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Skyhooks “Living In The 70’s”

Living In The 70s

One of the hallmarks of truly great albums is that they document the moment of their creation but sound as though they could have been recorded at any time; they transcend the era of their conception but record it perfectly. Skyhooks’ “Living in the 70’s” is such an album.

Straight ahead rock and roll with an eyeliner of glam, “Living in the 70’s” sheds a small but unblinking light on what it was like to be an inner-suburban post adolescent in Melbourne circa 1974. The opening lines of the album sum it up pretty well. “I feel a little empty, I feel a little strange. Like I’m in a pay-phone, without any change.”

Dislocated, disassociated, dissatisfied and slightly disillusioned, the songs on “Living in the 70’s” touch on the emergence of youth sub-culture that was just gaining a foothold at the time. The children of the sixties were waking up, and for the first time they had the guts not to listen to their parents or authority. It’s not the cry of an anarchist punk, but more the shout of “I’m getting my ear pierced and I don’t care what you say!” by a rebellious teenager. Mild, oh so mild, but still beyond what their parents were capable of. This album helped forge a youthful national identity.

Produced by Ross Wilson (ex Daddy Cool) and put out on the emerging Mushroom records label, the production is clean and crisp and captures the state of the songs much as they were when Skyhooks performed them live. Wilson reportedly fought for production duties on “Living in the 70’s” so that the content was not deliberately watered down to suit the “mature” taste of the times.

Filled with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, six of the ten tracks were banned by the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters, which dictated airplay on the commercial stations, but rather than hinder sales, the attraction of contraband was too hard for the kids to ignore and they sent the album to No. 1 on the Australian charts for 16 weeks.

In retrospect it seems hard to comprehend what all fuss was about, but in the political context of the times songs like “Smut” and “You just like me ‘cos I’m good in bed” were never going to be passed by the censors. The ambiguity that 1974 could give birth to the material, yet try to immediately abort it, was due more to the hangover of 20 consecutive years of conservative Government than anything else, but the country would quickly get over its headache and go in for another round of binge drinking at the party of which “Living in the 70’s” was the soundtrack. An Aussie classic!

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“Living In The 70’s”

:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Mushroom | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1974 | Mushroom | ebay ]

Split Enz “Mental Notes”

Mental Notes

Split Enz, a band that Australia would dearly love to call its own, was formed in New Zealand in 1973. Their early albums and legendary live performances conjured a dedicated fan base that fed and clothed the band until radio friendly unit shifters like “I See Red “ and “I Got You“ made the band a household name. Their influence and legacy in the Antipodes cannot be underestimated.

The nucleus of the group in 1975 was Tim Finn and Phil Judd, who share vocal duties on Mental Notes and are credited with forming the band two years earlier. The line-up waxed and waned over the lifetime of the band with only two members who played on Mental Notes being present for the final iteration of the band in 1985.

Firmly founded in a progressive art rock/pop base Mental Notes cuts itself a niche that could only have existed outside Europe or America. This album is the pinnacle of Split Enz early period. The style, complexity, musicality, and grace that earmark Mental Notes would underpin the music of Split Enz (and all the braches of the Enz family tree) for decades to come.

There are so many elements present in the tracks of Mental Notes that only exceptional musicianship and hours upon hours of rehearsal could make this album sound as tight and bright as it is. Mental Notes nods its head to the music of the time but only as a sort of passing farewell, as the band heads off at full throttle into uncharted territory.

Crafted into sonically complex layers, patterns and textures, the sound nonetheless rides on a melodic base that makes it music that your Grandmother could tap her foot to, but lurking just under the surface is an aural landscape akin to an underwater dream. Mandolin picks a melody underscored by synthesized strings, vocals glide by on wings while drums punctuate a pattern that turns left and right and leaves you in a head space totally new but uncannily familiar. Musical Déjà vu.

Beautiful, captivating, dynamic, challenging, invigorating, rich and fulfilling. Mental Notes deserves headphones or at least a decent level of volume. As one famous Australian music critic said, “Do yourself a favor…”

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“Walking Down A Road”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Digipak | Mushroom Records | Buy @ Amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Search @ eBay ]