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.

 

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