buttercup records - The I-94 Bar
For six years at the cusp of the ‘80s and start of the ‘90s, Hellmen rode the skatepunk-surf wave better than most Sydney bands. Now Melbourne’s Buttercup Records reminds everybody what the racket was all about. Hellmen were explosive and slammed out song after song with not many longer than three minutes - exactly like this release.
"Mutant Surfer" is a four-track seven-inch EP with two scuzzy rehearsal songs, an outtake and a previously released track. The title cut opens and is an especially potent example of what these guys sounded like live. “Don’t Do It” rocks like the proverbial but pales next to closer “Stone Rock”, left off “Electric Crazyland”. “Skate To Hell” is a cover of a Gang Green song that seems very familiar, even to a non-skatepunk fan. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hellmen back in the day (something about them being from enemy territory like the Northern Beaches maybe?) but this makes me want to track their old stuff down. It's all due for a re-issue and this is a taster for a Buttercup LP of some sort.
Art is by the mega-talented band member Ben Brown and there’s even a temporary tattoo in the packaging. It’s a limited run of 300 copies - a precursor to an LP - so don’t delay.
Buttercup Records on the Web
You have to hand it to the guys at Melbourne label Buttercup Records - they do vinyl re-issues right. Their latest effort, paying homage to seminal Melbourne 1977 punks Babeez, might be their most audacious yet.
An LP that encompasses all the band’s known studio recordings is one thing - producing it in limited editions with tailored covers is another.
Mighty little Melbourne label Buttercup has taken up the cause of split singles by some of its home city's finest that Infidelity Records was rolling out when they shut their doors. The concept is an A side from a headliner backed with a couple of bands covering the lead-off band on the flipside. Putting The Meanies, Digger & The Pussycats and The Double Agents on the same slab of seven-inch vinyl is an inspired idea.
The Meanies are as much a Melbourne institution as that odd football game they follow and the venerable Tote Hotel. Their song, “Gravity”, is a particularly sticky piece of ear wax with a catchy vocal line and sharp guitar solo. The vocal harmony fade out will have you reaching for the turntable tone arm to play it again, even if your name isn't Sam.
Flip the 45 over and the explosive cover of “Gangrenous” is typical of the musical hand grenades that duo Digger & The Pussycats have lobbed in pubs and cafes from Geelong to Lower Europe. Bratty and brilliant and at 1min43sec it’s over before you can get bored.
The other cover song by The Double Agents is (as far I know) posthumous and only a touch over a couple of minutes long, But what quality minutes they are. The groove on “Cock Rock Lips” sounds like The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hitting high-gear in their tour van on a boozy road trip through the wilds of St Kilda. Too good not to hear again.
Buttercup Records on the Web
You have to admire record labels like Buttercup who dig up decades-old sounds from Australia’s music underground, chuck a new coat of paint on those mouldy old tapes and offer them up for a cash consideration to nerdy record collectors who crave those obscure Australian sounds.
A cynical person would file this Melbourne combo under “'80s Smack Rock”…and of course I’m a cynical bastard. But, hey, being inspired by The Birthday Party or the Bad Seeds isn’t a bad thing. Those groups wrote their own rule books and went where no bands has been before them and if you’re going to be inspired by somebody it may as well be by the greats.
I’m sure Buick KBT shared cups of tea with The Wreckery, The Moodists and The Sacred Cowboys. They certainly shared stages with Venom P.Stinger, Go-Betweens, X , The Laughing Clowns and Dead Kennedys.
Before late ‘70s punks The Chosen Few (the Australian version - not the Michigan band containing Ron Asheton and James Williamson) there was Deathwish, a party band that festered in a barn on a family farm on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular. The Chosen Few would go on to make a mark on the Melbourne underground scene, releasing a particularly collectable EP, but here’s where it all began.
The album's named for the beer that fuled the band and these are rehearsal tapes from 1976-77. No polish, lots of covers and some amateurishly played. But for all the rough edges, you can hear there was certainly something there. The back story’s also pretty good and is told in guitarist Ian Cunningham’s liners.
Reissues of obscure 1970s and ‘80s worldwide punk rock are not uncommon. It seems that not a week goes by that some little-known band from the era getting a reissue of their rare $600+ single.
Sadly, IMHFO, most of the bands were pretty ordinary at the best of times…lacking guts, originality, style or any other characteristics that can make olde time punk so great. These two releases here are the minority. If you call yourself a punk grab these pronto.
The Babeez 7” is brought to by Melbourne label Buttercup Records who have also issued titles by The Meanies, The Chosen Few and Deathwish. The Babeez were one of those great Melbourne punk bands from 1977 whose three-song single “Nobody Wants Me” is right up there with Razor, Rocks and The Leftovers in the Aussie ‘70s punk gold stakes.
This three-song single includes two early versions of songs from the first 45 and to hear them in this even more stripped down sound is a treat. It sounds like a well-captured four-track recording. The guitars are not as prominent as the versions on the first 7” but it’s great to hear the vocals as clearly as this.
Do you have even the slightest interest in the early Australian punk scene? Are you looking for an excuse to your drop hard-earned on a lovingly-packaged, beautifully rendered piece of long-playing vinyl? Look no further.
Melbourne’s Babeez grew out of glam rock, parties, 5/4 rhythms and the arty Carlton music scene of the mid-1970s. Their epiphany came with hearing the Ramones’ first album. They never fit the punk mould - whatever that was in a confused Australia that absorbed “the real thing” by way of tabloid TV and sea mailed magazines that arrived months after trends had been and gone overseas.
Most serious musicians would have an aneurysm if someone wanted to release recordings from their callow youth. They’ll tell you they’ve been hidden in a sock drawer for 40 years for good reason, and that demo recordings are just that.
Of course, people with OCD, completists and the truly curious and/or obsessed - and any or all of these descriptors could apply to most of us - vehemently disagree. This release from the amazing Buttercup Records label in Melbourne satisfies our shared jones.
The Lonelyhearts popped out of Sydney’s western suburbs in 1979 and burned, briefly and brightly, before slipping away. Their their first 45, “Last Kiss” b/w “Ambition” is as one of the great lost Oz power-pop gems of its time.
They had two lives, resurfacing towards the end of the decade, but The Lonelyhearts’ recorded legacy (three full singles) was scant for a band of their quality. And that’s why Melbourne’s canny boutique label, Buttercup Records, is seeking to make amends.
If you have a single bone in your body that resonates to the sound of powerful, guitar-powered pop-rock with melody and smarts, take a plunge on this deluxe LP package before it sells out.
Rock and roll is littered with stories about “the one that got away”. The Lonelyhearts, more than most Australian bands from the teeming, dizzy time that was Sydney in the ‘80s, can genuinely lay claim to the title.
Melbourne’s Arctic Circles might be a relative blip on the continuum of the Australian underground scene of the 1980s with a recorded legacy totalling just a rash of compilation appearances, a single and an EP, but those who saw them or have their records swear by them. This cracker of a 45 adds another desirable entry to the discography.
Issued to pay tribute to late drummer Anders Nielsen who passed away in August 2014 at age 50, it was recorded live at the band’s first show (by its original line-up, naturally enough) at the legendary Seaview Balltoom in St Kilda in 1984 and bristles with roughshod beat-pop brilliance.