Australia - Full Moon 80 - 04/16/03
Tales from the Australian Underground - Singles 1976-1989
Compilation albums can be a painstaking proposition, both as a compiler and your approach to
(or avoidance of) them as a music lover. What to include? And what, heartbreakingly, to leave
out as you agonise over what will become a statement of intent more than just a collection of
The process I imagine would be made increasingly difficult if a lone person tackles the task.
We all know the agony of making the perfect compilation tape for those front and centre in our
lives (captured perfectly by Nick Hornby in Hi Fidelity). To compile such an important and
fertile period of Australia's underground music scene alone, the knowledge, skills, credentials
and a level-headed judgement of what should stand or fall in relation to inclusion is essential
and Tim Pittman has found success here.
Pittman was first given a taste of the underground via Radio Birdman's classic Radios
Appear album at the ripe old age of thirteen. Following this initial conversion Pittman has
had an extensive involvement in the Australian scene throughout the eighties and nineties
managing The Eastern Dark, Hard-Ons, Kim Salmon and Mark of Cain amongst others. He has booked
acts at the venerable Trade Union Club and currently heads Feel Presents - promoting tours by
Lou Reed, Henry Rollins and the Dirty Three among others. His involvement in and support of the
scene allows him to dig deep in both track selection and in creation of the extensive liner
So - what of the music? A selection requirement for the compilation was that every song had
to a 45rpm. Commencing appropriately with Radio Birdman's "Burn My Eye" and some true stone
cold punk classics by The Saints, The Victims and The Leftovers - proving that both abrasiveness
and catchiness could share a bed and still sound so incredible some twenty-odd years later. Things
then shift towards the twisted funk and arty hysteria of The Birthday Party's "Happy Birthday"
and the unstoppable momentum of the Laughing Clowns' "Sometimes", a song that still sounds so
unique. The bright power pop of "Love to Rule" by The Sunnyboys and the experimental beauty of
Makers of the Dead Travel Fast's "Taels of the Seaghors" are other highlights of the incredibly
mixed first disc.
The diversity of the compilation is its most impressive feature. While Radio Birdman seemingly
overshadowed the Australian Underground music scene - attending their shows in May 2002 were
personnel from The Celibate Rifles, The Hard-Ons, Ratcat, You Am I, The Eastern Dark and the Hoodoo
Gurus and others - the fact that pioneers such as The Birthday Party, The Scientists, Tactics, The
Triffids and the Laughing Clowns were also able to flourish is testament to the rich diversity of
music on offer in Australia during this period.
The second disc includes the brilliant high-octane rock of "No Next Time" by The New Christs,
"Lost Cause" by the Cosmic Psychos and tracks by the Hard-Ons and The Celibate Rifles that assisted
the abovementioned in launching successful overseas tours in Europe and the college rock circuit
in America. X, one of the true original pioneers of raw rock and punk also feature - still playing
with much energy and abandon today despite their vintage!
Another noteworthy inclusion is "Sailor's Dream" by The Wet Taxis featuring Louis Tillet, who
had quite a high profile in the scene throughout the eighties in both recording with Died Pretty
and The New Christs and touring to much acclaim throughout Europe. Tillet is still enjoying solo
success in certain pockets throughout the world, playing shows with artists such as the Dirty Three
and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Pittman has provided a fascinating insight into several creative giants of Australian music -
some of which are continuing to tour and release consistently strong material to varying degrees
of success. Take a bow Dave Graney, Nick Cave, The Dirty Three and Kim Salmon and others who
continue an ever-interesting musical journey and repeated forays into domestic and international
markets to much acclaim.
Tales of the Australian Underground is made increasingly important due to the fact the
majority of the songs were taken from vinyl recordings as Pittman discovered during research that
many of the original master tapes had been lost forever. It would be ridiculous to quibble over
inclusions/omissions - a great document of the times and essential for anyone remotely interested
in the colourful and creative roots of Australian 'underground' or 'alternative' music.
Copyright © 2003 Brian Stradbrook