16 Track, LP (2008, Aztec Music)
Related: Harem Scarem.
The Melbourne scene of the 80s embraced a wide range of music, but it was rare for a band to actually create their own genre with the panache that Harem Scarem did.
Their only album, Pilgrim’s Progress was originally released in 1986, and is a steaming chunk of urban blues from the Yarra delta. It kicks down the barroom door from the outset, with ‘Last Stand Man’, a bragging boast and challenge to any woman within earshot, followed by ‘Miracle Mile’, which makes it clear drinks are on the house.
Chris Marshall’s distinctive voice is given plenty of room, and is perfectly matched by his brother Charlie on guitar and maestro Chris Wilson on harmonica.
The lyrics mainly focus on love and lust- whether lost, found or simply wanted. There’s only one cover included and it’s interesting to realize that it took a bunch of Melbourne youngsters to really lay bare the heart of the Stooges’ Open Up And Bleed.
In the bonus live cuts, they hit an amazing place, swinging between restless motion and stillness, filled with anticipation, and make it all seem so easy, too. The crystal clear take of ‘Pilgrims Progress’ may be the best thing here. It’s a pity that the glorious ‘Figurehead’ wasn’t somehow stitched together for inclusion, and there seems to be some kind of odd revisionism in the liner notes, but maybe that can be put down to the passage of time. As a vital piece of Au Go Go Records’ history – and thus, Australian rock history – it deserves to be heard.
by Trevor Block