Original 7” Tracks /Demos LP - ME 262/Trans 262 (Buttercup Records)
Most serious musicians would have an aneurysm if someone wanted to release recordings from their callow youth. They’ll tell you they’ve been hidden in a sock drawer for 40 years for good reason, and that demo recordings are just that.
Of course, people with OCD, completists and the truly curious and/or obsessed - and any or all of these descriptors could apply to most of us - vehemently disagree. This release from the amazing Buttercup Records label in Melbourne satisfies our shared jones.
ME 262 (later re-named Trans 262 to avoid confusion with a cheesy Melbourne act) was a not as much legendary as unjustly forgotten Sydney band from the cusp of the ‘70s/start of the ‘80s, whose members went on to, well, similar musical things.
They include membership of Decline Of The Reptiles, Rattlesnake Shake, Naked Lunch, The Screaming Tribesmen, Klondike’s North 40, The Soul Movers, Deniz Tek Group, the (sporadically revived) Visitors and Joeys Coop. (Declaration: I’ve been lucky enough to work with a couple of them in three of those bands.)
As David Laing’s astute liner notes observe, ME 262 (named for the Blue Oyster Cult song about a German jet fighter) was part of the third wave of Darlinghurst-via-Detroit, Radio Birman-inspired Sydney bands. The members never saw Birdman in the flesh, but seized on offshoots like The Other Side, the Hitmen and (especially) The Visitors. Their music was infused with those direct influences and long distance immersion in the Stooges. .
Like the Radios, ME 262 weren’t stereotypical, safety pin punks. Far from it. They might have liked the songs but they weren’t enamoured with the fashion. They had brains - one went on to be an electronic engineering expert, another a PhD in graphic design - and they had aspirations to be musically adept.
They came from middle class homes on Sydney’s well-to-do North Shore, and their musical anarchism grew from a sense of disaffectedness and the relative freedom of an alternative school. ME 262 wasn’t Sydney’s version of the White Panthers, however. Vocalist Mark Roxburgh reflects that he was in a band for two reasons - to get fucked up and to pull chicks.
“Original 7” Tracks /Demos LP” (that’s a mouthful) consists the band’s only EP, a four-song effort recorded with Sherbert’s guitarist Clive Shakespeare in 1981, and a side of demos recorded with Rob Younger at Sydney’s Palm Studios.
If you’ve heard the self-reelased "Trans 262" EP, you’ll know its sound is thinner than a tree snake shadow. Mark Roxburgh’s vocal is awkwardly front-and-centre; Tony Gibson’s guitar tone is determinedly one-dimensional. The rhythm section of Andy Newman (bass) and Alan Marr is buried. So what? This recording is nascent as all fuck. The songs are urgent, and the youthful energy undeniable.
“Ice Trip” is the unusual song of the four, a smouldering work-out that’s clearly in the thrall of Iggy Pop and James Williamson, circa “Kill City”, embellished by keys. Gibson’s lead breaks are raw and arresting. There’s no mistaking the origin of Roxburgh’s “C’mon!” at the start of “Happy” (Iggy via Rob) and there’s a prescient “New Values” meets the Stones vibe about this one.
All of the above would merit a re-issue of the EP on its own, but the Palm Studio demos that follow are something else. If the studio name rings a bell, it’s the place where The Visitors, Shy Impostors, Flaming Hands, The Passengers, Scientists, Dropbears and Lipstick Killers all recorded. A cheap but amazingly productive hole-in-the-wall.
“Neon Daze” leads side two, a song that uncoils in menacing fashion, laced with “Penetration”/“TV Eye” Stooges vocalisms. There’s a magic point where Roxburgh’s howls become one with Gibson’s unfolding lead break that sums it up.
Referencing your own (stolen) band name in “Attack”, the song that follows, might be a trap for the young and unwary, but in this case it’s as catchy as fuck. The Visitors influence is all over this, with impending doom backing vocals and a Tek-like, sustained mid-range lead break.
There’s irony in a lyric like “We support the Fatherland” that probably wasn’t lost on one of the members, given his family background, but nobody was taking it all that seriously. On the other hand, “Us fuckers know we’re the best” is a grammatical train crash but also a defiant mission statement, at least for the benefit of their own neighbourhood. The inner-Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst.
“Feel Like I’m Gonna Die” might be a confessional of sorts (Mark Roxburgh was enduring The Black Dog then and for some time after) and it reeks of conviction. “End of the Journey” isn’t about finalisation of that trip but an ended relationship. Musically, “Dog City” owes a debt to the “driving songs” of the Visitors (“Haunted Road”) and its lyrics aren’t up to the mark. Iggy's "Rich Bitch" might be an apt reference point.
“Life in Black and White” is a stunning meisterwork, a seven-minute opus that says more in Mark Roxburgh’s despairing vocal (“My life is in black and white”) and Tony Gibson’s jaw-dropping solo than all the rest of their early released songs.
A live track, “Lets Dance”, appended to the demos and replicated on an accompanying flexi-disc, gives a murky but exciting insight into how the band sounded in the flesh. The only thing missing is the momentarily reformed band's contrinbution to the '80s Stooges tribute on Au Go Go but you should all own that one already.
The package is filled out with the usual Buttercup Records bonuses like reproduction set lists and handbills. The booklet includes reflections by the band members (except the late Alan Marr) and scene participant Steven Danno, whose "48 Crash" zine introduced many of us to the band.
It's a limited run of 300 copies on red or blue vinyl with download card. You don't want to miss out on it and the link below will ensure you don't. Or you could enter our giveaway while it's live.