WILD ABOUT YOU – Various Artists (UAR/3CR Radio/Weather Records/City of Melbourne)
This is a flat-out wonderful compilation, a gathering of Melbourne bands via the medium of community radio station 3CR, to give a nod to the ‘60s punk Australian music scene. Enthusiast Iain McIntyre is the driving force behind it, and it’s accompanied by a 116-page book (more on that in our Book 'em Danno section soon), which is close to indispensable for anyone with an interest in the subject because it’s brimful of personal reflections by people who were there.

Seventeen tracks recorded live in the 3CR studio and they’re all winners, to some degree. A goodly proportion of these Melbourne bands will be known outside of their own fertile backyard – The Drones, The Double Agents, The Naked Eye, The Mystaken and Shutdown 66. Add the soon-to-be-better-known Digger and the Pussycats (spirited bent blues duo) and The Lords of Gravity (latest venture for ex-Hands of Tyme/Seminal Rats and current Stoneage Hearts member Ian Wettenhall) and you have a pretty substantial line-up. But the story doesn’t end there and the lesser-known (to me) acts provide some of the quirkier moments.

There’s absolutely no point debating the influence the ‘60s underground scene, and what was going down in Melbourne in particular, has had on what’s followed. Its beginnings were in bands besotted with, firstly, the instrumental surf sound and, in quick time, the beat bands that exploded out of the UK. That was understandable in a musical culture still in search of an identity and a population brimful with migrants from England. It’s also a given that a great many Australian bands hopelessly aped overseas bands with set chockfull of obligatory cover songs. But somehow, the better, innovative bands rose to the top (or stayed buried), and that’s what’s being documented here. There have certainly been eruptions of various “scenes” since then, but most owe a debt to this moment in time.

Don’t expect slavish covers of old radio fodder tunes. Most of these songs, have turned only up only on obscure, sometimes semi-legal compilations (“Devil’s Children”, “Pretty Ugly”, “It’s a Kave-in” and the authoritative “Ugly Things”), but most of the contemporary bands have wisely chosen to mix them up. Consequently, you’ll hear a different take on songs by The Throb, The Tol-puddle Martyrs, The Atlantics and the Missing Links (and they’re the most popular with three covers – “Wild About You”, “Drivin’ Me Insane” and the groundbreaking backwards-masked “H’Tuom Tubs”).

Killer take on The Moods’ “Rum Drunk” by The Mystaken (why isn't Sally Bailey a major star?) and more must be heard from The Lords of Gravity and soon, if their “Black” (by The Throb) is an indication. Best use of French bagpipes goes to The Gruntled on “Drivin’ Me Insane”, while Thee Stag Knights handle the well-worn “C’mon” by The Atlantics with no subtlety but heaps of spirit.
The Double Agents obviously won a ballot for the rights to cover “I Want, Need, Love You” because it’s THE stand-out song (have a listen to The Black Diamonds’ original and see if I’m wrong), while pop/percussionists ninetynine provide the lightest touch to The Atlantics’ “It’s a Hard Life” to deliver a slice of haunting pop. Most unhinged track: The Lucy Parsons Experience had a head start by covering "H'Tuom Tubs" but at 6min long it does drag on. Go Genre Everything get to the point quicker with their arty "No" (a Toni McCann song), but what the point is I'm not entirely sure.

This was partly funded by the City of Melbourne Council. How enlightened is that? You can read more here. If you want a copy, try the usual Melbourne shops or drop 3CR a line. Buy the CD/Book from 3CR for $25 (incuding postage) by calling 9419 8377 or posting a cheque for $Aus25 directly to 'Community Radio Federation - Wild About You!", P.O Box 1277, Collingwood VIC 3066. If you’re overseas, try e-mailing the Special Projects Coordinator. Wholeheartedly recommended. The Barman