We have a huge backlog of posts that are started and not finished, or thought about but never even started. This is one that has been in the works for about 15 months; the origins of it are from before out ship came in and we had no television and no CDs. Our home entertainment was an iPod with a radio tuner. We listened to a lot of TripleJ radio. So we decided we should write about Australian music. We knew nothing about it really, but started a post about what we were hearing (too much Gotye!). Now, much later, it is Australian Music Month and time to resurrect this post. Stuff in italics is from then…normal font is current… and FYI, this is mostly a Dan post (and those who know us know that Lisa hates a lot of what Dan listens to, so take all recommendations with that in mind) so switching to me/I, not us/we for much of it.
Australia is a long way from Canada, but with the internet and other forms of mass communication, you would think that Canadians would have heard a lot of Australian music. Not so, it seems.
Yes, there are the big names. It was pretty hard to avoid AC/DC, for example (Dan grew up with Back in Black and Highway to Hell). Crowded House were huge worldwide (though not as good as the Finn brothers earlier band, Split Enz, and actually from New Zealand). Midnight Oil were big for a while (lead singer is now in Parliament!). That Keith Urban guy is huge in country music, though we don’t think either of us have actually heard him (Kasey Chambers is an Aussie country musician Dan likes). And of course there is Nick Cave, the god of Aussie rock. And there are some other bands that Dan know, such as Saints, Hunters and Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus… So Australian music has made a bit of a mark in Canada. But not much.
But there’s some great unknown music down here, and every day we listen to the radio we marvel at how much of it there is, how good it is, and wonder why we don’t know more about it. Granted, we aren’t the most knowledgeable people about current music, but still, we didn’t live in a cave in Edmonton. We know some new music from around the world, but not much about the music from here.
Thanks to a really good national broadcasting system, that is changing. ABC is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is something like CBC but good.
And that’s where it ended off last August. How do we feel now, more than a year later? Well, TripleJ gets a bit annoying in that it plays a lot of, well, music that is meant to appeal to everyone. It is quite mainstream, and very retro 80s synthy. And it says it is a youth-oriented station, but if youth really listen to music this safe and boring…well, then there isn’t a lot of hope! And they have a tendency to rave about how fantastic bands are who are 1) quite mediocre and 2) completely unknown. “Their long awaited debut” is a common phrase – long awaited by who? The band? Anyway, we won’t name all the Australian bands/musicians think are way way over-rated and over-hyped, but instead will talk about a few that we’ve discovered who are very good and, for the most part, not hear much (at least on jjj).
First off, Magic Dirt. Evolved from a noisy, grungy, lo-fi to a slightly more mainstream but still hard edged band. Right along the lines of what I like, a little bit punky a little bit droney and a lot of good. After the death of one of the founding members, their singer Adalita Srsen made a solo album that was very different, mostly just her and a guitar and a lot of effects and more ‘sensitive’ lyrics. Hearing her on TripleJ led to the earlier band. Like them a lot, both the band and Adalita solo. Here’s one of her own songs, Perfection, but the real gem is an amazing Madonna cover, the first thing I heard on the TripleJ ‘like a version’ that happens every Friday morning. It can be heard here – Burning Up starts about 13 minutes in, her own The Repairer is at about 3 1/2 minutes, the rest is interview. And a whole bunch of Magic Dirt here.
The Triffids. How the hell did I not know about them before. I probably had heard them decades ago but forgot them. Still haven’t heard a lot of them, but what I have heard is great. They were around in the 1980s, playing what now seems like some odd post-punk roots hybrid. I don’t really know what more to say…there is something about it that makes it sound like Australia – big, stark, hard to understand, but wonderful. Because of the era, there isn’t a lot available on youtube, but videos are available here and here, and the audio of two of my favorite songs are here and here.
Drones. I recently compared them to Tom Waits…and the person I told that bought one of their albums based on that. I should have elaborated that they don’t sound like him, but there seems to be some drunken earthy down-trodden thing that has the same vibe, but if Crazy Horse was backing him up. I love this band! Rock and roll by people who don’t give a fuck about about trends or sales or what anyone thinks about it, just making music because its in their blood. There is some video available but here’s just audio of my favorite song, Shark Fin Blues. Good video of the band here and here. And I have to get around to buying the solo album by their main writer/singer Gareth Liddiard. It was recorded in a shed not too far from Wagga (well a couple hundred km) with an acoustic guitar and a lot of whisky. What I have heard sounds quite good.
Courtney Barnett. OK, so the others have been a bit more well known (or established) but just recently discovered this young singer/songwriter/guitarist from Melbourne. She’s been getting a bit of play on jjj, first with a quirky but endearing reverby slightly twangy Liz Phair meets Dandy Warhols meets shoegazer Lance Jr. So far she’s released a total of 7 songs, but I think she’s got a lot of potential. And there’s this odd thing…most musicians, I can’t tell where they are from. But I can actually here the Australian accent, especially near the end of her new single History Eraser (which ends with the lyrics that gave name to this post…which seemed quite fitting).
And while searching for material for this blog I found this gem: Adalita Srsen and Gareth Liddiard from the Drones doing a Saints song! Skip past the first 3 1/2 minutes of bad television for some great Aussie music.