Oz. The wonderful upside-downy world of tinnies, barbies and other comedic abbrevos. So much in common with us Brits and yet so far removed, they’re almost an anthropological study in themselves. My experiences of Aussies in recent times tend to only reiterate the traditional image of beer-swilling sons-of-convicts, but at least they’re not unpleasant with it. They’ve also managed to corner the market in rotary washing lines, and purvey some very fine music indeed.
While there are no doubt many obscure Australian artists I could choose, it’s nigh on impossible not to mention the wonderful Nick Cave. A songwriting genius of truly epic proportions, with a forehead to match, Cave has generally not committed himself utterly to his nationality in the way some of his compatriots have. For my part, I’d generally associate him more with the Southern Gothic school of songwriting, which to my mind he does better than anyone. Saying that, his most recent project was a very Australian work – The Proposition, starring Danny Huston, Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, which was a blinding piece of work, hugely evocative and very classy. It also featured a soundtrack composed by Cave and friend/colleague/Bad Seed/genius Warren Ellis, perhaps better known from the Dirty Three.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Lime-Tree Arbour (from The Boatman's Call)
Dirty Three – Sea Above, Sky Below (from Ocean Songs)
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Rider Song (from The Proposition OST)
My newest discovery from the Australasian continent is Adelaide's Mark Mitchell, a.k.a. Clue To Kalo – when I heard his last album, it was literally exactly what I was looking for at the time: a beautifully pastoral, gentle song-based electronic experience, yet with just enough edge, just enough bite to keep the interest. The end product, One Way It’s Every Way, turned out to be the fine line upon which good electronic music rests, organic and warm yet fascinatingly bippy and beep. I highly, highly recommend Clue to Kalo.
Clue To Kalo – The Younger The Old (from One Way, It's Every Way)
The Australians I’ve met tend to be a brasher, more fun-loving version of ourselves over here in pom land (see AC/DC). Yet clearly they’re subject to the same affections and disaffections as the rest of us. How else can you explain the sub-Nirvana whinging of the phenomenally successful, yet curiously bland Silverchair? More pertinently, how else could you account for the nihilistic howl of maybe the finest punk band of the first wave. Possibly ever. If I had to give up all my punk albums, the Saints’ complete recordings would be the last to go – after Punk In Drublic, after …And Out Come The Wolves, after Static Age. Put simply, this band is everything punk should have been, subtracting the posturing and image of image-obsession of anything Malcolm McClaren touched, even subtracting the self-importance and tendency towards self-indulgence of the otherwise wonderful Clash. For a statement of disaffection with the state of the world and how it’s treating them, of adolescent vigour, of the short, sharp shock, the Saints are the greatest band ever. Sounds declared (I’m) Stranded the single of that, and every week, and praised them for not featuring even a whiff of a middle eight.
To my mind, their truly great moment was the howling, blistering, apocalyptic blast of This Perfect Day, perhaps the most brutal and uncompromisingly sneered song to ever frighten the Top Of The Pops audience. When the third verse kicks in with that wailing feedback behind Chris Bailey’s spat-out lyrics, I’m in awe every time I hear it.
Unlike Nick Cave, The Saints made more of their roots: the brassy boogie of Orstralia, and Brisbane (Security City)’s brooding, almost post-punky discontentment didn’t so much celebrate their homeland as lambast it’s failings. Remember, this menacing, eclectic approach came at a time in 1977 when most punks were finding their feet with the first wave – the Saints were there first with that and progressed quicker than anyone. By the time the original line-up imploded in 1978, the band were all but spent, but with a back catalogue finer than almost any punk band you’d care to name.
The Saints – Orstralia
The Saints – Brisbane (Security City)
The Saints – This Perfect Day
(all from Wild About You: Complete Studio Recordings '76-'78)
Visit/Buy The Saints from Amazon/Hot Records
Visit/Buy Clue To Kalo from Amazon/Leaf
Visit/Buy Nick Cave from Amazon/Mute
Visit/Buy Dirty Three from Amazon/Bella Union
Tags: World Cup; Australia; Nick Cave; Warren Ellis; Dirty Three; The Proposition; Clue to Kalo; Leaf; AC/DC; Silverchair; The Saints; Chris Bailey; Ed Kuepper; Brisbane
CIA Factbook: Australia