Top Eight Oz Bands We Would Have Loved To Play Laneway
Australia has produced some remarkable bands over the decades. Which got us to thinking: if we could go back in time and magically transport any Australian band, in their prime, to play Laneway, who would they be?
Here, in no particular order, are the top eight on our wish list.
Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs
English born but Australian bred, Billy Thorpe was a towering force in the early days of Australian rock'n'roll.
Starting out in 1963, Thorpe and his band The Aztecs grew into one of the loudest, most formidable rock bands of their era, Thorpe's huge pipes and inimitable stage presence endearing him to fans all over the world.
'[It was] like we were standing on a pair of Boeing 747 engines,' Thorpe said of his band's sound. 'It cracked the foundations and broke windows in neighbouring buildings.'
Inspired by Patti Smith, Kraftwerk, Television and early Talking Heads, Perth folk-pop outfit The Triffids started out in 1978 on the back of some 100 songs written by multi-instrumentalist David McComb.
The band would go on to make some of most defining Australian music of the 1980s, with the band travelling Australia and the world relentlessly, gracing the cover of NME twice and playing stadium shows with Echo & The Bunnymen, before finally wearing themselves out and dissolving in 1989.
The Birthday Party
A band who probably needs no introduction, post-punk terrors The Birthday Party started up in 1976, fronted by the gaunt, pale spectre of a young Nick Cave, who was not long out of private school but sang and moved as if possessed by something ancient and terrifying.
Cave and his band –– Mick Harvey, Rowland S. Howard, Tracy Pew and Phil Calvert –– made an intense, dark, unnerving racket, their ceaselessly black, No Wave inspired sound influencing generations of freaks to come.
Post-punkers The Moodists began when three South Australian kids, Dave Graney, Clare Moore and Steve Miller, headed east to Melbourne in 1981. The Moodists' early sound scrambled conventional song structures into a raw, driving and primitive sound –– 'all performance and energy', as Graney later put it.
A successful move to the mother country saw the band come to wider acclaim, and their recorded output start to incorporate more classic songwriting touches and a lighter, poppier sound. Like so many of their peers, The Moodists were unable to escape the tumult of the 80s intact, and disbanded in 1987.
Famously described by Rolling Stone as like 'the Sex Pistols on acid', Sydney garage/psych/pub-rock outfit Lime Spiders broke up twice before their first single was released, reforming only for a battle of the bands competition (which they went on to win).
The Spiders would go on to break up another four times, but still managed to release a string of much loved releases, tour the US, and make fans out of the likes of Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone and Jello Biafra.
The undisputed godfathers of Australian indie pop, beloved Brisbane outfit The Go-Betweens were perhaps Australia's most successful indie music export of the 1980s, their masterful songwriting and prolific output finding them critical and commercial success around the world. (At their height, in the late 1980s, big-time Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called The Go Betweens 'the greatest songwriting partnership working today'.)
After six acclaimed lps, The Go-Betweens disbanded in 1989; they reformed in 2000, releasing a string of lps over the next five years before one half of the group, Grant McLennan, succumbed to a sudden heart attack in 2006.
The Laughing Clowns
The Laughing Clowns formed out of the ashes of the original line up of The Saints, guitarist Ed Kuepper leaving the seminal punk outfit in 1979 to explore a more adventurous, brass-oriented, jazzier sound with drummer Jeffrey Wegener.
The Clowns' revolving line up made some of the finest, most fearless music to come out of the period, and quickly became an influential cult favourite in Australia and overseas. After burning brightly for five years, the Clowns disbanded in 1984, reuniting briefly 25 years later to play the Nick Cave-curated All Tomorrow Parties festival.
Erratic,combustible, brilliant and very, very young, teen Melbourne rockers God lasted barely three years in the late 1980s, but what a three years they were. Barely fifteen when they formed, God burst onto the scene with the best Australian rock songs of all time: the 1987 instant classic 'My Pal'.
God would go on to play some seventy shows –– all of which, drummer Matthew Whittle later said, 'were either shithouse or fantastic. There wasn't much middle ground' –– before calling it quits in 1989, on the eve of the release of their first full-length album. Sadly, there would be no reformation: two of the band's members, Sean Greenway and Tim Hemensley, succumbed to heroin overdoses in the early 2000s.