The Thunder From Down Under
July 15, 2015 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Starting in the late 70s and throughout the 80s, Australian Rock strode the earth like a tiny, screaming colossus. Whether Hard Rock (drummer convicted of death threats), Pop Rock (lead singer dead from autoerotic aspyxiation), Pub Rock (lead singer's kids no longer forced to play), or what we'd now call Indie (they broke up, get over it) the 80s was the high water mark in Aus/NZ music history.Then the nineties and naughties ushered in an ero of reality-TV driven drivel...

While some bands tried to stay relevant by mimicing the Seattle grunge sound and others tried to simply maintain the rage, the industry succumbed to media-driven, over-produced, soulless, mush.

But over the past couple of years, as Reality-TV sound whithered on the vine, Oz Rock has undergone a renaissance, with a wide range of amazing bands. From the Indie sounds of self-described Scorpio Courtney Barnett, to possible animal lovers Lame Impala, to the Chrissie Hynde channelling The Grates, the raw rock sounds of Kingswood or Them Bruins, or the retro-rock of Holy Holy, now is exactly the right time to take a listen to Oz Rock.

One great place to dive right in is the Australian Alternative playlist or the Triple J Unearthed Soundcloud (Triple J being instrumental to giving a number of Australian acts the necessary oxygen to grow). Alternatively, bug your nearest Aussie to tell you who to listen to.

And rock on.
posted by Neale (78 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Courtney Barnett sings one of my favorite lyrics of all time, The paramedic thinks I'm clever 'cause I play guitar. I think she's clever 'cause she stops people dying.
posted by carsonb at 11:16 PM on July 15, 2015 [12 favorites]

I freaking love the new wave of shoegazers coming out of Oz, especially the majestic Flyying Colours.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:33 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your are at least one Minogue short of a picnic.
posted by biffa at 11:47 PM on July 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yo Neale, I'm really happy for these Australian bands (I'll give you Crowded House). I'mma let you finish, but the high water mark for New Zealand music (yes, it was in the late 70s/80s) was:

The Clean, The Verlaines, The Chills, Sneaky Feelings, The Bats, Bill Direen and the Bilders et fucking al.

Plus - 80s Australian rock without The Go-Betweens?? Should not be done!

As you were :)
posted by maupuia at 12:02 AM on July 16, 2015 [23 favorites]

some bands tried to stay relevant by mimicing the Seattle grunge sound

I have been very grateful over the last few years to finally start hearing rock bands that actually sound like rock bands again.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:22 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with maupuia. (Would have gone with this, this (unsurprisingly) and this though). And you can't forget Straitjacket Fits (still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard that). Or the daddy of 'em all, Chris Knox. Or Look Blue Go Purple.

And on the Aussie side, on the morning of an Ashes test it would be criminal not to mention cricket fanatic Paul Kelly: here's the best goddamn tribute song ever; the best adaption of a Raymond Carver story ever, the best "can we get back together?" song ever, and some pretty good politics...
posted by Pink Frost at 12:27 AM on July 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

What ? Something about australian bands and no one talks about the Drones ?
posted by SageLeVoid at 12:41 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I stopped listening after The The. I will enjoy exploring these links, and finding out what I missed.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:09 AM on July 16, 2015

The The were were not not Australian Australian.
posted by oluckyman at 1:13 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I must confess my first exposure to "Australian Pop Music" at the age of 8 was Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", which warped my image of The Land Down Under for many years.

But when you get into "Aussie Political Rock", how could you have missed the band whose lead singer became a big time Aussie Politician himself? (or did I miss somebody else linking it?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:20 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by Leon at 1:27 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

That Seattle grunge sound is actually the Dunedin Flying Nun sound, yeah.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:49 AM on July 16, 2015

Love them, loathe them, or batter them with an excoriating "meh" as you will, but Lame Impala is a bit of a low blow.
posted by pjm at 2:02 AM on July 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

Hunters and Collectors. And I'd thoroughly recommend reading Mark Seymour's Thirteen Tonne Theory, reviewed here by The Go Betweens' Robert Forster ... beautifully written little vignettes that make it feel what it was like to be there at the time.
posted by drnick at 2:08 AM on July 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

The best driving-across-the-Outback song ever!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:13 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

While Tame Impala may seem a little over-exposed, yeah, Tame Impala side project Pond is pretty damn amazing. And when they toured Europe last year, they brought Castlemaine's own D.D. Dumbo with them, who's also pretty amazing.

In terms of current NZ rock, to the extent that it's possible to keep current from 12000 miles away, I'm partial to Dunedin's Thundercub and Aucklanders Cairo Knife Fight.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:14 AM on July 16, 2015

Wait. Crowded House are indie now?
posted by metaxa at 2:25 AM on July 16, 2015

Also, if we're starting in the 70s, this was pretty aspirational in the depths of NZ winter. And wasn't Marc Hunter cute? On the other hand, these lyrics are pretty creepy now.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:02 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

And who could forget the Calamari Bushmen?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:04 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, no mention of Midnight Oil (one of the best live shows I have ever seen) is a point against this otherwise awesome post.
posted by snwod at 3:16 AM on July 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

I confess, I seemed to have failed getting people to look to the future of APAC music, rather than the past.

@maupuia & @Pink Frost: New Zealand has left an indelible mark on Australian music, but what would you expect from our '8th state'. And while the Finn brothers are readily accepted as an excellent New Zealand export, you're also the country that gave us this and some things cannot be forgiven.

@SageLeVoid @oneswellfoop @Leon & @drnick & @snwod, I was trying to merely give a representative example of the era. Otherwise I'd be forced to talk about these guys and these guys and these guyrls and these guys and these too and not forgetting these people and so, so many more. But again, I want to look forward here to what I believe will be the next great era of Australian (and, sigh, I guess New Zealand too) rock.

So looking forward, who should we be watching out for?

For those who like their rock a little more pop-y, how about Born Joy Dead or the Griswolds. You can find a rougher sound with Gang of Youths or Zoo Fly, a heavier/r&b sound with Ecca Vandal or go pure soundscape with sleepmakeswaves. Alternatively, you could try The Emperors, the more psychadelic Dojo Rising from Cloud Control, or the older Deep Sea Arcade track Seen No Right. But this great stuff is not even bumping against the top charts, as our Top 40 is largely dominated by American and international bands (Daniel Johns of Silverchair being one of the few fighting against the stream).
posted by Neale at 3:40 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I find the framing of this post rather strange. New Zealand is not Australia's eighth state. NZ music is not a subset of Australian music. Australia has developed its own strand of rock music (the hard, masculine pub rock stuff in particular is distinctively Aussie) which is fine to post about but why bring NZ into it at all? New Zealand rock music has its own history and traditions which are pretty much entirely separate.
posted by dydecker at 4:07 AM on July 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

The Art - Christian Girl

(full disclosure - old Brisbane housemate)
posted by chmmr at 4:09 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are some great bands here (but yeah, Crowded House are indie??? As pop as pop can be surely - and that's not an insult) but it does read a little like an outsider's view of the era, like something written from another country. If you really want a taste of what was going on without having actually been there I can't recommend Rock Country highly enough.

And if you want to know what's going on now forget triple J (seriously, it's heavily playlisted and has a few really narrow focuses.), stream RRR or PBS or another city's community radio station and get involved.

And really, no mention of The Triffids? A travesty.
posted by deadwax at 4:28 AM on July 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

It wasn't all heavy guitar and sleeveless shirts! The early nineties also had bands like Club Hoy, The Clouds, and Frente. (I hold these acts responsible for causing every single female acquaintance I had back then to form a band.)
posted by um at 4:36 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is (was?) a substantial dub scene in New Zealand too. Salmonella Dub.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:36 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Courtney Barnett is my favorite right now. Which is funny, because it's not at all the sort of music I generally go for--clever lyrics, stream-of-consciousness almost-spoken-word without strong hooks--but she's just so, so good.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:49 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Actually if the OZ rock and related thing really floats your boat the program on RRR right this minute should make you very happy. The Australian Mood - previous episodes are available too.
posted by deadwax at 4:54 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

A couple of good NZ noise bands: High Dependency Unit and Die! Die! Die!
posted by gaspode at 5:00 AM on July 16, 2015

If you're going to play Australian rock... play it fookin' loud.
posted by delfin at 5:00 AM on July 16, 2015

Primitive Calculators. Then. And Now. NSFW. (Also this one is great)

DISCLAIMER: Lead shouter and grumpy-sounding bloke Stuart Grant is my PhD supervisor, and his involvement in this band was a factor in my choosing to work with him. He's not as grumpy as he sounds.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:04 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Grates and Pond are my current faves. But I wouldn't mind more nostalgia links. I grew up surrounded by Aussie music from the 70s and 80s, which I took for granted and the adults didn't discuss with me. Now I don't know the names of half the songs or artists, which makes googling difficult.
posted by harriet vane at 5:06 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I object to this post in the strongest possible terms .
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:23 AM on July 16, 2015

Lame Impala? Perhaps a freudian slip there?
posted by euphorb at 5:27 AM on July 16, 2015

Maybe like a philosophical question, Australian rock isn't there if we don't see it.

Or, perhaps, like the nation's wine, Aussie rock goes in and out of fashion as we chase our own overblown, over produced, overwrought scenes.

Maybe those bands are there even when we aren't looking?

posted by clvrmnky at 5:32 AM on July 16, 2015

I've gonna put a lighter up for the Falling Joys, here. Lovely early-90s band, never made it particularly big over here in the US, sadly.
posted by jscalzi at 5:32 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Melbourne-based indie-jangle-pop (a.k.a. "dolewave") has been my jam this year-- I've been absolutely loving the new Twerps and Dick Diver albums, and that's just the stuff that's gotten decent Stateside distribution. Also recommended: The Stevens, Totally Mild, Lower Plenty, Bored Nothing.

(Hat tip to Collapse Board, which has been my primary source of information about the down-under music scene for the past couple years.)
posted by monosyllabic at 5:33 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Angels/Angel City are one of my all-time favorites and they're still in heavy rotation:

Take A Long Line
Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again
posted by Room 641-A at 5:41 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Eddy Current Suppression Ring. is my fave Australian band. Would love to see them live. They get bonus points for having a beerland shirt in the video.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:42 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

No Rose Tattoo?
posted by jonmc at 5:45 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

We can't let this pass without namechecking:

The Fun Things: Savage
Radio Birdman: Death by the Gun
The Moodists: Machine Machine
The Saints: Lost and Found
The New Christs: Coming Apart
The Stems: At First Sight

And that's just rockist stuff off the top of my head - so much good indie pop, too. Australia in the 70s and 80s is something you could probably spend a lifetime as a record collector obsessing over and never really get to the bottom of.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:09 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pop Rock (lead singer dead from autoerotic asphyxiation)

Michael Hutchence. We'll never be able to thank you enough for turning Kylie Minogue from bubblegum into the confident, glamorous sexpot that she is today.
posted by Talez at 6:14 AM on July 16, 2015

The Angels and Midnight Oil were my go-to Aussie bands in the 80s and I still pull out their catalogs from time to time. A pity it's not easier to get Angels CDs in the US.
posted by Ber at 6:38 AM on July 16, 2015

Courtney Barnett is my jam so hard right now.

Does anyone remember Ratcat? Just me?
posted by Kitteh at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like the Courtney Barnett album as much as the next aging hipster, but her Mark E Smith-esque vocals crack me up. "Pedestrian at Best" is the "Container Drivers" tribute I never knew I wanted.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:33 AM on July 16, 2015

Was lucky to see Regurgitator a few times back in the 90s. And Spiderbait play the MefiRelevant Buy Me A Pony.
posted by Gotanda at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Lucksmiths? Yeah, they're really great, the Lucksmiths.

OK, I guess they're twee which is an entirely different thing, but here's a song complaining about Top 40 radio.
posted by maryr at 7:40 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Courtney Barnett's Dead Fox has been all over (excellent! Boston based Emerson College station) WERS recently and I crank it every time.
posted by maryr at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2015

The Naked and Famous are a kiwi band making some international waves of late.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:40 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Clean, The Verlaines, The Chills, Sneaky Feelings, The Bats, Bill Direen and the Bilders et fucking al.

Able Tasmans

Most underrated NZ band ever.
posted by elmono at 8:50 AM on July 16, 2015

Ctrl-F "Little River Band"...

You disappoint me, students.

*Give the second one a few minutes, it has a looooong intro.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2015

I cannot freaking believe that there's an Aussie/Kiwi music thread that hasn't mentioned my all-time favorite Bailterspace.
posted by blucevalo at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Pogo Fuzzybutt, take it easy on me. :)
posted by jonmc at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Believe it or not, but I've been toying with idea of writing a Bailterspace FPP for months now, bluecevalo.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:39 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Saints: Lost and Found

OK now how did it take this long to get to the Saints, people. These guys were somehow on pretty much the same page as the Ramones as far back as 1974, thousands of miles away
posted by Hoopo at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't mean to pile on to the "this is great, but what about" scrum, but any list of Aussie bands that excludes the national treasure Hoodoo Gurus has fallen short. Check out one of the finest examples of power pop in the history of the universe here.

Edit: But thank you for the introduction to some great names I'd not heard of before.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 10:21 AM on July 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

I always dug the older brothers of all these cats. AC/DC were just the tip of the iceberg. Those kids under the southern cross were pretty far ahead of the larger world's punk rock & heavy metal curve in th early 1970s.

Some of them stayed cool well into middle age
posted by snottydick at 10:34 AM on July 16, 2015

Some of them stayed cool well into middle age.

I was hoping for some Rose tattoo love.
posted by MikeMc at 11:18 AM on July 16, 2015

Besides Courtney Barnett, I really like Lisa Mitchell at the moment.
posted by Pendragon at 12:21 PM on July 16, 2015

Not a proper Australian rock post without Magic Dirt.
posted by flabdablet at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

By coincidence, I'm wearing my Eddy Current Suppression Ring shirt right now.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was in a Hoodoo Gurus mosh pit at Seattle's Moore Theater in 1990. Literally got body-slammed by the guy that sat next to me in 8th grade math. Which was really weird because I grew up in Iowa. True story.

Hoodoo Gurus rocked.

Just for meta-ness and because I find this a haunting cover: Australians The Audreys covering Don't Change from Aussies INXS.

i miss Michael Hutchence
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:01 PM on July 16, 2015

Very happy to see some Bailterspace love. Let me help with some links for the uninitiated. One of the very best (and most unheralded) bands of the 90s.
posted by yobgorgle at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

i recently learned about the moles :P (w/ richard davies!)
posted by kliuless at 2:22 PM on July 16, 2015

Crowded House included members of Split Enz.
posted by Chuffy at 3:05 PM on July 16, 2015

One more Saints: Stranded
posted by PHINC at 6:55 PM on July 16, 2015

Royal Headache have a new album coming out in August.
posted by misfish at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2015

While I'm thoroughly enjoying this thread and the fact that you somehow found an excuse to link to the Tin Lids, I don't know that I buy that Australia is undergoing a particular rock renaissance right now or that "media-driven, over-produced" has gone anywhere. The Aria charts today look the same to me as they ever have and The Voice tops the TV ratings every night, while Aussie rock output seems to have been pretty consistent for my 30-odd years of life (with some ebbs and flows).

If we're talking rock rock, I would have called around 2003 the biggest recent peak, when bands like Jet and the Vines (whether you like them or not) were topping the mainstream charts and major labels were hitting sticky carpets to find the next big thing. And the 90s was really the golden period of Australian alt-rock -- it seems a bit dismissive to hand-wave it all as "grunge imitation."
posted by retrograde at 9:08 PM on July 16, 2015

Thankfully kind people linked to the Hoodoos, Oils, Angels and Paul Kelly, thus preventing this thread devolving into outrage. (And 90s represent with Tumbleweed and Jebs).

With Courtney Barnett and the Lucksmiths getting a mention, let me recommend their fellow traveller Darren Hanlon for gentle folk-esque rock that is whimsical, lyrical and musical.

And for pretty much the gritty, darker street version of the same, Perry Keyes has been on such constant rotation at my place that the kids are torching cars and shooting smack in sympathy with his song subjects.
posted by bystander at 3:21 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

One Kiwi band that I didn't see mentioned but still a lot of fun are, The Front Lawn, a pop duo including Harry Sinclair, The Lord of the Rings own Isildur.
posted by nikitabot at 2:33 PM on July 20, 2015

I lived for about 4 1/2 years in total in Australia and just under a year in NZ in the 90s, and both before that and even more since, I have had a longstanding love for antipodean rock and roll.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:08 PM on July 20, 2015

In Australia, you jokers in the northern hemisphere are technically "antipodeans", but nevertheless here's some stuff from this neck of the woods that I've been enjoying recently:

Beastwars (NZ)
Total Control (AU)
Murkrat (AU)
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:25 PM on July 20, 2015

In Australia, you jokers in the northern hemisphere are technically "antipodeans"

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:26 PM on July 20, 2015

Oh god how can I have forgotten Custard.

Also I say this a lot when I get back from the shops.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:59 PM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Argh, that gives me claggy boak!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:00 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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