Friday, June 08, 2007

More Songs To Learn And Sing #8

Another mere reader now, today's song choice coming from Simon Briercliffe:

The Saints - This Perfect Day

G'day, cobbers.

See what I did there?

Possibly not, if you're unfamiliar with the legacy of one of Orstralia's finest bands. You'll see the hipsters donning Radio Birdman t-shirts, but you never see Brisbane's scruffy proto-punks given their due lauding. Why is this, I ask? My only exposure to the Saints would have come from no finer source than Top Of The Pops 2 several years ago had I not sought them out, and though the band teetered on the brink of success (before inevitably imploding in a haze of jazz and horns) there's little trace of them other than a decimated version of the original line up today.

But the Saints' legacy has spread in other ways. You here it anywhere a snotty young band employs whacking great swathes of guitar, you hear it whenever the singer waxes disaffected, because the Saints were punk before punk really existed, carving out a nihilistic noise in the isolation of "Security City," releasing the first punk single in this country, causing Sounds to famously label it "single of this and every week."

But it's not the adolescent bile of "(I'm) Stranded" that first drew me to the Saints. It was that TOTP2 performance of This Perfect Day that had me hooked, Chris Bailey's thousand yard stare fixing an audience more attuned to softer-edged peers, Ed Kuepper's huge, incendiary guitar bruising their very eardrums. It wasn't your usual early evening fare, even in the heady days of '77 (a good five years before I even graced the planet, to be fair, but BBC2 clip shows make sure I’m aware of culture back then). A vicious affair, lyrically: the pop kids of the day almost certainly wouldn't have been used to wrapping their lugholes around "we got no high times always flat/If you go out you don't come back/It's all so funny I can't laugh."

This was the sort of dejected fury that is so commonplace these days, but was near-revolutionary in the day, that howl of post-teenage frustration, the surburban claustrophobia of a stuffy Australian town (I imagine 70's Brisbane to be something like Wellington in Brain Dead). It's what punk was built on, a sort of directionless rage that found an outlet and poured through. Bailey "don't need nothing, don't need no-one" in order to vent.

So it was Chris Bailey's disaffected sneer that drew me to the Saints, but it was Ed Kuepper's guitar that kept me coming back. A fairly innocuous Gibson SG, but that's not the point. The point was the obscenely noisy banks of overdrive that set the Saints apart from every other band plying a trade on the back of listening to the Ramones first album. It's a monstrous aural vision of the frustration in Bailey's spat invective, a walloping great wail. The peak is the feedback that lingers in the third verse, accompanying "Don't talk to me about what's you done/Ain't nothing has changed it all goes on/And they'll keep laughing till the end."

Laugh they might well, but screw 'em.

The complete collection

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