Sunday, September 28, 2008

(VA) Can't Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-1982

(Description Courtesy of Records Ad Nauseum because I'm just too damn lazy/tired tonight):

You may have heard of the Australian post-punk/new-wave scene. Perhaps you're familiar with Nick Cave's stint in the Boys Next Door; perhaps you saw the Models play their reunion gig recently, or rented a copy of Dogs In Space, the seminal film about the scene, from your local video library's cult/art-house section. Perhaps you even were at the Seaview Ballroom in the early 80s, in ripped jeans and hairspray, or know someone who was. Or perhaps you just heard it mentioned here and there, and were wondering about this scene that so many artists came from. Well, if you're interested in this period of history, Can't Stop It! is probably worth a look.

Compiled by Guy Blackman (who runs the very credible Melbourne indie label Chapter Music, hosts a show on 3RRR and plays in various bands) and David Nichols, Can't Stop It! does not purport to be an objective record or disinterested documentary on the so-called "little band" scene that flourished in Australian inner cities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but rather a collection of the compilers' favourite music from the time and scene. The scene arose in the wake of punk, whose raw anarchy had burned away the deadwood, leaving fertile ground for genre-defying experimentation, whilst keeping the DIY ethos. For a while, the scene was a hotbed of innovation, where guitars mixed with electronics, noise with melody, rock'n'roll with conceptual art, and rules were broken.

This compilation has considerably more stylistic variety than the term "post-punk" would suggest. Some tracks do bear the stylistic stamp of punk (The Take's "Summer", with droning bass, guitar feedback and slightly Siouxsieish half-spoken vocal about ex-boyfriends and reasons to live, and The Slugfuckers' aptly-titled guitar-noise workout "Cacophony"); whereas other tracks eschew this sound, varying widely. Some of these tracks have aged surprisingly well, and don't sound 20 years old; "How Low Can You Go?" by Essendon Airport (which featured David Chesworth, now a respected contemporary composer) sounds like it could have come off a recent "Sadness Is In The Sky" cover CD, and "Lamp That" by Equal Local (whose lineup featured Robin Whittle, perhaps better known for his Devilfish TB-303 hack and/or his views on sexual discipline) sounds almost like one of those contemporary free-jazz/laptop-glitch acts; except, of course, that it was produced with the technology of 20 years ago.

The compilation starts off with "Gone Dead" by The Moodists (which was Dave Graney's outfit back in his punk days), opening, promisingly with a scream, segueing into Voigt 465's raucous, falsetto-sung "Voices A Drama", which sounds like a collision between punk and art-school experimentalism. Track 5, The Apartments' "Help", starts off sounding like The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry", only with more cryptic and "arty" lyrics.

Ash Wednesday's "Love By Numbers", goes into electronic territory; an analogue drum machine loop and synth sequencer pump out rigidly mechanical loops, underlaid with heavily processed guitar chords. Over this, Wednesday's vocal comes in, counting up from 1. Whether it's a statement on the human condition in a technologically-mediated world or just an exercise in electronic tinkering, who can tell; though it's pulled off with style and sounds pretty doovy, arguably earning Ash Wednesday a place in the pantheon of underground synthpop.

Further on, we get existential questions from The Fabulous Marquises, class-conscious social critique from The Limp (with "Pony Club") and, by no means least, a very sweet piece of low-key jangly-pop from The Particles, titled "Apricot's Dream". Not to mention tracks from Ron Rude (perhaps better known for his publicity stunts than his music; though his song "Piano Piano" is pretty nice) and the original live version of the Primitive Calculators' contribution to the Dogs In Space soundtrack, in all its lo-fi DIY glory.

The compilation ends in an arty vein, with the art-noise sounds of the People With Chairs Up Their Noses, the dadaistic cut-up poetry of The Fits' "Words", and ->^->'s sax-driven post-punk instrumental, "One Note Song".

The CD comes with a booklet, describing each of the 20 acts featured on it, their history and what the members are doing now, along with original photographs. Here many familiar names appear, including artists as diverse and varied as Lisa Gerrard, Ollie Olsen, Greg "Tex" Perkins and Kate Ceberano, not to mention various bands, from Minimum Chips to the Dirty Three, showing how profound the influence of this scene was on Australian (and international) underground music.

The compilers of this CD disclaim any pretence of objectivity in their selection of material; nonetheless, the breadth of styles and artists (many of whom went on to do other things), along with the comprehensive booklet, makes this an essential document for anybody interested in this particular chapter of Australian musical history.

(VA) Can't Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-1982:

1The MoodistsGone Dead3:34

2Voigt 465Voices A Drama2:37

3The TakeSummer2:41

4Essendon AirportHow Low Can You Go?3:23

5The ApartmentsHelp3:40

6Ash WednesdayLove By Numbers2:38

7Primitive CalculatorsPumping Ugly Muscle3:07

8(Makers of) The Dead Travel FarThe Dumb Waiters4:14

9Ron RudePiano Piano0:59

10XeroThe Girls3:08

11The LimpPony Club2:49

12The Fabulous MarquisesHoneymoons1:14

13The SlugfuckersCacophony2:54

14Equal LocalLamp That4:53

15Tame OmearasSweat And Babble2:17

16The ParticlesApricot's Dream2:38

17People With Chairs Up Their NosesSong of the Sea1:36

18Wild WestWe Can Do2:33

19The PitsWords1:52

20>^>One Note Song3:34

1 comment:

ChapterMusic said...

hey my name is guy blackman from chapter music, the label that released can't stop it! #1 in 2001...
i'm all for you posting a single track on your blog, but could you please not upload the whole album? it's kinda ripping off the bands involved...