Blank Veneration

Four-CD box set of bolshy Ozpunks' three late-'70s albums and unreleased Live In London set from late '77, plus numerous outtakes, B-sides and EP tracks

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For some of us, the definitive first blast of “punk rock” wasn’t “New Rose” or even “Beat On The Brat”, but “(I’m) Stranded”, a high-octane neo-Stooges broadside from, of all places, Brisbane. Dateline June 1976. The work of four surly vagrants bearing the gang-like moniker The Saints, “(I’m) Stranded” was raw and visceral at a time when we were still stirring from the quagmire of stadium pomp. The dream of Lester Bangs’ scuzz-pop incarnate, in one fell swoop it vindicated the wilderness years of Little Jimmy Osterberg and a thousand glue-sniffing garage rodents.

The Saints weren’t doing anything that radical on the I’m Stranded album (1977). But they looked so cool and bored on the cover, and their sound was unrepentantly unpolished. Ed Kuepper’s Gibson SG was cranked and gnarly, Ivor Hay’s drums all but buried in the Raw Power-ish mix. And snarling over the top was pudgeboy Chris Bailey, a distillation of Reeperbahn Lennon and Belfast Van, and one of the great punk larynxes. Best of all is the closing “Nights In Venice”, a torrent of noise as savage as anything that ever spewed out of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom.

Eternally Yours (1978) rarely matches its predecessor for intensity, but is still much overlooked: a scathing condemnation of consumerism in “Orstralia” with the added kick of an R&B-flavoured horn section. Snarling diatribes like “Know Your Product” and “Lost And Found” are nicely offset by such bruised ‘ballads’ as “Untitled” and “Memories Are Made Of This”. The same year’s Prehistoric Sounds was a template for the artier and even horn-ier direction Kuepper would take with his Laughing Clowns. Live In London, meanwhile, captures the band in all their uncouth, don’t-give-a-fuck glory. I loved this band and so should you.


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