It is with that unmistakeable, gut wrenching scream of Rob Younger and its clarion call exhorting us all to play some Stooges that Radio Birdman signals the start of another Wide Open Road, playing the things that connect and link the vast catalogue of Australian independent and alternative rock and pop.

Wide Open Road is the vinyl beat in the heart of the digital jungle and It is with the twang of guitars, the smash crash of dusty grooves and the slow flashback of memory that we revisit what many consider a forgotten (rightly and/or wrongly) era of independent and alternative music – the nineties. This is the fourth show in the series revisiting the era of music where triple J decided what young people liked and young people made their own damned mids up, and equally an ear where I wasn’t as young as I was in the eighties, so I was the older dude watching these bands at the back probably grumbling about how it wasn’t as good as it was in my day.

On the third show we delved back into the early days of Aussie post rock with Art of Fighting and Paradise Motel, good all degenerate with Mark of Cain providing the soundtrack to nineties indie films and lifted two tracks from one off random EPs by long forgotten bands, We start this show with a few tracks from that wonderful invention – the record label compile and Sydney riot grill band Purr

Sportsgirl Nose Ring – Purr
Soda Crash – Lustre 4
Cool you Down – Dream Poppies

Label compiles were all the rage in the nineties, and I bought dozens of them. My hard drive is now loaded with so many of them in the ‘compilations’ folder. We start with a track from Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here To Pay – A Kinda Sydney, a compilation released in 1995. Purr were a kind of riot grill band in the style of Huggy Bear from the UK, originally from Newton in Sydney. They released one EP (Umbilical) in 1996 and vanished, but that EP is a great punky legacy to leave. Next up we have from the Antfarm Records compile No Guts, No Blory released 1996 we have Lustre 4 and their shimmering little pop number Soda Crash. So here I was thinking Lustre 4, I remember them, they had a couple EP called `Double Happiness in the mid-nineties that i left at the radio station after a shift and never got back, leaving an empty cover in my collection. Now thanks to the miracle of the internet I found out Lustre 4 was the first band for Sally Seltmann (New Buffalo) and that she was also briefly a member of the Sydney pop band SPDFGH who released one LP on Half a Cow and spawned the amazing Via Tania (to international acclaim).
And from Brisbane the amazingly cool Dream poppies. I have always loved this band and this song especially, its a wonderfully summery track that has such a deft hook and a lovely call back to nursery rhymes. Released on the Yellow Music/ArtHaus compilation called Spark 1.0 in 1993, this track is one of those that I cannot recall why i bought this compile and why I never went any further than this song. I saw Dream poppies once in Brisbane supporting Fur. They were great even though my poor, tolerating wife had the migraine from hell and neither of these bands were quiet!

Cattle and Cane – Jimmy Little
Rock and Roll Friend – The Drunk, the Monk and the Spunk
Spring Rain – Holocene

From 1999, the majesty that was Jimmy Little, one of the first indigenous stars of the modern era. He was hugely popular in the 50s and 60s putting out mainly MOR and country covers. Then in 1999, towards the end of his life, he put out The Messenger, a record of covers and one of those, buried deep in the record was this version of the Go-Betweens Cattle and Cane. It bears close emotional ties with Johnny Cash and his cover of the NIN song Hurt. Dark, mesmerising, heartfelt and beautiful. Released in 1992, this eclectic album of covers featured John Willsteed (Go-Betweens, Xero etc) as well as Roger Norris from Sydney band the Plug Ugles and here they cover the amazing Rock and Roll Friend, on the only LP Starving, Hysterical And Naked. You can also find it on the brilliant Hippy Knight tribute to the Go-Betweens released in 1995 called Right here, where you can also find this cover of Spring Rain by Melbourne indie pop band Holocene (with a very decent catalogue of their own, mainly EPs and a couple LPs, all worth finding if you are into fuzzy guitar, harmony driven pop madness).

Bower of Bliss – Clouds
Boy of Air – Clouds
Ivy – The Dearhunters
Bells of Sunday – Golden Rough

Four songs vaguely relayed in a kind of narrative and musical way. We started with Bower of Bliss, the lead single from the second LP released by Sydney band Clouds in 1993 (called Thunderhead). Clouds are still an amazing band, with luminous harmonies and very cool pop rifage, and this record is a great example of that skill. We followed that with a track from the Clouds EP called Beetroot, which was released in 1994 and we played the crowd live fave called Boy of Air. The band put out quite a few EPs in addition to their LPs in the nineties and there a heap of cool tracks, idiosyncratic covers and the like to be found buried. One was their cover of the Jimmy Webb classic Wichita Linesman which foreshadowed the tone of the next track, which was from a Jodi Phillis solo project called the Dearhunters which released a single and an LP in 1998. The band featured Jodi and Ralph from Clouds, as well as Greg Hitchcock (most recently in You am I) and Tom Oxley (youngster’s member of the Oxley clan and a former member of bands like the Hundingers and the Verys). Finally to make the narrative connection we have alt-country band Golden Rough who put several records in the nineties and early 2000s, but this one is brilliant, from their 1998 split 7” on Steady Cam with another lat-country band Love Me and the track Bells of Sunday.

Hotwired and Loaded – Roddy Ray’da and Da Surfin’ Caesars
Such a Nice Girl – The Lizard Train

Time for some rawk. Roddy Ray’da (or Roddy Radalj a:s his given name his) has been in so many bands it almost doesn’t bear to mention, but guess what, we will:

Dubrovniks, Hoodoo Gurus, Love Rodeo, Roddy Ray’Da & The Surfin’ Caesars, The Johnnys, The Punjabbers, The Rockets , The Scientists

We play a track from his Surfin’ Caesars released in 1992. Called Mouthful of Chicken, it was sold in a brown paper bag, mainly to hide the obscenity on the cover. Play it LOUD! Next up, we have another loud rock masterpiece, this time from Adelaide’s Lizard Train and their 1992 LP Get Yer Wah Wahs Out. What’s the connection? well both were released in 1992 and both put out on the Sydney punky indie label Shagpile which also put out slabs by Frenzel Rhomb, Bodyjar and the Cosmic Psychos)

Sundial – Tumbleweed
(Less than I) spend – Proton Energy Pills

And we round this show out with two tracks from Wollongong’s finest – Tumbleweed from their recently reissued debut LP. Even though quite psych, they opened for Nirvana on their 1992 Australian your and then everything changed, triple J picked them up, this track became a hit and they went from Waterfront record staples to national darlings playing BDO and other festivals. And we end with a track from the Proton Energy Pills, the band the presaged the formation of Tumbleweed and featured a couple of members of the band to come. From their single which was released on Waterfront in 1990, this track was produced by Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis and sound very much like it was (DJ fans know what I mean right?)

Well, I hope you have enjoyed these four shows and their gentle ramble and rocking boogie boogie-ing through the era. We will be back in 2020 with our usual array of Aussie indie and alternative greatness. We might drop a few DJ sets if anyone lets us and of course we will continue to be the vinyl beat in the heart of the digital jungle. Until next time. DJ Ringfinger OUT!