TOP 10 AUSTRALIAN GRUNGE SONGS
Earlier in the year, Black Fox released Suburban Rooms, the third single from their debut LP. Written years ago, and recorded before Daniel pawned off his Marshall stack to a teenage guitar god, the original version of Suburban Rooms was recorded exclusively with my Fender Jaguar channeled through a Boss DS-1 and blasted through the aforementioned Marshall stack.
When we attempted to record a version of Suburban Rooms for our record years later, the subsequent guitar tracks never quite cut it like the original, so the old recording session was pulled from the scrap heap and handed over to Mitch and Drei to lay down some rhythm tracks.
In light of this trip down memory lane—and as a homage to the grunge influences that helped spawn Suburban Rooms—I thought it might be fun to assemble a list of my favourite grunge tracks of all time. This is my personal selection, so if you don’t agree or think I’ve neglected an essential track, please feel free to leave a comment to that effect. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Number 10: Regurgitator – Blubber Boy (1995)
Long before their electro pop releases, like Everyday Formula and Polyester Girl, the Gurge were a pin-up band for the alternative music scene in Australia. Blubber Boy was two and a half minutes of no-nonsense grunge that immediately found favour with Triple J listeners—a fact reflected in it’s inclusion in the Hottest 100 the year it was released.
Number 9: The Fauves – Dogs Are The Best People (1996)
A sentiment shared by many, and delivered with distorted guitars and a catchy melody, this little number by The Fauves is evidence of the strange little obsession that Australian music audiences have with the quirky and the humorous. You only have to look to bands like TISM, Machine Gun Fellatio, Regurgitator and Pauline Pantsdown to realise that Australians love a band that’s not afraid to have a laugh. However, far from being just a novelty song, Dogs Are The Best People is a banging grunge track and one I remember fondly from the 90s.
Number 8: Violent SoHo – My Generation (2008)
Violent SoHo are one of those bands that aren’t doing anything new. Upon first listen, you’ll be able to easily identify the bands they shamelessly mimic. However, they do it so damn well that you couldn’t care less. This song is pure grunge and the product of a less-than-riveting festival experience. The story goes that one of the members was attending a festival that was somewhat lacking in atmosphere. He turned to his friend and said, ‘This is bullshit, somebody needs to do something.’ At that point, Tim Rogers (also in the audience and eavesdropping on their conversation) turned around and said, ‘Why don’t you do something then?’, to which our young protagonist replied, ‘I can’t be bothered.’ Tim shook his head and said, ‘That’s typical of your generation.’
Number 7: Custard – Apartment (1995)
Poppy, catchy and full of scratchy guitars, this song is classic Custard. The Brisbane band emerged onto to alternative music scene in the early 90s and were a regular feature on Triple J throughout the alternative golden years. Custard are another prime example of an Australian band that weren’t afraid to inject a healthy dose of humour into their music.
Number 6: Spiderbait – Buy Me A Pony (1996)
Coming in at under 1:40 in length, Buy Me A Pony pulled no punches. The song was a big fuck you to the way the record companies treat bands and took out the top spot in the 1996 Triple J Hottest 100—the first Australian song ever to do so.
Number 5: The Vines – Outtathaway (2002)
Originally hailed as ‘The second coming of Nirvana’, The Vines are one of the best alternative bands Australia has ever produced. Energetic, exciting and wild on stage, the band were dropped from radio playlists nationally after an infamous gig for Triple M at the Annandale in 2004. Things went awry when Craig Nicholls yelled at the crowd, calling them ‘sheep’, and bassist Patrick Mathews walked off stage. Nicholls later assaulted a photographer that was getting up in his grill, which landed him in court facing assault charges. Austereo dropped the Vines from all their playlists and refused to play the band for years, which probably spurred them on to pen their follow-up single, Don’t Listen To The Radio.
Number 4: Silverchair – Tomorrow (1994)
In 1994, three Newcastle teenagers won a competition run by the SBS program Nomad and Triple J. As part of the prize, Triple J recorded their song Tomorrow and filmed a video clip for the band. The song spent six weeks at number 1 on the ARIA singles chart, and fueled a fierce bidding war amongst labels eager to sign the trio. The band’s debut album, Frogstomp, was released the following year. I promptly purchased a copy on cassette from Brashs and played it ad nauseum on my Walkman throughout the 90s. Upon reflection, the band began to hate this song, as it represented a period of their musical lives when they were just copying Nirvana and other popular grunge bands of the time. Even so, it remains a killer song despite it’s heavy influences and frequently rates as the bands best song in polls.
Number 3: GOD – My Pal (1987)
GOD is a band that epitomises the Melbourne indie music scene of the late 80s. Despite aging just 15 to 16 at the time, the band members were already veterans of the music scene when they formed GOD. My Pal was the band’s debut 7-inch release, which hit music store shelves in 1987 and sold thousands of copies—a genuine coup for an indie band at the time. Joel Silbersher’s raw vocals sound like they emanated from the throat of a two-packs-a-day, 60 year old blues dog, and remain to be one of the best vocal recordings I’ve heard. The group disbanded two years after this song’s release, and two of the members died in following years from heroin overdoses. My Pal was the last song played at infamous Melbourne live dive The Tote before its closure and posthumous re-opening in 2010. It was covered by notorious Melbourne band The Drones, who invited Joel Silbersher on to the stage to perform with them. Amen.
Number 2: The Vasco Era – Oh Sam (2010)
I first discovered The Vasco Era during a period of my live when I was becoming disillusioned with the music that was gaining popularity at the time. They represented an authentic breath of fresh air in a stale, stuffy cupboard of bands that had absolutely nothing to say. My band, The Smoke, was fortunate enough to support The Vasco Era when they played the Annandale Hotel in July 2009. They were one of the most enjoyable bands I’ve ever seen live, and their 2010 record Lucille was played on high rotation in my car that year. Oh Sam, a track that featured on that record, remains one of my all time favourite songs.
Number 1: Bright Yellow – Cocaine Eyes (2009)
At that very same gig at the Annandale in 2009, Bright Yellow took to the stage as the first band of the evening. They played an unbelievable set of grunge tunes, and featured a front man with a voice that combined the best qualities of Kurt Cobain and Jeff Buckley. The band projected a kind of negative energy that evening that I’ve never witnessed before, and instantly became my favourite new band. One song in particular hung in my head for days: Cocaine Eyes. It’s number one because it’s the best. It’s a very original song that was recorded live—just like how the band played it. It’s not a perfect recording, and you can even hear some mistakes in there, but grunge is about attitude, aggression, angst and emotion—not perfection. Chris seemingly disappeared from the music scene for some time after we played the Annandale with him, before re-surfacing recently with some brilliant new songs. I later learned that Chris suffers from schizophrenia and spent some time in hospital, receiving treatment for this difficult condition. I’m pleased to say, however, that he’s making music again and it’s incredible.
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