Shake Yer Popboomerang Vol 3 - Various Artists (Popboomerang)
Great pop music is timeless. The proof is right here in the 37 rare or previously unreleased tracks on this compilation of Australian bands from Melbourne label Popboomerang.
Ask yourself this question: When did Pop - as the ‘60s defined it - become uncool with the masses? Who forced it to go sit in the naughty corner with its rowdy sibling Rock and Roll and its odd cousin Free Jazz? Best guess is when the corporatised music industry ate itself in the 1980s and all the people with emotional intelligence were replaced by spreadsheets.
Melbourne pop fan Scott Thurling and his prolific label just deals with it. With more than 100 releases in the back catalogue, for almost 20 years it’s been the go-to place in Australia for “real” pop - not the soulless pap that passes for the same for most people. As you might work out from the title, “Shake” is the third volume in a series and the label’s fourth compilation. A handful of these tracks date back 20 years but you'd never know.
There’s a smattering of familiar names (DM3, Little Murders, Even, Nic Dalton, The Golden Rail, Charles Jenkins, Loose Pills and Ups & Downs) but the surprises come from the lesser lights, the ones that are legends in their local luncheonettes. So, to the highlights, with a non-exhausitve walk-through...
Opening track on CD1 is the Who-tastic “City of Thieves” from Sydney’s Loose Pills and it’s easily the equal of anything they’ve done. There's still no sign of their new album (dubbed "Marrickville Democracy" for the time it's taking) so this will have to do for now.
Even’s “The Memory” doesn’t hit the heights of their best material but is more than half-decent by any reckoning. It’s a measure of the regard that the Popboomerang label is held in that it was only previously heard as a giveaway 7” in a run of 50.
Glomesh’s “Crawling’ Up AC/DC Lane” is snotty pop-punk with crunch. Likewise “Repeat After Me” from My Favourite Colour if Gold” with its call-and-response vocal and garage guitar vibe.
There’s some thoughtful tracking on “Shake 3” that points to the care that went into its compiling.
Yes, Blackbirds FC do sound like the Go Betweens on their cover of “Bye Bye Pride” because they love the song and were born to play it. There's a Robert Foster co-produced Halfway track “Square Ruled Pages” on which his old bandmate John Willsteed. It's outstanding country-tinged pop that's given wings by some adroit 12-string. It sits uncannily well next to Jemma Rowlands’’ “Ancient History”, which is a slice of twangy West Coast pop parsed through girl a group.
DM3 contribute "Before You Go”, a 7” B side recorded with studio ace Michael Carpenter- in Sydney a few years ago and it's a keeper. So is Little Murders’ “Noisy Cats”. Rob Griffiths surely must be the country’s most under-lauded powerpop writer and a world-class talent.
“A Beatle’s Daughter” is a winsome studio creation by The General Lees that’s blessed by an abundance of pop smarts, brass and cuteness.
It’s not pop without summer songs and there are a few here. P76’s “Postcard from Bondi” and the sparkling “I Want To Tell You Something” by The Killjoys vie to be the best. “Fad to Black” by Wild Meadows would be best heard in a convertible with the top down but a nice stereo will have to suffice.
If moody is your wish then Lyrebirds’ layered and scuzzy cover of’“Blue Flower” will fit the bill with Jess Owens’ vocal nestling among the shoegaze, and if you want something with more sass then Maria Sokriatis provides just that on “Maybe Tomorrow” by The UNDECIDED By Default.
Wade Jackson closes CD2 with a sparse and downbeat “The Last Song” and it’s a reminder that pop isn’t always happy. “Tadpole” by Blindside explores the same break-up territory in abridged form. “Last Romance” by Dead Parties buries its own grief in guitars.
If you have a melodic bone in your body, you'll need this one. The brilliance of Bandcamp means you can try before you buy and there's an Aladdin's Cave of Popboomerang back catalogue at your fingertios. Go dive in right here.