ACT News

Tuned in: Feel-good factor in 1980s pop revival

The revival touring circuit rolls on with 1980s Australian pop music the focus of a forthcoming show at the National Convention Centre in November featuring such notables as The Eurogliders​, GANGgajang​ and Pseudo Echo. 

All featured groups made inroads into the charts at various moments with upbeat tunes and lyrics feeding a synthesiser laced feel-good vibe – apart from Rose Tattoo that is. 

This momentum was completely at odds with the darker, more introspective words and sounds oozing from the Australian music underground where anti-heroes like The Birthday Party, The Laughing Clowns and The Beasts of Bourbon lurked. 

These latter bands never troubled the charts, instead sacrificing financial reward and appearances on Countdown for deeper artistic exploration but let's face facts – these bands were simply lacking the crucial 'fun' factor. Songwriters weave a special magic to turn an elusive combination of word, rhythm and sound into a winning formula that hits the right spots in an instant. 

Not an easy thing to do but whenever it occurs you can expect both body and mind to tingle in the most enjoyable way. 

The feel-good factor plays a big part when it comes to music nostalgia and it is well understood that popular music has a habit of looking backwards as identified by Simon Reynolds in his excellent book Retromania​. 

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Reynolds notes that "retromania​ has become a dominant force in our culture" and posits the view that if you can no longer move forward with conviction the fallback position is to take comfort in the past.  Steve Kilbey​ from The Church who will be appearing at the Royal Theatre show in solo mode somehow manages to accomplish both possibilities while forging a distinct path. 

The Church spruiked​ its early hit The Unguarded Moment on Countdown back in the day but I always felt this band was one of the very few to bridge the gap between chart oriented acts and the indie music scene.  There was something compelling, yet non-flashy about the songs on such albums as Heyday, with an indie vibe saturating those low budget film clips often shown on super cool ABC music program Beat Box. 

The Church struck gold with the top-10 hit Under the Milky Way in 1988 and the band's place in the pantheon of Australian popular music was secured. 

Because Kilbey​ will be performing alone at the convention centre, I wonder if he will decide to succumb fully to the past and perform a few tunes from 1989 solo album Remindlessness​ which delves into psychedelic explorations sometimes reminiscent of the eternally strange 1969 Pink Floyd​ album Ummagumma​

It would be fantastic if that happened right before Pseudo Echo performs Funky Town.