GOOLUTOINITES AND THE REAL PEOPLE - Taman Shud (Aztec Music)
Consider the Australian musical schoolyard of the late 1960s to mid-'70s: If Blues is the all-knowing older student smoking at the back of the toilet block who comes to morning assembly smelling of booze and already has three girls up the duff, Classical is the highly-strung snob who's poised to go straight into a high-paying job in his dad's bank, while Disco is the fruity and slightly over-the-top poser with ADHD.

Prog Rock is the nerd who'd spend all day playing dungeons and dragons if he didn't feel the need occasionally to opt out of classes to quietly expand his mind.

Prog was a popular student for a while. Nowadays, he gets a bad wrap for playing games that were just that bit elaborate for anyone who wasn't a virtuoso and for hanging out with perpetually unfashionable Jazz. Wasn't that snotty new kid Punk, who came to school in third term, supposed to kick Prog's flares-wearing arse out onto the street?

Which is where Taman Shud comes in. Sandwiched between the demise of Beat and the arrival in Australia of a race called the Hippies, who couldn't make up their minds if they were (a.) going to change the planet by doing very little or (b.) just doing very little - including washing. The Shud were the band-of-choice of these terminal under-achievers and were just about the most exciting thing around - until Lobby Loyde, Thorpie and festival/pub rock caught the attention of the Great Unwashed and became the Next Big Thing (sick of the capitalised cliches yet?)

Which isn't to say that you can't enjoy Taman Shud on a whole different level these days, free of the prejudices that you might brought to punk and post-punk parties. )I actually never heard this album played at a punk or post-punk party. Taman Shud and I got to know each other a few years ago when I stumbled on an illiciy version of the Goolutionites.)

Taman Shud was a descendent of Aussie '60s band The Sunsets, whose "Hot Generation" will be familiar to Pandoras, Celibate Rifles, Psychotic Turnbuckles and, yes, even contemporary New Christs fans. The band's driving force was Lindsay Bjerre on vocals, rhythm guitar and songwriting.

Bjerre's one of Oz rock's most intriguing characters, eventually casting acid/prog rock for acoustic bands and ultimately a career in mime theatre. I don't know what he's up to now but maybe he could teach the alleged performers on the next series of Australian Idol to shut the fuck up.

It was late in the '60s when Bjerre and The Sunsets staged their own Summer of Love during an acid-drenched, extended residency at a club on the Queensland Gold Coast and returned to Sydney, radically re-shaped, tighter and with an evolved line-up. Now playing a mix of medium-to-heavy rock with raga and jazz undercurrents and re-named Taman Shud after a phrase in a Persian chariot repair manual, they set about providing soundtracks to surfing movies and trippy hippy tribal gatherings on a circuit of now long-defunct function rooms and theatres.

"Goolutonites and the Real People" arrived in 1970 and is that much-maligned animal, the Concept Album. It's about environmentalism, using as its villains a breed of people called the Goolutionites. While it might be tempting to view them as forerunners to the Scientologists, or the very least Tom Cruise, they are in fact "polluters" (Goolution = Pollution, geddit?) So that puts Taman Shud in the position of a mushroom-munching '60s version of Al Gore (sorry, the typically florid Glenn A. Baker description of them as the Midnight Oil of their day, alluded to in the liners, is just too much to bear.)

Musically, I'm betting my environmentally-friendly, rubber band-powered hippy Kombi van, a vat of last week's lentils and a sack-full of ashes that the feature of "Goolutionites and the Real People" that will most warm the environment of I-94 Bar patrons is the sensational guitar-work of teen prodigy Tim Gaze who joined the Shud at the tender age of age 15. Consider the phrase "wise beyond his years" as you listen to the vibrant lead on "Stand in the Sunlight" or the jazzy "Goolutionites Theme Part 2".

While Taman Shud went down a more delicate path as their line-up expanded to include piano, sax and flute, the bulk of this package (the full album, a 1972 single, three cuts from the "Morning of the Earth" surf film soundtrack - with Gaze's vocals replaced by those of Broderick Smith in post-recording, incidentally - and four live tracks) is relatively rocking.

I'm going to take a punt and say that this one will pass muster with all but the most narrow-minded punks or metal-heads. Best of all, the Shud pre-dated the worst excesses of prog rock and there's not a Yes-styled synth to be heard. I still can't come to grips with the occasional flute, however. - The Barman






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