responses we've had so far for the re-releases:
Stop It! Vol II"
Back for a second round-up of forgotten classics from Australia's post-punk period, Chapter Music has shifted the temporal goalposts slightly this time round, focusing in on the 1979-84 period, filling in a few gaps in the first collection and unearthing hitherto inconceivably rare material along the way. After an incinerating blast of thrashy drum machine garage rock by Systematics, International Exiles brew up some grade-A pop with their Roxy Music-influenced 'Let's Be Sophisticated', which as the title suggests smoothes over the coarse charms of so many of the DIY acts revisited here. Taking a very different approach is Asphixiation's 'The Crush', which inhabits the more electronic end of the new wave spectrum, driven almost exclusively by synths and lo-fi drum machines. It sounds alarmingly in-step with the sort of gritty no-fi disco garage you might hear from contemporary artists - like the sort of thing that might show up on Kill Rock Stars in fact. In contention for the Daftest Name award this time round are The Goat That Went "Om" (whose 'The Pirate Song' is a kind of alt-rock, calypso sea chantey) and Brr Cold (with 'Mother At War', featuring the sort of jolting, jazzed-up time changes John McEntire would balk at). Of course there's still an abundance of jagged guitar pop here - check out the surf rock stylings of Tactics' 'Watch My Hands' for an especially impressive instance of that - but most peculiarly, one of the outright highlights of this volume comes from Can't Stop It! Vol.1 veterans Essendon Airport, whose jumbled-up swingtime punk incorporates looping sax riffs and very un-punk elaborate drumming. Clearly by the time the band had got to this point they'd evolved considerably from the sort of ramshackle format they had once experimented with, and that only goes to show how broad and sophisticated the music from this scene had become over a relatively brief period of time. A worthy follow-up to the original, there's a rich abundance of largely undiscovered treats to be found here. Essential.
Stop It! Vol II"
Having a co-worker with similar taste in music is always a nice perk. However, having a co-worker who has a second job at a sweet record store is even better. Because he picks up/orders in albums that I may not otherwise know about and then sends it in my direction since I'm likely to agree with his assertions that such and such an album is incredibly awesome.
Well, I'm passing the torch on this particular incredibly awesome album. Because yes kids, the Australian post-punk songs on this album are exactly as good as you might think. Australian post-punk kind of came into its own during this particular time period as far as distinguishing itself from its British and American counterparts. But you knew that right? No? Yeah, neither did I. In fact, I'd never heard of any of the 20 bands on this disc...nor had I known that volume one of this series had come out in 2002.
But the important thing here is that this disc has owned me for the past few days and I'm hoping that the post-punk lovers among you will enjoy these tracks as much as I have.
Systematics - International Voltage
Tactics - Watch My Hands
Solipsik - See Saw
(these 3 were mp3 download shares)
Stop It! Vol II"
In the tradition of the Inner City Sound compilation, the Can’t Stop It! series uncovers lost Australian post-punk gold in an attempt to remind the world that we’re not all Jet and Wolfmother.
As post-punk is a relatively broad church, one can expect to find some genuine gems within, as well as a few stinkers as is usual with such compilations. The good thing about Can’t Stop It is the detailed liner noted which charts the histories of the bands featured. For example, we find out that the electro-post-pop fusion of The International Exiles is linked to Paul Hester – the Crowded House drummer who passed away about two years ago, and the David Ayres of The Goat That Went ‘Om’ passed away in ’89 when the boat he was capsized in the River Thames. We also hear Lisa Gerard of Dead Can Dance fame in her formative years fronting Microfilm, Hunters & Collectprs’ frontman Mark Seymour’s early project The Jetsonnes, and an early incarnation of industrial-dance outfit Severed Heads.
Such trivia not only satisfies the rocknerd within us all and can be used as advantage when playing Spicks & Specks, but also reminds us of our past. And as the saying goes; “If you don’t we’re you’re from, how can you know where you’re going?”
Thanks Jay - glad you like the site...
If it weren’t for Phil Turnbull and his NO
NIGHT SWEATS web site/mp3 archive, a lot of us might not have any idea of
the thriving Sydney, Australia post-punk scene of the early 80s, and some of the
wildly creative weirdo lost bands of the time. Several years ago Phil sent me a
couple of these “Sydney Post-Punk Archives” CD-Rs, and one
act in particular (besides SPK,
CALCULATORS and the SLUGFUCKERS)
really stood out: MAESTROS
AND DISPOS, from approximately 1983-84. I was really dumbstruck by how
gorgeously complex, tense & jarring this folk/pop music was, particularly
the outstanding “Backslide”. The band never recorded a single 45, LP or even
a cassette that we know of. Here’s how Phil describes them:
“Dual female vocals weren't heard much outside of folk circles and so the
sound of Debbie and Ashley's close harmonies was bound to be memorable. However,
the band were always a little tentative, seemingly a bit uncomfortable with
themselves and each other, especially on stage. Their strong point will always
be the direct, confessional lyrics which made a marvelous change from the
bluster that other bands produced. In songs like Inertia and the gorgeous
Backslide, simple guitar and drums, strong bass, floating melodies and emotional
text combine perfectly.”
Phil’s site also posts a first-person
1984 account of the band live:
“….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….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.
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.....”
I love that the interweb can help bring back a band like this. Here are two mp3s
of studio recordings that they did, with another one available by
Download MAESTROS & DIPSOS
Download MAESTROS & DIPSOS
Stop It! Vol II"
Not sure how long this
will stay up but, as it's in German I decided not to transcribe it. The
google translation leaves a lot to be desired.
"The Pirate Song" by The Goat That Went "Om" from Can't Stop It! II - Australian Post-Punk 1978-82
From Track of the Day
at Dream Chimney
Picked up about a month ago (recommended, along with the Avon comp from England). This track got me thinking Australia's a fine place. A recent dinner at the Tuck Shop (topped off with pale ale and koala cadburys) made moving there seem like a good idea. But it was this week's screening of Endless Summer II that. just. pushed. me. over. the. edge. Need warmer climes and sunny beaches... mmmmmm... In the meantime: put your feet hip-width apart, hands on waist, drop your chin, and go "arrr."
P.S. If anyone's heard Vol I do tell.
Stop It! Vol II"
The first Can't Stop It compilation was universally loved here in the shop. It was chock full of quality, arty-farty, Gang of Four/Wire-influenced Australian post-punk-funk, with a bit of "something else" that set it apart nicely from its influences. I actually think this volume might just be a tad BETTER. The second installment has more of a rich, varied and underground post-punk gem vibe, peppered with tasteful bits of synth. It's influenced by British DIY, but it also breaks from the influence with a liberated, self-assured exploratory spirit. I can't even get into my typical blow-by-blow description; there's just too much going on. Of course you get songs that resemble DIY Birthday Party-pop with post-punk vocals, but these are still quality moments. You'll want to check out Wild Dog Rodeo, or how about a 19-year-old Lisa Gerrard (later of Dead Can Dance fame) fronting a very capable art-shamble DIY band called Microfilm?! (It's actually good!!) Then there's an early Severed Heads track featuring female vocals and a drum machine, which sounds like a minimal-synth Essential Logic! Have you heard of The Goat That Went "OM" or Use No Hooks…some great boppy DIY pop. There are lots of lo-fi Desperate Bicycles cum 53rd and 3rd pop sensibility meets Ludus/Family Fodder art girl stuff (BRRR Cold, Use No Hooks, Belle Du Soir). The Swell Guys sound like a cross between Faust and the Nightingales! This compilation just keeps on giving. It especially shines when it confounds expectations by slowly falling off the edge into the blissfully fun quirky/weird zone. BTW: The booklet is super informative with each of the 20 tracks getting a small chapter! Who knew Sydney and Melbourne had such fertile scenes? Excellent all the way through and completely recommended!!! [SM]
"Primitive Calculators and Friends"
Wowee! This fascinating companion piece to Chapter’s live Primitive Calculators release of 2004 is guaranteed to frighten the living daylights out of everyone who it doesn’t utterly inspire. This compilation of tracks documents the Little Band scene that thrived in Melbourne between 1979 and 1982. Included is the only Primitive Calculators studio recording ever released, as well as the entire Little Bands compilation, featuring various spontaneous combinations of the Prim Calcs and their friends hammering home track after track of low-fidelity synth-punk minimalism and percussive experimentation. All electronics are overdriven and all aggression is pure – this is raw and this is the real deal.
These focused people set a certain ball of punk rock momentum rolling all those years ago and I doubt it’ll stop. The influence of the ridiculous, passionate bands on this album (Too Fat to Fit Through the Door, Thrush and the Cunts and more) can be heard today in our suburbs through the more adventurous punk combos that regularly form, shift and separate with the ease of lava lamp globules. It’s proof that with you can make a movement out of thin air if you get productive with people who share a unified vision.
by Adrian Trajstman
Stop It! Vol II"
This is a wonderful compilation. I’m far too young to remember any of these bands and even though their tracks have been taken from cassettes more than two decades old, they still sound vibrant and alive. Not surprisingly, the range of sounds collected under the term “post-punk” is broad: off-kilter dance songs with horns and synthesiser, rattling, guitar-driven punk rock and demented 1980s pop. Essendon Airport’s spoken-word ‘I Feel A Song Coming On’ is full of percussion and looping horns, but still feels eerily minimalist. Did it sound so alien when it was released? It’s hard to imagine Asphixiation’s ‘The Crush’ being recorded today. “I’ve got a crush on you,” the singer winces out, halfway between a laugh and a sob, over a primitive, bouncing synthesiser melody. It’s like the tune to a deranged aerobics video. Apparently it’s quite intellectual, and was inspired by a multimedia installation at the University of Melbourne.
The amount of effort put into this release is admirable. Music journalist and owner of Chapter Music, Guy Blackman, has written 300-word biographies of each band in the CD booklet, with more spark and twice the knowledge of the usual liner-note filler. The most readily available equivalent to this release is Rough Trade Shops’ Post Punk 01 (featuring Gang Of Four, The Slits, Pigbag, etc), which focuses on London and New York. Chapter’s Can’t Stop It series easily matches it in quality. “CSI and other likeminded projects may have eased Australia’s famous cultural cringe,” Blackman writes in his introduction. More of it, please.
by Andrew Ramadge
Stop It! Vol II"
"Primitive Calculators and Friends"
From the March 2007
issue of The Wire
Can't Stop It! ll: Australian Post-Punk 1979-84 CHAPTER MUSIC CD
Primitive Calculators And friends 1978-82 CHAPTER MUSIC CD
The first chapter of Can't Stop It!, released in 2002, was a bracing enough corrective to the Northern Hemisphere's stranglehold on post-punk nostalgia that it was easy to overlook its faults - a few second-rate contributions and an overwhelming privileging of the song. Can't Stop It! II has its share of genuine surprises, but there's still an unacknowledged cringe regarding music that escapes the gridlock of melody, the inclusion of scabrous Slugfuckers offshoot Rhythmx Chymx notwithstanding. Case in point: Severed Heads, Australia's most important avant electronic outfit, are on determinedly poppy form on "Lamborghini". That's no bad thing, as Tom Ellard's melodic faculty was more advanced than most, proven by the thin excuses fortunes scrawled across contributions from The Jetsonnes, Use No Hooks and International Exiles. Despite these qualms, Can't Stop It! II is essential for uncovering The Goat That Went Om's "Pirate Song" and Belle Du Soir's "Treasure Island", plus excellent tracks from Scattered Order and volume one alumni Essendon Airport, Tactics and Philip Brophy's Asphixiation.
Chapter Music is on safer ground with Melbourne's Primitive Calculators. Their sole album, which pits Suicide rhythms against livewire blasts of gutted guitar and electronics, is the most enduring artefact of Australia's post-punk explosion, and the scrappy live recordings on Primitive Calculators And Friends are exhilarating, particularly an excoriating attack on Johnny O'Keefe's "Shout". It also compiles the group's "I Can't Stop It" 7", the legendary Little Bands compilation 7", assorted post-Calculators recordings from Zye Ye Ye, Take Two, The Egg and Dave Light, and live recordings from Denise Hilton's Thrush And The Cunts. It's as good an overview of their selfcontained scene as you could ask for.
Stop It! Vol II"
1st for this comp I've
seen so far at Aquarious
V/A Can't Stop It! 2: Australian Post-Punk 1979-1984 (Chapter Music) cd 14.98
By the looks of the first two compilations that Chapter Music has released documenting the Australian post-punk scene, we (and probably a lot of other folks) could use a series history lessons into the finer points of Antipodean punk. Having unearthed two incendiary Primitive Calculators collections from that same time period, Chapter again strikes gold with a stunning collection of terminally obscure bands who were much more talented and intriguing than their lack of recognition might reflect. The only two bands that have even come across our radar are Severed Heads (but here with an incredibly primitive electronic sound and a female singer) and Microfilm (the amazing, Wire-esque dour post punk band fronted by Lisa Gerrand who later went on to form Dead Can Dance); but for everybody else, it's anybody's guess as to whatever became of them. Nonetheless, this comp confirms that the Australian take on post-punk agitation, no-wave convolutions and contortions, and new wave bleakness was as vibrant as what more well know scenes (i.e. New York, Berlin, London) had managed. As on the first comp (which featured a band called the Slugfuckers), volume 2 also sports a band with an incredible name: The Goat That Went "Om." Highly recommended
1st in the papers I've
seen from The Drum Media
Inner City Sound: Australian Punk and Post-Punk
Laughing Outlaw Records
In the introduction to his definitive history of post-punk music in the years 1978-1984 titled "Rip it Up and Start Again", Simon Reynolds notes that for reasons of space and sanity he was unable to include much discussion on Australian underground music of this period. Although understandable, the omission is nevertheless unfortunate as some incredibly exciting and innovative music emerged from thriving inner city scenes across Australia from the late 1970s onwards.
However, dedicated punk historian Clinton Walker fills in the gaps with this essential two-disc survey of Australian post-punk to accompany a new edition of his book Inner City Sound originally published in 1982.
What many of the featured bands share is a desire to transgress three chord thrash that was already becoming a
cliché by the late 1970s. The first wave punk scene is, however, represented by the Saints' blistering "Wild About You". But early 80s gems featured on disc one from such bands as Tactics, Primitive Calculators and Whirlywind reveal a healthy inclination for experimentation through an increasing emphasis on electronic technology, jagged guitars, cut-up rhythms and lyrical abstraction.
Once the post-punk scene had been well and truly established, a number of bands appearing on the second disk such as the Birthday Party, Laughing Clowns, and Hunters and Collectors went on to create post-punk masterpieces which astonish to this day.
Also deserving mention is Severed Heads' enthusiastic yet challenging electronica, Poles' minimalist blues and The Apartments'
melancholy, atmospheric pop music.
A Golden age of Australian music, perhaps?
3rd on the web is one
from Erasing Clouds
Inner City Sound: Australian Punk & Post-Punk
reviewed by dave heaton
Three cheers to any record label that reaches into the past, takes music that isn't receiving widespread praise and acknowledgements in the present, and puts together a release that presents it well. Laughing Outlaw Records' Inner City Sound, designed as a companion to the recently reprinted 1982 book of the same name by Clinton Walker, is a fantastic overview of Australian punk and post-punk music of the late '70s and early '80s. I say "fantastic" not from any real position of knowledge about the era myself, but because the 2-cd, 47-track collection presents adventurous, raw, and varied music in the well-crafted format of the best mix tape. Plus the liner notes offer a detailed "family tree" map of the era, offering a context to understanding where this music was coming from and how the various groups were inter-related.
Facts and diagrams are a nice supplement, but in no way essential to comprehending and enjoying Inner City Sound. All you need is to put it on, and let yourself be carried away. Organized not chronologically but by feeling - what song leads well into the next - the set smoothly takes us on a wild, dizzying journey. Disc 1 kicks off with some great energetic punk songs right up there in quality with the best output from elsewhere in the world. But as it continues on the music travels many roads, getting more melodic and "pop" at times, and then getting spacey and bizarre at others. Disc 2 is even more varied, with beautfiul detours like Essendon Airport's strange art-pop creature "Talking to Cleopatra" and the leaning-toward-new-wave dark bounciness of Machinations' "Average Inadequacy".
There's only a handful of bands in the whole set that I'd expect your average music listener, even your average die-hard music fan who isn't from Australia, to know about: Saints, Birthday Party, Go-Betweens, Hunters & Collectors. The bulk of the set is likely to blow upon walls and generate interest in a host of new names for most listeners (like me) who aren't well-versed in this era...or, at least, in what was going on in Australia during that era. And in many ways that last point is the key. The story of punk, and of post-punk is still being told through a relatively narrow lens, without taking into account how much creative energy pulsed through places and scenes that haven't been fully recognized. The biggest names on Inner City Sound have made their mark on what's generally accepted to be rock history. But this compilation shines a light on so many other musicians that, judging by their tracks here, appear to be equally exciting and worthy of attention. This is a snapshot of a time, containing small pieces of what was going on; it's exciting in itself but also stands as a mark of a bigger story, making one wonder about all the other scenes and subcultures, then and now...
2nd on the web is one
from the SMH
Inner City Sound (Laughing Outlaw)
By Bernard Zuel December 7, 2005
If you're writing the story of a movement or period as it happens, you can give the fullest perspective that time, experience and a broader understanding enables. Academics will tell you that is the difference between journalism and writing history.
That's true enough, but Clinton Walker's 1982 book Inner City Sound - opinionated, fiercely partisan and newly republished - is a valuable history of the Australian underground scene of the late '70s/early '80s for being not just of the moment but in the moment.
This 47-track companion CD to the new edition of the book is occasionally messy, is hardly sonically perfect and patchy in both style and quality.
Many of the bands may have had five great minutes of fame, but left no mark beyond that (though the Triffids, Go-Betweens, Nick Cave and Ed Kuepper became giants). The CD's purpose, however, is not to argue that everything was good "back then", rather that so much was happening and worth hearing and none of it should be forgotten.
The first review of
the Inner City Sound
CD I've found on the web
(and quite excellent too):
"INNER CITY SOUND - Various Artists (Laughing Outlaw)
It’s raining Australian 1970s and ‘80s underground compilations if you hadn’t already noticed and while they’re coming from different directions, each has a charm all its own. "Inner City Sound" is very much from the left-of-the-dial. It’s intended to be the musical companion to the re-printed and expanded book of the same name, a collection of zine articles assembled by long-time Australian writer/TV producer Clinton Walker and first published back in the mid-80s. It sits neatly as just that. Forty-eight tracks over two discs and a fold-out family tree make for a value package.
First, to what "Inner City Sound" isn’t and that’s a complete and comprehensive picture of what the various Oz underground scenes were over the span of 1975-85. I lapped up the original book of the same name " went through two copies, so dodgy was the binding job on the first run - and pored over it for mentions of personal faves, but it was very much a patchwork of opinions and reviews. Whether you agreed with some of the contents, it nevertheless filled a very important gap.
Like the book, Clinton Walker brings to this compilation his own likes and biases. One of the things he never took to when he moved from Brisbane to Sydney was the so-called Detroit scene and its myriad offspring. There’s a bit of revisionist stuff to that effect in his confessional and very readable autobiography/musical history, "Stranded". If you didn’t know that, the elemental nod to the genre in this set’s liners is a dead giveaway. The New Christs’ "No Next Time" looks like a token inclusion (even though you’re on flimsy ground if you regard that band as Detroit) and there are minor glitches in the Birdman-related branches of the family tree. Anyway, deal with it and move on. That's my bitch and it's now off my chest.
Walker’s musical stirrings began as a boy in Brizzy with his mates the Saints and they (the "real" Saints, that is) are represented by "Wild About You". The Bailey Saints pop up on disc two with "Ghost Ships". Both songs are easily procurable elsewhere so you have to ask why they were included. They do sit well in the tracking anyway. "Ghost Beat" is there from Ed Kuepper’s Laughing Clowns. Walker was an avid Birthday Party fan and "Release the Bats" is here. Was this really one of Kylie Minogue’s fave tunes before she started crooning with Ol’ Nick? It’s the archetypical Birthday party song I suppose, if again an obvious choice.
Harder to find is stuff from the likes of *** ***, tch-tch-tch, Voigt/465, Severed heads (the original "Dead Eyes Opened"), Equal Local, Machinations (the Phantom single of "Average Inadequacy") and Seems Twice, all restored from vinyl. Seems Twice would have given Minuteman a run for their money with "songs" like "Look At It" (28 seconds of agitnoise, five seconds of fade out). The electronica/synth-based material doesn’t rock my boat much, but still sounds well ahead of the curve and far preferable to the mindlessness of today’s breaks and beats or whatever the fuck they call it.
What might be regarded as spikey punk’s flag is flown by Razar, the Leftovers and Last Words. I’m still none the wiser what’s punk and what’s not and Walker makes some valid points about all those labels in his notes. (He’s also said in the past that he couldn’t see the point of some of the stupider aspects of punk). The great X’s representation is "TV Blues", a post-Cafeiro song that I personally adore, but the absence of something from "X-Aspirations" might surprise many. If you think the two-chord thrash content is a little light on, those Aberrant compilations are said to be coming down the pipeline in CD re-issue form anyway.
While electronica merits a good look-in, understated/classic pop positively dominates with Sardine, the Triffids, the Apartments, Sekret Sekret, the Plug Uglies, the (great) Lonely Hearts and the
Go Betweens all here, with lesser-known songs. It’s the diversions away from the obvious that work best for me.
The both great and hideous thing about digitisation is that you can set and forget, so if you have a CD rotel you can slot these discs in alongside "Do the Pop!", "Born Out of Time" and "Tales of the Australian Underground", crank it up and have a helluva good time. By my rough reckoning, that’s just shy of seven hours of music, with less than 25 percent
duplication. Of course, that would spoil some very clever sequencing on Disc Two, but you get the point.
You could argue what should or shouldn’t have been included but frankly it’s a waste of time. If you don’t like it, go burn your own compilation disc. Fact is that there’s plenty here that’s damn near unprocurable anywhere else and you don’t have to be Record Collector Scum to enjoy it. " The Barman"
- One Faint Deluded Smile"
a complete surprise
after all this time: Pitchfork Media's Found
Sound 2004 article:
"Australian post-punk band from the late-70s had most of their recorded work issued on CD on this compilation, which is now sadly out of print. However, diligent music fans still know where to look, right? (hint: bid or "steal," right?) These guys and gals were something like a psychedelic meeting of This Heat, krautrock and the Homosexuals, with a healthy dose of that good old English-born DIY spirit thrown in. A more obscure touchstone would be Family Fodder, whose knack for whimsical experimentation Voigt/465 share. Sometimes their raw enthusiasm gets the better of their raw execution, but they're never lacking ideas or fun tunes. --Dominique Leone"
a short, pithy review
posted November 27 2001:
"Evan Dando was once famous enough to be in Dolly magazine. He was an alternahunk. Live at the Brattle Theatre/Griffith Sunset ep (Modular/EMI) is the perfect gift for that person in your life who wants to relive their wild indie-rock youth of, oh, six years ago. The first disc sees Dando, solo and (mostly) acoustic, tackle tunes he's made famous (not neccessarily written) in front of an adoring audience; disc two is a collection of country standards. It's all rather sad and pathetic actually. (*)
The music compiled on Can't Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-82 (Chapter) is older still - but, unlike Dando, it still sounds fresh and relevant. The period chronicled is a vital, alive period in Australian independent music, a period of experimentation that refused to let conventional notions of musicianship hold the process of creation back. A lot of very bad music resulted, but you won't find it here: it's gem after gem after gem. It's difficult to pick highlights from such a wonderful set, but Ash Wednesday's proto-post-rock 'Love By Numbers', Voigt 465's scratchy 'Voices A Drama' and Xero's feminist anthem 'The Girls' are standouts. (*****)..."
(but decidedly Melbourne Centric) 'spotlight' in Beat
Magazine Issue 785:
"CAN'T STOP IT! - AUSTRALIAN POST-PUNK 1978-82
by Sophie Best
Australian music is still pretty young, really, compared to the recorded legacy of American music and its vernacular traditions of jazz, blues and old-time country. Apart from the early Australian country music pioneers, our roots don't reach as deep - which may explain why it's taken a while for Australians to take any serious interest in our own musical history.
A new compilation on Chapter Records, Can't Stop It! - Australian Post-Punk 1978-82, documents an intriguing era of unconventional, self-styled music from the Australian underground. The Moodists, featuring a young Dave Graney and Clare Moore, are the only "name" band on this collection of forgotten glories, fleeting moments and awkward and/or glorious beginnings.
Twenty or so years on, the music on Can't Stop It! sounds strange and compelling. These are the transitional sounds of cultural shifts, the sense of things being born and sometimes dying, too; the naive freshness and/or self-conscious artiness of tiny band scenes, unfettered by commercial considerations, and the fierce angry joy of a new generation kicking against the blandness and excess of 1970s commercial soft rock.
There are avant-garde obscurities such as The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast (who changed their band name according to the title of their previous record), degenerate Sydney band The Slugfuckers (whose name was a brazenly anti-establishment act in a climate when Keith Glass of Missing Link got arrested for selling the Dead Kennedys' Too Drunk To Fuck), and Xero, who held the distinction of being the "smartest, most annoying band in Brisbane". There are moments from the formative years of now-well-known musicians such as the Dirty Three's Jim White, composers Philip Brophy and David Chesworth, synth pioneer Ash Wednesday, and future members of the Go-Betweens, the Bad Seeds, the Laughing Clowns and many others.
Can't Stop It! is by no means a definitive anthology - it's more a reflection of the personal tastes and fascinations of its compilers, Guy Blackman and David Nichols - but maybe it's a modest step towards an Australian version of Nuggets, the archeological dig into 60s garage band psychedelia compiled by Lenny Kaye and Jac Holzman in 1972, and later expanded into (so far) two generous box sets by Rhino Records. Can't Stop It! is one missing chapter in our painfully thin music history, a partial reacquaintance with, or introduction to, the nascent music scenes in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that spawned the more well-documented flowering of Australian independent music in the 1980s.
The compilers of Can't Stop It!, Guy Blackman and David Nichols, had different stakes in the project. Nichols, a music journalist and author of The Go-Betweens, former label manager and ex- Cannane, is 36 years old, and therefore caught some of the tail-end of the era as a teenager. Blackman, on the other hand, is only 27; his interest is more that of a record collector and enthusiast.
"Something's always struck me about that time", says Blackman. "I've always been drawn to that music from the late 70s-early 80s that takes the liberating aspects of punk and turns it inwards; makes it more personal and idiosyncratic. When I first moved to Melbourne, I couldn't afford to buy records every week, so I scoured the second-hand stores, and that fostered an interest in Australian music history."
Collecting records was also an early passion for Nichols, who was doing a show on RRR in his final year of school, and sneaking into the Ballroom to see bands like the Moodists. "I was on the dole and living at home, so I had a lot of money to spend on records", says Nichols. "I loved going in to Exposure Records in Kew and spending money. I was really interested in Australian stuff then, and I did think it was really exciting that we had record labels in Melbourne like Missing Link, Augogo, Innocent and the other smaller labels."
For Blackman, who started Chapter Records as a label and fanzine in the early 90s, those labels were an inspiration. "What they've done is the raison d'etre for the things I'm doing now", he says. "They were the first - no-one else was doing it, and that took a lot of vision.
"One of the things I love about those records is that you can tell how much effort went into them; all the Innocent labels were screenprinted by hand. They created something that had a human feeling to it, not mass produced. People who care about music get so much more enjoyment out of a record when you can see the craft and the work that's gone into it."
For his part, Blackman put two years' worth of work into Can't Stop It!, from the initial process of tracking band members down, digging through the attics to find long-lost master tapes or crackly vinyl singles, and remixing and mastering the analogue material into a digital format, without compromising the original sound of the recordings. "There were two approaches I could have taken", Blackman explains. "To present the tracks as much as possible exactly how they sounded on the original records or cassettes, or to think of the compilation as not just a retrospective, but a CD that's coming out now, and which has to be played back-to-back with other records that have been mastered really loudly, with heaps of bass, and high production values.
"My tendency was to go for the first approach; I didn't want to modernise things, and I didn't want everything to sound the same. What I liked is that these tracks were recorded in adverse conditions, in people's loungerooms. But I realised I had to be careful - it was other people's music I was dealing with. So I guess I went for a midway point between the two approaches, otherwise it wouldn't have worked as a compilation; the tracks have to be heard individually, but also in relation to each other."
"It's very much a document", Nichols comments, "and we make it clear what kind of document it is. It's a personal choice - Guy chose 13 tracks, I chose 7 - my choices came from my personal history and what I loved at the time, whereas Guy was thinking as a record collector. And I think it worked, in the end."
For more information, check out www.corduroy.com.au/chapter/can'tstopit.html
BRUCE MILNE was closely involved with much of the music on Can't Stop It!, and several tracks on the compilation were originally released on his label, Augogo Records.
"Augogo formed in 1977", Milne recalls, "but I was disorganised and totally naive, so I didn't release anything until late 78-early 79."
Milne had already started his own ad hoc independent distribution service before then: "Bands would send me singles, and I'd take them round the stores". It was around this time that he got to know Keith Glass, owner of Missing Link Records, who became his mentor and sometime financial backer.
"Keith had been around a lot more than me, and took a very active interest in what was happening musically", says Milne. "He suggested we join forces, so I started working out of Missing Link in late 79, putting out Augogo singles. The bands paid for everything at that stage, and got all the money in return, so they were on Augogo in name only. I was also working on the Fast Forward cassette magazine, and by the time Keith sold Missing Link, I started to get serious with Augogo, putting out 12-inches by the Scientists and the Moodists."
Milne sees some of his own youthful naivete reflected in the musical era that is documented on Can't Stop It! "There's not even a hint, on any of those tracks, of trying to have commercial success", he observes. "It's fairly pure in its essence, and that's one of its charms.
"I look back fondly at how co-operative and helpful people were at that time, small as it was. The compilation covers a lot of scenes that were sometimes polar opposites - the 'little bands' scene was the opposite of the Innocent Records gang, yet there was always some overlap."
Milne released the Moodists' first two singles, the second of which, Gone Dead, is the opening track of Can't Stop It! "Gone Dead was NME's single of the week, and they were off overseas not long after that. The exciting thing about it was that anyone who had anything going for them could go overseas immediately. They would think, 'Hell, we're only going to sell to 0.0001% of the Australian record-buying public, so we're got nothing to lose."
Although some of the bands on the compilation went on to achieve overseas success, the selections on the CD have been lost to a wider audience until now. "There's nothing on this CD that sold more than 500 copies", says Milne. "There'd been a little wave before that with Radio Birdman and the Saints, and at another level up, concurrent with this era, the Birthday Party and the Models were making serious inroads. But this is a scene that almost no record sales came out of.
"A lot of these bands couldn't play at any of the normal venues, apart from the Crystal Ballroom, so they'd play at church halls, and at parties in share households. It was a social scene as well - as social as it was musical. With the 'little bands' scene, anyone could do it, so anyone did it, with all the good and all the bad that that implied."
Milne has continued to work in music since those early days, and is now an executive with EMI. He has witnessed the changes that transformed the small, independent music scenes as a result of increased professionalism and the growth of the music industry.
"Rock's a lot older", he comments. "It's become more entrenched in various systems, and there's more avenues to success within Australia now. I presume the hip hop scene has those same sort of support networks and co-operation today, but it doesn't seem to happen as much within inner city rock as it did back then."
Whilst Milne warns against romanticising the past - "I don't want to get caught up in saying this was some golden era" - he acknowledges the artistic freedoms that came with being part of a tiny independent scene, overlooked by and immune from commercial concerns. "It was easy to break the rules. We were all involved in something we knew no-one gave a fuck about."
DAVID CHESWORTH is now a celebrated composer and director of the David Chesworth Ensemble. He has also designed soundscapes, sonic public art and multimedia installations for the surrounds of the Sydney Olympic Stadium and Melbourne's Federation Square, as well as writing operas, making films, and producing albums for the Underground Lovers.
Can't Stop It! features a 1979 track by Essendon Airport, Chesworth's experimental band that he formed whilst running Innocent Records with Philip Brophy of Tch Tch Tch (the band name is actually spelt with three directional arrows, and pronounced by clicking your tongue three times). From 1978-83, Chesworth was also running an experimental music centre in Clifton Hill at the old Organ Factory.
"It was predominantly a community place", Chesworth says of the Clifton Hill centre. "No-one had to pay entry, and the bands weren't paid, it was just a free exchange. We ended up getting audiences of 80 people crammed in."
Essendon Airport had a number of different guises in their five-year life as a band, expanding from the original guitar/piano/drum machine duo of Chesworth and Robert Goodge by adding a drummer, Paul Fletcher, becoming a four-piece in their middle period with saxophonist Ian Cox, and then a five-piece with bass player Barbara Hogarth. It is the first phase of the band, as a duo, that is represented on Can't Stop It!
"Some people think that early stuff was the most interesting", says Chesworth. "What we wanted was to do something that wasn't happening in the mainstream. It was quirky and odd, rather than thrash-noise based music; Tch Tch Tch were similarly provocative, in that sort of passive-aggressive way."
Essendon Airport certainly made an impression at the Crystal Ballroom when they took a support slot for Midnight Oil in 1980. "We were completely passive people, sitting down with the cheesiest drum machine you ever saw", Chesworth remembers. "People were watching us with their jaws on the floor, waiting for Midnight Oil to come on."
The bills at the Ballroom paired Essendon Airport up with some other incongruous lineups: "the Boys Next Door would be on the same night, and we'd support the Sunnyboys sometimes. It was fantastic, this collision of sensibilities. Their sound crew were a pretty tough bunch of rock'n'roll people, so it was fun to say to them - Here we are, make us sound good!"
Chesworth also recalls a great level of unity amongst the bands in those divergent music scenes. "There was a sense that bands were sharing the moment of what we were doing", he says. "It was very underground and so contrary to what the musical press was portraying. Countdown was predominant at the time, there were so many crappy bands, and this was such an alternative. People in these bands' mindset was a completely different world, in total opposition to Greg Evans' programming on 3XY.
"A comparison now might be the electronic music scene, before it emerged into the mainstream. I think everyone played from a sense of where they were, and what they might contribute, how they might do something that wasn't just a pop song."
There was plenty of world-weary cynicism around, though, according to Chesworth. "We weren't so innocent in our music-making - we were always in inverted commas. I listen to some of our old recordings and the comments I used to make into the microphone - cynical, dark jibes about the audience or the sound."
On the advice of Bruce Milne, Chesworth set up Innocent Records with Philip Brophy, taking their records down to the Astor Records plant in Clayton and standing over the technicians who would cut the acetates, yelling at them to make it "loud! as loud as possible!"
The distribution process was hands-on, as well. "Philip and I would take the overnight train to Sydney, sitting up all night, and walk around with a bunch of records, putting them in shops. There were record shops in Melbourne like Missing Link and an active buying public with a hunger for records."
Although Chesworth and Brophy were not making "punk" music, they were certainly influenced by punk's ethos. "The whole punk thing was a reassessment of where music had gotten to in the 20 years leading up to that", Chesworth notes. "People were aware that rock music had become a worn-out form, and all you could do was reinvent it, quote it and reuse its gestures and ideas.
"It's now endlessly spiralling, the last vestiges of rock meeting technology, and god knows where it's got to now, but one thing that hadn't happened back then is that things weren't yet so fragmented or fractured into sub-genres. There were broader brush-strokes back then."
ASH WEDNESDAY recalls David Chesworth and Philip Brophy as being "more studied in their music and attitude", as opposed to the more rock'n'roll-oriented exponents of the post-punk scene, "who just picked up a guitar, and made as much noise as possible, and had fun." By contrast, he says, Tch Tch Tch were "not your average punk group, but they fitted into that scene in their own way and with a smile on their face. It wasn't copied, as far as I can see, from any other kind of phenomenon."
The same can be said of Ash Wednesday's music. He is represented on Can't Stop It! by an extraordinary single called Love By Numbers from 1980, recorded just after he'd left the original lineup of Models. Prior to Models, Wednesday had been a member of experimental, confrontational synth-punk band JAB, whose name represented the initials of Johnny Crash (also known as Janis Freidenfelds), Ash Wednesday and Bohdan X who later fronted Bohdan and the Instigators, and became a legendary announcer on RRR. JAB had relocated from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1977, arriving at the tail end of the so-called "Carlton scene" dominated by bands such as Skyhooks, Daddy Cool, the Sports, Stiletto, and other bands who were already being perceived as "old guard".
"We were the exact opposites of the Carlton scene", Wednesday declares. "People in that scene went to a lot of trouble to make elaborate posters for their gigs, whereas we would just spray paint "JAB" on pieces of paper and hand them out.
"The status quo rock scene was very suspicious of anything 'punk'. Actually, we pre-dated punk a bit. I remember we all liked the first Ramones record, and the first Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers record - we thought they were fun - but when I finally saw footage of the Sex Pistols and the Clash, I was disappointed. I thought, Is this what all the fuss is about?"
JAB did not identify themselves as part of punk, or of any movement or genre, here or overseas. "We weren't copying anybody; we were just making things up", Wednesday claims. "The initial lineup had two synthesisers, so it was far from punk musically, but it had a punk attitude. It wasn't so much the instrumentation - it was a sensory overload. Really Bohdan was writing three-chord songs and Johnny and I were doing our best to distort them as much as possible. It was really noisy, really atonal, and it had a lot of audacity."
The music press were at a loss as to how to categorise the band. "'Synthetic shock rock' was the catchcry that the Adelaide music media used for us", he remembers. "Our approach was: if you've got a taboo, throw it to us and we'll throw it right back at you! At that point, Bohdan was a total megalomaniac - ably supported by myself and Johnny. I might add. Our attitude was, we're the greatest thing that's ever happened, and you are lucky to be in the same room as us.
"There was something happening", says Wednesday of JAB's live performances. "It was not a situation of watching a band and being bored. You either liked JAB, or you walked away fromit. We'd get some people who'd be out of there straight away, and others who would hang on every word.
"There was quite a big punk scene. A lot of musicians would go to the same parties together, create havoc together and have a lot of fun, at the expense of all the straight people."
Wednesday describes the "little band" scene that started up around this time: "Impromptu bands with noise guitars, drum machines, briefcase synthesisers, being played by people that had never learned to play music. The bands didn't really exist; they just played in loungerooms, and occasionally at venues. It was all low-tech equipment, but at the same time it was almost state-of-the-art, cutting-edge equipment - not what you'd consider rock'n'roll instrumentation. "The ideas were passed down from Suicide, Alan Vega's band with Martin Rev, who had a big following for a while in Melbourne, and an album called No New York produced by Brian Eno in 1978 which was music by non-musicians. Drummers playing mainly tambourine mixed in with full-on noise guitar, so noisy that it would matter where you played on the fret. It was abrasive non-music, mixed in with a little bit of synth here and there - almost what you would call Dadaist rock."
Wednesday has nothing but praise for the Can't Stop It! compilation. "I've played it quite a lot", he says. "I've enjoyed listening to it. It's an interesting cross-section of artists - that early experimental electronic music, and post-punk rock'n'roll. I think it's a really fascinating collection."
DAVID LIGHT from the Primitive Calculators, one of the most visible bands from the "little band" scene, shares Ash Wednesday's sense of the impact of Eno's No New York compilation. "It gave everyone a new insight of what you could do", he says.
Light's musical career began in a Springvale bungalow, out the back of a friend's mother's house. "Everyone called it the hippie house", he recalls. "We had a wildly-painted kombi van parked out the front, and we'd all smoke pot out the back, sit round the kitchen making experimental music. What we did in the bungalow was freeform - squawking on a violin, banging on pots and pans - but No New York showed us how you could take those elements and mix it into a tight structure, using little snippets."
Light and his friends also came under the influence of Neu and other pioneers of Krautrock and electronica. "Mix that with John Cage", he says, "and you can see where the art element came in - things other than musical notation.
"We didn't have a lot of talent", he confesses. "We knew an E bar-chord blues pattern on the guitar and that was it. So you had to use your imagination."
Returning to Melbourne from New Zealand in the summer of 1976-77, Light saw the Saints on Countdown performing (I'm) Stranded. "I called my friend Stuart [Grant] in Adelaide and said 'Did you see that?' and Stuart said 'Yes, and I've bought a guitar and an amp, and I'm coming back to Melbourne.' We moved into a big house in Park Street, St Kilda, and started a band. We used to play really loud - our whole idea was to alienate people, hurt their ears, be as anti-social as we possibly could."
That was the genesis of the Primitive Calculators, then known as the Moths. Joined by Frank Lovece and a guitarist called Rob, later replaced by Denise Rosenberg, the band played in their St Kilda loungeroom, culminating in an eviction party that rivals the scenes in Dogs In Space (in which the Primitive Calculators and other members of the "little band" scene make a brief appearance).
"We invited everyone around to throw our records in the fire, vandalise our house. About 300 people came. Smashed all our windows, threw hundreds of bottles - one guy just stood out the back throwing bottles all night. Marcus [Bergner] cooked up a kofta curry, it was a fancy dress - boys dressed up as nurses, shooting up in the bathroom."
Moving to Johnston Street, Fitzroy, the Primitive Calculators came under the Farfisa-drone spell of Suicide's first album. "That was the turning point", says Light. "We thought, yes, this is the future of music. It had all the hard and driving elements that we'd loved about Roky Erickson - it was anti-social - it was the cutting edge of culture."
The band held endless rehearsals in their shopfront house, and formed friendships with a small group of people in the music scene including Ollie Olsen, leader of Whirlywirld. "By that stage we had a 30-40 minute set, so to flesh it out, we used other people playing little bits and pieces", Light recalls. "Marcus Bergner did a performance piece before a Boys Next Door gig at the Ballroom, and that was as close as you can get to the start of the 'little bands'."
Everyone, it seemed, had a little band at this time, many featuring members of the Primitive Calculators and Whirlywirld. Lisa Gerrard, later of Dead Can Dance fame, had several little bands. Denise Rosenberg's little band, Thrush & the Cunts, were also featured on the Dogs In Space soundtrack. Dogs In Space, Richard Lowenstein's dramatisation of Melbourne's late-70s underground, caused intense controversy amongst Light's friends at the time, many taking issue with its recreation of the "little band" scene.
"It took a bit of artistic licence", says Light now of Dogs In Space. "We complained bitterly at the time - not just about the accuracy of the musical history, but also about the fashion! Nobody wore that Duran Duran stuff - at least, not in Fitzroy. But I like the film more as time goes by. If you put it next to Sid and Nancy, it's definitely no worse."
LEE SMITH will perform at the launch of Can't Stop It!, in what he calls a "little band band" - an as-yet-unnamed collaboration with two of his little band colleagues from 20 years ago, David Light of the Primitive Calculators and Steve Bourke of Use No Hooks.
Smith is not represented on the compilation, however - probably because none of the bands he was in during that era lasted long enough to make a recording. The Morpions, a trio Smith formed with his girlfriend at the time and Stuart Grant of the Primitive Calculators, did have a track on the Little Bands EP; but other than that, his collaborations with Lisa Gerrard, Tom Hoy, Mick McBride and countless others went largely undocumented.
"Your band may not last until next week", says Smith of the rationale behind the "little band" scene. "So it was very do-able to put together three songs, instead of having to rehearse for months. No-one wanted to play the same song week after week. Stuart did a whole lot of Gram Parsons songs one week, and it went down really well, but then the next week they'd do something completely different.
"The little bands were a way of bringing new blood into the scene, too. With Lisa Gerrard, she was in a pop band and I said, C'mon, let's do a little band. She only had one song for the little band - a song that was working through her relationship with her mother, a lot of screaming, primal therapy - so we worked up a couple of songs to go with it."
The little band scene was open, as Smith tells it, but only to like-minded people. "People weren't precious about their music", he says. "There was constant experimentation. Ollie Olsen and John Murphy [both of Whirlywild] and their whole crowd were involved in the scene. But the slightly older musicians, like Ross Wilson and the whole Carlton scene, weren't part of it.
"This was our music", he insists, "and it didn't involve them. It was our version of punk music, a free expression and a rejection of all the music that had come up until then. It was also a rejection of musicianship, of owning musical instruments - we would all use each other's guitars and amps and equipment."
The fleeting nature of the little band performances were, says Smith, part of their appeal. "I was more interested in seeing bands who were so obscure that they'd play once, and you'd never see them again, than seeing bands who you saw all the time doing the same thing every week. Dave [Light] and I both talk about this amazing band who did a 10-minute song called Warsaw and then left. I remember them as being kind of prog, Dave remembers them as being psychedelic, but neither of us knew where the hell they came from, or where they ever went."
posted early January 2002:
"Initially this compilation seemed both apt and somewhat disjointed from the typical Chapter music mould. Apt because label guru Guy Blackman has an knack for the more indie within indie, and then somewhat disjointed because I wondered to myself what the hell is post punk exactly? The results seem to reveal somewhat of a common streak that permeates a independent music scene with a high degree of DIY musical ethos that is both relevant today as it was back then. Reactionary and counter-reactionary, the compilation reveals the unique and bizarre, as well as the scarily pre-emptive sounds that echo in some local artists today.
The Moodist start off with an almost unrecognisable Dave Graney (maybe he didn't take himself so seriously in 1982?). Even so, a good track that's piercing scream at the start is a strong wake up call for the first stop on this compilation! Essendon Airport have the slo-core sound that from 1979 seems now almost formulaic in bands such as Sydney's Sea Life Park. Voigt 465 come in with their track 'Voices & Drama' with a jangly and sightly discordant framework that is either mildly abrasive to the ears or strangely catchy. The Apartments parallel The Cure's 'Boys don't Cry' with a nice pop formula that is so nicely late 70's in stature. "Love By Numbers" by Ash Wednesday is cheeky electro pop with current bands like Sekiden taking very similar mathematical and geekdom working ethos. The voice over count from one to an hundred is a little off putting at first but the cheese of it gets the better of you!
Ron Rude (probably remembered by some for his antics more than his music) delivers across with a glam delivery probably influenced by contemporaries like David Bowie whilst "Pony Club" by The Limp melds organically grown beats mixed with jazz overtones that seems a bit 90s in composition. The Slugfuckers toe a fine balance between experimentation and chaotic madness with their aptly titled "Cacophony", and probably have the closeness to the stereotypical post-punk tag. A bit of jazz and electronica from Equal Local exposes the more electronic side of the scene that was populated by the likes of Whirlywirld (Ollie Olsen) and Severed Heads.
A definitive look into a mostly forgotten scene, it seems that despite the quirk, many artists of this by-gone era have indeed left their mark on the Australian music scene. With some of the artists sounding fresh now as they did fifteen to twenty years ago, "Can't Stop It" is a fitting testimony to this era of music. No doubt a difficult compilation to pull off (and no doubt it can't be fully definitive owing the length of the era), maybe the Chapter folks will think about a volume two? Fits nicely with Bob Blunt's Biased History of Australian Rock for a bit of a retrospective look at the Australian music scene.
from WFMU Radio in
posted Dec 2001:
A much welcome anthology indeed. While many folks have already seen how bands like This Heat, the Fall, Contortions and Raincoats have manifested themselves by influencing various UK, American, and New Zealand indie rock releases of the 80s, and 90s, few have seen what kind of din had been drummed up in Oz. Besides the
Moodists, Apartments, and the (legendary and totally insane) Slugfuckers, I hadn't heard of any of the other bands included (Essendon Airport,
Xero, the Limp, Ron Rude, Tch Tch Tch (clicking noise with your tongue!) and the wonderfully named People With Chairs Up Their Noses) but thanks to the compilers at Australian label Chapter Records (with some help from David Nichols of the
Cannanes) here is a very generous helping. Like a lot of the DIY-aesthethic stuff of the post-punk area, much of this is crudely recorded, ultra-low-tech and scabby, and at times shimmering with precious pop elements found on early Television Personalities records. Can I reiterate how great the Slugfuckers were!?
incredulity from The
posted 30th Nov 2001:
The local scene with Patrick Donovan
Could new wave be making a comeback? If three gigs being held during the next week are anything to go by, then synthesisers, key-tars, striped shirts, make-up on men and bad hair could be back with us. Oh, and did we mention bad names? A glance at the bands on Can't Stop It!, a new compilation of Australian post-punk from 1978-82, features the dubious monikers Primitive Calculators, Essendon Airport (surely Tullamarine would have been catchier), Tch Tch Tch and Ash Wednesday. The CD is launched next Wednesday at Revolver, with Ron Rude and his new band, the Resurrection, and the Tingler playing live, and original video footage, gig posters and record covers on display
bands mentioned shock in The
Wire Jan 2002 edition:
CAN’T STOP IT
AUSTRALIAN POST-PUNK 1978-82
CHAPTER MUSIC CD (Cat# CH37)
by Bleddyn Butcher
During the seventies, Australian pop tastes were defined by the Ozrock monsters (AC/DC, Cold Chisel and Dragon) who filled the suburban beer barns; and, for light entertainment, by Countdown, the hugely influential weekly pop programme hosted by Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. This was compulsive, car-crash viewing. Everyone watched. Meldrum was an atrocious interviewer, utterly inarticulate and shamelessly obsequious. Watching him blunder through an hour of primetime every Sunday evening was a kind of national penance, an appalled self-mortification, proof against pretentiousness.
The recent six-hour television ABC documentary on the history of Australian rock’n’roll Long Way To the Top preserves for rueful posterity one of the pivotal moments in the show’s history: Prince Charles is, for reasons unclear, the edition’s star guest. Stunned by Meldrum’s tortuous burbling, Charles asks, “Don’t you have one of those teleprompters?” When the heir to the British throne is sharper than the nation’s topmost pop picker, you know you’ve got a problem. Change had to come.
In fact, it already had. The dead-end desert island defiance of the Saints’ self-pressed “(I’m) Standed” had been named Single of the Week in Sounds late in 1976, pipping “Anarchy in the UK” at the punk post. The floodgates opened.
As elsewhere, Australian punks had to battle not only entrenched interests but also each other. This militancy made for fiercely divisive scenes and awkward, exclusive codes which, in turn, provided frightening variety. Can’t Stop It! collects twenty early examples of the local response to the Year Zero imperative. It is by no means definitive. Almost all the tracks are entirely obscure. Better known exports like The Birthday Party, the Go-Betweens and the Laughing Clowns are not represented, though their influence is often felt. Similarly, the Perth punk scene, a hotbed of melodic contention and frantic romance, is completely ignored: the early recordings of West Australian bands like the Scientists, the Victims, the Manikins and the early Triffids made less of a virtue of sheer perversity.
Even so, this collection shows the extraordinary diversity of local initiatives. In the three Eastern states capitals, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, malcontents drew on a variety of alien sources – Detroit, Bowie/Eno, Krautrock and CBGBs: all kosher now, of course – when mixing their own explosive cocktails. As with any period of frantic experiment, there were mixed results.
The first track, the noisy squall of the Moodists’ debut “Gone Dead”, is propelled by Chris Walsh’s lumbering bass and has an insolent voodoo groove which recalls the Stooges. If not quite a classic, its offhanded swagger does show the killing confidence which would eventually endear David Graney to all discerning Australians. Walsh also propels the Fabulous Marquises’ “Honeymoons”, with equally compelling effect: the cynical lyric is swept under a sweet keyboard wash while the bass obsessively frets. Ash Wednesday’s ‘Love By Numbers’ is gleefully conceptual, a tedious intonation interrupted by a dreamy melodic sigh: he’s now a touring member of Einsturzende Neubauten.
Elsewhere, and especially in Sydney, attaining unloveliness sometimes seemed the primary purpose. Whatever the pretext, the herky-jerky rhythms and squawking vocals of Voigt 465’s “Voices A Drama” haven’t worn well. Nor has the robotic arthouse deliberation of “Sweat and Babble”, by their successors, the Tame Omearas. Another offshoot, Wild West, is far more impressive: “We Can Do” has fat, insistent, almost funky bass and a spacious production which blends noise, competing voices and distracted whistling into a stomp which recalls the Pop Group. “Pony Club” by the Limp, featuring Judy and Jane McGee, refugees from Pel Mel, is stranger yet. It employs the clipped diction, möbius keyboards and nautical soundings of space odyssey to describe the loneliness of the reluctant ponygirl! It’s actually unsettling.
The Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast were another group of Sydney experimentalists with a gob-stopping name. Constructed largely from rattling piano, kitchen cutlery and synthesised whitterings, “The Dumb Waiters”, their slice of social comment, is both catchy and sardonic, more Madness than Cabaret Voltaire. The Particles aspired to the condition of bubblegum (or, perhaps, Blu-tak) but the whispy, murmurous ‘Apricot’s Dream’ is nowhere near annoying enough. The Slugfuckers, also from Sydney, plied a more prosaic trade: “Cacophony” posts fair warning of its honking, distorted contents, another raucous Stooges’ retread with the sole aim, seemingly, of “making me shit in my pants”.
Melbourne’s experimentalists were less melodramatic and more compelling. With “Lamp That”, instrumental sextet Equal Local fused woolly distorted beats and stray cat guitars to angular jazz-rock grooves with high-stepping effect. “How Low Can You Go?” by Essendon Airport, an early vehicle for composer David Chesworth, is a hypnotic exercise for guitar, synthesiser and minimal cellophane snare which has the clarity of hypothesis. The glyphic ®® (pronounced “tch tch tch”, as Skippy says when Sonny’s slow on the uptake) contribute “One Note Song”, which starts out as a mad thrash and develops into the sort of demented burlesque Goran Bregovic wrote for Underground. It is, apparently, only one of the many versions of this wordless and, allegedly, monotonous “song”.
Brisbane was different again. With the reviled and pugnacious Kiwi grandee, Joh Bjelke Petersen, then Australia’s most deeply conservative political force, running the State, how could it not be? Xero’s “the Girls” is a strident feminist curse, the sound of restless civilians registering deep-seated disturbance. It makes for uncomfortable listening. The Apartments’ first single “Help” is far prettier. Brisk and ringing with a stricken lyric, it’s perfectly poppy. Peter Milton Walsh’s battered romantic persona, the literate little boy lost who’ll sing shyly for his supper, is already in place, already affecting. It wasn’t a hit. The Pits’ “Words” is blithely absurdist. Unlike the more portentous tracks here – Ron Rude’s “Piano Piano”, for instance, a wretched prediction of eighties pop – it’s essentially playful, glad to experiment.
Happily, experiment is this collection’s strongest suit. Although the execution is occasionally clumsy, some of the strategies evolved are ingenious. And some proved prescient.
Adelaide's Jon Dale writes
sweetly for Careless Talk
Costs Lives (Issue #11?)
Various Can't Stop It! (Australian Post Punk 1978-82) (Chapter Music)
The post-punk diaspora fed the 'anyone can do it' ethos through several generations of pre-punk musical endeavour. Shifting beyond the three-chord
dogmatism of first-tier punk rock, suddenly everything was up for
grabs: Canterbury prog, reggae, Krautrock, glam, you name it. But it appeared to be a distinctly Northern-hemisphere phenomena, with formidable
circles-of-inspiration blooming in England, America and Europe. In contrast, Southern equivalents, such as Australia's post-punk scene, have been either
underestimated or ignored. While overseas observers were caught up appraising the (admittedly staggering) post-Detroit sprawl of Radio Birdman and early
Saints, a whole other thing was happening in Australia - a great starburst of staggering energy that, as compiler David Nichols observes in the sleevenotes
to this compilation, "was the first time there was a real culture of innovation around an Australian music scene."
Chapter have continued their admirable public service re-issue campaign with this visionary blast of
non-pro mastery from Australia's bedrooms and pubs during 1978 to 1982, and what a ride it is.
You want parallels to make this graspable? Tame Omearas shine with the
Raincoats-esque clatter-scrape of "Sweat and Babble", and the Primitive Calculators effortlessly fuse Suicide synth-abuse and Stoogely guitar crushery
on a live "Pumping Ugly Muscle". The Apartments refine Brisbane's idiosyncratic take on sarky, literate pop with "Help", which is replete with
lyrical barbs at Foster and McLennan. Australia even had its own Dr. Mix, the laconic Ash Wednesday, whose "Love By Numbers" fed Plastic Bertrand through
the Remix's Greatest Hits song book. Most awe-inspiring is Essendon Airport's "How Low Can You Go" - imagine the Young Marble Giants mulching the entire
oeuvre of Antonio Carlos Jobim, then refracting it in an undersea mirror, all full of Jacques Cousteau visions. It's that good.
Couple of complaints, of course: there's the usual, puzzling exclusions (no Seems Twice or Laughing Hands,) and certain acts are represented by
less-than-immaculate contributions - you haven't really lived until you've heard Makers of the Dead Travel Fast's "Tael of A Saeghors", but Nichols saw
fit to include "The Dumb Waiters" instead. These are minor quibbles, though, and the rabble-rousing independence of spirit and
broad-minded astonishment you'll feel surging from Can't Stop It! is going to make you wonder why
Australian post-punk never received its dues (something to do with the colonial cringe, I would venture.) It'll also
probably serve notice on the puny and meagre attempts of musicianly types in your hometown. I get the
feeling a few histories and family trees will be redrawn after Can't Stop It! hits.
Australia = Texas somehow
from OC Weekly
by Chris Ziegler
CAN’T STOP IT! AUSTRALIAN POST-PUNK, 1978-1982
Australia is the Texas of the world—a vast wasteland teeming with the descendants of polite society’s
outcasts, stewing in isolation and wretched homegrown beer—and, like Texas, it’s home to some of the most
uniquely gone-awry creative endeavors ever put to tape. Chapter Music has captured some of the most gone-awry of all on this compilation, a snapshot of an anything-goes aesthetic that was weird enough when it swept through Britain and only got weirder when it filtered Down Under. The big stars of the post-punk era find plenty of counterparts here, with Aussie takes on the Mekons, the Fall, the Slits and God-fucking-forbid Morrissey that veer from decent to impressive, but there are also more than a few tracks on here that are nothing but cheeseball new-wave staggering around in more respectable "artistic" clothing. Who’d ever figure that the same continent that belched forth Crocodile Hunter could sustain so much
drum-machine-and-keyboard wanking? The best moments are the bizarre ones: Ash Wednesday’s novelty synth-pop pisstake "Love By Numbers" will win you over no matter how stupid you think it is; the Primitive Calculators beat their drum machine into submission on the sneering trash ramble "Pumping Ugly Muscle," probably the punkest track on here; the Take drop an ice-cold downer that should set with-it labels like Kill Rock Stars fighting for re-press rights; and the Moodists make nice-nice with "Gone Dead," a tape-loopy swatch of arty punk pop that’ll make you feel all fuzzy-sloppy drunk. Be ready for a little love-hate because there’s no middle ground with music like this. But don’t let that scare you, either. Can’t Stop It! punctuates the painful stretches with the kind of unjustly forgotten gems hipsters live for.
Sunday Times February 10, 2002
Pop: New releases
Mark Edwards, Dan Cairns and Stewart Lee
Three stars Outstanding; Two stars Good; One star So-so; No star Give it a miss
Can’t Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-82
THE Australian post-punk era reflects the British model, but, like the platypus, Australia’s mutant bird-fish, it is a fascinating hybrid, and an abomination against God and nature. Tracks snaffled from 7in singles and unreleased sessions see future members of more famous names the Go-Betweens and the Dirty Three take their first faltering steps. A self-conscious, art-school sensibility shrouds the whole selection — the band that recorded One Note Song have a symbol instead of a name, pronounced by clicking the tongue three times — but can’t obscure the scene’s unfettered originality. The Particles’ dainty art- bubblegum debut, Apricot’s Dream, would be delightful in any era, while the cultural impact of the Fall’s antipodean tours demonstrates the Butterfly Effect at work on disciples such as Brisbane teenagers the Pits. SL Two stars
thanks very much
ALBUM OF THE WEEK - 2/2/2002
Can't Stop It: Australian Post-Punk 1978-82
If you need to be convinced of the rich and undeniably unique heritage of Australian rock music, look no further. And now is as an appropriate time as any to celebrate that richness, since the kind of venues that supported this and other uprisings are disappearing before our eyes, as the new music rebels prefer to labour over their samplers in bedrooms. It was a unique period of Australian music then, and now, one we'll probably never see again. That sentiment is just part of the reason to listen to the music contained here. Then there's that sense of youth and adventure and abandon that went with this particular period and strain of music. Too often we see music defined in international terms. The CBGB bands. Truth is when punk hit music we did it our way (Birthday Party/Radio Birdman). We had to. Otherwise it wouldn't have meant anything. And the same applies to the "post-punk" that flowed from it. This album captures that period of music wonderfully, ranging from selections from the seminal (Moodists, Essendon Airport, Ash Wednesday, Apartments) to the essential (Equal Local, The Particles, Wild West), and giving us a feel not just for the difference between the various bands but between the cities they
terrorized. This is not about nostalgia. This album documents a time in music, a time in Australian music when rock and roll and words like "wild" and "innovation" and "original" were synonymous. The final reason for wanting to listen to this record is that the music speaks for itself. It roars. (Chapter Records -
Wide Punk (how much of it do they like?)
Can't Stop It
In no way would I ever claim to be an expert on post-punk music, especially obscure post-punk from Australia. So keep that in mind as I sort of struggle through this review. This is a collection of 20 songs from bands that were playing and releasing independent music around Australia in the period between 1978-1982. I guess "post-punk" can cover a very wide range of musical styles, because the music on this disc seems to go all over the place. Some of it reminds me of Smiths-style rock, some of the less thrashy Crass Records music, Devo, synth-pop, Velvet Underground, the Voidoids, etc... Overall, it like a collection of interesting, quirky art-rock. Some of the stuff that I enjoyed the most were the contributions by The Moodists, Ash Wednesday (whose song "Love By Numbers" is just a guy counting along to a simple synth-based tune, with a girl singing "It Must Be Love" for the chorus!), The Slugfuckers (because of their name, and their excellent punk-rock-deconstruction noise-rock song "Cacophony"), and of course the band whose name consists of three arrows (kind of like: -> ^ ->), but is pronounced by clicking three times... OK, sometimes I get the feeling that some of these people tried waaaay to hard to be weird, but the result is actually quite creative and interesting. This whole compilation is also packaged together very well: A booklet with photographs and a history of each band is included. If you're interested in obscure Australian bands, or just want to hear something off the beaten track, give this a spin.
2001 in Ujaku - is this a web log or
V/A Can't Stop It! Australian Post Punk 1978-82 (Chapter)
Hidden histories of my own backyard revealed. There's something fascinating about the will to experiment many of these groups clearly possessed, and although often realised in an endearingly amateurish fashion, I'm impressed by the focus on exploring rough sound ideas over perfect execution. Naturally it's the more 'out' material that excites, especially those tracks employing rudimentary electronics and drum machine rhythms; groups such as Essendon Airport, Primitive Calculators, (Makers Of) The Dead Travel Fast - great fucking names, too!
From Big Takeover
Magazine, New York
Can't Stop It (Australian Post-Punk 1978-82)
From the perspective of the non-Australian music consumer, that country's underground produced a flurry of greatness in 1976-1979 and then withered away until the later '80s. But the hidden fact is that there were tons of bands in the wake of punk following the harder rocking style pioneered by The Saints and Radio Birdman, while others pursued art-rock with the same
fervour as their U.K. brethren.
Melbourne developed a reputation for the latter style, and that city provides most of the music here. The bulk of it sounds wildly dated: There is only one period in music that could produce this kind of noise in any significant quantity, and that's the one this disc documents. There's lots of electronic noises, a general distaste for melody and hooks, and affected singing where the women all want to sound like Siouxsie and the guys want to sound like Talking Heads' David Byrne.
Most people will have heard of few of these groups, such as The Moodists, Apartments, Makers of The Dead Travel Fast, or Primitive Calculators. Amateurish, adventurous and pretentious, it's an interesting compilation.
interesting take from The
Post-punk gets a groove
BY DOUGLAS WOLK
"In the beginning there was rhythm," Ari Up of the Slits yelled in 1980, and a new compilation of British post-punk bands’ enthusiastic plunge into dance music (on the Soul Jazz label) takes its name from her battle cry. For a couple of glorious years in the early ’80s, even scenes that had once seemed the hardcore opposition to the gaudy excesses of the discotheque gave themselves over to the beat. True, as much as the likes of A Certain Ratio and 23 Skidoo lift from disco (Nile Rodgers’s splintery guitar playing in Chic is a favorite reference point), few of the bands on In the Beginning . . . could be mistaken for the real thing. Yet the raging noise that filled punks’ heads could be channeled into a beat easily enough. Gang of Four’s "To Hell with Poverty" is dragged across its four-on-the-floor beat by the feedback shrapnel of Andy Gill’s guitar, but its real hook — the chorus’s yell of "ah-ah-ah-OW!" — isn’t too far from something Donna Summer might’ve sung. Even noise monsters Throbbing Gristle flip on the drum machine for a slow, atonal groover that’s snarkily called "20 Jazz Funk
Greats. "The same thing was happening all over the world.
The two astonishing Disco Not Disco compilations (on Strut) assembled by DJs Joey Negro and Sean P are subtitled "leftfield disco classics from the New York underground." What "leftfield" means here is that they were made around 1980 by disco outsiders (the jazz veteran Don Cherry, abstract filmmaker Dieter Meier of Yello, noise goofers Liquid Idiot, who became Liquid Liquid) — and the farther away from disco they’d begun, the more they had to bring to dance music. Can were a German experimental rock band with a drummer, Jaki Liebezeit, who believed in inventing a new beat for every song. A stuttering groove from bassist Rosko Gee (who’d played with prog-rock band Traffic) and a little nip-and-tuck operation from tape editor Holger Czukay and their collective improvisation "Aspectacle" became a terse, raw, dance-floor favorite. In the Beginning . . . closes with the Clash’s "This Is Radio Clash" — a former punk band’s bear-hug embrace of disco that became an international
hit. You could even argue that it was an avant-garde cellist who became the most creative dance auteur of the era. The late Arthur Russell began experimenting with dance music in the late ’70s, but even after he co-founded the post-disco label Sleeping Bag Records, his idea of a groove was nothing like anyone else’s. Four of his brilliant tracks appear on the first volume of Disco Not Disco, and "Let’s Go Swimming," a late-period Russell jam, is the highlight of the second. "Let’s Go Swimming" starts with rubbery beats that might be processed cello scratches, then throws in layers of percussion that seem to locate the beat in different places — it’s there, all right, but it seems refracted, as through ripples in clear water. Russell’s murmured, free-floating vocal and clipped stabs at a keyboard shy away from any kind of tonal center; you’re halfway through the eight-minute track before it’s becomes clear what key it’s in or where the downbeat is. This was hardly standard operating procedure for club music — it’s the kind of idea that only an outsider would come up
Another new compilation, Can’t Stop It! (Chapter), surveys the circa 1980 Australian post-punk scene. Unlike the American and British artists on In the Beginning . . . and the Disco Not Disco comps, the DIY bands Can’t Stop It! documents didn’t have any commercial prospects, and they knew it. They had barely anyone to impress and lots of people to annoy: the Slugfuckers’ 1979 "Cacophony" is the height of inspired crudeness, and Voigt/465’s "Voice: A Drama," from the same year, is as giddy, awkward, and astringent as the early Slits. But prickly noisemakers warmed to the beat Down Under, too. Ash Wednesday’s "Love by Numbers" is half arty frigidity, half dizzy bounce — its verses are simply Wednesday counting up to 100 or so through a robotic filter while a drum machine burbles away happily. By 1982, the bug had bitten everyone: one highlight of Can’t Stop It! is "Lamp That," a sourly funky little instrumental by Equal Local, and the liner notes mention that a handful of the disc’s messier, rockier bands eventually "went disco" too. It could have been a surrender, but it mostly sounds like their discovery of their
Issue Date: March 28 - April 4, 2002
review from New York's Other Music
[V/A] "Can't Stop It" (Chapter, Australia) CD $13.99
Fantastic compilation of Australian punk and new wave and post-punk, circa 1978-1982. I can't say you've probably heard of bands here past the Moodists and the Apartments, but the quality is the Aussie equivalent of Family Fodder, Raincoats, the Fall--like what came out on the labels Stiff, Rough Trade, Y. Artsy pop, keyboards galore, punk force in shambles, tinny keyboard man-machine melodies, angular angst. From fabulous electro new wave songs to punk slapdash urgency, to more artsy pop experiments, the selection (by David Nichols [Cannanes] and Guy Blackman) is incredible, the vast majority off of tiny-label 7" that you'll never find, ever. Electro kids will find something to love, punk's not left behind, even those of you (us?) who lived through this fruitful period of music will find here a ton of stuff totally missed. There's a reason The Wire gave this comp. a full-page review recently--it's good good good. [RE]
Tentatively 80s from The
Null Device blog
I wandered down to Synæsthesia this afternoon, and picked up Can't Stop It!, the compilation of Australian post-punk from between 1978 and 1982. Some of the tracks on this CD are surprisingly recent sounding; Essendon Airport's How Low Can You Go sounds like something off a recent Sadness Is In The Sky compilation, Ash Wednesday's Love By Numbers, with its sequencer riffs, sounds like it could have been put together a few years ago (though this may be because of the 80s retro thing), and the track by Equal Local (who featured TB-303 circuitbender and marital sadomasochism advocate Robyn "Devilfish" Whittle among their lineup) sounds almost like one of those contemporary free-jazz/laptop-glitch act. Though the CD also does have its moments of sloppy, inchoate punk-rawk noise (The Slugfuckers' contribution comes to mind).
Not saying much (but thanks
anyway) in Beans Baxter Magazine Issue 12
This must have been a very exciting time in underground music in Australia. Punk rockers experimenting with sounds that would still be quite unsettling to most, (imagine the impact it must have had twenty years ago!). The Moodists (Dave Graney's first band), Voigt 465, the Apartments, tch tch tch and Primitive Calculators are just five of the twenty amazingly great bands featured on this collection. Ah fuck it I'm running late for the deadline, just buy it, it's essential.
A considered response from Ujaku
(The Can't Stop It comp had been mentioned on Ujuka before and so I contacted the
editor and sent him a fairly expansive comp of purely Sydney material. This is
his response to it...)
I've made mention of Chapter Music's ace release of last year Can't Stop It previously, and another compilation of Australian Post-Punk has come my way since from Phil Turnbull of Voigt 465/Wild West. Poor Galileo, He Has Gone Mad collects Sydney Post Punk material from 78-84; quite a broad space of time, and the largely unreleased bits and pieces on offer reflect this fact. Sonically, they move from traditionally structured pop songs through staccato synth bursts to sounds exactly the fucking same as those placed under the banner of 'post-rock' somewhere in the mid 1990s. But there is a disturbing anemia I find in all of this music, a bloodlessness in much music from the period. Occasionally discordant, but never openly abrasive; often up tempo, but never belted out; and agitated, but never angry - less Suicide, more Go-Betweens. Kind of creepy, that truly unsettling quality rerun episodes of Countdown also provide purely through the nature of their production. It brings home an idea relating to the use of voice also; in comparison to much underground rock of today there is far less focus on enunciation here, of pushing words out through the lips. Possibly a result of the pervasive influence of Hip Hop on rock, which based on this evidence appears to have stretched to take in even the most staunchly anglophile indie domains. Many vocalists here mumble their way through songs, lost in reverb and multitracking... and I like it, sure.
Oh Jesus Christ and I have to say it - The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast: this is where Gerling got their shtick from - believe it! Not the part that makes halfway decent knock off pop house tracks, but the awful indie part, the part characterised by the little monkey boys using their own voices instead of drafted divas. They're from Sydney too, you know. Mmm, a half baked theory, yes…
In response to this, I've just sent him the following email :
Thanks for your considered responses (on Ujaku online) to the cd-r I sent you. It's interesting to read and hear people's thoughts about this stuff
after all this time. Especially when they're as thoughtfull as yours.
I think I can explain the bloodlessness you find in the recordings, to some extent at least.
You have to remember that almost all of us were complete novices, untrained musically but enthusiasts to the nth degree. We were learning to play whilst
we were enraptured by the diy aesthetic that punk seemed to deliver. And although it was our whole life, music was, really, nothing more than a
hobby, a fun thing to do, a fantastic way to spend our youth. That's why there's so few of these people involved in music anymore - a lot of them
became lawyers or computer analysts instead. That's not to say that we didn't believe passionately that we were creating something special - just
that, in the back of our minds, it wasn't our real lives. I think that these things may impart a tentative feeling over much of it. And, more concretely,
why there are no reel-to-reel master tapes anymore - the final products simply weren't that important to us.
On the other hand, there were the few people like Nick Cave who, basically, came from the same places musically as us but who decided that music was the
only thing they could do with their lives. That sort of commitment seemed a bit weird to me, for some reason.
This carried over to the recordings as well where diy really should have been left behind. We never had producers who could listen and say "not
interesting enough - play it again", it was all left up to us and, truthfully, we just didn't want to offend our friends by making adverse
comments. (The only time anything like this ever happened was when Polly Palmer - weirdo keyboard player from The Reels - wandered into a mix down on
a No Night Sweats track, listened for a minute or 2 and pulled out one of the synth things completely - which made it less fussy and immensely
clearer). This lack of a controlling element was only compounded by lack of money and, so, a max of 3-4 hours in the studio was standard to record
whatever we could in that time.
In comparison (and it's the only comparison I can make as I have no real current knowledge of these things), a friend from work is in a band (fairly
dull alterna rock) and they've just spent 3 months doing a demo with a
producer who has moulded their sound dramatically. To us, a demo was a $5 potable cassette player stuck in the middle of a practise room recrding onto
a 20c tape.
And, lastly, your impressions may have been skewed by a cd-r packed with a lot of my stuff - none of which was on the pounding rock side of things. If
you'd like a fuller, rockier cd from 78-81 (when most of the really good stuff happened) then let me know.
A lengthy write-up from a
(juxtaposing it with some bootleg mixes compilations)
THE END OF MUSIC.
The signs that music is over, that it is eating itself in a cannibalistic orgy, are everywhere: digital copying, ironical non-songs, cloning, soft-porn video clips and blatantly manufactured stars abound. It's a great time to be a fan, and an even better time to write criticism, because music has never been so awful and so funny in living memory. Three elements I've been encountering recently seem to form points of navigation through this astonishing mass of weirdness for me: A digital trend that is at once the hottest thing in music and totally over, married in a triumvirate with two crucial compilation CD's are points that describe a truly bizarre arc that stretches from Hobart's electronic underbelly back to the post-punk era and then fast forward into the now-then-tomorrow of Bastard Pop or Bootlegging.
Or maybe it's just me.
Let's get down to cases. We will begin the journey with Can't Stop It, a compilation CD that emerged late last year on a small Melbourne label called Chapter Music. Chapter has been a consistent delight over the years in it's championing of Australia's pop underbelly, issuing vinyl 7"s like there's no tomorrow, and making available some of Australia's more intriguing musical acts. It all pales, however, in the face of this astonishing archival release. Can't Stop It collects twenty cuts from the post-punk scene in Australia between 1978 and 1982, and hearing it is, for me at least, like re-writing history - it's like thinking that the nazis got defeated then finding out the entire war was a plot to undermine the expanse of communism. The curative feat here is what truly blows me away - in some cases, songs were mastered for the CD directly from a vinyl copy, the master tapes having long since vanished into the ether. As such it all deserves to be heard (and how!), but there are bands here that would have changed your life had you but been able to hear them. The astonishing guitar 'n' electronics franticness of Primitive Calculators' 'song' Pumping Ugly Muscle alone makes this CD an essential purchase for any punk fan but there is such a variety of moments, from the Fall-inspired noise assault of The Slugfuckers, to the knowing smart-alecery of Tch tch tch ( taking out the award for Best Ever band name: it was written as three arrows and pronounced as if your grandmother was clucking her tongue and shaking her head at you for spilling the milk. Second place goes to The People With Chairs Up Their Noses, which contained the future drummer for The Dirty Three). Tch tch tch provide my moment on this comp, but miraculously, there are no duds at all. The material on this disc, and the fantastic liner notes, filled with anecdote and leads for the curious to look for more, speak volumes for what was happening in Australia nearly twenty years ago - a vibrant and creative music scene that was innovative and inspiring, and it brings out two points: electronic sound was a big part of many of these bands, and loads of them had women in them, without falling into the trap of making a fuss about having women in them. This is what we could have had instead of Men At Work and Barnsey. But don't mourn, just buy. The first run has already sold out, much of it overseas, and the second on will do the same. Get on the web, go to Melbourne, just get this blast from the past that sounds like the future, that sounds like telepathy from a parallel universe where our prime minister is bisexual and no-one gives a fuck.
Now we reach the juxtaposition: This CD has been dominating my crappy player. It's position is usurped for few things, but the one that it seems to sit in tandem with in my fevered brain was launched at Syrup a few weeks back. I finally made it to the glitch-hop/laptop punk/technoise/I don't fucken know what night and man, was I glad. I was treated to a truly stellar performance from Karaoke For My Shadow, who manage to surprise every time by always being different whilst having a genuine thread of idea running through everything they touch, and indeed they seem to be settling down a bit into a distinct sound if this show and the one at obscura cluster was anything to go by. Improvised electronica with a twisted edge that wants to kiss you and slap your arse at the same time. Also on the bill were Little Bird, an act I'd seen at the Night Market and been singularly unimpressed by. This outing by the Bird gave me the welcome opportunity to eat my words because I got quite a kick out of them this time around, demonstrating a strong feel for warmth and darkness in their tunes. Also noteworthy were the feral( as in what it really means, not the slang) explorations into glitch, gabba, and general electro-terror Aida Cheops threw mercilessly at the throng, who seemed shocked but rather impressed. I certainly was; he gave up the sounds of Kid 606, Blectum from Blechdom, Lesser and bizarre shards of pop noise forced through really nasty filters somewhere on his laptop, and not only did he play some genuinely cutting edge sounds, he made a few as well. It was a bloody good night, well run and weird - there was a kind of milk theme running though it all - acts performed from within a castle of milk crates, and the compilation CD which was launched came with an 'I heart Betta' sticker. Classy, and patriotic.
Cheops radio (the CD in question), which I took home from the launch and just can't stop touching, has great moments of new electronic-based sound, produced in Hobart and Melbourne, not to mention art images and video pieces - most of which don't work on my shitbox of a computer. The sounds are all I need for the time being though, and somehow form a definite connection in my head with the post-punk of a few paragraphs back - because this stuff is as punk as fuck, with nary a cliché in sight. I had long hoped that the digital revolution would put innovation back into the loungerooms and bedrooms of Hobart's underground, and here it all is in spades - dark, funny, gentle, harsh - everything you could possibly need for a head-flexing session. It's actually hard for me to pick a standout track, but the Boards of Canada tinged Kinderwhore's cut Crooked teeth is a winner and a half, creating a truly sinister effect with looping vocal samples underpinned by a scratchy beat and some lilting keyboard. Aida Cheops' track is a corker, all drill-bit beats going off in different directions with glitched out fuzz screwing one hard in the ear - though I feel it's mixed a little quietly. I dig it, I just resent having to leap for the volume. But the crack-up is always going to get me; I'm a sucker for comedy; which means that the fucked-with sample of Joan Jett's I Love rock and Roll on the Waste Org. track 'untitled and untalented' gets the prize here. My only real complaint with this comp is that it's a bit too short - just as the temples are beginning to throb and the other side is becoming distinct, it's all over, leaving me eager for more. I'll just have to wait for the next emission from the Independent Lo-Fi Killers, as this is a big tease that makes me feel excited, eager and willing. Go get this and be exposed again the breadth of Hobart's underground.
Which brings us to the third pillar. I'm an incurable net nerd, seeking out oddity and information throughout the www. This time, the web has led me, and others I have no doubt, to an actual scene that seems to have emanated from the web itself, to rear it's glorious mongrel head in the genuine world. It's been called Bootlegging or Bastard Pop or Mash-ups, and all these terms are as useless as each other in describing what this crap -and it is crap, brilliant crap - actually is. Basically, the existence of music download sites has combined with the various programs currently available for manipulating sound in the form of wav. files to - well, what one does is get the sound file of , say the vocals from Bootylicious by Destiny's Child and fiddle with it via your program so that it's beats and climaxes meet almost precisely the vocal-less music of Smells like Teen Spirit. You title the track Smells Like Teen Booty and send it out into the world to cause hilarity and confusion. You really have to hear this stuff to get it, but when the manipulation of wavs is well done, you get something new that sounds like something you've already heard, which you have, but not like this, the incongruity of the two tunes working together to make your head spin whilst your arse shakes of it's own accord. The best ones I've heard mix things Dexy's Midnight Runners and Public Enemy, for hilarity, or make your flesh crawl with how right it sounds, like the mixture of current music press darlings The Strokes and Christina Aguilera. This has happened, gone mainstream to the extent of Kylie mixing New Order's Blue Monday into Can't get You Out of My Head live at the Brit Music Awards, and been pronounced as over by some early movers in the scene - to which I say bollocks. More bootleg tunes are appearing even as we speak, so those of you that have the right computer get stuck into listening and then making them - it seems to be easy enough to do, but the tweaking and choosing of what vox to mix with what music does seem to have some genius behind it. Names to drop at this stage are Freelance Hellraiser, Osymyso, Kurtis Rush, and most importantly, the Boom Selection website, this being the place many MP3's of these weird arsed pieces of blatant copyright infringement can be found.
Which brings us to the closing thrust: Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is total proof that music as we understood it is changing - moving from the buried and lost post-punk found on Can't Stop it, to the Cheops Radio compilation CD of electronica that could actually be more punk than anything that claims to be punk in the present day, that was only available at a gig, to an internet manipulation of current commercial pop which parodies it and celebrates and burgles it all at once - what's going on?
The old, which may as well be new because no-one heard it the first time around, blends into the new through an attitude(which might be punk, but maybe punk is just a smaller part of a greater concept) that never changes and is thus old and possibly outside of time anyway, creating a loop of ideas that owe as much to situationism and Dada as it does to anything happening on the www right now. Welcome, one and all, to the future, which is borrowing from the past in order to take the piss out of the now. Music is over, which means it's free to start again.
The Where-to-find-it-all bit.
All of this stuff is readily available via the internet:
Can't Stop It! Can be ordered from Chapter Music:
snailmail: P.O. Box 4292 Melbourne University Parkville Victoria 3052 Australia. You could always try getting it from an independent store like Aroma records or Ruffcut as well.
Cheops Radio(dish01) - I think this was only available at the show, but try emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for information. In fact mail them anyway because they have lots of events planned for Hobart and the last one was way cool.
Bastard Pop seems to be a net phenomena, so look on the web!
Check http://boomselection.n3.net/ for all the latest info on the boots, lots of MP3's to download and more links to some really weird sites. Your head will never be the same.
A small, yet terrific intro
for Voigt/465 at Insound
One Faint Deluded Smile CD - $9.99
Label: Radio One
VOIGT/465, formed in Sydney, Australia in 1976, created some of the most innovative experimental music to come from Australia's largely overlooked and underrated post punk scene of the late '70s. Driven by the energy of the punk "movement," and particularly the ground-breaking sounds of British/U.S. imports The Pop Group, Roxy Music, This Heat, and Pere Ubu, VOIGT/465 also delved into the more free-form improvisation and electronica of krautrock/prog rock groups and free jazz artists before them, who were a large influence on the group (in particular Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Can, Faust, etc.). They played sporadically throughout 1977-78 and, spurred on by the DIY attitudes of British punk and post punk, recorded and released two records: a one-sided 7" single, "State/A Secret West" (one of the first self-financed records in Australia), and finally the limited edition "Slights Unspoken" LP in late '79, when the group parted ways. An unsettling and exhilarating mixture of song driven rock
A lengthy WebLog style review
Various Artists - Can't Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-1982
You may have heard of the Australian post-punk/new-wave scene. Perhaps you're familiar with Nick Cave's stint in the Boys Next Door; perhaps you saw the Models play their reunion gig recently, or rented a copy of Dogs In Space, the seminal film about the scene, from your local video library's cult/art-house section. Perhaps you even were at the Seaview Ballroom in the early 80s, in ripped jeans and hairspray, or know someone who was. Or perhaps you just heard it mentioned here and there, and were wondering about this scene that so many artists came from. Well, if you're interested in this period of history, Can't Stop It! is probably worth a look.
Compiled by Guy Blackman (who runs the very credible Melbourne indie label Chapter Music, hosts a show on 3RRR and plays in various bands) and David Nichols, Can't Stop It! does not purport to be an objective record or disinterested documentary on the so-called "little band" scene that flourished in Australian inner cities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but rather a collection of the compilers' favourite music from the time and scene. The scene arose in the wake of punk, whose raw anarchy had burned away the deadwood, leaving fertile ground for genre-defying experimentation, whilst keeping the DIY ethos. For a while, the scene was a hotbed of innovation, where guitars mixed with electronics, noise with melody, rock'n'roll with conceptual art, and rules were broken.
This compilation has considerably more stylistic variety than the term "post-punk" would suggest. Some tracks do bear the stylistic stamp of punk (The Take's Summer, with droning bass, guitar feedback and slightly Siouxsieish half-spoken vocal about ex-boyfriends and reasons to live, and The Slugfuckers' aptly-titled guitar-noise workout Cacophony); whereas other tracks eschew this sound, varying widely. Some of these tracks have aged surprisingly well, and don't sound 20 years old; How Low Can You Go? by Essendon Airport (which featured David Chesworth, now a respected contemporary composer) sounds like it could have come off a recent Sadness Is In The Sky cover CD, and Lamp That by Equal Local (whose lineup featured Robin Whittle, perhaps better known for his Devilfish TB-303 hack and/or his views on sexual discipline) sounds almost like one of those contemporary free-jazz/laptop-glitch acts; except, of course, that it was produced with the technology of 20 years ago.
The compilation starts off with Gone Dead by The Moodists (which was Dave Graney's outfit back in his punk days), opening, promisingly with a scream, segueing into Voigt 465's raucous, falsetto-sung Voices A Drama, which sounds like a collision between punk and art-school experimentalism. Track 5, The Apartments' Help, starts off sounding like The Cure's Boys Don't Cry, only with more cryptic and "arty" lyrics.
Ash Wednesday's Love By Numbers, goes into electronic territory; an analogue drum machine loop and synth sequencer pump out rigidly mechanical loops, underlaid with heavily processed guitar chords. Over this, Wednesday's vocal comes in, counting up from 1. Whether it's a statement on the human condition in a technologically-mediated world or just an exercise in electronic tinkering, who can tell; though it's pulled off with style and sounds pretty doovy, arguably earning Ash Wednesday a place in the pantheon of underground synthpop.
Further on, we get existential questions from The Fabulous Marquises, class-conscious social critique from The Limp (with Pony Club) and, by no means least, a very sweet piece of low-key jangly-pop from The Particles, titled Apricot's Dream. Not to mention tracks from Ron Rude (perhaps better known for his publicity stunts than his music; though his song Piano Piano is pretty nice) and the original live version of the Primitive Calculators' contribution to the Dogs In Space soundtrack, in all its lo-fi DIY glory.
The compilation ends in an arty vein, with the art-noise sounds of the People With Chairs Up Their Noses, the dadaistic cut-up poetry of The Fits' Words, and ->^->'s sax-driven post-punk instrumental, One Note Song.
The CD comes with a booklet, describing each of the 20 acts featured on it, their history and what the members are doing now, along with original photographs. Here many familiar names appear, including artists as diverse and varied as Lisa Gerrard, Ollie Olsen, Greg "Tex" Perkins and Kate Ceberano, not to mention various bands, from Minimum Chips to the Dirty Three, showing how profound the influence of this scene was on Australian (and international) underground music.
The compilers of this CD disclaim any pretence of objectivity in their selection of material; nonetheless, the breadth of styles and artists (many of whom went on to do other things), along with the comprehensive booklet, makes this an essential document for anybody interested in this particular chapter of Australian musical history.
A short shot of praise from Animal
VARIOUS ARTISTS - "CAN'T STOP IT! - AUSTRALIAN POST PUNK 1978-1982" (CHAPTER) CD $9.99ppd
This is, without a doubt, our favorite release of the past few months, and it was assembled by none
other than our very own David Nicols of Huon fame (along with Guy Blackman of Chapter Records /
Minimum Chips). The title pretty much sums it up, and this is truly the cream of the crop. This CD
has already received praise from the Wire, Other Music, etc. with good reason - because it completely
RULES! Bands included on this collection include The Moodists (feat. Mick Turner who would later join
The Dirty Three), Voigt 465 (whose song here is one of the most amazing things you'll ever hear), The
Apartments (Feat. Peter Milton Walsh of the Go-Betweens), Ash Wednesday, Xero (Feat. John
Wilsteed of the Go-Betweens), The Fabulous Marquises (Feat. Edward Clayton-Jones of the Bad
Seeds), People With Chairs Up Their Noses (Feat. Jim White of the Dirty Three) and many more. This
one gets our absolute HIGHEST recommendation - basically if you don't have this CD you might as well
go ahead and buy it RIGHT NOW - you won't find it cheaper anywhere else!
bit of almost nothing from Outsight
Reviews in PSF
Various Artists Can't Stop It! Chapter
Perhaps it's the wide-open geography of the Australian continent, but something must explain the expansive, reverberating consistency to underground Australian rock. This compilation of Aussie post-punk sounds documents a swatch cut through the music of the period. This selection of bands 1978-82 includes many previously unreleased tracks and exhibits an eclectic array of experimentalism. Nestled alongside minimalist electronic tunesters like Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast are gloomy New Wave artists like Ron Rude. Featured The Moodists, Voigt/465, Essendon Airport, The Apartments, Xero, Ash Wednesday, Makers Of The Dead Travel Fast, Primitive Calculators, The Particles, The Limp, Ron Rude, Tch Tch Tch, Wild West, The Take, Tame Omearas, The Pits, Equal Local, People With Chairs Up Their Noses, The Slugfuckers, and The Fabulous Marquises. Extensive liner notes cover each band. (3.5)
not a lover of experimentalism: from Stylus
Can’t Stop It!: Australian Post-Punk 1978-82
Reviewed by: Kurt Deschermeier
The number of Australian bands that have gained fans outside their homeland is dreadfully low: the Saints, Radio Birdman, the Birthday Party, and, well, Silverchair form the extent of your average music fan’s knowledge. Import prices and the impossibility of regular touring has meant that those of us on the other side of the globe have remained ignorant of musical accomplishments Down Under. Despite this isolation, those developments tended to mirror, or even predate, similar movements here. Just as the Ramones and Sex Pistols precipitated the explosion\implosion of punk in the West, Australia underwent a parallel burst of creativity in the late ‘70s.
Can’t Stop It! attempts to present a Nuggets-style overview of the scene that flourished during those years, collecting 20 tracks spanning a number of divergent styles and locales. Detailed liner notes identify the people involved (when known) and background information for each track; enjoyable and informative, these descriptions provide an excellent starting point to explore the tangled web of shared personnel and long lost singles.
The bands can be separated into four basic camps: melodic jangle-pop, noisier guitar squalls, synth-driven experimentation, and art school avant-rock. If the finest example of the first type, the Apartments’ ‘Help’, sounds uncannily like the Go-Betweens, it should be little surprise to learn that their leader, Peter Milton Walsh, was a member of an early incarnation of their better-known brethren. Literate lyrics, an insistent strum, and an endearingly adenoidal yelp combine for a thoroughly enjoyable song. A more oblique take on similar territory is provided by Xero, whose ‘The Girls’ increases the dissonance factor to create a vaguely unsettling, if still melodic, pop tune. The appeal of ‘Piano Piano’ will depend on your tolerance for ‘80s New Wave; it is well-crafted and agreeable, to be sure, but also utterly forgettable.
Stooges-influenced noise rock, as always, is a decidedly mixed bag. At its worst, you get dull thrash in the vein of the Slugfuckers’ ‘Cacophony’, which is every bit as pedestrian as the name would suggest. More successful are contributions from the Moodists and Primitive Calculators. ‘Gone Dead’ weds its clattering rhythms to a pulsing bass groove, while ‘Pumping Ugly Muscle’ whips sheet-metal guitars and second-hand electronics into a gloriously chaotic maelstrom of white noise. Both are highly recommended.
Essendon Airport’s ‘How Low Can You Go?’ is, without a doubt, the most contemporary sounding piece of music here. Its burbling synths and pastoral melody could easily find a place of recent efforts by Dntel and the Notwist, using electronic instrumentation to create a remarkably organic soundscape. While the other synth-based songs are more readily dated, there are a number of gems to be found. The Fabulous Marquises are close kin to their jangling six-string compatriots; their electronic sounds replace guitars for an effortlessly catchy piece of pop. Love it or hate it, Ash Wednesday’s ‘Love By Numbers’ is so deliriously dumb that it will take up residence in your subconscious for days on end. The instrumental sextet Equal Local lends a track that is closer to jazz fusion than straightforward pop, but undoubtedly excellent. All things considered, these bands form the most consistently successful group of music in the compilation.
Rounding out this collection is a clutch of bands with an avowedly artistic bent. Their songs tread the thin line between boundary-pushing experimentation and willful audience provocation. One suspects that these bands work best as live performance art, but something is lost in the translation to record. Voigt 465 end up sounding like a less compelling version of Kleenex, while People With Chairs Up Their Noses do little to escape their tag of “the worst band in the world.” Other contributions are more listenable, if less than spectacular. (Makers of) The Dead Travel Fast craft a suitably odd background of clanging carnival noises in ‘The Dumb Waiters’, seemingly played on a piano and scraps of metal. >^> (pronounced chk-chk-chk) close out the compilation with the improvisatory ‘One Note Song’, which thankfully expands beyond the drone implied by its title.
Perhaps the most surprising element of the Australian post-punk scene is the role played by women. Unlike the male-dominated milieu of American and British post-punk, women were contributors to fully half the bands featured here. Lindsay O’Meara was an unquestionably dominant force in the Sydney underground, bringing a defiantly adventurous spirit to any band that would stand still long enough to let her join. It would be interesting to learn more of the circumstances that led so such an atypically strong involvement of women in Australian music of the time.
For those interested in the explosion of creativity and experimentation that followed the initial wave of punk, this is a worthwhile purchase. While nothing here can be deemed truly essential, it provides a valuable look into the unknown bands which flourished in the shadow of their contemporaries.
Another short one
Scram #16 reviews
V/A Can't Stop It!: Australian Post-Punk 1978-82 CD (Chapter) Australia's big enough for sounds bred elsewhere than Detroit, hence this interesting comp full of arty synth lines, cryptic symbolism, bleating vocalists and other signs of the neo-futurist times. Put together by folks who were there, Can't Stop It! blends scarce singles and unreleased and live recordings, including "Help" by the Apartments (refuge of banished Go-Between Peter Milton Walsh), and selections from Slugfuckers, Primitive Calculators, Ron Rude and People With Chairs Up Their Noses
another from Aquarius
V/A Can't Stop It!: Australian Post-Punk 1978-82 (Chapter) cd 14.98
This is a compilation of Australian post punk and new wave from 1978-82. While not nearly as rocking as the Do The Pop! compilation from a few lists back, this is still a pretty awesome collection. The stuff on this comp leans more towards the no wave, art rock side of the spectrum. Quirky, angular but still punk. There are a few dance-y numbers with badass female vocals that are at times reminiscent of the Slits or Kleenex/Lilliput and some more gritty lofi stuf that reminds us of the Adverts or the Undertones. All in all, a solid document of a time and place that seems like it was most likely totally amazing and inspiring. The perfect companion to the Do The Pop compilation. And if you like the current crop of no wave wonders like SF's Numbers or Erase Errata, you should definitely check this out. Oh yeah, and did we mention there's a band called the Slugfuckers... oh my god
Blog Piece on this site by Jack
The scattered order
June 04, 2005
From Phil Turnbull's No Night Sweats webpage:
"From 1978 to 1984, many people across the world were inflamed by the do it yourself attitudes of punk rock but also wanted to create something that was different to the adrenalin three chord thrash so prevalent at the time. Sydney, Australia's largest city, was not immune to this slightly indulgent rallying cry and somehow I managed to be involved in this little scene which was not only intense and claustrophobic but also immensely satisfying and creative. These pages mainly outline the bands that I played some small part in during this time. They're mostly forgotten now, except by friends and a few dedicated fans but that's not to say they were anything less than interesting. At times they were very special indeed, at least to me."
And they were special to me - these are the sights and sounds that greeted me when I moved from Newcastle to Sydney at the age of 18, in search of a nocturnal underground where having lily-white skin and an aversion to the wretched commercialism of the 80s was no handicap. They created a Sydney subterranean to the one that is remembered in the charts and the cultural reports, and looking over this site I am reminded of a time and feeling that is but a relic in the memory - you'll find precious little mention of these bands anywhere else, their apostles are scattered and the venues that witnessed the life and death of this scene are all gone. For that reason alone, No Night Sweats qualifies as a worthy little museum piece, and a very well curated one, too.