Looking back but not in anger
Sound of Sydney Volume 4 - Various Artists (Method Records and Music)
What is “the sound of Sydney”? It’s a rhetorical question, if not an outright non sequitur.
If you asked 20 different people, you’d get as many different answers. Someone young might say it’s Triple J - which would be laughable but it’s, you know, it is somebody’s reality. You can fight media fragmentation but it’s like yelling at a cloud. Boomer.
“Sound of Sydney” was a series of compilation albums- appearing in 1983, ’84 and ’86 - and the work of Method Records’ Fabian Byrne, of mod-pop band Fast Cars. They were fine records - and very diverse and that in itself was reflective of what was going on in the underground.
“Sounds 4” is here, nearly four decades later, and is less a stylistic snapshot as (mostly) a look over the shoulder with its earliest inclusion, Died Pretty’s “Doused”, dating from 1991. Most of the bands are still active, to varying degrees, but the material isn’t always current. There’s a nod to the compiler’s Sussex Hotel beginnings (the Allniters’ “Fame, Sex and Money” namechecks it) which is entirely understandable.
Some of the connections to Sydney are strained these days - The Aints! are led by a Brisbaneite even if the rest of them come from the Harbour City, and Deniz Tek now calls the Hawaiian island of Kona home these days - but you get the idea. Ed Kuepper and Tek – but who's splitting hairs here? Indeed, most of the bands here made a mark on the place.
You’d be hard to please if you didn’t find something to love among the 20 songs. Some personal highlights are the Hard-Ons’ “Harder and Harder”, which underlines their world class status when they indulge their pop side, and the Hoodoo Gurus’ 2009 “comeback” single, “Crackin’ Up”.
Women are especially well represented by the previously unreleased Fast Cars track “No Compromise” (a bit of a tough jewel) and the agreeably winsome (if slightly over-produced) “Begins Goodbye” from Even As We Speak.
There’s a folky thread running through songs The Skolars’ “Spilt Milk” and the latter-day Happy Hate Me Nots’ “Summer Hill”, which although recognisable as a Paul Berwick song, ran contrary to the expected when it came out in 2011. Dog Trumpet weaves a psych veil with “Shadows”. The Welcome Mat (“Hey! Illusion”), Ups and Downs ("True Love Waste") and The Smart Folk (“Summer and Light”) cover the pop base. Deniz Tek & The Godoys (“Alone in the Endzone”), The Prehistorics (“Already Gone”) and Love Minus Zero (“Don’t Bring Me Down” is fabulous) all bring the rock.