(Half A Cow)
A Half A Cow Classic Reissue.
Originally released in July 2000 on cd in a HAC-designed all cardboard gatefold sleeve with inserts and a 44-page booklet.
February 2010: This album is back in stock and now packed in an ECO-BOX (better for the environment than a regular jewel case) with a reduced 40-page booklet (we shuffled the pages around so it's all still there except the 'Gear n Stuff' page and the Julie 7" drawing). Plus the same timeless music!
The Complete Studio Recordings of Australia's Seminal Classic Punk/Pop band from the mid-Eighties. Eighteen tracks on CD for the first time including the classic ‘Julie Is A Junkie/Johnny & Dee Dee’ 7inch, the Long Live The New Flesh mini-LP (with ‘Walking’ and ‘Over Now’) single, two hard-to-find demos and live recordings of a further nine originals (from Girls On The Beach dbl 12”) plus 40 page colour booklet in ECO-BOX cd case.
With a mix of Sixties-via-Ramones pop smarts, hard rock crunch and punkish energy, their slim output has produced a world-wide cult awareness. If they're not quite as well known as
other Sydney groups of the period like the Hard-Ons or Beasts Of Bourbon, it's because a tragic, on-tour road accident claimed the life of singer/songwriter and guitarist James Darroch.
One of the great “what ifs?” in the history of rock and roll, we’ll never know how far and high the Eastern Dark would have reached in both musical accomplishments and fame and fortune. This compilation is a lasting testament to how incredible the Eastern Dark was in their short time on this Earth. Now Let Us Press Play. - Mojo
Finally, it's here and yes, it's been worth the wait.
So why the fuss about a Sydney group that was only around for less than two years in the first half of the 80s, played no shows outside of Australia and only released one single when it was still a going concern? Part of it is to do with the sense of loss when a road accident robbed us of guitarist-singer-songwriter James Darroch. More than enough has been written over the years about that event and the unrealised potential the Dark possessed, so I'm going to presume you know all about that (and if you don't, you can read the impressive 44-page booklet that comes with the disc). For the benefit of the initiates, let's focus on the music.
The first thing that must be said is that it rocks. Hard, especially the studio cuts. And it rocks with all the abandon and raw passion of youth in a way that wipes the floor with most anything else you could care to name. Liberally taking from venerable precursors like the Ramones and the NY Dolls (and some more surprising antecedents like the Dictators), the Eastern Dark were maybe the best blending of pop's harmonies with (good) punk's boundless energies that many of us saw in many a long time. The John Encarnacao liner notes (almost worth the price of admission themselves) draw a parallel with Husker Du - and there's no argument from this quarter. Think "Candy Apple Grey", rather than their hardcore efforts, and multiply it by a factor of two or three, to get a handle on the Dark's best moments. But as Encarnacao points out, there was a blacker side to the Dark, too. Put on "Mr Clean" (a stupendous piece of guitar wash) or "Stay Alone" and you'll understand.
This was a line-up that gravitated towards each other rather by virtue of being in the same place (the incestuous Sydney scene) at the same time. Geoff Milne's powerhouse drumming, Bill Gibson's fulsome and supple bass playing and on-the-money harmonising, plus (ex-Celibate Rifles bassist) James Darroch's economical guitar playing and singing, were rock solid ingredients, but they had great songs and a no bullshit approach as well. The old cliché about the whole being the sum of its parts rings true.
Listening years later (and viewed against the template of the liner notes, which fill in a few gaps) it's clear that, for James, the songs were also intensely personal. Most good music is, and if you can't feel it from hearing this you need new ears.
There's the Rob Younger-produced single, "Johnny & Dee Dee" b/w "Julie is a Junkie". No mere Ramones homage (although its nods to the Bruddas and James Darroch personal favorites are overt), it sounded awesome at the time and, to these ears at least, is even better now with some re-mastering tweaks and the passage of time. There's everything from the (posthumous) "Long Live the New Flesh" mini-album (with the slightly more sparse version of "Mr Clean", which appeared on Steven Danno's hard-to-find Sydney compilation, "Swinging From the Trees", winning a place ahead of the original.) Try and resist the sheer power of "Walking" or the shitstorm rhythms of "No Pictures" and the singalong harmonies of "I Don't Need the Reasons".
Wrapping it up is most of the live album, "Girls on the Beach with Cars". Some take issue with the cover songs being omitted (and a couple were pretty good, like "I Wanna Destroy You") but hearing originals like "The President is Dead" and "Whore" (a stop-start part-spoken word rave that makes perfect sense) in cleaned-up form blows those quibbles out the door.
As someone who caught them live too few times, I can say the Dark had a live presence and sense of humour that set them apart from many (most?) contemporaries. The Sydney scene was flowering and mutating into a slew of subsets, many of them incarnations of what had happened, or was happening, overseas. It was a great time and we were spoilt. It's great being spoilt again. This release lets the rest of the world catch up. It's essential. Recommended without reservations. - The Barman I-94 Bar