Monday, October 15, 2007

GOD... The band, not The Man. God were a big fuckin' deal to a teenaged Dave Lang. OK, scrap that last statement; I promise to never speak of myself in the third person ever again. To folks overseas - probably somewhere 'round, say, Spain - God remain an almighty musical force from 1980s Australia, still spoken of in hushed tones as if they were a deity; to many Americans they're probably a footnote Aussie band from the '80s who eventually spewed out members into more highly-rated outfits like Hoss, Bored! and the Powder Monkeys. For a kid from Melbourne's inner Eastern suburbs ca. the late '80s - that's me, by the way - they were the bees knees and then some, and it kinda galls me when I hear the high praise heaped upon them by revisionist members of the press in the 21st century - usually done in eulogies for now-deceased members Tim Hemensley and Sean Greenway - since they were the object of much derision in their hey-day. They were a band who split the camps: those who saw them as a load of no-talent hype foistered on the world by an eager record label (that was Au-go-go), and those of us who saw them as, well, I'll dumb it down to the nth degree and sum it up in a soundbyte: Australia's answer to Born Innocent-period Redd Kross. That is, teen punkers weened on HC who took a backstep, lapped up the sounds of Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Stooges and a whole lotta trash and spat out an inspired musical stew.
All four band members - Joel, Matt, Sean and Tim - rank as some of the most shockingly precocious teenagers not known as McDonald brothers the '80s saw. Both Matt and Sean had been in Foot And Mouth as 13-15 year-olds, a local "funny-punk" outfit who even managed to release a 12" EP in their day, whilst a 14-year-old Joel had already managed a few issues of his own fanzine (Man Cannot Live On Eno Alone... was that the title?) and a public-radio show, whilst Tim had already hit wax (on a compilation at least) with his pubescent punker outfit, Royal Flush. Somehow, these four minds came together and created God.
I first heard 'em on 3RRR's Danger: Lowbrow programme in mid 1987, being interviewed by the most undervalued (and underachieving, given his sharp wit) media personality in Australia, Leapin' Larry L, and I heard the guys in the band - all my age or thereabouts - joke, giggle, talk about Kiss, Redd Kross and punk rock and generally take the piss out of everything, and I decided right there and then that they were indeed the business. The "legendary" - and I say that because it's hard to spend a night out in a "hip" rock club in Melbourne these days and not have the DJ spin a copy at some point throughout the night - "My Pal" 7" came out at about that time, my brother grabbed a copy and we nearly wore the grooves out on it. Around this time, they also appeared on the Saturday-morning ABC "youth" programme, The Factory, performing the song, and you can bet yer ass I taped it and wasted a good deal of time watching it on repeat. You can witness it here...
God were also on the bill of the first live show I ever witnessed: in March 1988 I managed to bluff my underaged self into the Prince Of Wales Hotel to see Massappeal (hot on the heels of Nobody Likes A Thinker, so they were a-firin'), My Heart Bleeds For You, The Dorks and, yep, GOD. They rocked, they rolled, they were out of control. Goddamn it, they moved my loins. Smart-assed middle-class high-school a-holes both rocking and mocking a room full of straight-faced HC-bots, angering some, disinteresting most and winning over a few. I saw them a couple more times over the next 12 months at various all-ages shows - an afternoon gig at the Richmond Town Hall w/ S.I.C. and the Extremes springs to mind, if only for the sheer awfulness of the other bands, not to mention the awesome shambles of God's set, in which they spent the bulk of their stage time arguing w/ each other and fixing broken equipment.
God also released a poorly-received 12" EP, Rock Is Hell, which saw the clueless douchebags coming out of their hovels and deriding them as a one-trick pony (fuck the critics, it rocks), and by the time their one LP hit the shelves, For Lovers Only, the band was pretty much on the skids and the record stiffed.
Band members fled to other projects pretty quick and the days of God were gone. Maybe you had to be there to really give a shit, but allow a man to get all misty-eyed like an old geezer about a band who mattered. Back in high school I didn't give much of a damn for most Australian music; I liked the American stuff. Outside of the likes of The Hard-Ons and Massappeal, Australian HC totally sucked, and whilst I dug the likes of X, feedtime and Lubricated Goat, nothing had the visceral impact of hearing and seeing God in the flesh. Fellow teenagers giving the world the finger and having a laugh. I can sum up God only as thus: divine inspiration.


MRow said...

Great post, dude.

I'm gonna haveta hear me some GOD at some point soon. From they pic you've posted, they certainly look like they coulda tried out for REDD KROSS, around the time Dez flew the coop. But: did they also whine badtaste lyrics about down on their luck pop-culture icons? Like say, about AIR SUPPLY's creepy fondness for teenage boys? That's what would've put em OVER for a loser like me.

Anonymous said...

Good! Another aussie band to track down. Mid-80s Australian bands (Bored!, Venom P.Stinger, Lubricated Goat, etc.) should get more credit for giving shape to the "grunge/noise" (or whatever) scene.
Why bother with, say Green River, when you have Bored! ????

Anonymous said...

Got the "My Pal" 12" (title track on 45 & 3 live tracks on the other side) when I was pretty young, and dug it....never flipped or anything, but dug it. Still pull it out every once in a while, so it must have some staying power. "Rock Is Hell" I dunno. I can definitely see how this band could have been a major inspiration in Melbourne at the time, like Last Sons of Krypton were around here.


Karl said...

"My Pal" is killer, & I'm thinking I might have to revisit the "Rock Is Hell" record as it didn't grab me back when it was released. Oh well. Saw them on one of the few (only?) Sydney tours they did at the Petersham Hotel where they performed a very short (& uninspired) set due to a blown amp, if I rightly recall. I'm thinking it was a Sunday night & it was certainly sparsely attended & it felt more like a band practice with four guys not really seeing the point of being there, & the blown amp giving them the excuse to call an end to the proceedings. In a nutshell it was a shit show and I knew they were capable of better, but alas, never got to see 'em do it again.

As for the spin-off bands, the Powder Monkeys were always amazing, but for some reason Hoss were always lost on me. I can't recall ever hearing anything less than stellar said or written about them, but the records (as well as a couple of live shows I witnessed) never grabbed me like I kept expecting (& hoping) they would. Can't comment on Greenway's bands unfortunately but the Powder Monkeys were the balls. Hate to say it because it's such an obvious comparison, but I always saw 'em as Australia's answer to Motorhead.

Dave said...

Karl: GOD could either put on a hell of a rock 'n' roll show or be a complete abomination. I mean, that show at the Richamond Town Hall was, by most standards, completely fucking awful, but I guess when you're 16, seeing a bunch of guys your age arguing on stage and dealing w/ fucked equipment was kind of a hoot.
I saw the Powder Monkeys countless times throughout their lifespan, from their earliest shows right up until the end. Yes, they were one of the greats, no doubt about that. I never dug Hoss either. Friends of mine speak so highly of them I figure I must be missing out on something, but whenever I catch them live or hear one of their records, I figure... Nope, they just ain't that good! Sorry, Joel.
All GOD product is currently out of print, though I was just informed on Sunday by Scotti of Afterburn Records that they will be doing a reissue sometime soon, w/ all their recordings on one CD.
Anon: Green River totally blew. I bought their "Dry As A Bone" 12" EP when I was 16 and traded it in soon thereafter, thinking it sounded like Motley Crue or something.
As ridiculous as it may seem, I will now state that '80s Australia was THE birthplace of "grunge" as we know it: Scientists, Birthday Party, feedtime, Lubricated Goat, Cosmic Psychos, etc. So... you can blame us ex-cons for ultimately giving the world Paw and Candlebox.

Anonymous said...

"Green River totally blew."
Yeah, honestly, I always thought that, but for what I read, Jay from (R.I.P.) Agony Shortland didn't think the same:

The guy's got a great taste, for sure, and you bet that he writtes some terrific music commentary (and now he's uploading some awesome mp3 gems), but he wasn't exactly sharp THERE.

"So... you can blame us ex-cons for ultimately giving the world Paw and Candlebox"

No, I'll blame you for Silverchair, better; but considering the awesome music you, the aussies have created, I think you're redeemed enough.

Keep the cool work done, Dave.

Dave said...

Mrow: one last thing... GOD was in print on CD at some point at the dawn of the '90s in both Germany and the UK (I think on labels like Glitterhouse or Normal or something like that), so you should be able to get yourself a copy 'round London at some point, either new or secondhand.

Martin said...

Only know 'My Pal', but what a great song, still sounds so fresh now. John Peel played it a lot so lots of people heard and loved it over here.

Karl said...

Shit Dave, you are the only other person I've ever heard unable to appreciate the Hoss 'thing'. So it just ain't me afterall...

Feedtime. Now there's a band I haven't thought about for a looooong time. Amazing live & the records weren't bad at all either. Aside from X, I can't think of any other outfit that blew me away so consistently during my formative rock'n'roll years. Definitely have to dig those records up.

How about them ARIA's? Just saw the list of 'winners' in the paper this morning. Why do I bother even reading about them, let alone formulating an opinion on what goes down there? Cave must've stuck out like a piece of dog shit on a new rug there last night.