Vacationing on Kitty Miller Bay is still a goal of mine despite the horrific images of not only beds (shoutout Midnight Oil) but the land itself burning to a crisp along with animals and humans in the vicinity. A clip of a rescued koala hugging its savior made me misty eyed. So I decided to embark on a musical trip to Australia in lieu of a physical journey. This piece is an ode to some of the phenomenal indie artists that call, or have called, OZ home. I mixed older bands with some new young bloods, having a blast researching and adding new music to the playlist. And although they aren’t included here since you can’t put one of the world’s most successful rock bands down as “indie”, we send an extra special shoutout to AC/DC and their dirty deeds. May they remain done dirt cheap. We’ve already covered The Church, easily one of the best ever bands, in full. They aren’t here since I feel it belittles Steve Kilbey to confine him to any one country or world or galaxy. Same with Nick Cave. Same with Jet (a joke, sorry). And as for Tame Impala, well, we left them out intentionally because fuck Tame Impala.

We hope you take time to spin these tracks. I must say they are all bangers. Here’s to Australia, mate, and to this tough, tough continent’s inevitable re-growth.

The Scientists – It’ll Never Happen Again

The proto punk psychedelic music of the late 60s spurred the Scientists, out of Perth, to create a disjointed sounds that seems to aim to be the opposite of smooth. Their 3-minutes-and-under songs feel like The Ramones if they had the melodic sensibilities of The Church. This band has no trouble advertising that they have no idea what the fuck they are dong. They are erratic, erroneous and elegiac. I sincerely love a band with no real agenda. There is an organic rebellion against both structure and form in their musical endeavors.

Kim Salmon, the edgy front man of The Scientists, has been stood up and he’s not going to take it, man. This under the radar gem is a jaunty ditty about getting jilted on date night. It is both comical and fucking true.  Ever stand around in your Friday night best waiting and checking the door of the place you were to meet only to slink out in dashed hopes and embarrassing defeat? You know people were wondering why you are sitting on the bar stool alone. Ouch. The Scientists rip their truly offbeat mix of proto punk and psychorockabilly like wild marauders with a score to settle. Don’t stand up Kim. He will pen a revenge song about you.

For other “she done me wrong” songs from Australian bands check out Lime Spiders “Weirdo Libido”:

Plus The Stems “Tears Me In Two”:

Come on now guys own your feelings.

Middle Kids

The well matched trio from Sydney blends insouciance and insight. They may be young but they have a vision to bring us some music that reminds me of a time with no cell phones and a Barnes & Noble book store with a music section. Hannah Joy turns her guitar upside down to take it on the upstroke. Bandmate Tim has the down beat. They don’t so much play dueling guitars as wage aural warfare against one another. Her glassy voice takes hold of you immediately, holding onto her Aussie accent with a sharp enunciation even when she warbles. Tim blends in his harmonies a step back from hers. A most welcome unconventional south paw songstress and her right hand man, churning out romantic songs that are still rooted in a harsh reality.

The Vines

Craig Nicholls is a cherubic, highly troubled boy with limitless musical and artistic talent and horrific personal behavior. At a court hearing for one of his yearly violent crimes, his lawyer brought up hat he had severe Asperger’s Syndrome. All charges were dropped, and he has continued to create music with his infamous Vines.

A stand out tune by this band that seamlessly blends ’60s garage rock with genuine ’90s alternative soundz is “Ride”, clocking in at 2:43 even though it could have kept it going for another four minutes. His vocal meanderings somehow evoke both George Harrison and Kurt Cobain in equal measure. He fronts the four piece wearing an oversized cardigan while imploring your to “ride with me”. The chord progression is minimalist to the extreme and mixes easily with the clobbering behemoth drums. Add some well timed hand claps and you’ve got a stone cold classic.

The Vines’ music runs the spectrum from heavy racing guitar work to dreamy slow winding tunes like “Amnesia”, a hallucinatory gem that evokes nostalgia to a calmer time in your mind at least. The Vines have that rare sound where the past and the future implode together to form something daring and new.

 

Flowertruck

“Anxious pre-and-post-student pop” is how the Sydney band Flowertruck describes their sound. The band has been creating their unique strain of peppy post-punk since 2014. Upon first listen I heard touches of mad for it Manchester entrenched within shimmery, sunny jangle pop. I chose “Enough for Now” because the video and the message. Yes, we are good enough for now. This band exudes late July sunshine and effervescent warmth. Chiming guitar lines combine with baritone vocals to make for an overall familiar, tingling sound that can warm you right up on a cold afternoon in January.  The images in the video range from an outdated flip phone, a Frisbee, a slug of milk from a jar, an imperfect high dive, a broken flip flop, kittens, and the band wearing socks and sandals, high waisted Mom jeans, and pink polo shirts.  Flowertruck epitomizes the distinctive vibe of many Australian musicians who are insouciant, jovial, and damn fine entertainers.

The Beasts of Bourbon

The Beasts of Bourbon, a genre-bending gaggle formed in ’83, combines psychedelic surf guitar with lounge lizard crooning courtesy of the enigmatic front man Tex Perkins. Perkins has a “look”. Picture Nick Cave, a young Roy Orbison, and Dick Dale sauntering into the local watering hole and you have the idea. The louche cadence of his vocals styling made one believe in 1990 that lounge singing was far from dead. Not all of their nervy, off-the-cuff songs are lounge lizard offerings, though. “Cool Fire” attains a whiskey-soaked barroom ambiance that can only be attained through actually hanging out in bars until late in the night, each night.

Cause you lied
A cool cool fire

This mesmerizing surf rock track is the antithesis of the anti love song. With twangy riffs that offset vicious vocals, BoB has a Birthday Party influence yet can’t be called imposters due to their decidedly non-pretentious lyrics. BoB’s songs are both full of laughter and seeped in self loathing.  Love or hate them, BoB doesn’t give a shite either way. Good on ya, mate.

Stella Donnelly

You had dinner at Judes
You broke all the plates
You throw all your clothes off the back of the boat
You tell me you are going to quit
We know you won’t
You won’t

Stella Donnelly, left handed and elfian, takes a lover to task with saucy lyrics and wicked riffs. In the video, she dons a poppy-colored onesie and a leather backpack and sensible shoes. She is followed throughout the video by a Billy Elliot wannabe just absolutely beasting for her attention. She mostly ignores him, once offering a sarcastic thumbs up. Her “whatever” expressions are priceless. The ripe, reverb-saturated guitar solo at the 1:57 mark is particularly Aussie. She whirls, poses, then ends it with a perfectly executed cartwheel. It’s a perfectly executed song as well.

Dope Lemon

The ever-underrated guitar man, baked front dude, and excellent arranger Angus Stone formed Dope Lemon in order to go solo without having to officially go solo. This Dope project finds him running down his dream and gifting his growing fan base exactly what they want. Lush but dank, “Where Do You Go” sing him repeating “We gonna be Alright” over and over in his signature laid back cadence. In “Smooth Big Cat” he again reassures his listeners, and perhaps himself, that there’s truly no need to worry.

Plays music late and likes staying up
Looking out to the stars
There’s no need to worry
We got this now
There’s no need to worry
We got this now

 

Tina Romano