Collapse Board mix tape 1 – Downunder
Collapse Board thought it would be good if I made a (virtual) mix tape. We all love mix tapes, what better way to mesh what we already know and love with new discoveries and soon-to-be favourites!
When I was finished with the first mix tape I made for Collapse Board, I realised there was only one Australian band on it. So I tossed it and decided to flick the light onto some of my favourite Australian indie/rock and pop songs of the last 20 years or so. Australians are so weird and parochial and that plays a big part in the music they make. What was meant to be an Australian and Brisbane-based mix took a bit of a detour on the very first track, but Australians love pretending New Zealanders are one of our own anyway…
1. Robert Scott – Harmonic Delux
Personally I think New Zealanders make pop music unlike anyone else in the world. Robert Scott is best known as frontman of indie-pop legends The Bats. This track however is the first song off his 2001 solo album. A beautiful instrumental track that unequivocally sounds like those long white clouds we hear about drifting between the luscious and green mountains. This song makes me want to hop on the next plane to Dunedin.
2. Machine Translations – Hateful + Stray
From the Victorian countryside came J. Walker. Every one of his eight or so albums are brilliant and twisted. My favourite thing about this loping indie pop dream is the vocal line that Walker sings and plays in reverse. I asked him once what the line was. He said he had sworn never to tell but it was his true feelings towards an ex-girlfriend and he was too much of a gentleman to speak so candidly in public of someone he’d once loved.
3. Girlfriend In Oklahoma – Indigo Husk
Somewhere in the mid-90s the world was gripped by… what was it called? New Britannia? Either way. It filtered into every city and into many of its bands. Brisbane’s Indigo Husk were never able to capitalise on their love of such things, I think they were a little too late to the party. The 1996 album AM Radio Diet that this song is off is really well-crafted and sadly ignored. I do sometimes wonder where these guys are now or if they even play music anymore.
4. 78 Saab – Sunshine
Songs are places too! This song is the sound of walking Sydney’s worn inner-city cobblestone streets which is also where these boys come from. Like the songs name, the chorus just fills you with light and hope. Like welcoming arms waiting at the front gate.
5. Kes – Only When Asked
Similar to the solo music of John Frusciante, the songs of Melbourne’s Kes sound kind of broken from the outset but there’s magic in that cracked pixie voice and languid guitar. Here on his second album from 2006 he’s just Kes. Eventually he became Kes Band and the psychadelica took hold (in a good way).
6. Ed Kuepper & The Kowalski Collective – Finding You
Yeah, yeah, The Saints were all right for a burgeoning punk band but as musicians get older they usually get better. Ed Kuepper seems to put out an album of some kind every year or so and it’s almost always better than the last. This song from 2007’s Jean Lee & The Yellow Dog brings Brisbane’s finest guitarist together with Brisbane’s best-ever pop songwriter. ‘Finding You’ is a Grant McLennen song and I can’t think of anything else he’s ever written that’s more heart-warming. I’d even take Ed’s version over the original.
7. Youth Group – Booth Street
You know how I said 78 Saab were the sound of Sydney? Well, Youth Group are the air that sweeps up the eastern seaboard of Australia. Before they became a big deal, they wrote their best album in 2000’s Urban & Eastern. I think this album is equal to The Triffids’ Born Sandy Devotional in its ability to capture the essence of something Australian – here’s it’s the life and hum of our cities suburbia.
8. Screamfeeder – Static
Coming back to Brisbane, Screamfeeder are one of those bands that probably never really broke even on their musical career but will have bands for years and years sighting them as a huge influence on what they do. This is Screamfeeder on the rise and at their finest, taking a simple melody and crunching it into something brilliant.
9. Sekiden – Up In The Air
I can’t tell you when but Devo and The Ramones must have toured through Brisbane at the same time once, had a one-night stand and popped out Sekiden. This 2006 song is a little boy blowing a bubblegum bubble so big it pops all over his face… and when is that never fun? Never!
10. Origami – Oh Beach Party
Melbourne is Australia’s Olympia, Washington. I’m not sure who that makes these girls but anyone who can take Riot Grrrl indie-pop and a bunch of ripped-off Kinks lyrics and make it a good time is all right by me.
11. Fur – Jimmy Rogers
Like Screamfeeder, Brisbane’s Fur should have been way bigger than they were. Twelve years later and I still don’t know what the hell this song is about but when Kim’s guitars come crunching in, it explains to me why rock’n’roll was created!
12. You Am I – Adam’s Rib
And speaking of rock’n’roll… Australia wouldn’t be what it is today without You Am I! This is their first single off their first album, 1993’s Sound As Ever. They got better and they got different but the ragged groove and inherent swivel in singer/guitarist Tim Rogers’ hips were right there from the start and even today, this song has lost none of its shine. I’m going to hazard a guess that I’ve watched at least 100 hours of You Am I film clips on Rage in the last 18 years and that’s not a bad thing.
13. Louis Tillett & Charlie Owen – Ode To A Fallen Star
Like the red sun in the west, I’m ending things on a sombre, reflective note. Louis Tillett is a gifted musician that the world chewed up and spat back out. From his part in The Wet Taxis in the 80s and his solo albums over the 15 or so years, he’s an eloquent pianist that makes raw and emotional music. Midnight Rain, his 1995 album with Charlie Owen is a shadowy document of Australian urban life, it’s pub culture and the causalities it causes.
I’m going to hazard a guess that there are more mix tapes to come! If you’ve got an idea/subject/suggestion then leave a comment and I’ll go ferret through my library for more gold.