The Best of Australia’s 1980s Underground: a list by Sean Hocking

Sean Hocking of Metal Postcard Records presents his favourites from Australia’s 1980s underground. If you’d like to listen to this as an old fashioned radio show many of these songs are included in the next of his one hour Nuggets broadcasts on Dandelion Radio.

1. The Triffids – “Field of Glass”


The Triffids construct a perfect 8 minute rock epic that brings to mind The Velvet Underground and The Doors‘ eleven minute opus “When The Music’s Over”…divine. This is a portent of all that great music that followed and one of the most underrated bands in rock history.

2. The Scientists – “We Had Love”


Yes, you’ve heard it on the RocknRolla soundtrack, and yes, Kurt was enamored by this Perth, WA band. Just take a step back and think about this, it’s 1983, the days when the NME would take a month to reach Sydney, never mind the West Coast. So in happy obscurity, Kim Salmon and team created a sound that influenced Seattle a number of years later.

Having seen them a number times in Australia, I was very excited when they eventually turned up in London, expecting a sold out show in the Hammersmith dive that had booked them. Instead, only half a dozen of us saw the future of grunge and roll.

3. Severed Heads – “Dead Eyes Opened”:


Nick Cave and The Birthday Party have headed off to London for fame and fortune, and Melbourne is left with shouty, Catholic rock bands like Hunters & Collectors and TISM. Melbourne is always ready to re-invent itself, and with Severed Heads, we see the birth of Australian electronic music. Sounds as good today as it ever did.

4. Warumpi Band – “(Jailangaru Pakarnu) Out Of Jail”


Much better than The Clash‘s “Jail Guitar Doors”. Rebel music up there with Marley. They should have been huge.

5. The Laughing Clowns – “Holy Joe”


Quite simply the best of all “post punk” bands, and here at Metal Postcard, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and working with Mr. Kuepper to re-release their oeuvre in glorious vinyl!

6. Tex Deadly & The Dums Dums – “Voodoo Doll”


Tex Perkins is now a Australian cultural icon, but there was a time when he was just another young man influenced by The Birthday Party & The Cramps.

7. Machinations – “Pressure Sway”


This was actually a Australian hit for Sydney band Machinations in 1983, a song that’s very indicative of how Sydney sounded at that time. A combination of new wave and urgent funk sounds suited the long summer days, beaches and packed pubs.

8. The Spikes – “She’s Melting”


In the early ’80s, it seemed that every Australian city had it’s own garage punk rock scene. In Adelaide, The Spikes headed up the local scene with their own brand of the sound and wonderful DIY videos.

9. The Shower Scene From Psycho – Georgy Girl


This lot take quirky to a whole new level and are included in this top 20 simply because of their fabulous name.

10. Chad’s Tree – “Sweet Jesus Blue Eyes”


Another band that made the hike from Perth to Sydney. Very reminiscent of The Triffids sound that we all recognise and we’re somewhat surprised that they haven’t been picked up by re-issue crowd yet.

11. Hoodoo Gurus – “I Want You Back”


The masters of ’60s rock pop, from their debut album Stoneage Romeos. They rocked Brighton’s Escape Club when they visited around 1984/5.

12. Lubricated Goat – “In The Raw”


Sydney’s heroin rock underground of the mid/late ’80s is personified by this band and their somewhat infamous nude appearance on national Australian TV. As one of the comments says on You Tube….”That right there is the apex of twentieth-century Australian fine art, like The Birthday Party meets Mad Max!”

13. Lime Spiders – “Slave Girl”


Probably their best single.

14. SPK – “Metal Dance”


What more can you say? It’s SPK, it’s “Metal Dance”, and not many things have come along since sounding better in the world of industrial.

15. The Go-Betweens – “Cattle & Cane”


I remember reading about them in NME around 1981 and thus thought they’d be huge in Australia. Nothing could have been further from the truth. One day America will discover that they are as good if not better than The Smiths.

16. The Birthday Party – “Loose”


Can’t really not include The Birthday Party…So how about this cover of The Stooges classic?

17. Essendon Airport – “I Feel A Song Coming On”


Eclectic post-punk experimentalists from Melbourne.

18.SS Brigade (1982) – “Public Execution”


Brisbane punk outfit with a pretty dodgy name.

19. The Fucken Leftovers – “Cigarettes and Alcohol”


Another Brisbane punk band with much better name and doing it long before Oasis!

20. The Stems – “Sad Girl”


Classic Australian garage styled rock ‘n’ roll that has influenced the likes of Jet, Wolfmother and Tame Impala.

 All words by Sean Hocking.


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7 comments on “The Best of Australia’s 1980s Underground: a list by Sean Hocking”

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  1. ‘Field of Glass’ is a fine choice for number one … and you’re right, one of the most underrated bands.

  2. twitter_Sean_Hornby74

    They received a brief mention but Melbourne band TISM (This Is Serious Mum) surely should have received an inclusion. They formed in 1982 and split after their first live performance, every performance afterwards (they toured until 2003) was classed as a reunion show. Great Trucking Songs of the Renaissance is a classic piece of 80’s Australian alternative rock. And if that wasn’t enough they surely should have received an acknowledgement due to the the fact the Red Hot Chilli Peppers made a threat to kill them (they were offended because of a TISM single ‘He’ll never be an old man River’, they were good friends with River Phoenix) and they were the band that Nico herself described as being “Scum”. Good list though!

  3. An excellent selection…though Painters and Dockers deserve a mention!

  4. RE; #18 – The band were actually called Public Execution; they released a single ‘Methadone Slave/SS Brigade’ – There were plans to re-release this plus other tracks on a 12″ back in 2011 though I have no idea if this even happened.

  5. Good news Phi, that comp is due for release within weeks thru short fuse records. The band has also reformed and playing shows here in Brisbane Aug & Sept.

  6. The Scientists recently did a 35th anniversary Australian tour. Still excellent!

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