LIVE AT THE ESPLANADE - Lime Spiders (Figtree Music)
Call me a curmudgeon, I couldn't care less, but here's a live recording from the Golden Age (the '80s) of Australian underground rock with a real reason for living.

Being revered is fine for some, irrelevant to others. and If the Lime Spiders never played another note they'd be remembered for "Slave Girl", a bona fide gem that still raises the hackles or the hair on the back of the neck, depending on what side of the post-modern, university gender studies divide you happened to sit. For the record I thought the Helen Reddy League took the lyrics waaaaay too seriously and had burned their sense of humour with their bras. If you don't like that, tough titties - and you probably know where to send the flame email.

So nine years later, why issue a live record of a reformation gig? Because it's so great, ya big galoot....

A handful of unmastered tracks from this had been changing hands in collector circles for years. The leaks were enough to convince anyone old/astute enough to care that this was a recording that would be worth hearing. The rough mixes didn't lie and in its full, mastered glory this Spiders show is pure gold. Much credit to James Killpatrick, esteemed live sound guy who captured a stellar performance.

For a band with a career-proper that spanned more than a decade-and-a-half, the Spiders were amazingly consistent. So the mid-term "Volatile" suffered through flat production and some so-so songs; "Beethoven's First" remains an underrated hard rock classic. The debut, "The Cave Comes Alive", was thoroughly enjoyable and quite adventurous, even if the studio shaved back some of the phenomenal live power. (I know at the time that I wished they'd just put "Action Woman" on tape live and be done with it - read the review below if you want to suck up some revisionism that's overtaken the hotheaded impetuousness of youth.) Outside the albums and going back even further, the "25th Hour" double EP peeled paint and was better than the band was live, at that early stage.

The good news is that the track selection on "Live..." spans the best of the albums, and also picks the eyes out of the Spiders' prodigious list of covers. The guitars are right up in the mix, the bottom end thumps and crunches (Tony Bambach wasa mighty bass-player) and Mick Blood's amazing vocals slice through the middle ground with enough savage presence to raze a small city block. Which has happened to half of St Kilda since the Spiders played there.

"I Was Alone", "Children of the Sun", "He's Waiting", "You Burn Me Up and Down" and "Action Woman" were written by other people (Google them or ask Frank at Mojo Music if you're in doubt) but the Lime Spiders (a.) made them their own and (b.) inadvertently used them to introduce myriad beer barn-dwelling young suburban Australians to the joys of '60s punk. (I know - I'm one of them.)

They're all here - this take on "He's Waiting" in particular wipes the floor with all comers - and the only regret is that they haven't reprised Alice's "Still Got a Long Way To Go." All fitting for a band that took its original lead from the Rob Younger-led Other Side, whose set list was largely covers of songs they loved.

Guitars share centre stage with vocals and it's an honorable draw. Plenty of bands have tried "Career of Evil". Few of them sounded like their singer just polished off a beer with Drano chaser. Take a bow - and you too, Messrs Corben and Sparks.

Turning to the originals and both "Old Dog, New Tricks" and "Silent Partner" outstrip the LP versions for pure foot-to-the-floor power. You even get two newies (at least they were then) in the mid-paced fractured pop song "Society of Soul" and "The Dead Boys", the latter a tribute to fallen musical heroes.

Of course "Slave Girl" is here and of course it sounds fantastic.

One more thing. There are 24 songs on this. Can you believe it? There's been a noticeable trend in recent years for bands to put less on an 80-minute CD, not more, and to be fair there was a hell of a lot of crap foisted on us in the early days of the digital format just because there was lots of space on a silver disc. That's not the case here. Nuh-uh. Notwithstanding the usual nostalgic zeal you get dished up in the I-94 Bar, these two-dozen tunes leave me wanting more. A more vital recording from a decade ago you won't cross paths with in 2007. - The Barman



 

NINE MILES HIGH 1983-90 - The Lime Spiders (Raven)
On their night, the second generation, "serious" incarnations of the Lime Spiders (post Southern Cross band competition win) were one of the most exciting things on the block. In those heady days of Sydney in the mid-1980s, it seemed that every second pub - inner-city and suburban - boasted a band with a fuzzbox and a working knowledge of the Nuggets album. The Spiders arguably knew their 60s punk better than anyone and played it with a rare sense of venom and intensity, borrowing large lashings of attitude from Rob Younger’s post Birdman band the Other Side.

Even allowing for latter-day forays into quasi-heavy metal territory, constant line-up changes, the (unfair) loss of street cred that accompanied their signing to a major label and mistakes like the ill-advised dub mix of "Volatile" (what were they thinking?), the Spiders have a body of work to envy. He might have not been the most dynamic mover to take to a stage but Mick Blood's razor blade vocals and unmatchable screams (only Screaming Tribesman Mick Medew came close) gave them a distinct edge. Formidable guitar talents like the mercurial Richard Jakimiszyn and a monster engine were other elements that worked.

This long overdue retrospective from Raven couldn't have come at a better time. With garage music The Current Thing, compiler Ian McFarlane has picked the eyes out of their three albums and slew of singles to come up with 26 tracks that roar. It's roughly chronological and the liner notes are the best history of the band you'll find.

But it's the music you're here for. I can still remember the day I bought "The Cave Comes Alive" and rushing it onto the turntable of a very shitty sound system. Disappointment followed. The production was way too clean, coming after the "25th Hour" double 7" and the stinging right cross that was the "Slave Girl" 45. The treated studio noise between tracks (a very ‘60s concept) seemed more than a little wanky. Live, "Ignore Me" and "Action Woman" were some of the band's finest moments, but on record they lacked the out-and-out guitar crunch. Nearly 20 years down the track, the four cuts from that album that made it here ("Ignore Me" is left off) sound a little hotter and not nearly so deflating. With 20-20 hindsight, "The Cave..." WAS a great album - and these tracks show it.

The Spiders' best moments, for mine, came on singles and hard-to-find B sides, so obscurities like "Can't You Read My Mind" and "Mr Big Mouth" sit well alongside the tried-and-true "My Favourite Room" and "Save My Soul". There are four tracks from the second album and they're the pick of that litter, the "Volatile" disc arguably being a lesser moment in the songwriting stakes. "Nine Miles High and "Cherry Red" make the cut from the neglected swansong studio album, "Beethoven's Fist", and go off a treat.

The Spiders were undeniably influential. A rash of Sydney garage bands grew up in their trail and, for a while, they were the most popular draw on the burgeoning local all-age gig circuit. In Europe, where "Slave Girl" was a considerable seller, they're still spoken about in awe. In the States, the Goo Goo Dolls even covered the tune, apparently making for a nice royalties earner for Mick Blood. Estrus label boss Dave Crider even plays in a Seattle band whose set is made up almost entirely of Lime Spiders originals and covers. This collection still sounds fresh and undated. Lower the lights, slip on your paisely shirt (if it still fits) and pointed shoes and crank it up. - The Barman

3/4

 

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