Eight Years of Moonlight – Tamam Shud (self released)
This is a mind-blowing album on several fronts.
Firstly, because Tamam Shud formed almost 50 years ago: and could be last Australian band still standing from the ‘60s (certainly from the alternative and underground.) I cannot think of anyone else. The album features two of the founding members, Lindsay Bjerre (vocals and guitar) and Peter Baron (bass) from 1967; and two more members who were there four years later, in Tim Gaze (guitar) and Nigel MaCara (drums) from the ”Morning of the Earth” soundtrack era.
Historically, Tamam Shud was the first Australian band to put out a an album full of original compositions when “Evolution” was released late in 1968: There is not one Australian band that I can think of with original members, from their heyday; that has come up with a new album nearly 50 years later so the release of this on vinyl is an historical event.
The new record is part of a collection of songs that Lindsay Bjerre had been recording and demoing for eight years with other veteran musicians of Tamam Shud - hence the title "Eight Years of Moonlight". Over the years, Nigel Peter slipped in into the sessions . Tim Gaze, who lives in Brisbane, layered his guitar parts after Bjerre sent him roughs off his iPad.
Finally, Bjerre and John Cobbin (who has joined the band on keyboards) finished the mix-downs. There are another eight more tracks which will surface later this year on CD. And there are more tracks promised in 2017.
Now to the album itself. It is a warm, rich sound, so well mastered and it’s also an awesome pressing. “House” starts with jarring guitar….and then the rhythm section kicks in.: Peter Baron’s bass is so full, you can feel it through your body and see him pounding the strings as MaCara beats the shit out of the snare. Tim Gaze adds some classic analogue delay and feedback guitar that weaves being the pumping rhythm section. The song ends with an old fashion guitar workout.
“New Year’s Day” has psychedelic overtones with a pumping pub rock backbeat. Again, Baron’s bass crunches along and solid and inventive guitar interplay follows, ending in a jam out. This song soars and it’s intelligently arranged with a sense of drama.
“Numb” put simply is the song REM always wanted to write but never quite got there. This is “Life’s Rich Pageant” 1987 REM, at their best….beautiful and with an arpeggio where the chords ring in and out simultaneously. The vocals, quavering and moving melody over the layered harmonies add up to a gem and superb piece of song-writing.
“Outer Reef” goes back to where all started at the Merewether Board Riders Club in their mid-teens in 1963 where Tamam Shud began as “The Strangers”, a surf instrumental band. With Lindsay’s Fender Jaguar and Tim Gaze’s melodic and inventive guitar, it’s a modern take on instrumental surf songs.
“Hello” sounds so modern, as fresh as any of the new breed of psychedelic bands that are playing the traps overseas, recalling The Black Angels from Texas (who are 40 years their junior.) A kick arse riff and bass and drums that are locked in so tight.
Now to the last songs on the record that completely blew me away: “Broken Chair” starts with drumming straight out of the classic Atlantics. The guitars are lyrical and like melodic daggers that break into a splash of a chorus. This song is perfect; the sort of 45 single that you would have taken home and played 25 times in row. It’s music that would have made you want to be in a band and play guitar. You know what I mean?
“Set Me Free” takes us into a beach scene nightmare. It is built on a crunchy riff and intertwining surf and Spaghetti Western guitar lines. The distinctive, metallic, cold sound of a Fender Jaguar sets the rhythm; like a Triumph motorbike coursing the hills. The song holds the rhythm on the bass notes. Then Bjerre takes you on a journey and invites you along. The lyrics are simply put - a Northern Beaches nightmare, with surfing as the heroin.
Crocodile moved into today
He’s gonna stay a while and that is OK…
Wore a shirt and some crappy hat
Hey love his cream, love that cap
He fell asleep, here some snore
Grab some cash from my favourite bar
Drove down to North Avalon
Get some waves and plenty of sun.
Set me free
Paddle out and caught some waves
Kept going until the bank gave way
I thought I saw God in that of barrel of glass
So what’s the difference between the Shud of 1968-72 and today? As mentioned the band is steeped in surf music and psychedelia. What has disappeared is the prog-rock dimension of 1970 and the quaint hippy–trippy flower child element: They actually sound modern.
“Evolution” was recorded in two-and-half hours and mixed down in one night: That is it. Four-track quarter-inch. The Goolinates album took a little more time: This time, the band was able spend time and chew over tracks, experimenting and pulling the exact sounds they wanted. It took the Shud almost 50 years to really relax, and over eight years work went into 20-odd songs: That will be released in three stages...
They sound so Australian. The surf, with that strong back beat, is there and they have kept an element of rawness. At times, the songs have a straight-forward structure with subtle twists. The surreal, whimsical, and times dark lyrics are full of humour and peppered with awesome extended instrumental workouts with Gaze’s bag of tricks of analogue delays, feedback, and fuzz.:
As stated, this album comes with all the significant historical aspects. The Shud were a band that, along with the Masters Apprentices and Lobby Loyde, help define an Australian sound. Tamam Shud are also reclaiming the crown as the premier band to emerge from Newcastle that settled on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
This record is inventive, contemporary, with classic jam outs. It rocks and you can feel the sand between your toes….You can hear where Midnight Oil got inspiration from (along with Radio Birdman) and a source of the the more experimental and psychedelic side of the Celibate Rifles. There’s a whole wave of third and fourth generation Sydney bands who have settled in that garage and surf hybrid and in many cases they’re unaware that it all goes back to the Shud.
It sounds fresh and intelligent, it pumps, and has some of best fuckin’ guitars that you will hear… and it could be my favourite local album 0f 2016 so far.