy. He's also a co-organiser for the Lost Weekend shows and album. When does the man rest? Likewise fans of P76/Danny McDonald. "Soaking Up the Sun" (off the French "On the Beach At First Light" EP) is primo, sunny Oz pop, almost dazzling in its optimism. Danny also turns up on Magneto's "Leaving Hook". Don't know much about this John Baxter-led band but if the rest of their stuff is as good as this, they're worth investigation. Also out of the southern capital, Even are one of the best-known names represented and showcase their jagged, heavy brand of pop with "Coming Back to Earth". It's a Brit power trio tune in Melbourne band's clothing and the weightiest thing here.
Spencer Tracy (real name) maintain the West Australian representation with "Disco King" which is almost contemporary Britpop in feel. "I Found You" is low key by the Pyramidiacs' usual standards. If you're into Beatlesque harmonies or pure, polished pop then Ice Cream Hands and Adam Power will find their mark (I was always more a Stones man). Tight, multi-part harmony vocals are the cornerstone of the Innocents' "Your Previous Touch". Again, a touch too polished for these ears.
There's a review of the Chevelles' "Girl God" album stuck somewhere in our pipeline but "First Time, Last Time" sounds representative of their punchy guitar pop. The latest Challenger 7 line-up - singer-guitarist Ian Underwood and guitarist Bow Campell surrounded by two Christians, Houllemare and Hampson, on bass and drums respectively - debuts with "Synchronised Drowning" and it's fine stuff. There's gotta be an album and more than a handful of live shows in there.
There's no reason you couldn't hear most of these tunes on the National Yoof Radio Network (except it's programmed by homogenised old men with shit eternally ringing in their ears). The Head Laughing Outlaw, Stuart Coupe, nails it in his liner notes. The underlying message is that pop is a thing to be celebrated. Sounds like a good excuse to kick back and lose your weekend. - The Barman
Weekend - Various Artists (Pure Pop, 23 tracks, 77:43)
Pop On Top - Various Artists (Bomp, 20 tracks, 61:20)
Beat Party - Various Artists (1+2 Records, 23 tracks, 60:31)
Hmm, must be getting close to Christmas. All around Australia the minions of the larger record store chains are beavering away like Santa's little elves, clearing the homogenized big company crap out of the display cases and stocking them up with the latest batch of greatest hits compilations (yeah I know, same companies, same crap, just different packaging). Okay maybe they are just as homogenized, probably more so come to think of it, but at least you're familiar with them all, aren't you? Sure you are - take this "greatest hits volume 2" (okay, so they didn't have the honesty to call it "the dozen or so songs that weren't good enough to get on last year's 'greatest hits' comp", but don't worry, be happy); it has all your favourites! Don't they sound familiar? No, I said "familiar", not "similar"!
What is it with all this "greatest hits" bullshit? Didn't the industry sales charts tell us that the original albums sold gazillions? Who the fuck is left to keep buying these seemingly endless repackagings then? Bands with only two or at most three albums to their name are putting out a greatest hits collection. Or at least their label is. Is it, as I suspect, because the label has just dropped them and wants to extract the absolute last dollar out of the name before its consumer recognition index plummets to zero? Or am I just a mean spirited old cynic?
Also, have you noticed that a lot of artists now have more than one greatest hits package? I don't mean those sad, barrel scraping volume twos; I mean someone has shuffled the order of the tracks, perhaps added one or two that weren't on it the last time around, changed the name from "best of" to "greatest hits" (or from "greatest hits" to "ultimate hits") and put it out again with a different cover. Or maybe even with a "never before released bonus track". Do you, like me, find yourself wondering, "If it's never been released before, how can it be a greatest hit?"?.
And bloody remixes, what's with them? Isn't that really just the record company admitting that they couldn't dig up enough half decent tracks to fill up an album, so here's three or four versions of the one song that actually made it into the charts without being complete crap? Money for old rope if you ask me. I reckon each of these remix bandits has one basic effects track and they just slot in a few samples of whatever song they're "remixing"; it's all completely interchangeable and they don't give a shit whether it's Kylie, Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly or Reg Lindsay that they're doing the business with/for/to.
Here's a thought - this Christmas why don't you listen to something fresh and new? Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. Why don't you sit there quietly for a minute and take a couple of slow, deep breaths... feeling better now? Okay, let's press on.
How about some power pop? Oops, sorry again. Here, breathe into this paper bag. Boy, that was quite a turn you just threw; really shook you up, did I? No, I wasn't talking about Kylie Minogue or some crap you heard on TodayFM. The morning crew really liked it? Yeah, well they would, wouldn't they...
What I'm talking about is traditional, guitar based pop. No, no, not some limp dick indie darlings strumming expensive Rickenbackers half-heartedly. Pop at its best is a bright and shiny thing, but maybe with just a few jagged edges. It can't be rock if it's safe and secure, but once there's even an outside chance of losing a couple of fingers, the adrenaline really starts pumping, right?
This is music by a bunch of bozos you've never heard of, who probably aren't even very photogenic, but are big fans of the Kinks, Who, Beatles (and perhaps some of the later upstarts like Big Star and the Posies) and who have come to the conclusion that the three-minute pop song is western civilization's ultimate art form. They realise it needs to swing fast and sharp, like the musical equivalent of Dad's electric carving knife slicing through your Christmas turkey.
So, maybe you'd like to try some power pop, but you haven't been swayed sufficiently to fork out the cost of a full album by a single artist/band? Well, these compilations represent a relatively low cost/high return alternative (yeah, yeah, I know what I said about compilations when I reviewed that Half A Cow comp recently, but it's a bright, sunny day outside, I'm in a good mood and this music is so damn infectious that I just can't help myself).
These are three compilations of mainly Australian power pop, one from the US, one from Japan and one (surprise, surprise) actually from Australia. Bouncy, infectious rhythms, ringing guitars, perky vocals and more hooks flying around your ears than at the opening round of an amateur fishing competition.
Let's start with the Aussie one first, since it's also the most recent.
The "Lost Weekend" CD was issued to coincide with a recent pop festival in Sydney, which featured fifteen bands. I only managed to catch the last five of them on the final evening. If I wasn't such a lazy bastard I'd have written about it and them for the Bar already, but I am so I haven't. Even if you didn't catch any of them then, you can catch most of them now (and more!) with this CD. Here's what's on it:
The Scruffs - Nobody Slows. Good Michael Carpenter produced song off their "Actual Size" album but, if I was doing the choosing, this wouldn't even have made the final three ("Trash", "N Scale" and "You Make Me Nervous", since you asked), which demonstrates either the depth of the material on that album or else how out of step I am...
P76 - Sleeping In. Dom Mariani produced and co-written track from their "Into The Sun" album. The Dom also contributes some additional guitar. If someone ever backs you into a corner and demands a clear definition of "power pop", then you could do worse than to play them this. If when the song ends they still don't get it, roll them over onto their side and call for an ambulance; they're beyond your help and it's time for the qualified medical professionals to take over.
Soap Star Joe - Met Drunk In The Corner. Michael Carpenter produced band with softer vocals over a slightly grungier guitar than most of the other tracks on this album.
Autopilot - Haemophiliac. Hollies cum "Penny Lane"-ish ditty with some serious double (and not so double) entendres. Strangely, this is not produced by either Michael Carpenter or Dom Mariani.
Pyramidiacs - It's A Long Way Home. Spectacularly Beatle-ish tune from their "Nobody's Fools" album. Sounds like Eleanor Rigby down at the church disco on Saturday night, hopping, bopping and popping purple hearts (much to the surprise of Father MacKenzie no doubt). Once again the compilers of this comp had a wealth of "A" grade material to choose from, since the album is so chock full great pop it's practically bursting out of its jewel case. Michael Carpenter co-produced, played drums and sings.
Starky - Don't Wanna Know. Light, fluffy pop from the core of the former Pennidredful, with emphasis more on the vocal harmonies than the instrumentation.
Montana - 110. Although he wasn't involved in the recording, ongoing promotion of this album ("Bubble Gum Love") is what's keeping replacement drummer Tim Denny away from the Navohodads and consequently the Navohodads off the road themselves.
Challenger 7 - Rock and Roll Sound. Ah, one of the great rock/pop anthems, penned by Stew Cunningham and co-produced by Michael Carpenter. "When the guitars are sweet and the stereo's loud, nothin' beats that rock and roll sound". I sure can't argue with that! Apparently many in the pop community thought their monster two guitar attack delivered a little too much power with the pop, but I always felt these guys belonged right at the top of the pop tree, sharing a branch with the Upsets (who also played this festival, but somehow missed out appearing on this album) and not too many others. Sure it's meant to be pop, but that doesn't mean you have hold back on the power, they never did! Although the band is now officially defunct, rumours persist of a posthumous studio only album to be recorded featuring a volunteer rhythm section, the likes of which could well make your eyes water.
Superscope - Sail Away. Ultra poppy track, which is also one side of their current single, from the forthcoming "Torpedo" album. Very polished sound, doubtless due in part to the involvement of Ken Stringfellow in the mixing and mastering; it certainly can't have hurt, although this is a lot lighter than their earlier work.
Finkers - Up To You. Closing track from their "Double Back & Go" album. Like the Pyramidiacs, with whom they share current and past members, their album is the aural equivalent of an expensive box of assorted chocolates, only with none of those horrible ginger things that everyone always leaves until last. Anything you select from it is going to be a winner, but everybody has favourites. Personally, I prefer the sax soaked "Long Forgotten One", but this is pretty good too. Michael Carpenter co-produced, played bass and sings.
Lynchpin - When She Falls. Challenger 7 frontman and Lost Weekend co-organiser Ian Underwood compares these guys to Crowded House and I can certainly hear some of them on this but, when I saw them live, my first thought was that they must be Glen Tillbrook's love children.
Lazy Susan - Skywriter. Extremely bouncy number that also has some echoes of (UK) Squeeze (geez that Tillbrook character must have been really putting it about the first time he toured here), with members of the Beatles lurking a little further back in the mix. Well, I hear them anyway. Catchy; infectious. Of all the songs on this album that I didn't already have, this is the standout. If you stuck this one track on perpetual repeat, it would take me a long, long time to get sick of it.
DM3 - Just Like Nancy. The deservedly legendary Dom Mariani with the title track of the final EP before DM3 called it quits. If you didn't buy the EP, you probably have this on the recent "Italian Style! Garage Sale vol 2" compilation (shit, you probably have them both), but even so it's worth hearing again and the Dom definitely deserves to be represented here in person in the midst of this company, since his influence looms so large over so much Oz pop.
The Richies - Fallen Stars. Tinkerbell chimes and "Strawberry Fields" organ lead into some upbeat advice for the lovelorn about moving on from a defunct relationship, while the song itself moves inevitably to its near anthemic finale. In the meantime, I hear sleigh bells and a glockenspiel. Who's that peeking out from around the side of the wardrobe in a Santa costume, is it Brian Wilson? No, it's Michael Carpenter, who co-produced and played drums; fellow Pyramidiac Eddie Owen contributes guitar, keyboards and vocals while former Pyramidiac Bob Susnjara plays bass.
Pearson - Don't Leave Me Alone. Singer Guy Pearson shows his soft, sensitive side while playing guitar, singing and co-producing; the ubiquitous Michael Carpenter did everything else.
Major - Gentle Sway. Gentle indeed, with the added twang on the electric guitar giving it a slight C&W flavour, which is then reinforced by some dexterous pickin' on the acoustic.
Michael Carpenter - Kailee Ann. Ah, Mr Carpenter out on his own at last and indulging in a little Hollies v's Beach Boys gala! If there's anything about power pop that he and Dom Mariani don't know between them, then I can't imagine what it might be.
The Innocents - The B-side. Smooth as silk pop from guys who have been around long enough to have appeared on Countdown in its heyday. Bouncy, so polished you can practically see your face reflected in it, but also suave and beguiling.
Appleseed - Slipstream. Mega Catchy. Imagine Oasis stealing from Radiohead instead of the Beatles. Michael Carpenter co-produced.
Quick 50 - Tenth Time. I didn't catch the session where these guys played, but the word from Chris Baty (and boy, he'd sure know about this sort of thing) was that they were the standout of that evening. Considering that Lazy Susan and the Scruffs also played on the same evening, that's a pretty big wrap. Unfortunately this track doesn't quite justify it, though it is ultra melodic. Chris assures me that nothing on their album prepares you for how good they are live. Until they make it back up to Sydney, I'm happy to take his word for it.
The Chevelles - Sonic. True keepers of the power pop flame for more years than they'd probably like to admit. Ex-Stem Richard Lane is long gone, but co-founders Duane Smith and Jeff Halley soldier on regardless. They're huge in Brazil, where Tronador Music has released a "best of" recently, so why aren't they a household name here? This song's a little slower than usual, but has all right the elements for great power pop.
Dreamdayers - Signs. Slightly rougher round the edges pop from Wayne Connolly (Knievel) produced band.
Adam Power - Under The Influence. Another Michael Carpenter guitar/singer proege, this time delivering a surprisingly raw sound. Rhythm section consists of Michael Carpenter on bass and Michael Carpenter on drums.
Bomp have always been big supporters of Australian power pop in general and Dom Mariani in particular. As if further proof of their commitment was needed, about a third of these tracks were (and many remain) otherwise unreleased. This "Pop On Top" CD is actually about five years old, but is still available and represents an excellent depth sounding for what was around at the time. Fortunately a fair number of the participants are still around now, as demonstrated by their appearances on the much more recent "Lost Weekend" comp, though some have fallen by the wayside or mutated into new shapes.
The Chevelles - She's Not Around. Maybe she isn't, but they certainly still are. This is classic Perth power pop by one of the groups who have helped that city to establish and maintain its reputation as, if not the unchallenged power pop capital of the world, then at least one of its leading centres of excellence.
Even - Stupid Dream. Solid, chunky early track (from their "Ten To Forty-Six" EP) by a another band, this time from Melbourne, that also has gone the full distance.
Jack & the Beanstalk - Doggy. Lighter Perth pop, favouring vocals over
subdued guitars, from ex-Stem/Somelove Joe Algeri. I'm not sure, are these guys
no longer together or are they simply still out on the road somewhere promoting
their last "Cowboys In Sweden" album?
DM3 - 1 x 2 x Devastated. Sharp vocals over fast grinding guitars add up to a killer early song by this Dom Mariani band whose final release is on the Lost Weekend comp.
Superscope - Windmill. Another Perth band still out there, bobbing and weaving. This comes from their first EP "Generally Electric" and has much more solid, grinding guitar under the melody than the later track on the "Lost Weekend" comp.
Hub - 3rd Time's A Charm. Loose but urgent, Replacements-y rocker.
Flanders - Shameless. Starts off loose with the vocals sounding a little rough, but quickly consolidates into a smooth pop package, which just gets better and better as the song progresses. Unfortunately when it ends it sounds like it's still improving, so it's a pity they didn't give themselves more of a running start or else leave the tape rolling a little longer.
Rosebuds- 10AM. Light but smooth song by Richard Lane (ex-Stems and ex-Chevelles; can Perth's power pop community be even more incestuous than Sydney's?) about not being an early riser. Know the feeling, love the sentiment and the song bops along cleanly, though if I was forced to choose at gunpoint, I'd have to say that P76's exploration of the same sweeping theme ("Sleeping In") is the better song.
Early Hours- Sunshine Changes Everything. Ultra light, jingle jangle, sunshine ode. If the Byrds had come from Perth, this would have been on their first album.
Rollercoaster - Insane. More ex-Stems and ex-Chevelles in a muscular pop ditty with echoes of the Sunnyboys and all the power pop intensity which that represents. All that's missing is some sign of support from commercial radio.
Epstein - Just The Way. Raw, slightly seventies punkish pop. Cleverly constructed so that on the surface it sounds all over the place, but when you listen closer everything is actually where it needs to be.
Pyramidiacs - Tuesday's Girl. Pre-Messrs Gibson & Carpenter belter from the earlier Susnjara/Baty line up, though Mr Carpenter did engineer and co-produce.
Welcome Mat - Just Gave In. Pre-Knievel Wayne Connolly band with light, lively and definitely hummable pop over a quickfire beat.
Tune Bureau - Cheap Thrills. Another band that flashed across the Perth sky in the mid nineties. Moderately paced but extremely well crafted song featuring lush backing harmonies and sharp, almost surgical, guitars over a bouncy beat, which becomes completely contagious after two or three playings. Quick nurse, the screens!
Summer Suns - Run Like Hell. Yep, yet another Perth band who even got a release on US label Get Hip at one time. This song's an amped up cover of a Devin Hill tune (from the "Stars" album) which brings out some of the power pop possibilities which weren't nearly as apparent on the more restrained original.
St. Jude - Jenny. This is bouncy but slight, from their only EP ("Redwood"). Neither band nor EP are of this world any longer.
Challenger 7 - Wait A Lifetime. Pop with plenty of punch from the long out of print "Morris" EP. A lot of this early stuff was going to be reissued on an Italian label, but lately there's been nothing but silence on that front.
Hammerfish - Couldn't I Just Tell You. Tod Rundgren cover from the previous band of Scruffs frontman Ryan Ellsmore.
Flavour Of The Month - Sweetness Meeting. Silk smooth vocals over chunky, but clean guitar by this band whose name may well be a reference to the Posies song of the same name. Pop certainly, but the power setting is comparatively low.
Ice Cream Hands - Bye. Typically ultra creamy confection from a few former Mad Turks From Istanbul.
"Beat Party" has three more tracks on it than "Pop On Top", but one less minute of running time; same number of tracks as "Lost Weekend", but runs a whopping 17 minutes shorter! Do you get the feeling that this is going to be fast and furious? Well, if you do you're right!
Like the Bomp comp, there's a commitment to new bands with over half of these songs being otherwise unreleased. It also throws the stage door open to non-Australian bands, though surprisingly Scandinavia is only represented once, by Norway's Kwyet Kings.
Meows - I'll Change. Power pop is huge in Spain, but this Spanish band sounds more like the Dictators than any of the usual influences quoted by power pop bands. The production is a little rough compared with the efforts of Messrs Carpenter and Mariani, but on this song that is not a drawback.
FiFi & The Mach III - Because I Love You. Japanese girl pop with acoustic guitars prominent early on, before being covered over by blanket of energetic electric guitars. They periodically resurface, only to be crash tackled and smothered once again.
T-Shirts - Dreaming. No, not the Blondie song, but that band could have been an early influence on this crunching Spanish fret shredder, at least until the rhythm section took to pumping iron in the gym before rehearsals.
Valiants - Shirley's Boyfriend. Perth/Spinning Top band about which I know absolutely nothing. Sounds a little like Velvet Crush on extra daily helpings of Weetbix.
Shambles - She's Got Everything. Modish toe tapper from a San Diego band. Makes you feel unbelievably guilty for not leaping straight up and going into the frug or the watusi. Not such a problem sitting listening in the privacy of your own home, but an imperative fraught with disaster if you're hearing it for the first time via your walkman on the bus on your way to work (but at least it ensures that no one will crowd you for the rest of the journey, once the song ends and you sit down again).
Saddles - I Know The Feeling. Japanese Tom Petty who sounds particularly loose and laid back amongst this company.
Poseur - Milkshake. A song that does not benefit much from having its lyrics in English, performed by a Canadian band who sound far too thrashy to be power pop in my book, not that I'm any arbiter on the subject.
Doorslammer - She's Crazy. Hmm, thundering number that sounds like it owes more to Motley Crue and Judas Priest than to Big Star.
Wimpys - Just Right Thing In Summer. Even before you get to the "Hey ho, let's go!" compartment of this pop/punk/surf bullet train, it isn't too hard to work who's been the biggest influence on this Japanese band.
Challenger 7 - Because We Can. From the "Great Slump Forward" EP. A standout song from their early single guitar/power trio period, which was picked up for several other compilations as well as this one. It's Challenger 7, do you need any more description/endorsement than that?
More Fun - National Broadcast Breakdown. Perthiest sounding Japanese band on this comp, with a touch of the Dickies thrown in for good measure.
Chevelles - Out Of My Mind. The only band, aside from Challenger 7, to make it onto all three of these comps and one listen to this will tell you why they're so esteemed. A power pop classic that positively rips along.
Rollercoaster - Do You Remember. Softer, slightly sweeter than the Chevelles or their own earlier "Insane" track on the Bomp comp, but still flies.
Banana Erectors - Get Married To Your Job. Shit, did everyone help themselves to a hit of helium before laying down these vocals? Belts along alright, but the nasal Alvin and the Chipmonkish vocals jar on the ear, my ears anyway.
Jack & The Beanstalk - Slave Girl. Their cover of the Lime Spiders' classic, originally recorded for Didier Georgieff's "Storming the Citadel" tribute to Citadel records.
Nudge 'Em All - The Future In The Past. Is it just me, or did they really refuse to let the singer into the studio, forcing all the vocals to be recorded through the closed door? Ah, those whacky Nipponese.
Bonzos - Run Boy Run. A bunch of Spaniards who aren't afraid to display a strong "classic" punk influence. Sounds like a fuel injected version of Finnish band Jalla Jalla, only without quite the same sure ability to bait the hook.
Treeberrys - Tragedy. Classic sixties beat group sound. Remember when the Beatles were just starting to come to notice and what they and all those contemporary bands were playing was called "R&B"? Well, "R&B" means something completely different now, but back then it meant this. Presumably the band name derives from the Japanese habit of becoming fascinated with the visual appearance of English words, without caring what (if anything) they mean.
Marlowes - Split Screen. Undoubtedly the most commercial song (in radio terms) on this album. Light, lively and very approachable, but ultimately complete candyfloss with little nutritional value.
Plastic Man - A Day By The Lake. Lots of slinky, floating "oohs" and "aahs", but a little too much pop and not quite enough power.
Kwyet Kings - Radiated By Your Charm. Current band, or at least one of the current bands, of Norway's answer to Dom Mariani, Arne Thelin (Lust-O-Rama, Cosmic Dropouts, Bittersweets). Or perhaps he's their Michael Carpenter and it's Morten Henriksen who is the Scandi Mariani? Mellifluous vocals over razor sharp guitar riffs. Beat, punk, garage, power pop all mixed and blended in perfect balance.
Ego Maniacs - Are You Satisfied. Yank punks thrashing their way through a furious, nasal riot that barely lasts one and half minutes.
Buffet - Mr. Musicman. Charming Japanese girl pop which serves to underline how fresh and current the songs on Angie Pepper's recent compilation still sound after all these years.
So, over three and a quarter hours after I began, I emerge from the other end of this self-imposed tunnel of sound, bleary eyed and blinking at the sun like a prisoner stumbling back onto the exercise yard after a lengthy stretch in solitary. That solitary confinement sure plays tricks with your senses. I've been hearing voices... and guitars! Bright melodies, sparkling songs. No, don't turn on the radio just yet. Let's give ourselves a few more minutes before we have to come back down to earth and the grim reality of commercial pop!
Overall rating: maybe a stubbie short of a full dozen.-
LOST WEEKEND: A CELEBRATION OF INDEPEDENT AUSTRALIAN POWER POP - Various
Artists (Tomboy/Pure Pop)
I was talking to a musical luminary in the wake of the Sydney festival that launched that disc and he made the comment that there was an opinion around that the wave of Scandi punk that send ripples around most independent scenes had all but subsided. People were looking for something a little more musical. I don't know if that's the case (I was never fully on board the Scandi bandwagon as many of the acts seemed to lack conviction), but if we're going to embrace something a little more pop, we could do worse than start ringing the changes in Australia.
The fact that half the bands on this disc have barely been heard outside their immediate circie of friends and relatives is criminal. That the other half have been around a bit longer but have gone relatively unrewarded in all but a few scattered markets around the globe is another abberation.
Consider this: Michael Carpenter rated a spot at the pretistigious Poptopia festival in LA a coup-le of years ago but would be flat out being asked to autograph a credit card voucher back home. (His "Kailee Ann" is a killer inclusion here - and he plays on, or produced, a third of the tracks.) The Innocents have amassed a heap of current affairs and chat radio time on the strength of (a.) being back on stages after 20 years and (b.) coming from Tasmania but are they known to anyone outside an audience of pop music afficinados or obsessive rock historians?
Right here, folks, you have a snapshot of what's happening in Australian powerpop. You also have the opportunity to redress some of the above-mentioned unfairness by buying it, telling someone about the acts on it and going to see them live.
Sydney four-piece The Scruffs are a case in point. Their songs are played on radio in Europe and they just toured Spain. Their debut album "The Actual Size" can't rate a release in their home country. "Nobody Slows" kicks off this compilation and a finer piece of off-beat, wounded pop you won't hear, this year or next.
There's a diverse platter to tuck into on this disc: Perth up-and-comers Autopilot dish up a plate of oh-so-English pop (think post R & B Kinks, tinkering with brass in the studio) with style. The Pyramidiacs don't do anything wrong with "It's a Long Way Home" (apparently their album is unreleasable locally too.) Rural Victoria-based P76 harness more energy than the dud car (Australia's Edsel) they're named after with the compact guitar pop of "Sleeping In". The steroidal re-mix of "Rock and Roll Sound" by Challenger 7 (sadly reduced to a studio-only outfit these days) still sounds mighty fine, while elder statesman Dom Mariani rightfully grabs disc time with "Just Like Nancy". Lazy Susan ("Skywriter") does fine, the Chevelles might have written better songs than "Sonic" but it will do for now. Re-born veterans The Innocents contribute "The B Side", which is as irrepressible as anything else here.
A few of the more wimpy cuts miss the mark for me, but most of the material is strong, guitar-flavoured and imbued with the brashness that marks the more palatable Australian music. A bracing 77 minutes. - The Barman
- The Barman
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