Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fill Your Ears With Australians, Or: A Guide to Australian Music

My next post on Australian contemporary fiction is taking a really long time to write because, as it turns out, there is a shit load of fiction out there and condensing it into a decent sized post is HARD. So to placate the masses and keep you all from hopping on board a QANTAS flight and arriving at my door with pitchforks (although if you do this with cupcakes instead of pitchforks I will greet you with open arms) I'm going to give you a post on Australian music.

What! Australians have music?! OF COURSE we have music, what do you think we listen to while we ride around in kangaroo pouches and eat vegemite?

So I'm guessing you've all heard this song...

When I lived in Hong Kong everyone, and I mean everyone would sing this when my family arrived to things. I mean I get it, it's like the most Australian music video ever made while also being the silliest and most stereotypically Australian thing EVER. Now this might shock you, but not all of our music is about vegemite and chunder and not all of our musicians rock out in school uniforms. In fact, when we music, we music WELL.

So here are a bunch of bands that I love that herald from Australia. Some of these you'll have probably heard of, some you'll have heard without realising it (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- the band playing on the radio when Harry and Hermione dance in DH), and others that are probably rarely heard of outside of our insular little island home. This list will be way biased by my particular tastes and in no way comprehensive, but I'll try my best to include a wide-ish range. And most of these bands, if not all of them, can be found on Youtube. So grab a Crown Lager (not a Fosters - ENOUGH with that stereotype), open up your ear-holes and get ready for some rollicking good Australian tunes.

 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Of all the musicians in Australia, Nick Cave is definitely my favourite. Early Nick Cave (circa The Birthday Party) has a bit of a Ian Curtis/Joy Division sound, although he shed the post-punk style when he got a little older. He's literary, prolific and dark. He's a phenomenal songwriter, and while I love his singing I think I might like the songs that are basically spoken poetry set to music best.

Also listen to: Into My Arms, The Carny, Tupelo

The Angels

The Angels are best known here in Australia for their song "am I ever going to see your face again" which has become something of a pub anthem. Fact of the day: people usually insert "No way, get fucked, fuck off" when the titular line is sung (yeah Australia!). Anyway, they're a really solid pre-grunge, post-punk rock band - just killer music basically. I think they were known as The Angels of Angel City or just Angel City over in the US.

Also listen to: After the Rain, No Secrets, Fashion and Fame

Paul Kelly

 A really prolific singer-songwriter with a HUGE discography that's just solid gold. I guess his sound is mostly a sort of bluegrass/folk cross - he's been named Australia's Bob Dylan - but it also crosses into straight rock. He collaborated with the Indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi back in the 1990s to produce the song Treaty, a mix of traditional Aboriginal sounds with rock and funk. It ended up way more popular and influential than I think any of them ever imagined.

Also Listen to: Dumb Things, Darling it Hurts, Before to Long

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Speaking of Yothu Yindi, Yunupingu started out in that band before eventually releasing his solo album Gurrumul in 2008. Most of the songs are in his native tounge, and if you buy any of the music I list here make it this album, it's just so unbelievably beautiful.

Also listen too: Gurrumul History (I was born blind), Marrandil, Bayini


Silverchair were MY band for so, so long. They were 15 when their first album was released, which is insane. What were you doing at 15? I know I sure as hell wasn't released a gunge album. They've evolved a lot since they hit the scene in the early 1990s, which is probably why they lasted so long and it's amazing to listen to them grow and develop their style each album. Also, if you try and suggest they're ripping off Nirvana I will rip your head off - seriously.

Also listen to: Ana's Song, The Door, Freak, Israel's Son


If you've watched 6 Feet Under, Sia's song "Breathe Me" is the song that accompanies that epic final conclusion. She's a fantastic singer in her own right, poppy and bright with the exact right amount of melancholy or pessimism mixed in occasionally, but she's also written songs for or collaborated with international musicians from just about every music genre around.

Also listen to: Kill and Run, Buttons, The Girl You Lost to Cocaine

Midnight Oil 

I'm not a huge listener of Midnight Oil, but they're one of those bands that legally I think you have to include in a list of Australian music. They're a socially-conscious alternative band and their songs are among some of Australia's most iconic protest songs. The clips are also worth watching if only to see Peter Garrett (singer) and his weird body awkwardly dancing.

Also listen to: Beds are Burning, Power and the Passion, US Forces


Oh Wally De Backer, you sure know how to make music. I'm sure all of you have heard "somebody that I used to know" but Gotye has been around making amazing music for a lot longer. He's one of those musicians who plays ever instrument ever and god damn if his music isn't the sexiest music my ears have ever heard. Seriously, listen to "puzzle with a piece missing" and tell me it doesn't ooze sex.

Also listen to: Learnalilgivinanlovin, Easy Way Out, Puzzle With a Piece Missing


One of my only claims to fame is that I once had coffee with Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug on his birthday. He's one of my old housemate's uncles and I was pretty stoked to be dragged along that day. They're one of Australia's biggest rock bands and they're pretty much universally loved here. It's pretty chilled-out rock, perfect for a summer day in the pool with a beer at your side.

Also listen to: My Happiness, My Kind of Scene, Pick You Up


I'm noticing a bit of a theme on this list, older post-punk or grunge male bands and female vocalists. What can I say, I likes what I like. Washington falls into the female vocalist category, she's got the prettiest voice, dances frequently in spangley jumpsuits and seems like a really cool chick.

Also listen to: How to Tame Lions, Clementine, Cement

The Living End

Ah The Living End. Along with Silverchair, Pennywise, Frenzal Rhomb and (shudder) Korn, these guys were my transition away from the Spice girls and boy bands (all of them - so many boy bands), so they have a special place in my heart. Their punk/psychobilly sound is also wicked fun to dance to, especially if you're as bad a dancer as I am and basically just jump up and down.

Also Listen to: Prisoner of Society, All Torn Down, West End Riot

Other awesome bands worth checking out (the links go to Youtube clips of my favourite songs)
Skyhooks - Australia's ultimate glam-rock band.
The Go-Betweens - brilliant Brisbane indie rock group from the 70s.
The Church - everyone knows "Under the Milkyway" right? Yeah that's these guys.
Australian Crawl - just great 80s music.
The Hoodoo Gurus - another iconic Aussie pub rock band.
Regurgitator - I dare you to sit still while you listen to these guys, awesome techno-y alternative music.
Daddy Cool - iconic Australian band from the 1970s, bluesy rock.
The Easybeats - found these guys when I was going through my Beatles phase.
Frenzal Rhomb - frenetic and jocular punk rock.
Eskimo Joe - alt-rock, reinvent their sound slightly for each album's theme.
The Temper Trap - lyrically strong rock? They're just super great.
Mental as Anything - new wave group, transports you straight into an 80s film.
Matt Corby - ex-Aus Idol contestant with one hell of a voice. Gorgeous when singing acoustic.
Split Enz - Technically from NZ, we like to claim these new wave/art rock dudes as our own.
Crowded House - Ditto. Shares a few band members as S.E but here they're more lyrical and ballad-y.
Seeker Lover Keeper - a trio made up of Australia's best current female singer-songwriters.
The Triffids - A post-punk band with a lot of love for Australian-specific imagery in their lyrics.
The Saints - A crazy influential punk band known internationally, rubbed shoulders with The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.
The Grates - Really energetic band with short, punchy indie-pop songs.
Architecture in Helskini - A really fun band. Energetic pop-dance I guess?
Hunters and Collectors - an artier form of pub rock. Some really stellar songs.
The Jezebels  - Gorgeous female vocals, fantastic drummer, a really tight indie band.
Tame Impala - Super 70s vibes.


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