(Our Weekly Wednesday Countdown)
Most American music fans are intimately familiar with the history of popular music in their home country and that of Great Britain. Occasionally a popular act will surface from less familiar shores (Sweden, Iceland, France), but for the most part we Yanks remain musically isolationist. Whether this is a result of the complexities of record importation, a general unfamiliarity with other languages, or a vague American preference for familiarity, it remains an unfortunate fact.
We at FP aim to solve this problem by introducing the reader to bands both past and present from around the globe. We introduce today a top 5 miniseries, “Top 5 International,” in which we will profile and share music from our favorite bands from nations other the The US, the UK and Canada. The bands referenced will largely be from independent labels and, with occasional exceptions, will not have received frequent radio play in the United States (otherwise what would be the point?). We hope you will enjoy the project.
Today we will ease into the series by profiling our top 5 bands from the Australia. Several Australian bands have in fact had a great deal of success in the US, most notably AC/DC (a band who endeared itself to Americans through its love for American thighs) and INXS, a band whose tortured tunes ultimately hid an even more tortured reality. As relatively successful as a few major label bands from the Outback have been, however, the independent music scene has been just as influential. During the early 1980s, when Americans’ knowledge of Australia was limited to Mel Gibson and Crocodile Dundee, the punk and post-punk scene down under was flourishing, and the influence of this scene can still be heard in the country’s indie world today. Without further ado, we bring you our top 5 bands from this tradition.
5. Died Pretty (1984-1993)
With apologies to Angus Young, Died Pretty boasts the greatest guitarist produced by the Land Down Under. Brett Myers was essentially an Australian J Mascis, bringing a classic rock sensibility to post-punk music. On the band’s 1986 full-length debut Free Dirt, Myers scorched earth with his six-string while throwing in performances on violin and mandolin for good measure. The band continued to release outstanding records throughout the late 80s and early 90s, but sadly experienced only minimal success in their homeland.
Died Pretty – “Blue Sky Day”
4. Cut Copy (2004-present)
No surprise that, in a country whose best music was produced during the post-punk/new wave era of the 1980s, a new wave revival band is the most successful current indie act. Cut Copy achieved tremendous success in Australia and the U.S. with 2008′s In Ghost Colours; a follow-up from the group is due in 2011.
3. The Drones (1998-present)
Likely the most adventurous of all Autralian bands, The Drones combine Stooges-style proto-punk, American country influences, and guitar freakouts reminiscent of Sonic Youth. We recommend starting with the band’s 2005 release Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By. Challenging, inspiring music.
The Drones – “Shark Fin Blues”
2. The Go-Betweens (1978-1988, 2000-2006)
Pure jangle-pop in the spirit of early R.E.M. or Big Star. Few bands have ever done it better, and few bands have ever been so overlooked in the process. Do yourself a favor and pick up their 1988 classic 16 Lovers Lane.
The Go-Betweens – “Quiet Heart”
The Go-Betweens – “Dive for Your Memory”
1. Scientists (1979-1986)
Back in the late 1990s when collecting hard-to-find records took a lot of effort, there were three records that the Frontier Psychiatrist spent months upon months tracking down: The Feelies classic debut Crazy Rhythms (since re-issued); The eponymous debut by late-70s art-rock girls The Raincoats (ditto); and the eponymous debut by Scientists. The last of the three (all of which remain on my all-time list) was the most difficult to track down, and, in retrospect, it was the most satisfying to acquire. While this records was and remains pure garage-punk bliss, the band’s subsequent work would skew more psychedelic. Regardless of the prevailing influences heard through any given record, however, no band has ever captured the explosively energetic spirit of Australia like Scientists. Here’s hoping you get a chance to hear more of them.
Scientists -”High Noon”
Scientists – “High Noon”