Saturday, 16 March 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #31: Noiseworks - "Noiseworks"

Noiseworks - Noiseworks

Noiseworks' first LP was an immediate hit upon its release in 1987. The Sydney based band (with a New Zealand ex-pat vocalist Jon Stevens) had launched onto the scene earlier with a couple of catchy lead-off singles in the form of "No Lies" and "Take Me Back" but had built up a reputation as a solid live band in the pub scene of Sydney.

I thrashed this album when it first came out. The five singles released from the album are still great due to their vibrancy and the quality of the songs. Listening to the record now, it hasn't aged well. It is very 80s in terms of sound and production. While side one of the album is pretty flawless in terms of song choices, there's a couple of flat spots on side two ("Only Loving You", "Edge of Darkness"), and the production is thick and cloudy in parts, and that hampers the power of the songs.

Even by looking at the stark black and white cover, you get the sense that the band have an obsession with one of the biggest and most ubiquitous bands of the time (and who remain so to this day).  When you hear the intro to "Take Me Back", the deal is sealed.  The band's sound is obsessed with the Eno-esque synth-washed and over-processed guitar sound of U2.

The guitarists sound like they have been slavishly copying The Edge's guitar sound by rote for years, and that's not necessarily a good thing. It detracts from their identity, in my view, because the last thing the world needed in 1987, and even now, is another U2. That sound carried over into their second LP "Touch", but by the third album they had moved on and had started to carve a fresh sound for themselves. However, soon after the band imploded, and by 1993 it was all over.

This album was one of the "transition" albums in my collection. After listening to it for years, I appreciate the place it has in my musical development. It has no street cred, it's not regarded in the "cool" category of Australian bands like The Triffids or The Birthday Party, and that's because they made a concerted push to be accessible and not self-consciously "arty". However, it lead me into believing that Australian music is some of the best in the world and that our local scene is worth exploring deeply.

Take a listen for yourselves.

NB: Jon Stevens still has a great voice and he used it for great effect as one of the replacement vocalists for INXS. If INXS had to replace Michael Hutchence, and he did leave huge shoes to fill, in my view Jon could have and should have been the man to do it. He was not quite up there with Michael, but he was pretty close. C'est la vie, I guess...

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