Australian music often gets a bad rap. In most people's minds, mine included, music in Australia started with Men At Work, ended with Silverchair and was filled out by a few soap stars turning to mainstream pop. Over the last couple of years though, I've seen more and more evidence of a great indie rock scene that was prevalent in australia during the late 80's and early 90's that seems to correspond with the scene in the states. Indie rock in America (and the UK) is covered in such detail that a lot of smaller, more distant scenes get lost somewhat in the process. For example, Evan Dando and the Lemonheads are lauded by the press and the fans and quite rightly too. But much less attention is paid to Smudge, the Aussie band who were a big influence on Dando during the 90's and whose front man, Tom Morgan, was Evan's Writing partner for a while. Have a listen to their song Divan and see how similar it is to the Lemonheads' 90's albums.
There doesn't appear to be any comprehensive history of Australian indie available but judging from the quality of some of what I've heard, there is a rather strong case for one, at least to give exposure to smaller bands, such as The Eastern Dark.
An offshoot from The Celibate Rifles (one of Australia's more enduring indie acts), they lasted only two years before James Darroch, the band's frontman, was killed when the band's van ran off the road in 1986. During the band's brief existence they only managed to record one single and one EP as well as some live stuff and demos, (most of which have been released). The single, Johnny And Dee Dee/Julie Is A Junkie, is an almost perfect piece of fuzzy, harmony laden indie-pop-rock. The track titles are obviously full of Ramones references and the music itself is harmony filled jangle-pop that seems to take as much from bands Like Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers as it does from the Ramones. Johnny and Dee Dee starts with a strange, gothic piano intro before giving way to Geoff Milne's whip-crack of a snare drums and Bill Gibson's bass guitar. When it kicks off it's fast paced, incredibly melodic and has, as all good jangly rock bands do, a 12 string guitar strumming away in the background. It is music to walk around in the sunshine to.
Julie is a Junkie, which may be the B side or the A side (they're marked “That One” and “The Other One”), is more of the same. Punk influenced pop with a great, catchy chorus and a rather cool guitar solo. For all the homages to the Ramones on this single, and there are lot's, the music captures the spirit of the band rather than their sound. The Ramones were big fan's of pop music and their brand of punk-rock was strongly influenced by that. It seems that The Eastern Dark picked up on that sensibility and took it to heart. Rather than just producing cheap Blitzkreig Bop rip-offs, they made something of their own and are much better for it.