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NZ/Melbourne - Breeding Ground For Rock Revolution

North American Record Industry Sees Melbourne, New Zealand Music Scene as Breeding Ground For Rock Revolution


By Jason Leopold

Not since Nirvana turned Seattle into a breeding ground for grunge and post-punk has a geographic area become synonymous with a particular style of music. But such is the case with Melbourne, Australia, which over the past year has consistently been churning out some of the best rock bands unheard in North America for more than a decade.

Leading the pack is Warped, a hard rock outfit whose sound is difficult to pin down in one word, but whose influences are clearly grounded in punk-rock and metal made famous by the likes of AC/DC, The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. For the United States, a country that’s been bombarded with bands like Limp Bizkit, Creed and Blink 182, Warped are not only a refreshing change, they are messiahs.

The saviors of rock music, it appears, hail from Down Under. Bands like Warped, The Cants, The Smallgoods and Drivaside are turning Melbourne and New Zealand into the new Seattle and the major record labels in the U.S. are quickly taking notice and trying to capitalize off the trend. Bands like New Zealand’s The Datsuns and Auckland’s The D4 have signed lucrative record deals in the states and are slowly taking over the airwaves.

But it wasn’t until a virtually unknown Melbourne band called Jet signed a $1 million record deal with Elektra Records in the states earlier this year that record labels started to pay closer attention to Melbourne in hopes of signing the next big thing.

Many of these bands weren’t even born when artists they emulate, like The Stooges, first started making records, so why are they so inclined to try and push this type of music into the mainstream?

Frustration and boredom with the current state of music are the easy answers. But more importantly, the music played by bands like Warped reflects the attitudes of the working-class musicians who perform it. The music is an outlet and a way to let off some steam. These guys are rock stars. They strut and swagger. They shake and shimmy. They put the fun back into rock-n-roll.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote that Melbourne and New Zealand “has the patina of overnight success.

“The Australian and New Zealand scenes' ascendance has been decades in the making. The new crop of bands can trace their lineage back to the late-'80s, early-'90s Australian scene spearheaded by the Flying Nun Records label and groups like the Bats and Straitjacket Fits. They, in turn, followed a precedent set by the likes of Radio Birdman, the Saints, the Celibate Rifles and others inspired by Detroit rock and post-punk New York to play fast and loud in an era of synth-pop.”

Craig Regan, a writer for the Australian garage-rock Webzine the I-94 Bar said ‘the influence of the Stooges and MC5 in the mid-'70s was significant, if maybe a little overrated,” on bands coming out of Australia today. “Radio Birdman certainly had a distinct touch of the New York Dolls about them but were also very Blue Oyster Cult and Rolling Stones influenced. Melbourne took a more arty approach, evident in angst bands like the Birthday Party (Nick Cave's first group) and a host of impersonators.”

Like Led Zeppelin once sang, the song remains the same. And so far it sounds pretty damn good.

******************

- Jason Leopold is an investigative journalist based in California, he is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis. He can be contacted at jasonleopold@hotmail.com. This story is available for republication, please contact the author by email.

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