I recently got hold of a double album of rare early Australian garage rock and punk called “Tales from the Australian Underground 1976-1989” which starts with Radio Birdman and The Saints, who I know, and then works its way through a whole bunch of bands I’d never heard of, that is until I started reading David Nicholls’ detailed history of Aussie music “Dig”, occasionally touches on others I am acquainted with, The Scientists and The Birthday Party of course, and, which fills in a huge gap in my musical knowledge. Aside from The Birthday Party, who were what they were, the music is for the most part, fairly similar in that there are familiar elements from 60s and early 70s pop and rock and earlier blues roots in play. However nestled on track 2 of the second disc is “The Disciples Know” by The Moodists. It stands aside and apart from everything else in the collection in its completely unique approach.
I cannot remember when I first heard The Moodists. It would have been around the time that Hex Enduction Hour was occupying most of my listening time. I recall purchasing a selection of 12″ singles and the sole album and jealously reading of Bob and Jeff’s trips to London to see them, supporting The Fall of all people. On constant rotation at one point was the magnificent “Chevrolet Rise” which is up there in my 100 tunes of all time. Bob reported around 1985/6 seeing a new version of the band with Dave in a glittery show biz suit and moving in a different direction, and then they sort of wandered off my radar until Graney and Moore returned as Coral Snakes, White Buffaloes, and Coral Snakes again, but that’s a different story to be told elsewhere.
In 2003 it was pleasing to find out about “Two Fisted Art” a collection which covered the vast bulk of the bands recorded material. A Creation box set in 2016 would collect some rarities but that can be covered in a separate review. The history of the band is covered well in Nicholls’ aforementioned book, they get their own chapter, and rightly so. The Wikipedia entry is informative but I often feel there is more of a tale to tell about this important band.
What we have is music which fits well within the post-punk period, in that it moves on from the spirit and intent of punk, but doesn’t sit in the same camp, in the same way that The Fall, The Birthday Party, and Blue Orchids didn’t. It is completely unique and, sitting here thirty odd years later, it still retains the power to shock, and insists that you listen to it. What you have throughout is Moores’ insistent and busy drumming, a particularly unique bass guitar style from Chris Walsh, which Nicholls cites as a key part of the bands’ success, and importantly, guitar from Steve Miller and Mick Turner which is drawn from the blues, pre-punk, Zoot Horn Rollo, and, whispers of Craig Scanlon. What takes it above and beyond its contemporaries and allows it to retain its freshness are Dave Graney’s stream of consciousness lyrics and abstract vocal stylings, one part declamatory , one part Old Testament preacher in a carnival side show, and two parts rock ‘n’ roll icon.
“Two Fisted Art” is a good collection juxtaposing a disc of studio material with 19 tracks from various releases and the second disc of live versions recorded at the Sedition Festival and the Trade Union Club, Sydney April 1983., The Seaview Ballroom,St. Kilda on 21/12/84. and Dingwalls, London 16/7/85.
It is the songs that are perhaps the most important factor here. There are tunes in the collection which have stuck in my head for thirty years – the aforementioned “Chevrolet Rise”, “Frankies Negative” and the glorious “Runaway” and “Double Life”. All of these and many others in this collection shaped the way I listened to music for a long time afterwards. It was possible to use the bass as a lead instrument, Graney’s almost Kerouac like outpourings a manifesto for how to treat lyrics differently, the twin guitar attack which informed the way I approached the instrument. A truly influential band.
Of great annoyance is the unfortunate revelation that I missed their gig at the Hacienda, which is fortunately captured on video. There are also some songs missing from this collection, the perhaps more accessible “Kept Spectre” and the other two tracks from the A side of “Engine Shudder” in particular. Also only “Someone’s Got To Give” is featured from the final EP from 1987. There’s also video from London in 1984 which can be streamed on Amazon or purchased as a DVD if you search hard enough. Perhaps it will be time one day to collect the whole lot in a box set of some kind?
An important band, unfavourably compared with The Birthday Party at the time, they were as alike as chalk and cheese musically, the only thing that required comparison was the Melbourne connection. As I say, still as fresh today, and still as stimulating as when I first heard them.
Some sort of Discography for the band
- “Where the Trees Walk Down Hill” (October 1981) – Au Go Go Records
- “Gone Dead” (June 1982) – Au Go Go Records
- “The Disciples Know” (1983) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
- Engine Shudder (1983) – Au Go Go Records
- Thirsty’s Calling (April 1984) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
- “Runaway” (1984) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
- “Enough Legs to Live On” (1985) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
- Double Life (1985) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
- Justice and Money Too (August 1985) – Creation Records
- Take the Red Carpet out of Town (October 1985) – TIM Records, Time/Abstract
- The Moodists (February 1986) – TIM Records, Time/Abstract
- Two Fisted Art (2003) – W. Minc
- The Moodists – Live in London 1984 (2004) – Peacock Records
- Creation Artifact Box Set (2016) – Cherry Red (Creation Singles plus a Peel Session from 10th July 1985)