GREATEST - Summer Suns (House of Wax)
Wish it were the case that Melodic Guitar Pop was The Next Big Thing in contemporary music. It's just about the only thing that increasingly desperate major label marketers haven't cottoned onto to keep their fragmenting business model afloat.

Summer Suns are neither a new band or even a going concern but let's not tell the tastemeisters. This is truly quality stuff from 1986-95 and if we keep schtumm, some unsuspecting knucklehead might even play this posthumous collection on commercial radio.

Summer Suns were one of the Perth Crew, a collective of '60s-influenced pop-rock zealots who sprung forth from the World's Most Isolated Capital City in the mid-to-late '80s. Summer Suns are what happens when you pair a recently ex-Stem (Dom Mariani) with a folk rock loving record store guy (Kim Williams.) The pair hit it off and formed a band with Martin Moon (drums) and Steve Kyme (bass) the other elements in the first line-up. Williams was the writer and the one constant member.

The band's debut single "Rachel Anne" b/w "Honey Pearl" was (and still is) a dizzying double dose of janglepop magic that (again) focussed a global spotlight on Perth. Mariani moved on, with his other bands (Someloves especially) requiring his undivided attention. I'm betting the fact Summer Suns were exclusively William's songwriting vehicle was a factor too. Sometimes bands just aren't big enough for two talented composers.

And Kim sure did write some good 'uns, as this collection shows. Post-Dom, Summer Suns had a revolving cast with some of Perth's notable pop presences, er, populating the ranks. It's a shame they never got out of their home state but we never had a Freddie Laker in Australia back then so cheap fares didn't abound. The only tickets discounted in those days were only for rides on local buses and you had to be over 65 to buy one.

Tyranny of distance notwithstanding, Summer Suns suffered from being on a range of labels (the CD slick mentions seven, including Kim's own House of Wax imprint.) In the Digital Age it might not matter so much but back then it was hard to keep track of what was out and where. Most of these tracks have a huge familiarity about them (even the songs I missed first time around) and a stunning consistency considering how many different people played on them. Plus I always had a soft spot for the "Girl in a Mexican Restaurant" B side of the "All Away" single on Waterfront.

A few tracks are on the slight side time-wise and sound like ideas rather than fully-realised songs but if you can live with that little idiosyncrasy (and you should) you'll find "Greatest" a rewarding listen. Williams' own brief liners say that the band's output seemed to appeal equally to "fans of the twee and fans of the tough" and he's not wrong. Williams' understated vocal style never overshadows the songs and the jangling Ricks and 12-strings evoke a timeless folk-pop sound.

You might argue that paisley pop and the purest powerpop had their day in the '80s but it's more valid to say this stuff has never really gone away. - The Barman





BACK TO THE REVIEWS PAGE

BACK TO THE BAR