things will be different cvrThings Will Be Different: A Tribute To Little Murders – Various Artists (Twist Records)

Tribute records? They used to be all the rage but are they now just a bit naff? It depends on who they’re lauding.

Little Murders are Australian rock and roll’s – no! don’t say it! – Best Kept Secret. It’s a cliché, for sure, but don’t be afraid. It just means that cloth-eared and gormless cretins don’t know who they are. If you’re one of them, consider yourself admonished and start paying attention.

To quote Punk Journey website:

Formed in 1979, Rob Griffiths named his band Little Murders after a 1971 film directed by Alan Arkin and starring Elliot Gould. As an English expatriate, Griffiths embraced 1960's English pop culture (The Who, The Troggs, The Kinks, Union Jacks draped over amplifiers) and accordingly Little Murders became the premier Mod band on the late 1970's/early 1980's Melbourne independent scene.

Over eight studio albums, Little Murders have outgrown the mod tag and become a vehicle for Rob Griffiths’ considerable songwriting talents.

Accomplished powerpop exponent (and eventual Little Murders member) Danny McDonald nailed it when he put Griffiths in the same category as Dom Mariani, Jeremy Oxley and the like. The man’s knack of surrounding himself with seasoned and sympathetic players is self-evident.

So let’s get down to tin tacks and “Things Will Be Different…” is a 14-track collection of Little Murders songs, reprised by bands from all around the world. Six are Australian which, although in line with the Best Kept Secret narrative, is probably more of a reflection that the label, Twist, is English.

The label is well-named. Few of the featured acts jump right into the powerpop fire. Some of the re-workings are distinctly different from the originals – which is how tribute records should be. After all, a great song is a great song.

Of course there’s always a back-story: Ex-Sparks guitarist Earl Mankey was a driving force behind the collection and the bands are collaborators, Facebook friends or fans who made their contributions at various stages of lockdown. Mankey’s own band, The Eddies, take on “Baby It’s You”.

Some people think Japan’s Fadeaways sound cute. Gotta say that such a description does them a disservice, because there’s plenty of grit in their garage. Their cover of “After The Fire” is a first-class way to open the album.

Another Japanese band, the Wimpy’s, must have won the lottery or recorded their song first, because they got to cover “Things Will Be Different”, which is a Little Murders anthem. They deliver it Heartbreakers-style which goes down a treat.

No problem with Melbourne’s Dollsquad tackling a lesser-known Little Murders song in “Trouble With Love”, mainly because they do it justice. Pop with sass. Barb Waters lends a lighter vocal touch to “It’s Your Life”.  Jeremy (from the USA) put jangling guitar under “Waiting For The Sun” to push it in a Green On Red direction.

Venerable Adeladeians The Green Circles take on “No Girlfriend No Drugs” in their own unique and sunny style. Mick Thomas (ex-Weddings, Parties, Anything) gives “What’s the Matter With Mary” a folky, rustic work-over. Germany's Garden Gang give "Mars Walker" a glam-tinged Cheap Trick makeover and deliver one of the earwigs of the record. 

The Kill-Joys get the prize for re-invention. Their “St James Parade” is quite ethereal. It sits nicely next to “24 Hours From London” from Sandy Lee and the Bee (USA), where understated duo vocals sit on top of a bouncy feel.

Ethereal is also how Kiwi Kate Stalker makes “That’s The Way It’s Going To Be” sound. As an album closer, it bears up to repeated listens.

Not sure I’d heard of The Squad but some quick detective work reveals they shared Melbourne stages with Little Murders in the ‘90s. Their “I’d Do Anything” is an obviously live version and probably the oldest recording here. Yeh Yeh are also an unknown quantity but from the UK, but they do a fine job of stripping back “Baby I’m Yours” to its base elements.


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