Monday, August 31, 2009

Now I've got a heavy heart

Wrapping up Australian music month with You Am I

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A place where nobody dares to go

I can't find any Australian artists for W (or X, obviously), so here's the only U.S. top 40 hit starting with the letter "X" -- a 1980 collaboration between ELO and Lady Olivia, AO, OBE.

This youtube video has been viewed more than three million times, probably because it's the second most awesome video in the history of the internet, with the most awesome is this 1978 medley of "Help Me Rhonda" and "Barbara Ann" by Olivia, Andy Gibb, and ABBA.

This could've only been improved if Andy had invited his brothers. Olivia + ABBA + Bee Gees = total awesomeness to the nth power!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fruit of the Vines

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what happened to the Vines? They're still around, just like Jet, but "their appeal is growning more selective" as Ian Faith would say.

I saw the Vines opening for Fountains of Wayne at Slim's a few months before they broke. It was clear that they were really talented, and had the right sound at the right time (2002, when the Strokes and the Hives and the rest were taking off) and played an amazing version of "I'm Only Sleeping" that won over even jaded FoW fans like me.

Back then, I thought if the Vines were the future of rock & roll, it was in pretty good hands, but they turned out to be just a tiny blip on the rock & roll continuum. Just like most of the other buzz bands from the early 2000s.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Take back your Ups and Downs

On to the U's. The Ups and Downs and their hit "The Living Kind"

According to their myspace bio, the Ups and Downs took their name from the Flamin' Groovies song "Ups & Downs" (which was actually a Paul Revere & the Raiders song, but whatever). I saw these guys live in Perth in 1987, and remember having to assure some girl at the show that I was fairly sure Tom Petty was not slagging them in his (then current) single "Jammin Me".

She was sure Tom's line about "take back your ups and downs" was about the band Ups and Downs, and wanted to know why he was slagging obscure Australian indie bands. When she heard my American accent, she asked me to explain why Tom Petty felt the need to do something like that. It was an interesting conversation.

By the way, the lead singer of the Ups and Downs was a dead ringer for Tom Petty, both visually and audially. Maybe that girl was right, and Tom felt threatened by the Ups and Downs, and had to call them out before they stole his fame away?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day Of The Triffids

Now in the last week of August, and I'm probably going to run out of Australian artists before I run out of days. All the way to the T's now.

Here are the Triffids performing "Bury Me Deep In Love" in 1988.

After going through the Triffids reissues on emusic last year, I decided that this was the best song they ever did. How would the late David McComb feel about having his song covered by Kylie?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Summer Sunnyboys

Continuing with S bands featuring Dom Mariani, the Summer Suns rule, but don't have any videos on youtube, or web penetration beyond myspace and a one sentence AMG bio.

Moving on, alphabetically, here are the Sunnyboys, a great band from Sydney that, to my knowledge, did not feature Dom Mariani as a member at any time.

These Sunnyboys should not be confused with the Sunny Boys, an intriguing Beach Boys tribute band from Italy who will kill hours of internet time on youtube.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

At First Sight, Violets Are Blue

Before the Someloves, Dom Mariani was in the the Stems with future Chevelle Richard Lane. This song, "At First Sight", sounded familiar when I heard it on Dom's (highly recommended) Popsided Guitar anthology, but I couldn't remember where I'd heard it before. Turns out the song was featured in Young Einstein, a very silly film with a kick Aus soundtrack featuring Icehouse, Paul Kelly, the Lime Spiders, the Saints, and the Stems.

There's been a Stems revival in the 2000s, with multiple reissues, a couple of their songs on Children of Nuggets, and a 2007 reunion album (Heads Up) that included a U.S. tour that I sadly missed. They're playing their final tour in Australia in October, at least until they reform in the 2010s.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gimme Someloves

Just one week left in Australian month, and I've got a handful of S artists to cover, mostly bands led by Dom Mariani, starting with the Someloves. Here's the video for "Melt" from their only album Something Or Other.

I picked up Something Or Other in the mid-90s after Goldmine magazine selected it as one of the top ten power pop albums of all time and the TPRG called it "one of the great lost power pop masterpieces of the modern era". In a just world, Something Or Other would not be one of the great lost power pop masterpieces of the modern era -- it would be one of the great pop albums of all time -- full stop.

It was produced by Mitch Easter with guest appearances by Angie Carlson, Bobby Sutliff, and Jamie Hoover, and sounds like a first cousin to Game Theory's Big Shot Chronicles. Dom Mariani is no Scott Miller as a lyricist, but he's just as strong with the hooks and melodies, and no stranger to the "power" side of power pop. Everyone reading this who doesn't own Something Or Other should try to find it ASAP (click on that first album link) and thank me later.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stranded far from home

Following Radio Birdman alphabetically as well as chronologically, here are the Saints, with their 1976debut single "I'm Stranded".

Friday, August 21, 2009

Radios appear as the sun greets the dawn

The Birdmen cover the Elevators. This was the first version of the song I ever heard, and it was a few years before I realized it wasn't a Radio Birdman original. It's still my favorite version of the song.

Radio Birdman took their name from a misheard lyric in the Stooges' "1970" ("radio burnin' up above") the title of their debut album from the lyrics of BOC's "Dominance & Submission", but their sound was more heavily influenced by 60s garage punk.

I think their best songs were their covers ("You're Gonna Miss Me", "TV Eye") which were excluded from Sub Pop's Essential Radio Birdman compilation. They reformed in 2006 for a reunion album that was better than either the Stooges or New York Dolls reunion albums, but nowhere near as good as Radios Appear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Living In A Dream

Was this Pseudo Echo video the inspiration for "Pop Goes My Heart"?

Keytar alert! I've always preferred this original to their cover of "Funkytown" (which was their only American hit) and think it would be an ideal candidate for a cover version with its 80s trappings toned down a bit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Orange Humble

My Australian music collections yeilds no N artists, so it's on to O's.

Here's the Orange Humble Band, who were only half Australian.

The OHB were the brainchild of guitarist Darryl Mather (formerly of the Lime Spiders and the Someloves) who poured a bunch of his own money into assembling a power pop supergroup with Mitch Easter and Ken Stringfellow for a one-off album called Assorted Creams that sounds like fan's platonic ideal of a pop record.

They reunited a few years later for a second outing called Humblin' Across America, recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis with the addition of drummer Jody Stephens (of Big Star), bassist Jamie Hoover (of Spongetones fame), and Spooner Oldham and Jim Dickinson (of univeral fame). That album had a more organic Memphis soul vibe, but the songs weren't as strong. Assorted Creams is a great title for the first album, because every song is top drawer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The time has come

Continuing through the M's. I have one album by Mental As Anything, but never really got that band, so I'm following up a live version of the fourth best Aussie song of all time with an unplugged live version of the third best, countdown style.

Of all the follically challenged Australian musicians I've featured this month (from Paul Kelly to Dave Faulkner to the late Grant McLennan) nobody stands above Peter Garrett (literally, the dude is huge!).

Back in the 80s, Garrett ran for parlaiment on the far-left Nuclear Disarmament Party, but now he's Minister of the Environment for the mainstream Labour Party, appeasing the mining companies he derided in his songs twenty years ago and pissing off the environmentalists that used to support him. They're getting back at him by leaving snarky comments on Midnight Oil youtube videos.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Can't you hear the thunder?

The fourth best Australian song of all time, performed at the 1983 US Festival, at the high point of its (and its performer's) popularity.

This song run into a copyright lawsuit based on the flute solo, which comes from the Australian children's tune "Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree". I don't like these kind of lawsuits (unless they involve the Rubinoos suing Avril Lavrigne), and don't understand the crux is "ten seconds from your thirty year old song ripped off our seventy year old song". Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on these things?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What about the Lonesome Loser?

It's hard for me to think of the Little River Band as Australian, because it seems more like they were just born on AM radio. Nowadays, based on their current tour dates, they mainly live at casinos and county fairs. One of my Facebook friends recently suggested starting a FB group called "the Lonesome Loser", so everyone will be asked if they've heard about "the Lonesome Loser".

I've never owned an LRB record, but still remember most of their hits, despite still confusing their "Night Owl" with Gerry Rafferty's "Night Owl", their "Lady" with Styx's "Lady", and their "Reminiscing" with Buddy's. Maybe the LRB could have chosen more original titles for their songs?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And the coloured girls go

The first U.S. single by Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls, who took their name from that song by that guy who was in that band with John Cale, then changed it to the Messengers, probably so Americans wouldn't need to spell colored with a u.

I don't think "Before Too Long" or its followup "Darling It Hurts" were U.S. "hits" per se , but they were both in heavy rotation on KFOG and MTV. Both songs came from the double LP Gossip, which was an amazing album and the high point of Paul Kelly's career.

Friday, August 14, 2009

One two three

More 21st century Aussie music from Jet.

This is a song that causes certain listeners to spontaneously proclaim their "lust for life", if you know what I mean.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Icehouse Baby

While alphabetically arranging Australian albums earlier this week, I discovered ancient tapes by two I bands (Icehouse's Primitive Man and INXS's ) that I don't recall ever owning and know haven't touched a tape deck in 25 years. I decided to do an impromptu play off to determine which album has aged better.

Both Primitive Man and Shabooh Shoobah came out in late 1982, during my senior year of High School when I could buy pirated cassettes for one dollar each, and would buy literally anything that looked interesting. The INXS album had two big hits ("Don't Change" and "The One Thing") sandwiched between eight forgettable filler tracks. It sounds very "80s" and not in a good way. The Icehouse album had one hit ("Hey Little Girl") and a bunch of similar sounding songs which sound just as dated, but in a more interesting way.

Apparently for this album, "Icehouse" was just one guy, songwriter Iva Davies, and Primitive Man sounds like the work of a single auteur. Maybe not the best album ever made, but it's aged better than INXS. Wouldn't it have made more sense to pronounce their name "eye-enn-ex-ess" instead of "in excess"? Or even "inks"?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swan Swan Hummingbird

More Oz music from the Hummingbirds, produced by Mitch Easter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tojo never made it to Darwin

H is for Hoodoo Gurus. I could pick any of a half-dozen songs from their debut album Stoneage Romeos, but this is one of the Gurus' most "Australian" tracks.

According to the wiki, "Tojo" was an answer song to "Santa Never Made It To Darwin", Bill & Boyd's 1975 hit about the cyclone that hit northern Australia on Christmas Eve 1974.

Tojo's Japanese army made it as far as New Guinea during WWII, but never hit the Australian mainland. There's another WWII song on Stoneage Romeos called "I Was A Kamikaze Pilot", which I still think is one of the funniest song titles ever.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cattle and Cane

The best and best known song by the Go-Betweens.

If the APRA ranked "Cattle and Cane" as the 21st best Australian song of all time and "Dominion Road" as the 21st best New Zealand song of all time, there must be some Antipodean counting scheme afoot where all the best things are ranked 21st.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Throw Your Arms Around Me

Neil Finn covers Hunters & Collectors.

Neil was last month's focus, but this is Australia's "Freebird".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Am The Light

21st century Australian power pop from Even.

I discovered Even a couple of years ago through a free Rubber Records sampler, and was completely taken with them for awhile. Their songs sound like they were genetically engineered for me to like. This song, "I Am The Light" has hooks and riffs and a singalong chorus, and words that are mostly there just to carry the tune. It's like three minutes of candy coated crack.

They've been around since the early 90s, and haven't changed their sound one bit during that time. Even's entire catalog (most of it is on emusic) is a marvel of craftsmanship and consistency.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gonna have fun in the city

Hmm.. which song should I choose for the first Friday of Australian music month? How about this one?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pub With No Beer

Serving it up old school with Slim Dusty (RIP).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Boys In Town

More Aussie music, from Divinyls

Chrissy Amphlett was my major high school music crush (along with Chrissy Hynde) and I died a little inside when she did that one stupid song that became Divinyls' biggest hit.

My blood ran cold, my memory had just been sold, etc.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A hundred lifetimes ago

Another Aussie band, right next to the Chevelles in my collection.

I bought a tape of this album (The Blurred Crusade) on a lark while vacationing in Perth with my family in the Summer (Aussie Winter) of 1983, after reading a review that highlighted the Church's "jangly guitar interplay". For the rest of the trip, I played the first two songs ("Almost With You" and "When You Were Mine") over and over again, but couldn't get into the rest of the album.

It was the first of many Church albums where I loved one or two songs (usually the singles) but was lukewarm on the other eight or nine. I love every song on their Aussie best-of Almost Yesterday, missing only a handful of Church songs that aren't on it.

I own all their 80s albums (pre-recorded cassettes from four continents), but the only Church album qua album I'd consider essential is their U.S. breakthrough Starfish. The Church lost me in the 90s, and even though I've liked some of what I've heard from them in the 2000s, their newer songs don't have the endurance that their earlier ones did. But songs like "When You Were Mine" will always rock, now and forever.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting It On

Continuing with Aussie music month -- are the Bee Gees considered Australian? They definitely were early on! Anyway, I'm going to skip the B's and jump to the C's. Here are the Chevelles with "Get It On".

Just to be clear, these Chevelles (the Australian power pop band from Perth, one of the coolest bands in the universe) should not be confused with Chevelle (lame punk band from Chicago). The internet confuses these bands quite often.

My first exposure to the Chevelles was when I started noticing their songs on compilations during the 90s (like Pop On Top and the Spanish Big Star tribute) and fell for their genius when I finally downloaded their album Girl God from emusic in the early 2000s.

After that, the Chevelles became one of Little Steven's favorite bands and he reissued a compilation Barbarella Girl God and a new album called Accelerator on his label Wicked Cool Records. Both these are on emusic (along with the rest of the Chevelles output). If you download one Chevelles song from emusic (or amazon or iTunes), it should be their rocked up cover of Air Supply's "Lost In Love" from Sun Bleached, and if you download just one album, it should be Girl God, but every single song the Chevelles have ever recorded is worth owning in one way or another.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Riding out of the sunset

First on any list of Australian bands (particularly if the list is in alphabetical order) is AC/DC.

If at some point you decide that you need some AC/DC in your life, you should realize a handful of things about them.

1) Your first guess is that the albums are kind of interchangeable, so you might just try to pick up a greatest hits album. Unfortunately, AC/DC have never released a greatest hits album.

2) So you might decide to just download a few tracks from iTunes. Unfortunately, AC/DC songs are not available on iTunes. According to Angus, "we're an album band, not a singles band".

3) So you give up and try to find a regular album. Most people agree that the Bon Scott era (1973-1979) is stronger than the Brian Johnson era (1980-present). Those who don't agree, don't know what they're talking about, even though the first post-Bon album Back In Black is pretty good, and was fairly successfull saleswise.

4) Given this, the two essential albums are High Voltage and Highway To Hell.

5) Upon its release in 1976, respectable rock critic Billy Altman gave High Voltage a zero star review in Rolling Stone, calling it an "all time low" for the hard rock genre. He's probably been wanting that review back every single day for the last 33 years.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Haul away oh hear me sing

I had so much fun with New Zealand music in the month of July that I'm hopping across the Tasman Sea for the month of August.

My goal is every Australian artist in my collection in alphabetical order, from AC/DC to You Am I (since I don't have any Aussie artists for the letter Z).