- Posted January 11, 2014 by
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From Birds Of Tokyo To Sleep Perade, Here's Why Indie Rock Continues To Shine In Australia
The question is of course, why has Indie Rock been able to grow and develop in the Aussie state? Why not the UK or maybe even a coast off the US? The history of Australian rock has one recurring theme - it's the story of music described as 'alternative' staying alternative instead of becoming the 'mainstream'. As the century ended, new technology allowed more people than ever before to make their own music and to get it heard.
Suddenly, there were many forms of popular music and the notion of a music mainstream began to disappear. For rock and roll artists, the biggest challenge was to breathe life into an old dog - before they were swamped by an enormous tide of beats - dance music.
When three brothers strutted down a Miami street in 1977 they started the whole world dancing - and most of Australia with it.
"At one stage I did set fire to a whole bunch of disco records and announce that disco was dead. Within weeks three disco records were in the top ten, so it wasn't a great gesture. I think that then, as now, there was one thing really clear- that kind of home grown, real music sort of stuff that for us that came out of our own experiences - that was tough. It was loud and worked with youth trying to find a place amongst this welter, these waves of disco releases and pop releases that kept on breaking on the Aussie shores - dumped on us from other places, mainly the States. It was like what disco is about - it's really a social engagement. You go to the disco to chat up people and the music's not that important." - Peter Garrett
At a certain point, the Punk ethos of the late 1970's that was establishing itself against the techno craze that would later takeover in the 80's was not quite as successful in Australia as it was in its European and American cousins (The Sex Pistols, The Ramones). The Punk movement scene in Australia was short lived, and we could probably even say that the current rise of Indie Rock has become somewhat of a shadow of those influences as it now attempts to establish itself as something different in the age of dubstep and EDM here in the 2010s. There was nothing left but to get downright offensive for Australian Punk music in the 1970's. The Hard-Ons came from an Australian Punk Rock tradition that had started with Radio Birdman that may have nurtured a constantly suppressed underdog that was never allowed to reach mainstream recognition. Ultimately, the Techno and Electronica movements suppressed any potential Glam Metal, Thrash or Post-punk scenes to potentially form in the 1980's as it did in the US and UK. Once again, with the exception of Silverchair, rock music in Australia was once again shunned during the 90's Grunge scene, which only increased its ability to develop in the underground. Then, something interesting happened, another Punk movement was produced. It was an eclectic band of misfits that took up where punk had left off in the early 80s. Their challenge was to make that sound relevant and exciting in the 2000's.
"A lot was going on. I call it credible hard rock. History would tell you now though that Nivarna and Seattle Grunge rock came out of a void but between the Sex Pistols there was a lot of credible hard rock going on and a lot of it in Australia." - Kim Salmon
At the other end of the pop music universe, Australia's success at fabricating soap operas was having an unpredictable side-effect. Atlantis recording studio in Melbourne was instrumental in changing the mood and Dave Graney's album The Night of the Wolverine was an unlikely success. No one had acted quite like this in Australian rock and roll before - or described the rock lifestyle so eloquently. With the help of Triple J, the hipster was hip with the kids. Indy guitar music was in. Dance music however, was too anonymous and interestingly enough has not had as much success in Australia as it is in other countries (Australia is experiencing the opposite affect with its music industry, and it may soon collide with the global music industry). Rock was young again in Australia. Not since the 50s had kids taken control of their own music with such enthusiasm and never before had bands such as the Birds Of Tokyo or Dead Letter Circus ever taken the level of mainstream recognition that they have in Australia. Rock was now old enough to span several generations. For some, mum and dad's record collection could be a source of inspiration, rather than disgust. And as Dead Letter Circus are reworking teenage angst, the Birds Of Tokyo are delivering their message to an older generation - a message that music can still make a difference.