Sit up straight and pay attention kids. It's time for your Australian indie music history lesson. Do the Pop – a chronological 2 disc set- documents the cream of the punk/indie crop, spanning 10 years of the down under scene from the late 70s to late 80s. The booklet has lots of essential info about the bands and spinoffs. This stuff was the staple of many an 80s college radio rock show.
Disc 1 starts at the dawn of the Aussie punk scene with the first pair of oz bands to burst out onto the scene- The Saints and Radio Birdman -along with many other quality acts and offshoots.
If you've never heard The Saints' 'I'm stranded' its rawness will floor you. Chris Bailey growls his way through this song (and all Saints' songs), the rest of the lads run through it as if it's the last thing they'll ever get to play. Maybe the title is a metaphor for how they felt living down there. While punk rock was happening far away, The Saints and their contemporaries were lighting similar fires down under.
In some ways, this applies to the next track 'New Race' by Radio Birdman as Rob Younger announces 'There's gonna be a new race! Guess who's gonna start it up..' When he barks out the refrain 'Really gonna punch you out' and with Deniz Tek and the rest of the boys' onslaught, you'd better run. This is where you can hear the seeds of punk take hold and grow and it's a sound that is still vital and fresh.
Psycho Surgeons 'Wild week-end' clocks in at under 2 minutes. It has a Stooges feel with its simple easy to remember chorus 'Had a wild week-end honey, what about you?' but with its breakneck pace garage sound, the band members can barely keep up with each other as they race to the finish line.
The original version of The Saints 'One way street' has a similar rocking feel to '(I'm) Stranded' but doesn't pack quite as much heat. Here the amps are only turned up to 10 versus 11.
The Victims (with a pre Hoodoo Gurus David Faulkner) 'Television Addict' explores the same themes as 'Plastic Bag' by X-ray Specs; alienation, media over stimulation, not being able to distinguish between fact and fantasy. It's funny noisy garagey stuff and as he gets all worked up towards the end 'Just because I watch Dinah Shore doesn't mean I need a facelift…' and the boys shout 'Television Addict,' you know he's not kidding.
Radio Birdman's 'Aloha Steve and Danno' is one of my favorite 'surf' numbers. It's a revved up Stooge-ified 'surf ' track as they pay tribute to 70s cop show Hawaii Five-0 and memorably reinterpret the theme 'Steve I wanna say thank you for all you've done for me. My nights are dark and empty now that you're not on TV.'
Johnny Kannis gets some help from Radio Birdman for a high octane version of The Trashmen's 'King of the surf' that'll have you wishing for waves.
Radio Birdman's 'Crying Sun' is not as uptempo, but it's not a slow number either. It has a great 60s keyboard riff going through it with a great keys solo in the middle. This track is the least Stooges like, but they're not a Stooges clone at all. They used the Stooges elements they liked to create their own sound that still rocks and endures.
The Hitmen 'Didn't tell the man' is an almost perfect less than 3 minute power pop song with nice harmonies around the chorus. You would expect something punkier with a name like the Hitmen, but this track is a pleasant surprise.
The Lipstick Killers take you back into the garage with their punk inflected 'Hindu Love Gods.' It's got campy, psychadelic lyrics 'Hindu love gods are calling you, I wanna be one of the chosen few, open my mind and take a trip, shave my head and wash my face...' and a beat that doesn't stop.
The first of the Radio Birdman spinoffs The Visitors 'Living World' has an interesting mix of dark lead vocals, not as interesting as Rob Younger's, but it has their trademark fast pace augmented with cool keyboard riffs.
Passengers 'Face with no name' is the only track on the whole compilation with a woman singer, and it's good enough to make me wonder why there weren't any other female fronted acts. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a sequel to this. This is a fine track about desire 'I try to catch the eye of a boy with no name...' The emphasis here is more on keyboards and bass, an intermission from all the guitar acrobatics.
The Saints come back with a later number, the original version of 'Simple love.' The pace is slower, but not slow. It's melodic and almost contemplative, for Bailey. It even has handclaps before the chorus. The Saints roared less and experimented more after their raucous debut and they definitely progressed.
'Last Night' an earlier Scientists number doesn't have the swampy (but I like that too) feel of their later material. It's almost poppy for them as they repeat the title at the start of half of the lyrics to great effect 'Last night you told me you love me, last night you told me it was true...' and they do the same in the second half of the song with '24 hours...' and it works really well. Their earlier stuff has alot of pseudo love songs that are almost sincere and really funny.
The Fun Things take us back to snotty punk with 'Savage love' a live recording with lyrics that turn The Adverts 'One chord wonder' on its head. Instead of not giving a damn, as the 'wonders' didn't, they just want to get all the girls going with a 'rock and roll kamikaze who would die for you..'
The Sunnyboys 'Alone with you' have an early 80s sound that doesn't quite fit the feel of the first disc. I like the melodies and the harmonizing around the choruses, but the other elements didn't quite gel for me.
Radio Birdman spinoff the New Christs 'Face a new God' is the most RB like (and best) of all the spinoffs (Visitors, Hitmen, New Race) most likely because this spinoff had key members Younger and Tek. It has the standard Radio Birdman pace, and some nifty organ parts for good measure.
New Race, another Birdman spinoff come in with 'Alone in the endzone.' It doesn't sound like a live recording, despite the crowd noise and it's also a fast number that manages to slow down for the chorus.
The Hitmen return with 'I don't mind' a punkier number than their other track here. It's about all the things guys hold dear, beer, girls, the beach, etc. It made me laugh as he came up with a rhyme for all of these special things 'I like ___ ale, blue whale..' etc.
The Celibate Rifles based their name on the Sex Pistols but they're more tongue in cheek than cheeky. Damien Lovelock has a gruff sometimes deadpan way of singing. On '24 hours' he sings so fast, that the words are hard to catch, except for the refrain 'Into the sun I'm gonna fly away..'
The Sunnyboys return with 'Happy man.' It's not quite as poppy as their previous track. It almost has a surf feel, but it rocks a little more. I'm still not sure where they fit into this comp but they're here.
Lipstick Killers come back with a live track 'Drive the special dead.' It has that same trashy garage sound and they come across live really well. This is not as fast as 'Hindu love Gods' but it still has plenty of zip.
Le Hoodoo Gurus bring the original version of 'Leilani.' It's tamer than the version on their debut 'Stoneage Romeos.' The guitars and vocals on that album are stronger and I miss that here.This is one of those rare instances where I prefer the rerecorded version to the original. Still it's interesting to hear what they were like before Brad Shepard joined them on guitar and it makes me wonder what the other demos were like.
The Hitmen 'Bwana devil' has up front vocals and guitar, but almost with a 70s rock feel that sometimes works for me. They almost completely get away with it.
Disc 1 ends with Minuteman 'Voodoo Slave' a spooky surfy number with persistent tambourine and echoey vocals. I'm not too familiar with them, but I think this is a great closer, because it's got a winning combination of groovy and ghoulish.
Disc 2 runs from the mid to late 80s. This was a great trip down memory lane for me because all but 5 of these tracks were regulars on my radio shows from '86 –'91. When is the next volume of this coming out? This is one sequel I can't wait to hear.
The Scientists get part 2 of this comp off to a fine start with 'Swampland.' It bridges the gap between their garagey almost jangly, but definitely indie sound with their later Crampsesque material. The rhythmic riff running through it sounds like it's been borrowed and modified by other bands. The pacing in it is just right. It's steady, but not too slow or fast. The theme reminds me of 'Submission' by the Sex Pistols as he croons the chorus 'In my heart is a place called swampland 9 parts water 1 part sand.'
The Lime Spiders haven't aged as well, but luckily the best of their material is here. '25th hour' has Mick Ronson's trademark semi screamed vocals as the band kicks up quite a racket and builds up to a big noisy ending. For me, this one comes in at #3.
Screaming Tribesmen 'Igloo' still sounds fresh today. It's one of my faves of theirs. The echoing vocals and guitars doubling around them are haunting, as is the imagery of the lyrics about how cold it is after losing someone 'I felt so lonely when my Sara died and I felt my tears freeze when I finally cried.'
Hoodoo Gurus return with their theme song 'Be my guru.' This is probably one of their fastest numbers and David Faulkner gleefully announces his manifesto 'I'm a hoodoo guru. I'm yours, would you be mine too.' This is groovy and fun and it has a nearly false ending as the band build up to a great garagey climax with as many 'yeah yeah yeahs' as you want.
The Lime Spiders second entry here is 'Slave Girl.' It has a spooky intro with rattling chains that match the caveman theme. The band provides their trademark raucous noise for this, their second and my #2 favorite track.
The New Christs, sounding like Radio Birdman in disguise starts off Only Rob Younger could get away with starting off a song by saying the 3 little words you most want to hear at the start 'Yeah let's rock.' He tells us about his desperation for love 'and now you talk of love how it never comes, right now I feel like I could kill for some,' and he lets us know when he's done 'I think I've had enough' as the band punctuate that closing salvo. It's a top track from the best Radio Birdman spin off here.
Unfortunately, they split up 'Mirror blues' one of the best Died Pretty tracks since there wasn't enough space for both parts. There are other tracks towards the end of this CD that they could have left off so they could let part 1 bleed into part 2, the way it should be heard. Their 1985 ep has it unbroken and I think they compiled their early eps and re-released them. Part 1 has a rumbling Farfisa intro as the bass and drums crash in around it. Ron Peno squeaks out the lyrics in a fury 'when you lose, smash the mirror blues' during part 1. You get to hear a little of part 2, noticeably slower as Ron ooh oohs and the music is brighter. I won't reveal the ending because it's best to hear both parts together as one epic track.
The Screaming Tribesmen return with 'Ice' which reads like an updated version of the Stones' 'Under my thumb.' It hasn't aged as well as their other tracks.
'Don't look down' by Decline of the Reptiles is the first of 2 tracks that I wish my school station had a copy of. It has a great wigged out Farfisa riff going through it that weaves nicely around the guitar and I like how he's got the lyrics backwards in the chorus 'you look down you might see me or you'll fall don't look down.' I want to hear more of their stuff.
Eastern Dark 'Johnny and Dee Dee' is probably their happiest sounding track. They had longer hair than Radio Birdman. James Darroch played bass in Celibate Rifles briefly until he formed the band. They released a single and an ep but sadly James Darroch died in a car accident and a posthumous live recording is the last release I know of. This is an enthusiastic ode to their favorite Ramones brothers and an endearing tribute to them 'Johnny and Dee Dee they're my heroes at night and they're there to take me high.'
'Burning Red' by Exploding White Mice is a fitting follow up here. They are unabashed Ramones admirers, not just in name, but the singer is a less throaty mimic of Joey. They don't have the Ramones pace on this whole track, but they get up to 1234(!) speed when they need to.
The 'Hard Ons' are more hardcore than punk or garage and that's a good thing. They nearly always make me laugh with their lyrical antics, but not on this track 'Bye bye girl'. That comes up here later.
Psychotic Turnbuckles 'Groove to the eye' bring you back into the garage. This one has lots of noisy fuzzy guitars and crashing cymbals over half shouted lyrics 'I can't feel no pain, I can do what I want.' It's a guaranteed good time.
The final Lime Spiders track here 'Out of control' is my #1 song of theirs. The vocals are better here, less sore throated and screaming. The band races through this, building up plenty of tension and drop in quick pace changes just to see if you're paying attention, which of course you should be.
The Scientists come back with a Cramp like track 'Atom bomb baby.' It's more of an homage to them, as the singer croons his way through it, and the beat is slower than 'Swampland' but not too slow.
'Can't resist' by the Stems has a nice 60s feel to it with the ahh ahhs echoing around groovy guitar work as the singer gets worked up near the end 'You've got something I can't resist.'
Died Pretty chime back in with 'Stoneage Cinderella' one of their catchiest tunes. there a cool organ riff coming through and the guitars start out ringing but they get to rock out a little near the middle. The singing is almost happy here as Ron Peno exclaims 'She would love with every beat of her heart'.
'Don't talk about us' by the Some Loves is the second track I would have played if it was at my school station. It's a good argument track. I love the chunky guitars and the gruff but charming vocals here 'I know you're laughing again it's no laughing matter don't talk about us..'
'Girl in a sweater' is probably my favorite Hard Ons number. It reads like a tongue in cheek version of some of those 60s girl group songs like 'Da doo ron ron' as Blackie pines for his object of admiration 'She's a girl in a very nice sweater I wanna get to know her even better.' This one always makes me chuckle.
'Walking' by the Eastern Dark has the same effect on me as The Saints' '(I'm) stranded.' Even though some of the lyrics a bit obvious, the sheer force the band creates and the snarling delivery lift make you forget that 'Tonight I'm walking and I walk alone tonight I'm walking I'm so far from home'
The Celibate Rifles clock in with a live version of 'Back in the red.' I always enjoy Damien Lovelock's growling deadpan delivery and the band always has quite a kick.
I would have left 'Early morning memory' by the Philsteins off this comp. They fit in soundwise somewhat, but they don't distinguish themselves from the other groups. I feel the same way about the Headstones.
'At first sight' by the Stems is more jangly than garagey with a nice 60s feel and lyrics that will make you smile 'I'll be the motor in your car….I'll be the water in your waterfall' It's a summer driving song for sure.
The New Christs end this compilation with 'I swear', another quality track with extra organ riffs blended with their intensity. It makes sense, since 'Do the pop' is a Radio Birdman song (maybe it'll be on volume 2) and the New Christs were the best Radio Birdman spin off.
I can't wait for the sequel!