fast cars live 1981The under-appreciated heroes of the mushrooming Sydney underground scene of the 1980s were the women. Some will say it’s always been the case and continues to be so. For every Chrissie Amphlett there were many others - like Juliet Ward (Shy Impostors), Julie Mostyn (Flaming Hands), Jo Piggott (XL Capris), Annalise Morrow (The Numbers) and Angie Pepper (The Passengers) - who never made it to international mainstream stages.

This exhumed live set by Sydney’s Fast Cars’ underlines this fact. Fronted by Di Levy (vocals and guitar), Fast Cars were habituates of the small but vibrant mod scene that grew in the sweaty pubs of Sussex Street in the Sydney CBD. They occupied a place where ‘60s pop mixed with soul and the sound of what was lazily dubbed New Wave.

Mod music dressed sharp and lived for speed. It was often ON speed. It was one-and-a-half steps distant from the leather clad Detroit sound much of the city embraced (guilty as charged) and even further from the safety-pinned savagery of imported Pommy punk (although there was occasional crossing over.) Don’t even mention Melbourne’s junkie rock in the same breath..

Fast Cars issued some vinyl artefacts (a single and two EPs) before fading away. This CD was originally a cassette and was recorded at Mona Vale Hotel on the northern beaches (home turf for most of the band), not seeing the light of day until three years later. It was probably a fan offering that was never going to trouble the charts.

Tthere’s very something endearing, honest and appealing about “Live 1981”. Raw (even after being cleaned up), it’s s snapshot of pub rock without its trademark bullishness. For a desktape, it sounds great.

Di Levy’s strong yet vulnerable vocal takes centre stage and her guitar playing is more than solid. Fabian Byrne is also on guitar when not laying down keyboard sounds that set the band apart from standard twin-guitar fare. The occasional tempo change doesn’t get in the way of enjoying what is, after all, a warts-and-all document.

Fan faves like “Saturday Girl” and “No Love Today” are strong pop plucked right off the top shelf. Occasional covers (notably, Generation X’s “Ready Steady Go” and The Boys’ “The First Time”, two distinctly melodic songs) spice up the set.

There’s a call-out to the Thought Criminals at one stage and Di pre-emptively apologises that, because “Weekend” is a new song, the band might have to stop and start again. They don’t and the song is a Blondie-esque gem.

"Live 1981" is a fun remberance of days past. Be quick to score your ride with Fast Cars. It’s a limited run of 150 CDs, best procured direct from the band’s label at the link below.


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