Record Reviews

Super 8 Diaries

Melbourne-based film production chaps Matt Richards and Jeremy Rouse spent four years documenting the independent Australian music scene on Super 8 film, thus the Super 8 Diaries. Feeling themselves to be witnessing a rash of creativity, the duo started turning up to Melbourne shows with old cameras and assembling a trove of performance footage. This ad hoc archive captures something of the scene at a very particular point: bands they went at with their lenses include My Disco, Colditz Glider, Baseball, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Tucker Bs, Aleks and the Ramps, Mukaizake and The Tigers. So it’s Melbourne via Perth and back again.

The band footage here is universally rewarding – the aesthetics of these old cameras and the ragged, gritty tones they bring often match up well with the tonalities of the bands and venues. The slightly dicky sound of the earlier performances is slowly corrected, the whole Super 8 team becoming more proficient at conveying the experience of a live set. My Disco is captured in its pre-LP days, sounding almost sloppy compared with their current precision-focused sets. Aleks and the Ramps are both gentle and violent, as is their wont. Colditz Glider edge, as they always did, close to the point of being utterly ridiculous my-time-signature’s-better-than-yours macho nonsense. Eddy Current and Mukaizake are the ?straightest? bands; Current with their infectious 4/4 antics, Mukaizake with their wonderful, sturdy take on mid-?90s US college rock (Archers of Loaf etc). All of this standing as, yes, a document of an era – although a question remains whether all of it is universally worth remembering.

More interesting/baffling/frustrating is the framework on which all this is hung. All the bands involved are interviewed, each contributing, perhaps unwittingly, to the self-mythologisation of Melbourne/Perth circa 2005. Matt and Jeremy also outline their motives in a to-camera interview on the disc. Precisely how much of their banter is after-the-fact analysis of what was initially a for-the-hell-of-it exercise is unclear, but it’s all presented in a fairly defensive manner. This is nowhere more evident than in consistent/persistent/insistent references to Australian Idol*, the whole DVD thereby posited in some AusIdol-versus-AusIndie binary where bands, who are invariably asked to comment on the series, are expected to hang shit on the TV show. A number – most clearly My Disco and Love of Diagrams – refuse this bait. Others take it. Similarly, some bands are asked about the virtues of analogue against digital. While the very choice of the Super 8 – fetishised in the booklet via listings of equipment and film stock – suggests a decaying, besieged, harried community, buffeted by forces (*Australian Idol, digital cameras) somewhere beyond the community itself.

Letting the music speak for itself might have been the wiser choice here. With the handy aid of the DVD menu, the viewer can skip all such jibber-jabber and go straight to the performance footage. It’s here that we see the worth of the entire project, freezing on celluloid (or DVD, whatever) a representative snapshot of this indie music thing in a particular time and place.