Just two Suburban boys
Born in the Suburbs – Suburban Urchins (Aeroplane Records)
The concept of “let’s get the band back together” isn’t new. Not by any stretch. And the thought of yet another obscure ‘80s garage rock crew reassembling and trumpeting how good they were/are doesn’t automatically fill anyone with confidence.
Of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. If only every band’s midlife crisis sounded this good.
Suburban Urchins were a mid-‘80s band from Hobart, the epicentre of a small but fevered Tasmanian underground music scene that notably spawned The Philisteins, with whom they shared stages.
“Born in the Suburbs” reprises Suburban Urchins’ live repertoire, supplemented by new songs, and recorded in Melbourne by two of the band’s members, vocalist-guitarist Scott Riley and keyboardist Ernie Oppenhehimer. Bassist Pete Shegog was a no-show as he was stuck interstate thanks to The Plague, so the pair soldiered on and played all the instruments themselves.
“Born in the Suburbs” hits with the power and enthusiasm of a pilled-up pub bouncer on a stressful Saturday evening. It’s garage-pop-rock with more bounce to the ounce than a bunch of pissed footballers in an inflatable jumping castle.
“4000 Miles Away” is a fab opener, a nod to the mod genre with a catchy chorus its strongest asset. “I Don’t Wanna Go” is more rock-pop underpinned by a keyboard sound that’s approaching post-punk. “Squalor at 58” swings hard with clever share-house lyrics and a feel that nails itself to the floor. And that’s just the first three songs.
There’s a big pop streak running through the songs and it’s no more evident than in the Scott Riley-penned “Speak My Mind”. There’s also an undercurrent of darkness just under the surface: “No More Black Dogs” and “Lazy Disposition” lyrically jump into depression and prescription medicine’s masking properties. On that theme, "Professor Nick" is the Small Faces' "Here Comes The Nice" in reverse - a roadmap to cleaning-up set to a meaty beaty big and bouncy sound.
Suburban Urchins also rock when required and "Washing Machine" is a terrific head-shaker.
You’ve probably heard the production work of Ernie “Ernie O” Oppenheimer without realising. He’s a dab mastering hand behind a slew of stuff for Off The Hip and I-94 Bar Records. “Born in the Suburbs” was recorded at his Urban Fringe Compound studio - and sounds mighty with a transparent yet punchy mix.
There’s no shame in borrowing in rock and roll – it's close to mandatory - but just make sure you swipe from the best. The title track cops the Ron Asheton New Order’s rock and roll soldiers lyric and there’s an echo of the Dictators’ “Faster and Louder” in “The Thrill of the Case”.
Yes, Dennis Waterman ("The Minder") fans, that is a cover of “I Could Be So Good For You” but it’s stripped of its laddish charm and had its nose re-broken. Works for me – and so does the cool Rick Chesshire artwork.