Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Saints - (I'm) Stranded (1977)

The album cover you viddy to the right belongs to arguably the greatest Australian record of all time - certainly the most influential on the Antipodean music scene, and definitely one of the finest first wave punk albums. Now, check out the unlikely purveyors of the scuzziest kinda garage punk photographed on the sleeve. You'll notice that not one of them is dolled up in leather or safety pins - that Richard Hell-inspired scene uniform of the time, popularized by the CBGB's bunch and the London movement...
This is because in 1975, when the Saints formed and started pressing their own singles, there was no D.I.Y./punk scene in Australia to speak of, and indeed when '(I'm) Stranded' was released in February 1977 the band were still on the very cusp of an international punk explosion. The song of the same name was the first Aussie punk single and would more readily be considered one of the progenitors of the genre, had it come out of either the US or UK.
The band (and most of the songs on this debut) not only predate more well-known seminal releases like 'Damned Damned Damned', 'The Clash' and 'Never Mind the Bollocks', they really give those records a run for their money, whilst recalling the best proto-punk stylings of the Stooges and MC5. It's proper, back-to-the-wall garage rock in the 'Raw Power' sense, not only in terms of the fuzzed-out, ear-splitting production but also the 50's rock'n'roll influence - they do lean, mean covers of 'Kissin' Cousins' and 'Lipstick On Your Collar' (I suspect they covered the Platters' version actually but there's no video for it anywhere).
So that's all very nice, but the cover versions (the other being 'River Deep Mountain High') are by no means the highlights of the album. In true early punk style the songs mainly deal with teenage travails related at a reckless and parent-bothering velocity, with a welcome sentimental streak occasionally rearing it's head. The Saints (for this album at least) were every bit the louder Oz contemporary of the Ramones, one of the only other bands on the planet in 1975 to be delivering fun songs with such no-bullshit, solvent-pumped gusto. A large part of the album's appeal is also that the Saints were well outside the punk zeitgeist that was developing, none of them were photogenic... it's almost like they happened by accident - proving the theory that had London been nuked in 1976 (we can only dream!), some other gaggles of bored kids somewhere would have put their Stooges records to good use and made a beautiful, inept noise.

^Great band, rubbish crowd ('twas ever thus)

The album did get some minor attention in Orstralia and the UK (oddly enough they were the first punk band to be signed to EMI's prog imprint Harvest), but it seems like one of those records where over the years word of it's influence and following has snowballed - you are now liable to see 'Stranded' mentioned in any mainstream punk 'all-time' list - but I still feel it is ludicrously underrated in our oh-so-jolly Northern hemisphere. This is a 320 rip of the CD remaster, and comes highly recommended (what doesn't?) - treasure it as if you were 16 and discovering punk for the first time.
After this the Saints did two good-to-average albums: the second was tinted with more of an R&B influence but still packed a punch and had a more political edge, the third was a full-blown hornfest called 'Prehistoric Sounds'. Of course the vitality of the first album was totally lost by this point and the Saints spent the 80's carving out a name for themselves as one of Australia's foremost soft rock outfits (joy).

Afterthought: doesn't the drummer (second from the right) look exactly like Brian Eno circa 1978-ish? With a teeny bit more hair? Answers on a postcard!


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this great, great one :-)

[R][R][R] said...

I win this Tape in a Poker Game with Friends in 1983.
But I lost long time ago.
Great Aussie Band!

Anonymous said...