Lost - Died Pretty (Sandman Records)
Amid all the recent deification of a soul-less, vapid, posturing band like INXS and its execrable white bread music, the greatness of acts of a similar vintage goes sadly under-acknowledged. This re-tooled version of Died Pretty’s second album won’t bring them sainthood or riches in their dotage, but might remind you of what could, and should, have been.
Died Pretty’s story would make a great TV mini-series. A far better one than the crap that INXS' surviving members helped dish up about themselves recently. The sex would be a lot more gratuitous, the drug use earnest and recreational, and the clichéd moments like hearing yourself played on the radio handled with gravitas and much more style. The subjects would not make it to Wembley, except maybe to watch a soccer game, but the music would be a helluva lot more tolerable. Dream On White Boy.
“Lost” is a more well-rounded effort than its predecessor but that’s not to say it’s better. “Free Dirt” had an edginess and mystery that produced moments that remain Died Pretty’s greatest to this day. On its own merits as an album, however, “Lost” was not just head and shoulders, but a full body-length, over and above almost anything else released in Australia in 1986.
“Lost” found Died Pretty finding their studio feet and continuing to explore their own sound. They were still prone to exciting, explosive outbursts but were also working hard on less spontaneous things like textures and song structure. Importantly, their three essential components were locking into place: Mark Lock’s melodic, toppy basslines (which became a template for those who would follow); Brett Myers’ grainy guitar and liquid harmony vocals; and Ronald S Peno’s shrouded, dense lyrics and “voice as an instrument”, which as often as not would weave its own melodies. Lock and rudimentary keyboardist Frank Brunetti would depart after this LP and the band would find their way onto a major label spin-off imprint. That eventual mainstream success eluded them is somebody else’s fault than yours or mine. I certainly bought “DC” so what’s your excuse?
The new “Lost” has been re-mastered nicely and never sounded better. Sandman is one of a handful of heritage labels that doesn’t release any old shit. You do need to flip the CD artwork and discard the trademark slipcase to see the cover in its “real” state. The sanitised liners are good as far as they go. The bonuses tracks are generous and eight in number, three of which are early or demo versions of “Everybody Moves”, “As Must Have” and “Free Dirt” (the song that spawned the debut album’s name but was left off.) They all need to be heard. B side cover versions “From a Buick Six” and “When You Dance” (Bob and Neil respectively) make the point that there was a lot more going on inside this band’s collective head than most black-as-a-way-of-life, inner-city types were prepared to acknowledge.
There was a slew of singles from this LP. “Everybody Moves” (album and 7” versions) that did some business on the once ubiquitous Australian Independent Chart but deserved an even better fate. “Towers of Strength” at least was acknowledged by radio hosts HG and Roy on the then-edgy Triple Jay as a tribute to the staying power of King Wally Lewis’ legs as he offloaded a pass. What the band members thought or cared at the time goes unrecorded. I do know that the “Winterland” 45 features the best opening spit of any Aussie single committed to tape. One day Ron will reveal what ended up on the studio floor.
You can throw accusations that all this is the embittered ranting of a burned out fan who saw the band too many times for his own good and who laments that Died Pretty missed out on commercial success - and you’d be correct. There are reasons why the boat sailed without them – apparently a flawed showcase gig in front of some big label honchos played a part – but ultimately Died Pretty was too good, if not too good looking, for their own good. The sounds and songs on “Lost” will tell you as much.