Great pop music is timeless. The proof is right here in the 37 rare or previously unreleased tracks on this compilation of Australian bands from Melbourne label Popboomerang.
Ask yourself this question: When did Pop - as the ‘60s defined it - become uncool with the masses? Who forced it to go sit in the naughty corner with its rowdy sibling Rock and Roll and its odd cousin Free Jazz? Best guess is when the corporatised music industry ate itself in the 1980s and all the people with emotional intelligence were replaced by spreadsheets.
Melbourne pop fan Scott Thurling and his prolific label just deals with it. With more than 100 releases in the back catalogue, for almost 20 years it’s been the go-to place in Australia for “real” pop - not the soulless pap that passes for the same for most people. As you might work out from the title, “Shake” is the third volume in a series and the label’s fourth compilation. A handful of these tracks date back 20 years but you'd never know.
Some of us have had a lot of problems forgiving Alice Cooper the man for ditching Alice Cooper the band. The first two Alice Cooper band albums, “Pretties For You” and “Easy Action” were fairly decent if you go in for a bit of whacky hippy burlesque. They have their fans but, truth be told, they needed a firmer hand than Frank Zappa if they were going to amount to anything more than a sideshow.
Next came five albums of perfection. Even the much maligned “Muscle of Love” shits over anything that tried to pass itself off as competition. I know we're all Stooges and Dolls fans here but the Coop actually owned the mainstream throughout the early ‘70s.
Well, they were a shit hot band with great song-writing, a genius producer and a grand guignol stage show. How could they miss?
Well, the thing is...
I suppose you might think of this as “modern jazz”, a term I find too concrete, too easily dismissable. I think it's fair to say that most people find improvised, loosely structured music either to be crap, or too much effort to pay attention to. Which is why you don't hear yer actual John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman in the elevator or supermarkets.
Why they play horrible current “pop” in these places I have no idea, as it makes me hurry to get what I need and run; I mean, if I could get my groceries in a place with either nothing playing or bland light classical wittering away in the background I'd be very happy ... oh, then there's the likes of Albert Ayler... don't get me started.
I like music, but you may have gathered that already. I'm not that keen on definitions, though. Cradle of Filth started in one area, but bent the rules and ended up with a big, broader sound which still fits (albeit somewhat untidily) into a genre-area-type-thing.
There are supposed to be two types of Scientists fans: those who like the first punky-pop incarnation from Perth and people who like the latter, swampy line-ups that sprang up in Sydney and moved to the UK. Of course that’s nonsense. The world isn’t binary. You’re free to love ‘em both.
Getting a handle on the recorded legacy of either, however, is no easy task. The grunge Sydney-UK Scientists recorded in fits and starts, falling out with their then-record company and seeing their stuff released in forms that did not please them.
You'll drop big money tracking down original vinyl but the output of the Perth Scientists has been reissued several times over in jigsaw fashion. At one stage their legacy did suffer from a poorly produced self-titled record (the posthumous so-called Pink Album) being their only LP. Thankfully, there’s enough out there to give a more complete picture of their sound, to which “Not For Sale” adds much.
It’s hard – no, impossible – to believe The Volcanics aren’t huge names in underground rock households right around the world.
Perth might be the Most Isolated Capital City in The World (something its bands used to brag about incessantly - but let's face it, it's a great tagline) but the relevance of that factoid is fading fast in this digitally-connected age. So it can’t just be down to location.
Sonically-speaking, “Black Door” has guitars up the wazoo, brutal hooks, captivating songs, swagger and attitude. So it’s as unfashionable as fuck to the ears of cultural taste-makers, who’d rather assail our ears with Chris Brown or Tay-Tay (whichever one makes them the most money through streaming). Yeah. That’d be it.
It’s been more than a few years between releases, if not drinks, for this long-established Brisbane outfit and the good news is that they haven’t polished their sound one iota.
The Busymen live in a world where the clock stopped working in 1965. They’re paying homage to the original bluesmen - with electricity and volume - and think the term “rhythm and blues” hasn’t been stolen. They’re the early Pretty Things with a hankering for cold Fourex instead of black bombers and warm pints. Guttural grunts and delay guitar speak louder than any words.
And then there’s Boston Bob on organ and voice. The secret weapon. His vocal stylisations are unique - never more than on the slightly out-of-phase yet hypnotic title track. A job offer from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a long way off.