- by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2016-08-19 Label:
Kim Salmon knows Rock & Roll isn’t exactly rocket science. Or even an exact science. If you don't know the name, he fronted one of the 80's most influencial bands: The Scientists. If you aren't already acquainted, I'll stand on your coffee table and tell you The Scientists are one of the greatest bands you never heard.
Cult legends that they are, they're best known in their native Australia. True, The Scientists never achieved the international success of INXS nor the notoriety of The Birthday Party. But like the Saints or Triffids, the Scientists remain an all too well kept secret on their home shores. Despite their cult status their influence can be heard in Jon Spencer, Mudhoney and Sonic Youth. Not to mention Nick Cave and his number one Bad Seed these days, Warren Ellis. They also had a pronounced influence on the Seattle Grunge scene from Nirvana to Screaming Trees. Not just because of their their deranged, gutter bucket sound but a look which has been variously described as “seedy" and “grimy”.
The Scientists are an Indie band's Indie Band.
While their work has been anthologized before, never has there been such a comprehensive overview as this. A Place Called Bad spans their early days onto their break up in 1987. Fronted by a teenage Kim Salmon, the Scientists began as a precociously cynical garage rock band. With the release of the single, ‘Frantic Romantic’ it was clear girls, getting wasted and driving around were on their sarcastic little minds. Their early cuts not only capture teen angst but mock it in the same breath. ‘Last Night’ and ‘That Girl’ are fantastic examples of the band’s ability to capture the sexual frustration, romantic bliss and heartbreak of first love, in under three minutes. With some sharp Pop smarts lurking round the corner. Loitering with intent.
There’s something beautifully anachronistic to these early Scientist cuts. Conjuring up the same cul de sac nostalgia Big Star manged to capture. Growing up is, and always shall remain a ripe cherry on the vine. And like Big Star, The Scientists weren't all that removed. Of course where Big Star were taking their cue from the Brit Invasion, the Scientists had the Brit Punk Invasion to reckon with. And they did. But on their own terms. Sure, they had the angst but also a dry, nod and wink sense of humor.
‘Shadows of the Night’ brings glimpses of the sound that would define them. A darker, more menacing sound. Some critics called it "Swamp Rock". And swampy it was. It was both humid and claustrophobic. Ominous and nocturnal. It's obvious Salmon was smitten with the Stooges but beyond that, The Cramps and early Rockabilly were coming into play. Needless to say, the Scientists put their own Noirish slant on it all. This new sound was unceremoniously unveiled with the cynically tortured single, ‘My Happy Hour’. It’s a sound you can smell. Dim, dank and subterranean.
'Swampland’, ‘Blood River’ are Scientists classics. The pinnacle. Same goes for ‘We Had Love’ and ‘Set It On Fire’. The growling Noir of ‘Murderess in a Purple Dress’ finds them at their most Raw Power. The furious ‘Temple of Love’ bears the track marks of a serious Suicide habit. Their raw take on the James Bond themesong, ‘You Live Only Live Twice’ is priceless. I think they may have stumbled on an a whole new genre with this one: Garage Lounge.
I hesitate to call ‘Shine’ a ballad, but musically it certainly hits on that territory. Like all of the Scientists' great work, it sounds both spontaneous and off the cuff. But well studied. Tongue and cheek, yet heartfelt.
At four discs its impossible to cover all the highlights. Nearly every cut is a gem.
From a gem of a band.
One of the most welcome box sets of the year. So what are you waiting for? That's it. The review is over. Proceed immediately to your nearest retailer, make your purchase, press play and sit down and be prepared to be that guy in the shades on the Maxell logo.
Great stuff Kevin ! I've seen The Scientists too any times to recall. They played last year in Sydney with their original line-up. Salmon still on fire !
....though James Baker's drumming not a patch on Leanne Chock's
Good to hear. Am a fan. So jealous. Just finished edits on review. Might be better now.