September 25: Australia special – AC/DC, The Bee Gees, The Birthday Party, The Go-Betweens, The Saints, The Triffids, The Vines

This week I’ll be looking at the Australian albums on the list at the suggestions of William. I’ve restricted myself to one Nick Cave-associated album though so he didn’t take up the entire list…

AC/DC, ‘Highway To Hell’.

These guys were in my If I Must list, but perhaps I was being unfair as this is a perfectly cromulent hard-rock album. Produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, Shania Twain’s future husband, this album has no frills – no synths, strings or didgeridoo solos – preferring instead to stay heavy on the riffs and economical on the solos. It’s also refreshing to hear a heavy album which doesn’t directly reference blues, unlike Led Zep and even Black Sabbath to an extent. I’m not sure I’d necessarily listen to this again but it’s a fine example of its style.

The Bee Gees, ‘Odessa’.

An Australian lead guitarist and drummer – full-time band members at the time – make them eligible for inclusion. This album is a double album loosely based around a concept of a ship travelling to America: little did they know this ship would be the one that washed them up, as the poor reviews and sales left them in the wilderness until the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ career revival years later. The album goes from gloomy, cello-heavy opener to orchestral credits sequence, stopping off at 60s pop and, oddly, a hoedown. It’s too long, of course, but it’s held up well.

The Birthday Party, ‘Junkyard’.

We’ll be visiting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds many times throughout this project so let’s stop off at his earlier band today. This is a collection of chaotic riffs and freakouts with Cave’s baritone yelling over the top. Within that template, however, the palette is varied, moving from Cramps-ish riffs to country rhythms, among other things. The full tilt of the album means I’m not too likely to come back to this, although it does contain their best-known track ‘Release the Bats’.

The Go-Betweens, ’16 Lovers’ Lane’.

This album contains a curious artistic paradox: one half of the band had just ended their relationship while the other half had just started theirs. The band were making an album with a producer they hated, yet they had just moved to Australia (from the UK). Whatever the contrasting emotions at its core, ’16 Lovers’ Lane’ is a sunny pop album with a cheerier disposition than its predecessor (the gloomy ‘Tallulah’). Amanda Brown provides most of the lyrical inspiration but also supplies oboe and violin which lends the record a pastoral sound. This is a really nice album.

The Saints, ‘Eternally Yours’.

What an opener ‘Know Your Product’ is: an invigorating combination of Lou Reed snarls, Fred Smith guitars and Stax horns. You can imagine Julian Casablancas is familiar with the vocal delivery on this record. The rest of the album is also good, with ‘No, Your Product’ almost as good as its homonymous brother. It sags in the second half (apart from ridiculous closer ‘International Robots’) but this is worth a listen.

The Triffids, ‘Calenture’.

Like The Go-Betweens, this album was recorded under fairly fraught circumstances, with the rest of the band essentially relegated to Sleeperblokes in favour of frontman David McComb. There are plenty of tricks and gizmos on display: stop-start rhythms, string arrangements, synths and machines. There’s something about the melodies that doesn’t quite stick though; it comes across like a less urgent Echo and the Bunnymen.

The Vines, ‘Highly Evolved’.

This was a band around at the same time as the Hives and Jet and parts of the album sound as though the label had asked for a similar sound: for example, boring single ‘Outtathaway’. The other half of the album sounds like psychedelic Beatles-influenced indie-pop, particularly the ‘O-bla-di, O-bla-da’ copy ‘Factory’. The album ultimately sounds like two competing sounds, kind of like the Dandy Warhols album. Will the real Vines please stand up?

Next week, it’ll be editor’s choice, so expect a grabbag of albums I’ve been looking forward to hearing.

Status update: 284 heard (28%), 717 to go.



Author: JT Wilson

Listening to all of the albums in the '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' book (2006 edition).

5 thoughts on “September 25: Australia special – AC/DC, The Bee Gees, The Birthday Party, The Go-Betweens, The Saints, The Triffids, The Vines”

  1. So i guess i can leave another reply because i’m already in this post?
    AC/DC already pretty much left by this time for the good old USA. I really still like some of the earlier recordings but now you can’t even get those the way they were original released, two versions of those early albums was done at the time with an Aussie one and then one for oversea. Members was born in UK with parents moving to Australia too. Did you know? The title track is about Bon Scott gigging around Perth and Freo way before he even joined that band, the highway to hell is actually a road here where I live now? I could write a whole post about it myself!
    The Bee Gees are even more kids with English parents moving to Australia. They did get their first big hit with Spicks & Specks here down under a couple of years before this album. They recorded it in New York too, It’s a double album that’s so epic and silly at the same time, it’s sounds very 60’s too, very dated now but I still love it and so much better than Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album.
    The Birthday Party is so very early Aussie punk album, really they’re better albums by other bands that should be in the book or I would pick but maybe because it’s early Cave it’s included. I could write a some posts myself about some of the other bands at the same time. Release The Bats was only a 7″ single and never was on that album too and only included on the CD reissue years later but I always liked The Prayers On Fire album better anyway!
    That Go-Betweens’ album is like the Aussie Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or something! I personal liked it better when the bands two songwriters got back together years later, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan was the original just a duo before the other members joined. The last album called Oceans Apart was so great and was released just before Grant passed away too! Have you hear that one?
    The Saints’ one here in the book is the one they recorded in England but the album called (I’m) Stranded was the one that should be in the book but maybe that’s just my opinion again because I would included guitarist Ed Kuepper solo album or two plus his post-punk band Laughing Clowns too.
    The Triffids’ album is once again an Aussie band recording in England but I would say the album before this one called In The Pines is better and the reissue now includes all recordings from that session. That one was recorded in an Aussie shearing shed in the middle of wheatbelt in W.A. but once again it’s just me so I should say alot of others in Australia even oversea would says their album named Born Sandy Devotional is the classic album. Have you hear that?
    The Vines is one of my most disliked Aussie bands of all-time, around the same time we had alot of bands in Australia like them but one of my fave bands of all-time came about because of all these bands. They’re named HTRK which you say as Hate Rock, the album called Work (Work, Work) is a total classic. I’ve already written a bit about them on my blog but I should do more say like a post just about that album.
    You’ve already check out The Drones? Right? Another of my all-time fave Aussie bands.
    Good call again for all these albums too!
    Also I’ve just written about my fave Nick Cave album earlier today, you know?
    I can’t wait to see what albums your looking forward to hearing the most next time 🙂


    1. You’re always welcome here William!

      Yeah, a few of the bands had emigrated, or recorded albums in different countries, you’re right. The Go-Betweens had only just got back, too, as I mentioned. I’ve only heard ‘Talullah’ and ’16 Lovers’ Lane’ but I think the one after has Sleater-Kinney all over it, so it’ll be well worth a listen. (Sleater-Kinney themselves would have been eligible if ‘Call The Doctor’ was on the 1001; it isn’t.)

      ‘Release the Bats’ appears on the Spotify version – again I’ve been caught out by poxy bonus tracks and special editions!

      I’ve heard the most recent Drones album, but HTRK are new to me – I’ll check them out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OK then! I got the book out of the library again and notice Bee Gees have two albums which one I missed last time but most likely that one is even less Aussie than the one on this page.
    Junkyard is the only Cave one recorded in Australia that’s in the book too, Boatman’s in UK, Henry’s in USA and Abattoir in France if you want to know?
    The Go-Betweens are great! You know Robert just put out his new solo album too, I got to see him live and guess what? I wrote a blog about it too here’s it you wanna look:
    I listen to a couple of the 50’s/early 60’s albums yesterday which I haven’t heard before on spotify too! Atomic Mr Basie and Muddy Waters at Newport, both OK albums for there time.
    There is another book called The 100 Best Australian Albums which maybe you could find at or ask your library about here’s a link to the publishers if you just want a quick look now
    But The Vines are in that book too and no HTRK maybe I should just write my own list sometime!
    Oh, I did write a bit about Perth/Freo and the story behind AC/DC’s Highway To Hell song but I included a cover of the song by the ex-guitar player of The Saints, Ed Kuepper so if you wanna have a look it’s here too
    Cheers again!


    1. Yeah the Bee Gees were eligible because the guitarist and drummer were Australian; not sure if they’re on ‘Trafalgar’. I wasn’t impressed with the Go-Betweens’ ‘Tallulah’ so didn’t check them out more until hearing ’16 Lovers’ Lane’ last week, but I’ll do some more exploration of their career now.

      ‘The Atomic Mr Basie’ is okay, I’ve written about it on here. I’ve heard one Muddy Waters album (‘Hard Again’) but not ‘At Newport’. Blues feels very much like a genre where if you’ve heard one album, you’ve heard it all, but I’m not well enough acquainted with it to appreciate its nuances. This despite having travelled to Memphis and New Orleans, where there’s a blues band playing every fifty feet. I’m such a philistine!

      The singer and guitarist from the Saints seemed like the driving forces of the band, at least on ‘Eternally Yours’. Chris Bailey’s still touring with a band called The Saints but, with no other original members, they’re The Saints in name only really. Listening to the Ed version of ‘Highway To Hell’ now – very different! Also an improvement!

      Liked by 1 person

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