MAXIMUM BEAT: SHINDIGGERS - Shindiggers (Off the Hip)
In a conversation as recent as last week with someone who should know, the opinion was ventured that the '70s are passe and it's the '80s that's interesting people who buy music of the garage/punk/lower-fi variety. So how's that place a long-dead band like Melbourne's Shindiggers who played '60s beat in the '80s and '90s in the minds of discerning if receptive music buyers? Pretty well, it seems.

Sixties beat is a bottomless well of inspiration for almost any band of worth that wasn't there, especially one that's willing to rough it up and spit it out as energetically as Shindiggers did. This shit twangs and tremoloes its way across two discs in seemingly effortless manner. Truth be known, the music was fueled by a massive work ethic as well as the sort of alcohol consumption levels that present-day Australian Governments would seek to educate and/or tax out of existence. So take it seriously - the Shindiggers did.

Growing out of the Melbourne retro scene, the Shindiggers popped up in 1983 and stood in stark contrast to the angst of bands in the Birthday Party school or the Gun Club-soaked blues rock of the Smackery, er Wreckery et al. This was music more at home with a slab than a fit with more in common with The Milkshakes than the MC5. Guitarist Pete Andrews had his chops down and custom-made engine room Steve Agar (bass) and Spud Wildman kept it loose but tight. Bill Leggett's booming wildman vocals fitted so wlel.

Shindiggers churned out a series of furiously up-beat EPs and an album on Sydney's Waterfront label (an unlikely home, you'd have to say, but one that gave them two-city exposure in those rather less global days) before calling it a day. They re-surfaced in slightly reconfigured form in 1996, bonding with a modestly-sized but enthusiastic wave of frat rock/beat/surf outfits in Melbourne and Sydney ridden by bands like The Exotics and the Thurston Howlers.

All the Shindiggers' recorded output seems to be here - tight as a fish's arsehole beat pop and unpretentious garage rock liberally sprinkled with choice covers (the Pretty Things' "Don't Bring Me Down", Roy Head's "Treat Her Right", Lord Screaming Sutch's "Black And Hairy") in mostly studio but occasionally live form. The latter-day live tracks show what a tight combo they were.

There are no surprises here but nor should you expect any. Shindiggers played it straight and energetic but never set out to push any boundaries other than those set up by The Fun Police.

Timing's everything and I can't help thinking had they been a touch luckier, Shindiggers might have carved out the sort of audience enjoyed by The Living End. Enjoy what they left behind and don't feel guilty for enjoying it.- The Barman






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