Shy Impostors – Shy Impostors (Citadel)
It came out with bugger-all fanfare five months ago, to coincide with the band’s one-off Sydney reformation on a Sunnyboys undercard, so it’s high time this one was passed around the I-94 Bar for a critique.
You might know the back story but too bad: Shy Impostors were fronted by uber talented vocalist Penny Ward and contained future Sunnyboys Peter Oxley and Richard Burgman, plus Michael Charles, who would go on to the Lipstick Killers and Screaming Tribesmen. Not much shyness about that lot and no impostors among them.
Shy Impostors existed for just nine months over 1978-79, and left behind a solitary, posthumous single, “At The Barrier” b/w “ Seein’ Double”. It was on Phantom, the freshly minted label co-owned by ex-Radio Birdman roustabout Jules Normington, who was Penny Ward’s significant other at the time. It’s been said before and it will be said again: Jules was a significant force in the post-Birdman Sydney scene. Here’s more evidence.
“Shy Impostors” is a seven-track CD that collects the single and five other tracks recorded back in the day. It’s tough, raw and seriously great late ‘70s Sydney rock and roll that’s right up our alley, and yours as well.
Jason Blackwell committed the original tracks to tape at the seminal but short-lived Palm Studios in inner-Sydney Darlinghurst, and has breathed new sonic life into them for this CD. Little things, like having access to the baked first generation tapes, make a big difference. They might have been intended as demo’s (there’s a lot of spill and clang) but the songs carry a brash immediacy that makes the EP indispensable. The rough edges just add to the charm.
The single was (and still is) good, but when it’s nestled amongst the other tracks it grows another leg. “Captain Fast” - a song of unrequited love with the awkward guy you always find in the kitchen at parties –is a nice contrast to the embittered “She Can’t Win”, which is directed to the chick who’s swiped someone’s boyfriend. Both are rendered with a melodic verve. Tough but tender. Pop wears a leather jacket.
“Sweet Defender” is close to archetypal early ‘80s Darlinghurst Sound with a short but searing, double-tracked Richard Burgman lead-break that will shake you down to the Cuban heels of your winkle-picker boots.
There’s a solitary cover, “My Sin Is My Pride” - it's by The Astronauts, a Colorado (!) surf band - that sits so comfortably among these tunes that you’ll think it’s owned by Shy Impostors, even if you’ve never heard the original.
All the other songs were written by Penny Ward - which may say a lot about who was driving the bus at the time. With the benefit of even more hindsight, you can appreciate just how good the individual players were, at even that early stage. Burgman’s chunky guitar tone and nimble lead work is stellar at times. Bassman Peter Oxley is melodic and filling all the right spaces and Michael Charles was already becoming the feel master he is today. Penny Ward went off to seek success in the USA and it's a travesty she didn't break big.
This EP is a snapshot of buried treasure. Feel free to click on the link below and plonk down your heard-earned.
Tags: Citadel, sunnyboys, shy impostors, phantom records, lipstick killers
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