When pop-rock knew no limits
No Limit: Collected Works 1985-89 – Love Minus Zero (Method Records and Music)
From the Never Quite Made It Department comes this collection of gems.
Love Minus Zero was a Sydney pop-rock band that was around in the mid-‘80s who managed to release some tracks on Waterfront label compilation and a self-titled EP on Citadel spin-off Green Fez before packing their tent.
“No Limit” is a pubic service of sorts, not the least reason being that it serves as a reminder of the embarrassment of riches that was the Sydney music scene 35 years ago.
There was no shame in not “making it” to the mainstream back then. Many of us thought the underground “scene” WAS the mainstream and it was a far better place anyway. That might have a ring of old-fartism about it, granted, but by any objective measure, the rank smell of commodification was nowhere near as strong as it is today.
The crux of this is that what you heard on a radio was invariably born and bred in a live music venue. Music was much more human and all the better for it.
So to Love Minus Zero, and you need to be a bit better than alright when your band name pays homage to a Bob Dylan song. And the proof is here that they were. Guitarist-vocalist Kieren Fitzpatrick, drummer-vocalist Joe Genua (both ex-Division 4) and bassist Greg Kasch (ex-Suicidal Flowers) were the central cast, aided by a transient cast of guitarists including Keiran’s brother Brad (Division 4, the Bambalams and, later, Rob Younger’s ‘60s cover band Nanker Phelge.)
The playing's great. Kieran Fitzpatrick and Joe Genua were better than handy vocalists and there's energy and a superb '60s vibe to most of the tunes.
“No Limit” assembles all the released recordings plus demo tracks. The CD title is not ironic; the band covered a lot of stylistic bases. The record is a bits and pieces affair (in that it’s chronological rather than constructed as an album) but that doesn’t detract from the listening enjoyment. Rick O'Neil's mastering is, um, masterful.
The cuts from the new vinyl single are both here and they are high-points. That’s what 45s are supposed to be about. "Don't Bring Me Down" is classic guitar power pop. "Mary Says" is baroque in its approach and endearing. I can't remember the last time I wrote that about a song with a piccolo solo.
Love Minus Zero recalls the early output of Ups and Downs (before a major label got its claws into them) which probably shouldn't be a shock as both bands were mates. There's a mature, layered approach to the song-craft. The jangle is never far from the surface. There are echoes of Jeremy Oxley-level emotion in the lyrics.
"Wondering Why" (the 1986 mini-album lead-off) could have comfortably sat on "Individuals" as one of the peak tracks. Looking back, the song's impact on the independent charts probably suffered from being on a Citadel spin-off label rather than the main imprint.
"Fade Away" is fine and shiny Byrds-ian pop that was rightly lauded as a highlight of a the "On the Waterfront" compilation. "I Believe" is tracked next and its placement shows a band with stylistic range. It's deft, bittersweet pop with some great, probing guitar.
The five appended demos aren't as polished (no shock there, Sherlock) but are worth a listen - especially "Porcelain", a track that could have walked off a swinging '60s Twickenham Studios movie soundtrack, and the slightly ragged, but righteous, previously unreleased "Whose Side Are You On".
It's classily packaged and procurable at the link below.