Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mint Custard's Australian Top 40 Countdown: 2

So, continuing the top 40 countdown of Australian music that makes Mint Custard smile, we enter the roaring twenties. Powderfinger fans prepare yourselves for disappointment...

30. Q.Kumbers – Resin Dogs (1999) a highly danceable, hook-laden big beat number cut from the same cloth as the Wiseguys' Ooh La La and notably featuring the 'my fucking dog is stuck inside the piano' sample used by Skint alumnus Indian Ropeman. For me this single is forever wedded in time to I Love You But... by Friendly, a similarly messed up Aussie big beat song which starts of quite innocently and turns into a rave run by homicidal robots from space with klaxons for mouths. Both songs are worth five minutes of your funk time.

29. Being Followed – Rocket Science (2003) I discovered Melbourne's Rocket Science by beautiful accident whilst dancing at Sounds of Seduction - Sydney's then premiere night out. Hosted by the incomparable Jay Katz and Miss Death, Sounds was/is a sexy melange of trash culture, funk, go-go dancers, sixties psychedelia, rare groove, sci-fi, rockabilly, TV themes and fancy dress with DJs and live bands. Rocket Science arrived on stage one night in the middle of all the chaos as if they had been beamed from another planet - one where people dress like pilots from 1970s commercial airliners which they control by using theramins and howling like the devil. The track Burn in Hell captures them in all their primal urgency but it's this hammond organ-driven paranoid anthem from their second album that shows they're why they deserve more success.

28. Circle High and Wide – Snout (1998) - My first Snout gig was one of their very last as sadly they split up in 2002 with singer Ross McLennan going on to do great things on his own. I wasn't around for the good bits, but have always loved Circle High and Wide - a wedding of sixties vocal harmonies and crashing guitar choruses which reminds me of Supergrass at their very best.

27. No Birds Fly - The Model School (2006) - I'll declare my friendship with Brendan and the various pupils of his Model School upfront to avoid accusations of deceit, but I'll also be honest and say that if I didn't like the music I wouldn't keep going back for more. I've seen the Model School more times than any other band during their five year history and it's been interesting watching them mutate and still come up with the goods. Brendan's musical style has elicited favourable comparisons with Beck and the Eels over time, but songs like No Birds Fly - which both soars and soothes - reveal something more epic, whilst a cover of Prince's Controversy on their current EP shows a knack for digging out the heart of a song and holding it up in a new light. Their sophomore album, Memory Walls, is due later this year.

26. Some Kind of Bliss – Kylie Minogue (1997) - it may not score me many cool points but it would be a lie to deny Kylie's place in my life since she appeared on British screens in 1987. She shared equal teenage wall space with Debbie Gibson, but whilst Debbie expressed her burgeoning adulthood by becoming 'Deborah' and wearing hats, Kylie put on feather boas, hot pants and Bardot-style eyeliner, shagged Michael Hutchence and became what Wayne and Garth would have called la renard. I would eventually turn my attention to more 'worthy' music, but I never abandoned pop and especially not our Kylie, even when hits like What Do I Have To Do and Shocked dried up. It seems hard to credit now, but the mid-90s was a pretty fallow period for Ms Minogue as she struggled for a grown up musical identity post Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Perhaps a sign of her desperation was Some Kind of Bliss, an unlikely pairing with the Manic Street Preachers in the middle of their post-Design for Life imperial phase. And yet SKOB is a perfect string-laden Spectoresque summer pop song with not a hint of the irony or tongue-in-cheek sauciness that went on to dominate her career post 'comeback' hit Spinning Around. There is always art in pop - you just need the right ingredients - and Kylie is still the perfect cherry for the top of any cake.

25. Bower of Bliss – Clouds (1993) a song that provides the missing link between America's Vercua Salt and England's Elastica, and makes you wonder why Sydney's Jodi Phillis and Trish Young didn't receive similar worldwide acclaim. Bower of Bliss is as cool and detached as Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon performance in Kool Thing, and as hook-laden as anything Justine Frischmann ever magpied from Wire. Ace.

24. Just Keep Walking (1980) and Don’t Change (1982) – INXS - a notable sign of my Ozification is my changed attitude towards INXS. In a curious reversal from my spotty youth, my love for pre-international fame INXS has grown whilst I now find anything from Kick onwards pretty hard to listen to. Need You Tonight and Devil Inside may still be mainstays of Aussie FM radio, but generally people here prefer to remember Hutchence and co before they handed them over to the world. Watching old repeats of Countdown (Australia's now defunct Top of the Pops-style chart show) it's easy to see why. The Hutchence of old - lithe, bright-eyed, bristling with sexuality and literally towering over the other wannabes - was a far cry from the crap-Jim Morrison he became. His was a real talent, the loss of which his bandmates have never recovered from. Given his difficulty to find a place in the musical landscape in the Nineties, his avoidable death seems more tragic in light of this decade's love of all things Eighties. One can't help but feeling that in more ways than one, he went too early. Oh, and why two INXS songs? Because they're both ace and I can't decide which I like more. Which is why things like this happen...

23a. Spray Water on the Stereo – Turnstyle (1998) and 23b. Do the Whirlwind - Architecture in Helsinki (2005) Perth's Turnstyle provide a great shouty-chorused singalong with catchy keyboard hook that stays the right side of novelty song - but only just. Melbourne's Architecture in Helsinki walk a similar novelty line with the hugely catchy Do the Whirlwind which is like Bananarama singing along to a computer game backing track, so much so that they made a video to match. Don't let this description put you off though, it's still class.

22. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia (1997) according to the statistics Ms Imbruglia is one of the biggest selling female Australian artists of all time, having sold over 7 million albums. This is all the more amazing because other than the pop colossus that is Torn, most people would struggle to name any of her hits. This is not to detract from the love-it-or-hate-it power of her 1997 debut single - a cover of a single by US band Ednaswap. Torn is very much a sign of what was to come in the 2000s, MOR anthemic pop pitched perfectly as something alternative in a way that Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol have been mining ever since. The accompanying video of a tomboyish-haired, hoodied and naturally beautiful Imbruglia pouring her wounded heart out and singing about being naked on the floor was part indie wet dream, part excuse to give her a bit of a cuddle. We either felt like her or we wanted to help her - either way we lapped it up in our millions.

21. Enter, Space Capsule (Space Disko Remix) – Gerling (1998) - plucked from their debut album Children of the Telepathic Experience and remixed within an inch of its life, Enter Space Capsule is a dreamy, happy indie-electronica crossover that makes everyone in the room feel happy. It's not totally representative of Gerling's oeuvre which oscillates between straight ahead power pop and full on dance beats, but it shows the warmth and cutesiness that make you want them to be huge worldwide. This might have happened through their second album - a fantastically diverse set of dancefloor fillers (including the dual coup of turns from Kylie and Kool Keith) had they not called it When Young Terrorists Chase the Sun and released it in September 2001. Gah.

Right. I'm off for a nice cup of tea. See you tomorrow for numbers 20 to 11. Unless you're an AC-DC fan, in which case I wouldn't bother.

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