Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Spiderbait - ShashavaGlava


Released 1992 on Au-Go-Go
Reviewed by achuma, 25/04/2014ce

This - the first Spiderbait album - is actually a shortish album with their 1991 EP, P'TangYangKipperBangUh (Au Go Go 1991) tacked on to the end of the CD to make a killer package nearly an hour long. Back when it came out, I was in the last year of school and starting discover the vibrant Melbourne music scene, thanks to the abundance of cheap, all-ages gigs. Two of the bands that played most often at these events were The Meanies* and Spiderbait, also amongst the most loved local bands in the punk/alternative scene of the time. The reason for this was that they both rocked hard and fast, were raw as fuck live, had great songs, and didn’t act like rock stars – they were us and we were them, they were nice people, and their gigs were always a lot of loud fun with no violence beyond friendly moshing. Spiderbait were actually from southern New South Wales, but they moved to Melbourne early on, and played so much in Melbourne, being where most of the gigs were, that they were kind of a de facto Melbourne band.

You’ve gotta love a power trio with a singing drummer (Kram). The bassist Janet also sang, guitarist Damian staying pretty quiet vocally, though his savage, thick guitar sound was far from quiet. The basic Spiderbait sound at this stage was a kind of punk-metal hybrid with a pop sensibility in the background that made for great songs which were simple but somehow offered something new. There was still a sense of amateur talent, in that things occasionally fell apart on stage and they didn’t always play perfectly in time or in tune, but that teetering raw power in their sound only made them more exciting live, and it carries over well to this CD. Any technical deficiencies were more than made up for in good-natured propulsive exuberance, a fun, humorous vibe, and a guitar sound that grabbed you by the face with its teeth. Some bands probably could be said to sound similar (such as the Canberra band Goldencrop, who never released anything except a demo tape), but no one was quite like Spiderbait. They did their best to avoid the ubiquitous rock habit of singing in an American accent even if you’re not American, which only added to their local charm. Lyrically, they had an occasional tendency to revel in UK television that many of us grew up on, such as The Goodies, Blake’s 7 and Bergerac – one of the songs they’re best known for is their rampant cover of Bill Oddie’s ‘Run’ from a Goodies episode. Their other main classic that fans will go nuts every time they hear is ‘Old Man Sam’, of which you get two versions here, alternating crazed psycho riffing with a laid back, amusing narrative verse section – in one version cod-hillbilly beer-drinking polka, the other cod-reggae spliff-inhaling skank. Either version is a guaranteed party-starter amongst almost any south-east Australian of a certain age, and I reckon they could easily accrue the same effect anywhere in the world amongst people who like to rock with a smile on their face.

After this album I have to admit to losing interest for years in the doings of the band. They seemed to be flirting too much in the pop direction, and there was plenty of other stuff to discover, so I didn’t check out much of their newer music for years as they slowly became one of Australia’s bigger ‘alternative’ bands. I was pleasantly surprised to later find that they didn’t continue too far down the pop alley, and the 2004 album Tonight Alright is pretty good, still rocking hard, but I’m not too crazy about Kram’s use of a drum machine which he seems to still be pretty fond of. They released a new album last year, the first since 2004, but I haven’t heard it yet so can’t comment. Although I certainly will check it out, at the end of the day, ShashavaGlava is the only Spiderbait album I really need. Not only does it take me back to a crazy, fun time of my life with all the attendant memories, having been the soundtrack to so many great gigs and parties, but the songs still stand up as raw classics even after all these years.

*The Meanies were like a turbo-charged Ramones clone with a monolithic guitar sound. I think they’re still around in some form actually, though pretty sure the original guitarist died years ago...

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