Fifteen years ago, talented Victorian songwriter Danny McDonald told me that Little Murders was THE great lost power-pop band of Australia’s halcyon musical underground days of the 1980s. They were defunct at the time and an Off The Hip re-issue of their early material - and another reformation - were away off in the future.
Of course, Danny was right. He’d grown up with the band’s songs and they’d left a permanent mark. Little did he know that in 2015 he’d join Little Murders for their fifth and latest studio album “Hi-Fab!” - or that it might be the best thing they’ve ever recorded.
Hello I-94 Bar Readers , well with all the bushfires and a shit Government ain't it good that there is music to take your mind this horrific summer. Folks, here is a worthy distraction
“Dromana Rama” is a pure pop sounding album with a nod to those old English mod bands. Little Murders were formed in 1979 by Rob Griffiths have a rich history in old Victoria as those who have followed the local music landscape can tell you.
"Evolution" - Tamam Shud Damn, if this doesn’t rock I don’t know what does. Veterans from the beginning of time (well, birth of Australian surf-psychedelia) sound dirty and relevant at the same time. They deliver the goods live, too.
"Post Pop Depression" - Iggy Pop His best album since “New Values”. Big grooves and melodies with a sharp, Germanic essence, it’s proof that Iggy needs another talent to bounce off to deliver his best work.
"Lost Cities" - Ed Kuepper Ed’s been an underrated treasure since finding his solo feet in the late ‘80s. This adds to the considerable body of work. An album of great songs with understated intensity.
The music industry is a shallow trench full of sharks and transient imprints, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson. Independent record labels come and go with the regularity of manufactured reality TV stars and only a few manage to find their niche and prosper. In Australia, only Citadel is still standing from the halycon days of the 1980s. A few rose in the '90s to fill the gaps left by the demise of Phantom and Waterfront. Since the 2000s, the most enduring has been Melbourne-based Off The Hip.
Off The Hip grew out co-founder Mick ("Mickster") Baty's love of all things garage rock, powerpop and psychedelia. A drummer and veteran of one of Sydney's finest garage-trash outfits, The Crusaders, he went on to killer powerpop bands The Pyramidiacs and The Finkers. Baty saw Off The Hip as an outlet for his own music. He had re-located to Melbourne by then and formed The Stoneage Hearts, a shifting cast of players who produced top-shelf garage rock with a pop bent.
A retail operaiton operating out of his house morphed into a bricks-and-mortar shop in Melbourne's CBD and a floodgate of releases via the fledgling label ensued. It's been an enduring success - on its own terms - since then. Off The Hip - the label and the shop - have inspired and contrinuted to the existence and growth of hundreds of bands.
Last month, the Off The Hip label celebrated its 15th birthday. We decided it was high-time for Mickster to occupy the interview seat.
One of Australia's finest power-pop bands, Melbourne's Little Murders, are the subject of a forthcoming documentary but the project needs an injection of fan funds to push it over the finishing line.
Director-producer Matt Wilson has been documenting the history of Little Murders and its founding and sole continual member Rob Griffiths. "Little Murders - 40 years on the smell of an oily rag" has a funding target of $6000 and is 40 percent of the way to the goal.
"In our ageist society it's rare that a musician in his 60's can maintain what is essentially a pop band and bring it to a level allowing a tour in Japan in 2019," Wilson writes.
It’s a snapshot. Not grainy - this is from a well balanced desk tape - but captured with no attempt to airbrush the minor imperfections. Which adds to the charm.
If you don’t know Melbourne’s mod-pop kings Little Murders your life is incomplete. They were two years into their stop-start career and “Anglesea 1981” captures one of the early line-ups on a New Year’s Eve night in a crammed pub on the Victorian Surf Coast. There’s a fair sprinkling of what you should recognise as classics, plus some spirited covers.
Simple songs simply done is a time-honoured formula often born out of necessity rather than choice. So it was in the beginning for The Fiction, a Melbourne punk band that sprang up 40 years ago, burned briefly and fell apart before spawning International Exiles and Little Murders.
Only around for a year, The Fiction was fuelled by the nascent songwriting talents of frontman and expat Englishman, Rob Griffiths, and guitarist Rob Wellington.
Their influences were what was coming out of the UK punk scene in the ‘70s, as much as Melbourne visitors Radio Birdman and the Saints. The important point-of-difference between the UK and Australia back then was that the local standard of living made it hard to get too angry at anything much, relatively speaking.
Marching Out of Time – Various Artists (Popboomerang)
With 115 releases to its credit, Melbourne’s Popboomerang is as an amazing independent record label success story and a beacon for under-the-radar Australian pop. Presuming, of course, that success is measured in quality music and not sheep stations.
The labels been a long-time labour of love for owner Scott Thurling and that passion makes his decision to close it down, at least for now, all the more noteworthy. In his own words:
Being locked up can do funny things to you! I will admit to feeling a little frustrated on July 24, 2021, when I made the announcement to end Popboomerang Records. The news might have been a surprise to some, but it was one I had been contemplating for a while.
Covid-19 challenges to running a label were the tipping point after 18 months of cancelled live events and the gigantic increases in the price of international postage which was making exporting almost impossible.I had also recently established a new record label, Sound As Ever 90-99, focussing on Australian ’90’s indie music, which was taking off, and it felt impossible to do justice to both ventures at the same time.
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.