Died Pretty Live cvrDied Pretty Live – Died Pretty (Citadel)

Live albums were things a band pulled out of its collective arse when members were short on ideas and had “contractual obligations” to a label. These days, they’re a  quaint anachronism in a market that treats digital singles as a currency.

The only contractual obligation Died Pretty has these days is keeping their record label boss and manager, John Needham, in the lifestyle to which he is accustomed (that's a joke, John), so a live recording of a February 2008 performance of the cross-over album “Doughboy Hollow” at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre is probably of interest only to diehard fans.

Guilty as charged but thousands of others will take the same plea.

“Doughboy Hollow” was always more than just the irresistible “DC” and “Godbless” (the latter actually a B-side – go figure). Yeah, they got played on the Triple Ms and continue to keep the streaming cash tap open.

“Doughboy” didn’t cement them in the mainstream but did make people sit up and take notice.

There was a depth and cohesive sound to “Doughboy” that had mostly evaded the band up until then. Keyboardist John Hoey was the secret weapon and songwriters Brett Myers and Ronald S Peno put his melodies and textures to superb use.

Best record? Still can’t go past the magnificent “Next To Nothing” EP and the debut album “Next To Nothing” but for a record released in 1991, “Doughboy Hollow” still puts anything else released in that year firmly in the shade.

Flick back to the early ‘90s and categorising DP as hot and cold at that stage of the game is not valid. I saw an early show where a trenchcoated and cap-wearing Peno spent most of the night with his back to the audience, watching bandmates for cues, but by then that was a blurry memory (probably for Ron, too.) The Pretties were tour-hardened and “Doughboy Hollow” was the sound of them fulfilling their promise.

Now, fast-forward to the ‘00s: Reprising an album that had attained “classic” status in the eyes of many critics for the “Don’t Look Back” series was an inspired decision. I wasn’t at The Forum gig but saw the Enmore Theatre one in Sydney and Died Pretty has rarely if ever sounded better.

This live record does something that many, if not most, struggle to do: it adds sonic nuances that take its studio version to a new level. Listen and you’ll hear it in Myers’ dynamic guitar and subtle backing vocals, the fluid basslines of Steve Clark and the feels and accents of Chris Welsh’s drumming. 

The band members are still kickinbg and more power to them. Ron has since become an even more formidable vocalist. His current band The Superstitions are breathtaking. Brett still hits heights in Joeys Coop – just with fewer people watching.

Steve Clark is dipping his toe back in the water with his duo, Nothing But Dust. Hoey’s about to start playing with The On And Ons, and Chris Welsh is up-river from the Mekong Delta, working as a teacher and avoiding the ghost of Colonel Kurtz. In short, don’t expect a new studio album.

You get the entire "Dougboy Hollow" experience from go to whoa, plus a bunch of encore tracks - including the majestic "Final Twist".

It’s not a sin to look back. Do so without shame and get this album. It's available on CD or on a double LP (with an extra track). Stay tuned for the tour news. - The Barman


Buy it

When heritage artists do re-recordings of their old classic albums it can raise serious alarm bells - big-time. But with Died Pretty performing their 1991 album “Doughboy Hollow” live in its entirety, as part of the “Don’t Look Back” series of shows (which also included Sonic Youth performing “Daydream Nation” and the Scientists reprising “Blood Red River”) the fans were in for special treat.

Issuing this somehow makes perfect sense as Died Pretty Live and Died Pretty In The Studio can be two very different beasts. Famously and historically, Died Pretty’s live performances could (for better or worse) go from one extreme to another.

On 15 December 2008, however, when Died Pretty graced the stage at Melbourne’s beautiful Forum Theatre, the stars seemed to be aligned. Thankfully the tapes were rolling, and Died Pretty gave one of those famously great performances.

While the studio album “Doughboy Hollow” album is very dense, produced, tight and atmospheric, this live recording of the album, 17 years after the fact, shows the band as musicians have greatly settled into the songs. There is space between each instrument and the vocals, which gives every sound coming off the stage its own presence.

This live album isn’t as tight as the original studio effort, and that is a good thing.

Ron Peno’s singing is more emotional and “in the moment”. Which is how all great vocalists should perform. His voice sounds as great as ever. These are his lyrics - so he sings every line likes he means every word . If only other singers had the same emotion in their performance.

Ron’s recent show in Sydney with his current band The Superstitions proved him to be a singer who  keeps learning and reaching new heights.

But back to the live record and Chris Welsh’s drumming is so unique and unmistakably his own. Nobody plays drums like him. Keyboardist John Hoey really adds a unique sound to the proceedings, never over-playing. Brett Myers’ guitar simply soars and shines, but he can chill out when needed. Steve Clark on bass adds some subtle but effective runs.

“Doughboy Hollow”, in its 1991 studio configuration and this new live version, can stand by each other proudly. They are two different pieces of art and both deserve a place in all DP fan collection. Sadly, there seems to be no plans for (another) reissue of the 1991 studio version but this live concert performance is a fine trade off.

As a bonus, the show includes a six-song encore which adds a nice finale (it’s five songs on the CD edition).

The cover art is not as groovy as the mighty records covers from their 1980s and’90s, which were mostly designed by Robyn Stacey. This album has a photo of the audience so maybe it was a way of the band acknowledging its loyal fan base.

The inside cover has a great live photo by Sean Maguire (best known as the drummer for ‘80s Sydney bands Grooveyard and Minuteman) and it really tells a story of a great band reforming to play those great songs for their fans.

I believe only 500 vinyl copies of this double album will be pressed, so if you’re a fan of Died Pretty get on your bike. You need this.