Stepping into punk's shoes
Strung Out On Heavens High, 1980-1982 - Religious Overdose (Optic Nerve Recordings/Glass Records)
Nope, never heard of Religious Overdose. So I put it on. And suddenly, that weird Adelaide time from about 1978 to 1981 was back.
Bands like Nuvo Bloc, Systems Go, The Lounge. You sort of knew some of their influences. And rather than be like so many other bands smitten with the underground music movement currently sweeping the globe, they'd deliberately avoided mimicry to produce something both damn strange and damn good.
Other people simply thought they were pretentious. There were pretentious bands who ... let's just say they knew they were on a bandwagon, and tried to milk what they didn't understand. At least, that's how it seemed to me, anyway.
Some sort of heaviness, some sort of synth drone, great simplicity ... and those vocals.
So, initially I thought Religious Overdose were a(nother) lost Adelaide band.
And, the bonkers cover of a bunch of what look like original early 1960s Mod clones wearing the same black and white outfits ... it's fair to say I'm one confused little bunny.
Until I looked them up.
Here's some background what I nicked from Forced Exposure mail order (and corrected to English, not American bloody “English”. David Barker:
Religious Overdose, from Northampton, were the first band to send me a tape. It was strange and I liked it. I asked them if they wanted to make a record, they said yes and, after a trip to see them play a gig, I got them down to Ciaran's flat in East London to record it. They didn't have a drummer at the time thus saving his neighbours a bit of grief. For some reason or other, we all liked the earlier version of '25 Minutes' better than the one Ciaran recorded and used that for one side of the single, with his recording of 'Control Addicts' as the other (1981).
It sold its first run of 1000 pretty fast, thanks to John Peel and the relentless fanzine attack of lead vocalist Alex Novak. 500 more were pressed. We had no real distribution, just word of mouth, selling directly to shops like Small Wonder, Rough Trade, Red Rhino. The second single ‘I Said Go’ b/w ‘Alien To You’ (1981) was recorded with added drummer Pete Brownjohn. Plus back at Ciaran's, they cut 'Blow The Back Off It' for 'The Wonderful World Of Glass Volume One' compilation LP (1981). The third single, featuring two long tracks 'In This Century' and 'The Girl With The Disappearing Head', was recorded in a studio in Denmark Street with myself and Ciaran Harte producing (1982). So there you have it really: three singles, a compilation track.
Well, bugger me with a glockenspiel. They're English. I thought I knew most of those bands back then. But no.
“Strung Out On Heavens High” is a compilation comprising Religious Overdose's first two singles from 1981 with their 1982 12-inch single plus, it seems, an extra track.
Distinctive vocals by Alex Novak (who also sung with Attrition, and later The Tempest). Anyway, if Alex Novak's name seems familiar - he went on to The Venus Fly Trap, who even I have heard.
The music? Well, if you've got this far, you're in for disappointment. I'm not going to explain it in detail. There's humour. There's a certain intellectual faux angst. There's a determination to produce something different from the mainstream. What's really, really interesting is that, once you note the year these were produced, you realise that ... well, there were quite a few bands further down the track copping stuff from them.
Go explore. This is what new music - even if it's “old” - is for. Think the end of the 1970s. In many circles, punk seemed a dead end (and had seemed like that since 1977). So what next?
Form your own band. And make it up.