Sunday, October 30, 2011

Neighbourhood Watch - The Mavis's

Long before The Mavis's became known for indie ballad 'Cry' (Triple J Hottest 100 in 1998), they were scaring the locals in the regional Victorian township of Ballarat. The band of outsiders were banging out post-goth, psych-punk ten years before they released their Venus Returning album in 1996. With glam siblings Matt and Beki Thomas leading the charge, early Mavis sounds were influenced by art punk grrrls X-Ray Spex (the cover of their Pink Pills album was a homage to Spex' Germ Free Adolescents album cover), The B-52's, The Raincoats and The Slits. But little of that early material made it to the recorded state. The track 'Stepping' surfaced on underground band comp Screaming At The Mirror in 1989 (alongside other fondly remembered, by a few, alt.acts like Clowns Smiling Backwards, Scarecrow Tiggy and Pray TV). The band broke up in 2000 and there has long since been talk of reformations and reissues (although Matt Thomas now has the projects Video Video and The Blow Waves on the go while sister Beki has her band Beki And The Bullets). But finally a compilation of early tracks has been pulled together and released through iTunes - Kids In The Basement Vol 1 features ten cuts of chaotic DIY noise but with the striking voices, and harmonies, of the Thomas kids already finding shape. Some tracks are from when the band were still school kids in their mid-teens. Listen to the wonky post-punk, Flying Nunesque 'Productivity None' (which the liner notes explains is about "the unexpected") and the wiry new wave 'Stepping' (about "walking the streets of Ballarat at night"). And, from 1998 (not on the Basement set), the later shinier Mavis's of 'Naughty Boy' where they still wore their Ballarat-pariah status proudly.

The Mavis's - Stepping by The Music
The Mavis's - Productivity None by The Music

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Chapter For The Apartments


Peter Milton Walsh is The Apartments.

The Apartments releasing new material is rare. The Apartments gigging is rarer still. Tonight the reclusive Milton Walsh came to Melbourne's Toff to launch 'Black Ribbons', released by Chapter Music. The former Brisbane gentleman came out to sing... and chat.

Originally part of the Qld music culture that gave us The Go-Betweens and Ed Kuepper, who formed Laughing Clowns, (Milton Walsh spent fleeting moments in both those bands too), the melancholy poet has been mostly ignored here while gathering a respectable following in France.

The Apartments set was sparse musically but opulent in content. Backed with just a few players supplying backing vocals, trumpet, guitar and drums (former Moodist and current Lurid Yellow Mist, Clare Moore), the band swept through decades of romantic bittnerness. Inbetween songs Milton Walsh spun entertaining, tangental yarns that make the stage banter of Jarvis Cocker and Dave Graney (who was in attendence) seem like brief public announcements in comparison.

There were stunning versions of 'Sunset Hotel' (from 1985's The Evening Visits... released on Rough Trade), 'The Goodbye Train' (from 1995's Drift) and the new single. A tender reading of 'Mister Somewhere' closed the night and Milton Walsh left the stage leaving all those troubadour-come-latelies in his immaculately-preserved dust.

Listen to 'Black Ribbons', a duet with French singer Natasha Penot (of Grisbi); the Autumn Mix is by ex-Go-Between John Willsteed. Also here, a cover of 'Mister Somewhere' by This Mortal Coil and 'Help' from The Apartments first EP in 1979 (released on Able Label, also home to The Go-Betweens' debut 'Lee Remick').

Order 'Black Ribbons' here.
black ribbons (Autumn mix) by The Apartments

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Neighbourhood Watch - Canyons

On Friday 28 October, Canyons' Keep Your Dreams album finally drops. It's been almost two years since the epic was first rumoured but it was worth the wait. The album not only features guest vocals from '80s new waver Paul Roberts of Sniff 'N' The Tears (the classic 'Driver's Seat') but also Tame Impala's Kevin Parker (one of the first bands released on Canyons' label Hole In The Sky). A teaser track has been kicking around, also featuring a guest vocalist - one of this blog's favourites - Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez.
  Canyons - See Blind Through by modularpeople

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Huxton Creepers Still Killing It

Huxton Creepers circa 1986
Huxton Creepers in 2012

Melbourne's Huxton Creepers very quickly leapt from the early '80s garage revival scene (which also included Olympic Sideburns, Tombstone Hands and others you can hear if you are lucky enough to find a copy of this) into the beer barns. By '89 they'd burnt out and were reportedly unhappy when major label interference saw them release a very polished cover of Manfred Mann's 'Pretty Flamingo'. The band played a reunion gig last night at the Corner (with other local '80s alt.icons The Moffs and Ups And Downs). Leaving 'Pretty Flamingo' out of the set, they instead included covers of Neil Diamond's 'Cherry Cherry', Flaming Groovies' 'Shake Some Action' and Blondie's 'Union City Blue'. They made their point. Most significantly though, they reminded us that they possessed a powerhouse rhythm section and mighty chantalong choruses in power pub anthems 'I Will Persuade You' and 'My Cherie Amour'. They could also jam out with the best of them, and last night included a "seventeen-minute" version of 'King Of The Road' in their encore that managed to pay homage to Them and The Doors. But still it's hard to go past their early efforts such as the jangly single 'The Murderess' from 1985.
Fuse have recently reissued their 1986 album 12 Days To Paris - order here.

Huxton Creepers - My Cherie Amour by Fuse Group Australia

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ghost Wave Hunting

Having recently become smitten with NZ Arch Hill recording artists, punk grrrls (and guy), Street Chant on their recent visit to Aus, it became clear that this label has well and truly stamped itself as a fitting contemporary of Flying Nun. Run by members of former Nun bands Jean Paul Sartre Experience and Superette, Arch Hill not only released The Bats last album (they are now back at Flying Nun with their new album Free All Monsters) but also past Nun acts The Clean and David Kilgour. But they can also count the post-Nun band Surf City amongst their numbers. So in playing catch-up on the label (y'know how it is, now have to pretend to having known all about them from way back in the day) a care package of Arch-ness was acquired. The pack included a new release from NZ icon Kilgour and also music by newer bands Ghost Wave and the jangly Family Cactus. All top quality but a definite stand-out is the seven-track Ghost Wave EP. Released back in April, the EP is a delirious mix of fuzz pop and Beach Boys harmonies - a sort of Underground Jesus And Mary Byrd Lovers Chain. Having missed this upon its issue date it's a relief to finally catch up on one of 2011's highlights - here's one of the EP's most outstanding moments, the haze of guitars that is 'Hippy'.
Order here.

Hippy by Ghost Wave