Record Reviews

The Great Australian Songbook

?All-time? lists, be it football teams or songs, will always be [met with conjecture](/articles/4293264). This is perhaps why The Great Australian Songbook – a set which promises ?40 of Australia’s finest recording artists performing 40 of the best Australian songs from ?last century? and ?this century?? – is, by its very nature, contentious.

Many of the tunes (particularly slices from the ?Last Century? disc, such as The Church’s ?Under The Milky Way? and The Easybeats? ?Friday On My Mind?) are unarguably classic cuts – poignant, nostalgic or fun-filled moments of Australian pop and rock that have grown to characterise a time or event of historical and social significance. However, when the list of omissions not only includes some of this nation’s finest artists, but also some of it’s most well-known (AC/DC, The Triffids, Sherbet, The Go-Betweens and Divinyls) in favour of claptrap by The Veronicas or Delta Goodrem, the end result is hardly something to be proud of.

Likewise, the ?This Century? disc reads alternatively like ARIA-award and triple j Hottest 100 fodder from the past few years (Alex Lloyd’s ?Amazing?, for example, and Angus & Julia Stone’s ?Big Jet Plane?). Even when the inclusion of an artist seems warranted, the song representing them seems to have been picked in accordance with sales figures as opposed to musical merit or even fan-driven consensus. Why any music aficionado (which, presumably, the unnamed compilers of the collection claim to be) would name silverchair’s ?Straight Lines? or The Living End’s ?Wake Up? as the single best tune of either acts? extensive catalogues is baffling. Moreover, the inclusion of Gotye’s recent [Hottest 100-topping]( /news/4418341) hit ?Somebody That I Used To Know? further suggests this was constructed with the intention of selling as many copies as possible.

One could possibly forgive the randomness of the tracklisting, if it weren’t for the fact that the compilers are trying so hard to craft the perfect ?anytime listening? album. It’s clearly aiming to be that kind of intangible album you will blare through the car speakers while at driving, put on at a party, or even as background music while trudging through the household chores. The Great Australian Songbook also makes a half-hearted attempt to assert some sort of logic to its existence via liner notes that briefly, and in the vaguest of terms, discuss ?the music business? before neatly segueing into advertorial for the ?Premium Edition? of the album (which features the two CDs in a ?stunning 90-page hardback journal presented in a gift box.?)

So who’s going to be buying this album? Australian music fans (or indeed anyone with access to a triple j Hottest 100 album) will likely already possess many of these songs. And with glaring omissions from just about every genre outside pop and/or rock realms, even newcomers should understand that the selections are in no way, shape or form, perfectly representative of the fine music to have come out of our country in this century and the last. A bizarre and confounding release.