Sound of Sydney Volume 4 - Various Artists (Method Records and Music)
What is “the sound of Sydney”? It’s a rhetorical question, if not an outright non sequitur.
If you asked 20 different people, you’d get as many different answers. Someone young might say it’s Triple J - which would be laughable but it’s, you know, it is somebody’s reality. You can fight media fragmentation but it’s like yelling at a cloud. Boomer.
“Sound of Sydney” was a series of compilation albums- appearing in 1983, ’84 and ’86 - and the work of Method Records’ Fabian Byrne, of mod-pop band Fast Cars. They were fine records - and very diverse and that in itself was reflective of what was going on in the underground.
Extract From the Fungus - Celibate Rifles (self released)
Consider it a last will and testament. Eleven songs, cobbled together from restored quarter-inch tape or cassettes, all but one track previously unreleased. It’s music written by other people, which isn’t a detraction ‘cos the Rifles always had the best covers. These are remnants of recording sessions from 1984 right up until a few years ago, but they’re much more than throwaways.
The Celibate Rifles have a special place in the hearts and minds of most who saw them. A bunch of suburban Sydney boys fronted by a worldly and older larrikin, they began more brazen than cool. Before long, they fitted in with the exploding Australian underground of the ‘80s and ‘90s better than many critics realised.
We Are The Plague - Suzie Stapleton (Negative Prophet)
Suzie Stapleton is a lifer: a singer songwriter guitar, violin and piano player and a rare breed of musician. She is the complete package. From the angular arrangement of melodies to the blues that float around her head, music is a 24/7 occupation..
Originally from Sydney, this artist knew that Melbourne was where she needed to be to develop her craft and skills by playing solo, and with all sorts of musicians, both live and in the studio. She became highly respected in that town.
I first saw her at the Prince of Wales in Melbourne with a cellist accompanying her, and Suzie completely claimed the room as her own. Even the most ardent St Kilda, beer-in-hand, rock pigs were blown away Two EPs were released and licensed in Europe, where word soon spread about her atmospheric vocal, guitar playing and original and dark arrangements.
Anglesea 1981 - Little Murders (Off The Hip)
It’s a snapshot. Not grainy - this is from a well balanced desk tape - but captured with no attempt to airbrush the minor imperfections. Which adds to the charm.
If you don’t know Melbourne’s mod-pop kings Little Murders your life is incomplete. They were two years into their stop-start career and “Anglesea 1981” captures one of the early line-ups on a New Year’s Eve night in a crammed pub on the Victorian Surf Coast. There’s a fair sprinkling of what you should recognise as classics, plus some spirited covers.
Another World (The Best of The Archives) - Paul Collins & The Beat (Alive Natural Sound)
Paul Collins must be a hoarder. Probably a bit of OCD in there too, if you’ll excuse the long-distance and unqualified psychoanalysis. It goes with the pop songwriter turf. And this collection of previously unreleased recordings attests to it.
These songs are from Collins' sock drawer and they go all the way back to 1980. Don't let the demo quality of some of them deter you. There's more than the occasional fleck of gold among the 18 tunes. In fact, it's a rich vein. For example, "Hey DJ" outstrips the previously released version - by a long way.
Twisted - Plastic Section (Outtaspace)
Two salient points need to be made:
If you're going to tap a source, go back to the original.
And there ain’t nothing plastic about this Melbourne trio's sound.
Think Flat Duo Jets, the early White Stripes, Link Wray & The Raymen and BBQ to name a few. While you're at it, you can throw in that catch-all descriptor "Crampsian". In a big way...
Lovegrinder The Album – Lovegrinder (self released)
There’s a popular theory - perpetuated by a few fans of Junkie Rock from Australia’s southern state's capital city – that the so-called salad days of Sydney underground rock and roll were a farrago based on an overdose of second-rate Radio Birdman copyists.
Call it a typically defensive Sydney response but while the "Detroit" handle became a tag of convenience, most of the Harbour City’s bands of the 1980s/early ‘90s had tenuous musical links to the Birdmen. There was a handful of short-lived clones, but for the vast majority it was the energy and undeniable fuck-you-we’ll-do-what-we-want attitude of the Radios that were the hand-me-downs, and not their unique, impossible to replicate mutated musical mix.
Which brings us to Lovegrinder, yet another in the long line of Sydney bands that never progressed higher than the lower support rungs of the very crowded local live scene ladder. Not that there’s any great shame in that. For many, headlining the Tivoli or Selina’s wasn’t the goal because they had no interest in being on the rosters of the omnipotent Dirty Pool, Nuclear or Harbour booking agencies. Playing music was more about knocking around with their mates, consuming beers (or something illicit) and having a good time.