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Aussie artists
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Howzat! Archive - August 8th 2012

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It might be time to get the flannelette shirt out of the cupboard. It looks like the '90s are back. Smashing Pumpkins were a sensation at Splendour, with kids born in the '90s knowing every word to their classic songs. The latest edition of Rolling Stone features Billy Corgan on the cover and ranks the 50 Greatest Alternative Albums Of The '90s. Predictably, Nirvana's Nevermind is at number one. Ridiculously, the list fails to feature Weezer's Pinkerton (though the band's debut comes in at 38). Sadly, the list includes just three Aussie albums: You Am I have two entries (Hi-Fi Way at 16, and Hourly, Daily at 37) and Dirty Three's Horse Stories is at 34. Where's Died Pretty's Doughboy Hollow? And what about Spiderbait, The Cruel Sea, Nick Cave, Silverchair, Something For Kate, Beasts of Bourbon, Horsehead, Magic Dirt, Regurgitator, Powder Monkeys and The Fauves? Ignoring the local scene is a theme that also runs through the new book Entertain Us!, even though its author, Craig Schuftan, is based in Sydney and the book is published by ABC Books. Craig attempts to justify the snub in the introduction. He claims to write from a "peculiarly if not uniquely Australian point of view", but states: "Entertain Us! is a tale of two cities, a book about rock music, culture and society in England and America. For the most part, I wrote about alternative bands from other parts of the world only when they made some significant impact in the UK or US charts, which means that, with the sole exception of Silverchair, there are no Australian bands mentioned." So it's a book about alternative rock, but chart success is the criterion for inclusion?

Sure, Seattle was alternative rock's spiritual centre, but if you read this book - which proclaims to document "the rise and fall of alternative rock in the '90s" - and scanned the Rolling Stone list, you'd think that the whole scene bypassed Australia, when we actually created some vital and important alternative rock records. Indeed, Kim Salmon is occasionally acknowledged for coining the term "grunge". Green River and Mudhoney's Mark Arm, who is often credited for first using the term, told Everett True in 2001: "Obviously, I didn't make grunge up. I got it from someone else. The term was already being thrown around in Australia in the mid-80s to describe bands like King Snake Roost, The Scientists, Salamander Jim and Beasts of Bourbon."

That said, Schuftan's book is a great read, and he makes a good point about influences. "New bands inevitably take their influences from the past," he writes. "'Of course we do,' said a friend of mine. 'We can't be influenced by the future.'" The '90s are back theme was running through Howzat!'s head when we stumbled across a fine young band, Constant Killer, at the Gasometer in Collingwood. Their set even included a song called Courtney. The riffs are heavy and fuzzy. But their songs don't descend into dirges, punctuated instead by the fine voice of Greer Turner, which has echoes of Chrissy Amphlett's mischief and magic. We liked 'em so much we bought their self-titled EP for just $5, complete with hand-painted artwork. Produced by Monique Brumby and Nick Larkins, the EP does justice to Constant Killer's captivating live vibe. Do what you can to find a copy.

Peter Grace is a radio legend. He's done just about everything you can do in the business, from announcer to programmer and producer. Peter recently wrote a fascinating blog entitled "Perception Is Banality". As well as providing a potted history of modern music radio in Australia, Peter gives an insight into a research-driven world based on "perception enhancement". He recalls questioning a program director when he felt the station's promo didn't equate to reality. "Leaning forward, like he was letting me in on a secret I should know about," Peter writes, "[he said] 'Mate, that's because perception is reality.'" To Peter, "it sounded like a thinly disguised excuse for what was basically lying." He concludes: "It's hard not to be cynical in that kind of world where what some of my contemporaries used to call 'Gut Feel' and what I preferred to call 'Instinct' had been replaced by a corporate formula and a lazy susan of rotating program directors who knew little more than how the formula worked. What they called 'Scientific, research-driven programming, creative marketing and perception enhancement', I called 'Painting by numbers and turd polishing.'" Peter's piece can be found at

Justice Crew go Boom Boom, scoring the third Aussie chart-topper of 2012.

Boom Boom JUSTICE CREW (number one)
Can You Feel It TIMOMATIC (20)
Everyone's Waiting MISSY HIGGINS (24)
Lolita THE VERONICAS (29, debut)
Shout It Out REECE MASTIN (30)

Aussie artists are on top of the singles and album charts, with Karise Eden spending her sixth week at number one - the longest reign for a local album since Missy Higgins' debut spent seven weeks on top in 2004 and 2005.

My Journey KARISE EDEN (number one)
The Ol' Razzle Dazzle MISSY HIGGINS (five)
Happy Home DARREN PERCIVAL (eight)
Broken Brights ANGUS STONE (11)
The Story So Far KEITH URBAN (14)
Shooting Star RACHAEL LEAHCAR (15)
The Sapphires soundtrack (17, debut)
Cornerstone HILLSONG LIVE (19)
Falling & Flying 360 (21)
Drinking From The Sun HILLTOP HOODS (24)
No Shame SARAH DE BONO (27)
The Temper Trap THE TEMPER TRAP (37)

I Can Make You Love Me BRITISH INDIA
Are You Listening? MICHAEL MEEKING
Tennis Clothes MINIBIKES

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