contempt is usually the key i sing in when talking
about that era. i was closed off from a lot of what was going on then,
not particularly connecting. no surprises there.
some hole. some beer soaked hole. it was always some hole where the carpet
stuck to your feet, and you could only get out smelling like an ashtray.
noise and smoke in your head and your clothes and your hair all through
some unforgiving hungover morning that would always follow. that was the
world that had the moodists in it. i had no faith in me ever being able
to keep a band together myself - something lacking - but i kept faith
in the ideal that was a band. the moodists were a BAND.
chris walsh speeding, malevolent. pupils you could park a truck on. steve
possibly the only guitarist in the country working at just two extremes:
reg mombassa and rowland howard. possibly the only person with a pulse
who'd want to. clare playing clare - imperturbable, serene, effortlessly
laying out a backbeat, the others let loose to build some howling chaos
i didn't like many lyric writers of my time, most of the ones i really
liked were dead. i liked a lyric that called up night. there weren't too
many of them going. i mostly loved long lines of lyrics, listening to
moodists i only heard fragments. i loved the fragments, the disconnected
deadpan in it. the darkness and the howl of it. catholic entertainer of
the year singers were not big with me. i liked
restraint, unknowingness, the feeling that everything was held back. i
did not go for display. david held back.
fragments like "there's somebody passed out. that's your driver".
or "now you work your eyebrows. now you work your background".
it never really mattered whether you were hearing them right. they were
saturated with disgust & scorn so you wanted to hear more. felt like
old noir to me. i loved old noir.
i liked the corruption, the endless betrayal & bitterness, this insane
unremitting cycle of hopelessness & despair, the fact that everybody
or is just so down on their luck that nothing's worth fighting for anyway.
it was a doom that spoke to me directly. it was in fact i now realise,
a foretelling of my rocknroll "career".
i remember this songwriter being full of the songwriters fear that
everything and everyone around him was about to be changed forever, or
vanish. this happened. it was all coming to an end, playing out in scene
after scene, and the moodists and that voice are locked in there for me.
that time. i thought, god please let me skip this shoebox world. we would
all leave the country for the rest of the eighties. i moved to new york.
we would meet up again in rainland. nobody's luck would change.
Peter Milton Walsh, songwriter extraordinaire. Cest Formidable! Milton
appears as the Apartments every decade or so. Several brilliant CDs released
in the 90's. In France they know. At the time he is writing of, he was
late of the Apartments and then leading his own band "Out of nowhere"
and then in New York with the Colours and then the Apartments again and
then a short stint in the Laughing Clowns and then the Apartments again.
Fribourg, Switzerland, 1984
I'll try to remember my formative rock years. The
80s I'm afraid are all a bit of a haze which is I believe a good thing.
I remember the period as a whole being a hell of alot more interesting
than it is now musically, post modernism was just kicking in and kicking
arse, the Dead Boys, Clash, Killing Joke and the Cramps were among my
eclectic favourites for a while but there were many others from both sides
of the Atlantic and some from down under. The Melbourne alternative music
scene (as it was called in those days) I remember was best characterised
by bands, The Zorros, Squadron Leader, The Editions, Dean Richard's Hot
Half Hour, Dead Can Dance and Art bands like Tisc Tisc Tisc, the Ears,
International Exiles, Essendon Airport, and the wonderfull People with
chairs up their noses. These bands performed at much loved and legendary
80s underground powerhouses of musical creativity like the Crystal Ballroom
in StKilda, the Oxford, Exford and Mt Erica pubs, and clubs like the Venetian
Room and the Jump Club in Collingwood. And it would be irresponsible for
any music loving Melbournian, to not remember the how important the volunteers
at 3RRR and 3PBS were back there at the outset (and still are)to the promotion
of new and experimental Music.
All the above bands seemed a bit English in influence which was fine but
then there was those out of town bands that burst on the scene in 82.
Of them The Moodists the Triffids and the Go-Betweens were the most memorable,
they seemed to have developed a more uniquely Australian sound albeit
and Britain to a lesser extent. The Moodists it seemed to me had an almost
unclassifiable Post Folk, Country, New York Punk type of look and sound
(If that's humanly possible) with lead singer Dave Graney sporting incredibly
high hair and a 60's Art Garfunkel look that later morphed into a quasi-Dandy
and circus ring leader combo. The three other members of the band looked
like they'd just stepped off a Mack Truck from the Adelaide Hills with
serious sun glasses welded to there heads. Kerouak comes to mind to when
I remember them.
They had a hard, smokey kind of road movie look about them with an especially
memorable fidgety Lead Guitarist in Steve Miller, who teetered on the
brink of the stage like a demented Dennis Weever in the film Duel, only
Miller seemed to be trying to avoid the sound rather than a truck. The
band had a big rumbling base and drum sound thanks to the Brylcreamed
mechanic Chris Walsh and cool blond time keeper Claire Moore. Dave and
Steve provided the highs with a rich array of textured nuances from nasal
whines to a low breathy vibrato to atonal guitar meandering. At the time
I wasn't sure what to make of the Moodists they seemed quite odd bunch
of misfits and very unlike the Melbourne bands I'd known, they had a quiet
arrogance and maturity that only confidence and talent can bring. They
also had an odd sound but instead of being odd for odds sake like some
of the New Romantics of the time
it was a genuine simmering oddness that was moving, moody, extremely passionate
but always very cool on the surface.
David Ralph (Painter/Visual artist. Ancient compadre of Victor
Van Vugt. At the time of the Moodists of which he speaks, he was also
a musician. Now resident in London).
picture Dave Westen