No Night Sweats N o  N i g h t  S w e a t s No Night Sweats
Sydney's Post-Punk Bands
I Like Music
Slapp Happy are Terrific
A List of CDs
Text is What I Write
Crime Fiction is Silly
[ Dermot's Reviews ]
Here are a few reviews of bands by Dermot Browne - friend, flat-mate and guitarist from Famous.

Scattered Order - San Miguel - 19.5.84

The congenial gurgle of the drinking audience was cut rudely short when Scattered Order bounced onto the stage. A frightening howl, possibly (not definitely), human, tore through the P.A. People rushed forward deserting tables and conversations to satisfy their curiosity. A quiet chat and a Scattered Order show don't belong in the same room.

Since Shane's departure Scattered Order's sound has been reduced to skin and bone. Every element stripped bare and laid open. Now the only hints of melody come from Drew's simple, delicate keyboard progressions and Craig's stormy, tireless bass playing. The combination of 'real' percussive devices with electronic drums lends the familiar relentless beat a more humane balance.

The vocals, something most people find contentious to say the least, were monotonous, gravelly and almost totally incomprehensible. But Mitch's way of singing(?) is honest and unpretentious. I'd rather  that than the false English and American accents resorted to by many lesser bands. The sound quality at the San Miguel was excellent. The mix was always clean and crisp, not the usual combination of jumbo jets and mud. They are embracing a well ordered and dynamic fusion of panic and patience.

Moral Fibro / Scapa Flow - Sydney Trade Union - 6.7.84

Moral Fibro are a glorious frustration. Delightfully melodic and hopelessly shambolic. Moral Fibro combine the tripartite dreams and schemes of Jill O'Meara (ex Tame O'Mearas), Gordon Renouf (ex Wild West) and that enigmatic, incorrigible Patrick Gibson.

Moral Fibro's 'concept', for want of a better word, states that these three young musicians are to be continually augmented by an ever-changing brood of guest artists. Sadly, most great ideas, like this one, lose their potency when translated from 'imagined' to 'perceived'. This constant flux should herald diversity, variety and multiplicity but at the Trade it only meant confusion. Too often they just don't mesh, they mush.

Moral Fibro can write wonderfull pop songs in spite of problems like vague, intermittent, dot-to-dot drumming and flat, falling trumpets. The different vocal styles, in particular the garish, goose-stepping gasps of Cath and Helen seem to be surrealistically mismatched with the music. It's like having Joan Collins in 'A Country Practise'. Not believable and ultimately to the detriment of both parties. I think Cathy's unique manner was far better suited to the rocky confines of the powerfull 'Chopped Up'. I digress.

This is not to say that Moral Fibro are bad. I know they are great. They are one of the few bands in Sydney who play witty, intelligent and worthy music. Their songs are similar in style to the pop music of bands like Pale Fountains, Weekend and to a lesser extent the Orange Juice/post-Postcard genre. With a steadier rhythm section one could dance to Moral Fibro. But as it stands, the drums make dancing a risky if not impossible task.

There is always a warm, familiar charm about Moral Fibro's self depreciating amateurism. Patrick's quips are a guaranteed giggle. But I think Moral Fibro can be better than a joke. No need for apologetics. They are close enough to pop music to know that, while it can't be taken seriously, it is still one of the important facets of people's lives.

Go and see them.

Scapa Flow are back. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, or more precisely, like a trained parrot that says nothing but "who's a pretty boy then!!". What can I say? I liked their records... they played real tight... they had a good sound... Um?

Scapa Flow drove me, and countless others before me, downstairs to the relative calm of the head-splitting, coin-spitting poker machines. There was something sinister and dark about Scapa Flow. A string relentless sound. Too much for this boys weak ears. Have you ever been run over by a truck full of music?

All the members of Scapa Flow are technically precise musicians. And the intricate melodrama of their guitars did vaguely impress me for at least five minutes. But the overall effect is not dissimilar to drowning in sand.

Especially when they dug up the supplicating 2nd bass guitar. Two bass guitars, a good idea, right?...Wrong. The sound of this instrument is filed somewhere between 'drill' and 'fart' in the encyclopedia of 'rocks' most horrible noises.

All this chest bashing gusto left me cold. They were simply awesome, or something else. A perfect marriage between Frederick Nietzsche and Big Country.

No I didn't like them much at all but what do you expect from a Billy Idol fan.

Maestros and Dipsos - Trade Union Club

Maestros and Dipsos are a bright bustling idiosyncratic pop-rock band. Although they have been playing in Sydney for over 6 months they are still virtually unknown. This will change. They combine an impressive musical heritage that draws from Wild West, Like Unruly Children and Pel Mel. Describing their music is difficult. After a brief statement like "um...really good" my usual sparkling fountain of verbiage dries up.

Well diluted snippets of Beefheart, The Raincoats and the Fire Engines spring to mind while they play. As do subtle fractured hints of Sly Stone and the Velvet Underground. This is not to suggest that their songs are like these other bands; they just seem to approach melody and language with a similar sense of pioneering intelligence.

That Maestros and Dipsos sound even slightly familiar is in itself surprising. The band is a heady amalgam of polarized musical tastes. Ashley's singing floats easily in and around the songs. Debbie's moves swiftly with assured, well measured grace. Lindsay plays ambitious melodic guitar, devoid of heroics and pretence. The rhythm section, Ian Cummings on bass and Gordon Renouf on drums, is a beguilingly simple fascination. As with the whole band generally there is a hidden depth to their playing. Eacj time Maestros and Dipsos play I've discovered more and more within their songs. Layers waiting to be unveiled. How far do you want to go?

If like me you are morbidly depressed by the sulking bulk of crap being thrashed out in the name of art and fun today you could do nothing but good by visiting this band.Admittedly watching a band in a reeking hell like the Trade can be traumatic. But these boys and girls can and do transcend their squalid surroundings. Maestros and Dipsos are offering you and I and intelligent and exciting alternative to hairy types being gorillas in pubs and chinless types being goats in clubs.

Nowhere to go but up.

Dermot's potted History Of Famous (all spellings as per the email)

Famous formed in Sydney in 1984.

Members  previous bands included
ya ya choral
pel mel
via venito
swami binton/fruitshop

First gig was supporting Maestros and Dipsos at the long gone, and rarely lamented, Yugal Soccer Club near Central Station. Who could forget that whacked-out Polynesian sunset wallpaper!

Last gig was a rather tragic birthday party for a drug-fucked scenester at the Labor Club in Surry Hills. 

In between, Famous played to ever an dwindling numbers of mildly bemused punters at all the required inner city dens, dives and dumps including the Trade, the Hopetown, the Palace Hotel, the Strawberry Hills, the Graphic Arts Club, the Evening Star, several clubs in Kings X that probably didn't even have names. Famous even travelled as far afield as Mortdale and Newcastle, to more mild bemusement.

As well doing their own gigs, Famous shared the stage with many interseting bands including, 
Maestros and Dipsos 
Severed Heads
Scattered Order
John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong
The Tall Shirts
Plug Uglies
Lonely Sheep
Craven Fops

The musical influences at play in Famous were quite varied, and often contradictory, and along with whatever was in vogue that week, included;

jangly UK pop (Orange Juice, Smiths, Buzzcocks)
disco (Shanon, Chic)
classic alt.rock (Velvets, Beefheart)
electronic / odd funk (New Order, Certain Ratio)
country / rockabilly (Patsy Cline / Sun Records stuff)
Brazilian / grown up music (Astrid Gilberto / Nino Rota / John Cage)

At first, Famous played only originals, but as the years wore on they began to interpret/murder a wide range well known songs including:

Frankie Teardrop (Suicide)
What Presence? (Orange Juice)
Red Cadilac & Black Mustache (Carl Perkins?)
Slow Moon's Rose (Slap Happy)
My World is Empty (the Supremes)
My Head is My Only House Unless it Rains (Capt. Beefheart)
Venus (Shocking Blue)
Touch Me (The Doors)
Jeanne  (The Smiths)
His Latest Flame (Elvis)

Famous described in the local music press (Ram  / On the Street etc) around 1985 as; 
"guitar pop oddness" 
"smartarse dilettantism" 
"a gawkilly relaxed mood of weirdness and accessibility"
"three parts Smiths, one part bent humour" 
"M Squared cronies and hangers-on"
"clever appealing and gifted"
"pop gone strange"
"lazy air of informality about them ....balancing the humour with songs of powerful pop beauty"

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