THE COLLECTION - The Moffs (Feelpresents)
If you were immersed in the so-called Australian underground music of the 1980s, you'll have your own special reference points for looking back.
In Sydney in the early '80s, spitballs of English punk gunk was springing up everywhere, the children of Iggy and Birdman ruled the parts of the inner-city where hard-edged US '60s strain of garage music hadn't taken hold and mods were marking their own turf around what's now the Cockle Bay end of Darling Harbour. Industrial and electronic sounds lived in dark, scattered corners. The Moffs were a circuit-breaker with their curious brand of English psychedelia that stood apart from everything else.
Surfacing live in 1984 and bursting onto vinyl on Citadel the following year, the Moffs single-handedly introduced US "Nuggets"-besotted crowds to the acid-haze music that had sprung up in the late '60s on the other side of the Atlantic. Their first single, "Another Day In The Sun", was a stunning, crystalline 45, a multi-faceted and dramatic guitar gaze through a musical kaleidoscope. Critics and punters liked what they saw and the Moffs became an instant success, pulling big crowds and winning Next Big Thing status for about 10 minutes in a notoriously fickle time.
At first appearance, Citadel seemed a strange home for the Moffs with the label's roots firmly planted in Detroit rock and acid punk soil (although Died Pretty had already shaken customer preconceptions.) Label owner John Needham was never bound by a view that his imprint might be stuck in the garage although The Moffs were on a different road than their somewhat comparable labelmates, the Stems, whose influences seemed infinitely more American (and ultimately poppier.)
An abiding memory for me from Moffs shows were the clumps of fans sitting on pub floors. This was weird, if not bordering on suicide in some rooms where gentle souls ran the risk of being trampled to death or remaining stuck to beer-sodden carpet until homicidal and impatient bouncers swept them out at closing time, along with the usual quotient of crushed KB cans and comatose drunks. They might have seemed like strangely-dressed shift workers catching up on their rest but many Moffs fans were, of course, stoned out of their gourds (or at least pretending to be.) Paisley shirt sales tripled in the space of a month as word-of-mouth spread and if you didn't wear winklepickers, the doorman - there were no door bitches back then - probably wouldn't let you in.
An EP and two almost equally strong singles followed "A Day In The Sun" but the Moffs seemed to have run out of steam by the time their debut album "Labyrinth" appeared in 1988. Reviews were less positive at home (although the overseas critics still loived them - no mean feat in a pre-Internet worls.) The Moffs never flew far from their Australian digs and died the following year, briefly re-animating in 1994 and 2008.
Success was brief for the Moffs but their music has outlived their lifespan. This 30-song, double-disc compilation on Sydney legacy label Feelpresents is long overdue and deserves attention outside the circle of aging throwbacks (guilty as charged, Your Honour) who surrender their souls to the Digital Age and update their scratchy vinyl at most opportunities.
There's almost too much here to soak up in one sitting but it's dated very well. Band-leader Tom Kazas was a terrific songwriter and underrated, droning guitarist who always had talented players populating the band's seemingly ever-changing ranks. As well as the band's entire vinyl output, "The Collection" compiles the little-heard "11 To 5", a cassette-only precursor that pegs the band's Yardbirds/Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac earliest origins.
Co-compilers Kazas and Tim Pittman haven't stuck to the way these songs came out chronologically, moving them around to fit the sonic flow. It's a hypnotic listen at times with keyboardists Nick Potts and then Scott Byrnes (plus a few others) being integral to the sound.
Much of "The Collection" sounds like it would have been at home with The Creation or Syd at the UFO in swinging London, not gobbling a tab at Sydney's Graphic Arts Club or the Sutho Royal. Back in the '80s, this was my concept of what psych sounded like - and it was most definitely NOT about inflatable pigs, money, crazy diamonds and the excesses of latter-day (then contemporary) Pink Floyd.
The Moffs' three singles ("Another Day...", "The Traveler" and ""Flowers") were my picks of their back catalogue and they've been mastered up just right. "The Meadowsong Part 1", the trippy cover of "Eight Miles High" and the warped slide guitar of "Tomorrow Never Knows" are other high-points in 200 minutes of beautifully archaic yet timeless music. - The Barman
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