There are certain bands and musicians that capture a nation's identity. The United States has Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and John Mellencamp whose music speaks to working class blue-collar America in a way that captures the nation's identity in a way that listeners don't only hear but also feel and relate to.
Similarly Australia has their artists that not only make great music but capture their national identity in song. In 1980, borrowing elements of punk and New Wave, Australian Crawl burst onto the Australian music scene with their debut album, The Boys Light Up. While they never enjoyed the same level of success beyond their own shores as they did within their own little South Pacific corner of the globe, for five years their star burnt like a bonfire. As quickly as they burst onto the scene their star faded.
While lead vocalist, James Reyne, has enjoyed phenomenal success with his own solo material and even some scaled down more acoustic versions of his Australian Crawl classics in his homeland since the dissolution of his band, the hopes of a reunion are slim as their guitarist and co-lead vocalist, Guy McDonnough passed away in the early 80s (one of the many factors leading to the band's demise).
As such Boys Light Up is a snapshot of Australian surf culture in the early eighties. Indeed, this debut remained on the Aussie pop charts for 104 weeks! While Reyne's voice at times is reminiscent of American blue-eyed soulster, Daryl Hall, and other times British musical chameleon, Joe Jackson and sometimes even sounds a bit like Mick Jagger, Australian Crawl's musical style more closely resembles their Kiwi counterparts from "across the ditch," Split Enz.
Part of what makes this band so enjoyable is Reyne's flair for lyrics:
Let me tell you about my mountain home
Where all the ladies names are Joan
Where husbands work back late at night
Hopes are up for trousers down
With a hostess on a business flight
Taxi in a Mercedes drive
I hope that driver's coming out alive.
The garden is a dorsetted
That lady -- she's so corsetted
She's got 15 ways to lead that boy astray
He thinks he's one and only
But that lovely she's so lonely
She pumps him full of breakfast and she sends him on his way
-- From Boys Light Up
I said, Beau-tiful People, you know they're going out tonight to get their Bombay Rocks off
Beau-tiful People, they 've got a Kerouac condition, gotta cocaine cough
Beau-tiful People, studio 54 is the only place to dance
Beau-tiful People, you know the gardens full of furniture, the house is full of plants
-- From Beautiful People
Antiques flown in from Venice fill your house upon the hill
While your money sold the soul love of rock and roll
For some cheap disco thrill
I've seen your peers pouting over beers
The loneliness it showed
Mistaking tacky sex for sensuality
They bought in toorak road -- From Hootchie Gucci Fiorucci Mama
Australian Crawl are a delight to listen to and this debut is an excellent introduction to their brief but notable stint in Australia's rock canon. Start, but certainly don't stop with this excellent release as you'll be missing out on some of the gems from their later albums.
Related Media & Links
Boys Light Up
Australian Crawl (The All Music Guide bio)
Australian Crawl (on Last.fm)