Saturday, September 20, 2008

Great Australian Albums - Human Frailty

I have watched all of the SBS Series of Great Australian Albums. Apart from the Murder Ballads epidosde I would say that they have all been rather bitsy. While it's certainly enjoyable hearing the music and listening to band members chat about their histories and ideas the Australian series lacks any clear focus. Unlike the British series there's not much information about how songs were created or recorded, which is a damn shame. There's something about process documentaries that is just too fascinating. I can't resist (which is no doubt why I'm also addicted to Grand Designs).

But I watched last night's episode with a particular enthusiasm, having been an outer-suburban fan of the Hunnas as an impressionable, but hard-rocking, fifteen year old. I remember seeing them at Festival Hall, with Paul Kelly and another band that I can't remember. It must have been in early 1988 or 1987, since I was old enough to attend gigs, but was still collected by the parent of one of the other girls rather than making my own way home.

One comment by several of the band members, and by the guy from the Fauves (not sure why his commentary was more relevant than anyone else's, but at least we were spared Ben Lee), was that Hunters and Collectors were caught needing to court the outer-suburban, beer-barn yobs to sell records and hold big shows. But that they were, in fact, gentle and sensitive folk who had Things To Say About Emotions, and really should have not needed to pander to such an audience. The assumption about the yobbish blokes singing along to Say Goodbye was that they only cared about the rocking rhythm section, flannos and blokey aesthetic.

My hackles were raised by this. Now, growing up on the extreme suburban/rural fringes of Melbourne has given me a pretty thorough grounding in outer-suburban yob culture. I would not defend much about it. Like most of the members of Hunters and Collectors I removed myself to the inner suburbs at the first opportunity (which was pretty much the day after schoool finished). And I do remember having a good old chuckle with my best mate at all those sweaty, unattractive blokes shouting 'you don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore'.

But I thought, why not ask the question, what were those blokes getting out of Hunters and Collectors? Why did the songs mean so damn much to them? Maybe the emotions, learning to be an adult, falling in love, falling out of love, not being able to fall in or out of love, all had something to do with it. But no one asked those questions, because it's just easier to sneer at yobs from the suburbs. Easy, quick and utterly boring.

Nearly all of us come from the suburbs. Might as well face reality.

Otherwise the show was fun, in a kind of not-very informative way. Toby Cresswell comments at the SBS website that he had to ask Nick Cave about the process rather than the feelings and stories of Murder Ballads. I wish he'd applied the same method to his other shows.

Listening to: Born Sandy Devotional, 16 Lover's Lane, Everybody Digs Bill Evans.

Reading: Boofheads by Mo Johnson. Which tends to indicate that advances in telecommunications technology have not altered suburban blokey yob culture. I'm so glad I never, ever have to be a teenager again. This book confirms my strongly held view that I would choose death over a return to teenage years any day.


Ampersand Duck said...

Hey Penthe
I'd like to catch up again. If you do too, email me at ampersandduck[at]

Courtney said...

Yes, Yes, Yes Pen - exactly. Why are all Cold Chisel songs so bloody full of gut-wrenching pathos if outer-suburban men aren't interested in the lyrics??
Simplistic generalisations like this make me humphh - a lot.