GOLDEN ORANGE LAUGHTER - The Neptunes (Illustrious Artists)
Living in the most isolated capital city in the world, Perth, Australia, in the 1980s was both a blessing and a curse for bands. Removed from some of the more obvious trends, that city (and the nearby port of Fremantle) had an enviable record of turning some amazing talents (the Stems, the Scientists and future members of the Hoodoo Gurus among them), as well as outfits whose flame burned only briefly, unwilling or unable as the players might have been of relocating to the bright(er) lights of Sydney or Melbourne.

You'd have to include Perth's Neptunes in the latter category, with fleeting appearances on the Citadel label (two EPs) attracting attention from the eastern Australian states that never translated to the major label migration made by contemporaries like the Stems. Perhaps the Neptunes were never intending to make a bigger splash. A part-time band, they provided the soundtrack to instant parties at local pubs with their infectious brand of surf-meets-the-'60s-garage-wave. This release, wrapping up their Citadel output with tracks recorded in Perth's ABC studios, puts them in proper context.

The most prominent names in the Neptunes belong to Greg Hitchcock and David Shaw (Bamboos/Monarchs and the Stems respectively). Drumming duties are divided between Shaw and Martin Moon. Jamie Perry handles vocals (on the songs that have words, that is) and has a similar sound and range to Dave Faulkner, coincidentally enough.

The Neptunes' sound lies somewhere between surf-tinged garage-beat and pure surf, three cuts ("Stormaline", "Hydrophobia" and "Endless Summer") being instrumentals. The guitarwork is clean, the delivery well mannered. The material the Neptunes played was good, if sometimes a little understated. "My Mermaid" is a surf version of the Screaming Tribesmen's landlubbing "Date With a Vampyre" without the guitar fireworks. "Searchin' " bears a close resemblance to early Gurus with David Shaw doing a credible James Baker on drums (but keeping better time) while "Jump in the Water" is bubblegum surf with no pretensions.

Ricky Mason and Greg Hitchcock had a good thing going on guitars. "Wait for the Sun" presents them at their most polished on a low-key piece of sunny pop with additional flamenco guitar by Sam Lemann.

Full marks to expat West Australian Rusty Hopkinson for unearthing the Neptunes' output and giving it a release on his boutique label. If you're into the underground guitar sound that Australian bands did so well in the '80s and want to unearth some of the more obscure exponents, the Neptunes are a great beach to wash up on. - The Barman




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