WAS THE BEGINNING – The End (Citadel)
It would be a pity if this release only hit the spot with Died Pretty fans and underground rock geek/collector scum historians because it’s deserving of better than that. The End was the first substantive band for Died Pretty guitarist Brett Myers and a handful of these songs (“Just Skin”, “This Reason”, “Through My Heart” and “Lost”) were later recorded by the latter group.
So here’s the context: The End was born in Brisbane in 1979 and fizzled out in Sydney in ’83. Myers played guitar, sang and wrote the original songs. The band spawned a single and a live cassette, and played shows with the likes of The GoBetweens, The 31st, The Riptides and The Apartments. On a good night in Sydney, you could have seen them at The Strawberry Hills or the Trade Union Club. Those footnotes are probably where the story would have ended if not for the success of Died Pretty, whose earliest line-up was a partial carry-over from the Brisbane version of The End.
“Was The Beginning” is a two CD set of mostly live and occasionally studio tracks. The 45 (“My Confession” b/w “White World”) in its stark post-punk poise. The A side is fairly straight-up while the flip adds violin and some meandering rhythmic paths. It’s stating the obvious that Myers was (is) a Velvets fan. There are four VU covers, plus songs originally recorded by Nico and John Cale, across these two discs.
The VU was all about the songs, whether it was the sublime pop-rock of “Loaded” or the banana album or the offensive, needles-in-the-red dissonance of “White Light White Heat”, and so too The End were a “songs” band. Some of them were clearly works-in-progress when performed and captured here but they’ve aged well. Myers carries the tunes and of course plays guitar to great effect.
The End was two distinct bands, one arguably slightly experimental and the other “rock”. Murray Davis’ dinky keys add a playfulness to the original line-up which also included the starting-line engine room for Died Pretty (Jonathan Licklliter and Colin Barwick.) In the band’s Sydney life, David Rowley’s surging drum fills and the sinewy bass-lines of Cameron Hume pushed The End in a more straight-forward, rock direction, bolstered by a second guitarist in Jonathan Purcell. The 1983 recording of “What Goes On” at the Sydney Trade Union Club by this line-up in particular is worth bottling.
Died Pretty fans will be fascinated by these embryonic takes on “Just Skin” (a studio recording actually close to how the future band played it live before committing it to tape) and “Through My Heart”, the latter a rehearsal version that was, even then, fully formed. “Lost” is a gem, too. Recording quality – even on the life stuff that was presumably captured on cassette - is surprisingly good throughout.
It almost goes without saying that this collection shows the bridge between The End and Died Pretty wasn’t that great. Add the mercurial – and sometimes brittle, especially in the early days - presence of Ron Peno and, well, you had a band-and-a-half. Above all this collection is a reminder that, in their own right, The End weren’t half bad either. - The Barman