Favourite Australian Albums – Part 3

After a short delay, we’re back with Part III of the Aussie albums list (originally started because of Triple J’s own list) …

Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die (2005)

The front cover. Notice the house number.

I first fell for Architecture when I heard the super-quirky Owl’s Go off their debut album, ‘Fingers Crossed’. It was so different to anything going around at the time – bizarre but full of pop magic, ambitious but almost child-like, and fun but subtly disturbing (due to lyrics like “Attic in the basement, with a knife serrated. I’ll protect you.”). The album itself is great, but there’s so much focus on keeping the songs soft, strange and short that it gets irritating. In fact, almost every track seems to end just as it’s building up into something really special.

A lot of that was rectified on the next album, ‘In Case We Die’. It sees the band let loose a bit more and allow the songs to end at a point that feels natural. It remains just as ambitious (with countless instruments and odd sound effects used on every track) but a little more accessible, especially on pop gems like Do the Whirlwind and It’5! If anything it’s even more playful than its predecessor but there’s a sophistication and beauty to be found as well. Best of all, the album remains engaging all the way through.

THE HIT SONG: It’5! (Yes it’s pronounced “it’s five”, but for some reason that’s how they spell it on the back of the album)

MY FAVOURITE: Probably It’5, but Do the Whirlwind and Frenchy, I’m Faking wouldn’t be far behind

The 8-piece goodness that was AIH. I say that in past tense because they're now a 5-piece.

Gerling – Bad Blood!!! (2003)

The three exclamation marks are like a ridiculously bold claim that the album is incredible. Luckily it kind of is.

Rock’n’roll was a big deal in the first few years of the century. Straight-up guitar bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes were enjoying platinum album sales all over the world. The Hives were having huge success with what was basically a “greatest hits” album, despite only having released two albums and a few EPs beforehand (all commercial flops outside of Sweden). Still, it wasn’t long before dance music had lured the mainstream back into its arms – except that the line between the two genres emerged more blurry than ever before.

Gerling were a bit ahead of the curve in that respect – this album was released one year before the dance-rock thing would really take off with Franz Ferdinand, and Gerling had been heavily into both genres anyway. As the blood soaked, gaffer taped mirror ball on the cover suggests, Bad Blood is dance music stained with the vitriol and lo-fi ethics of punk-rock.

My only problem with it is the last three songs. After doing the dance-punk thing so well for most of the album, they throw out the guitars entirely for two tracks of mediocre electronica. Then comes Who’s Ya Daddy?, which is actually a fantastically sleazy song, but it feels tacked on (unsurprisingly it was transferred across from an EP released earlier).

THE HIT SONG: Who’s Ya Daddy? or In the City, which wasn’t a proper single but I remember it being played on the radio a lot (link is to a censored, re-recorded version that’s a little inferior to the album track)

MY FAVOURITE: Get Activated (another censored version – it’s untainted other than that though)

The only way I can explain this picture is to assume the drummer is firing a Lui-Kang style fireball at an approaching enemy

The Vines – Highly Evolved (2002)

Vines. Geddit?

These days, the popular opinion on The Vines seems to go something like this – everyone was fooled by the UK music press into believing they were amazing, then everyone woke up and realised that the Vines sucked.

I don’t totally disagree with that. Their work since their debut album has ranged from uninspired to pretty rubbish, and even though I enjoyed their set at the Globe in Perth (now the Capitol), I have to admit that their live show is generally quite weak – certainly not the “sensational” experience NME would have had us believe. 

Still, if I put this album on, close my eyes and try to forget all that, it’s still a great listen. The first two songs, Highly Evolved and Autumn Shade, clock in under a combined 4 minutes, showcasing the musical extremes of the band without wasting any time. Get Free, which comes in about halfway, copped a lot of hate at the time (largely due to overexposure) but it’s easy to realise what made it so popular listening to it now. Another highlight is closing track 1969, where the band truly embrace their stoner-ness and give us a 6 ½ minute slice of psychedelic rock.

A lot of credit goes to producer Rob Schnapf, who reined in the messy elements of the band to make something slick but ragged enough to remain interesting. Vocal layering is used extensively, and though it’s one of the reasons they never quite pulled off the songs in the live realm, it sounds brilliant on record. If only it was actually coming from two different singers.

THE HIT SONG: Get Free

MY FAVOURITE: Get Free followed by 1969

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One Response to Favourite Australian Albums – Part 3

  1. stephen1001 says:

    Nice take on Highly Evolved – the title track is such a great 1.5 minute album opener!
    Then as you said, Autumn Shade completely changes gears before revving back up again with outtathaway – and that’s only the first three tracks!

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