Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Philisteins: an early 90s memory

To my delight, I recently found that one of my all time favourite (and now virtually forgotten) bands, The Philisteins, have a double CD out with their entire catalogue of wild garage rock songs. They played their last gig nearly 20 years ago, in 1992 at Hobart's Doghouse hotel - an impressive double set of more than two hours, playing a large number of the songs on this collection and thoroughly blowing 16-year-old me away.

Somehow the Philisteins never got the acclaim that I reckon they deserved. Adam Lucas writes in the notes that accompany the compilation, "the 'Steins had a genuine contempt for all things music industry and a knack for making enemies of potentially strategic allies." That may be true, but I think Australia's crap music industry can take some blame too. A lot of very talented Australian bands become famous abroad without ever succeeding at home. Well, the Philisteins moved "abroad" from Tasmania - to Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne!

Some Kind Of Philisteins EP (Greasy Pop records 1989)

As a teenager I was more of a metalhead than a punk or rock fan. But something in the Philisteins just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. They had more than a little in common with metal - fuzzed out guitars (not quite to the point of "metal" distortion); fast rhythms overlaid with lead melodies and gravelly vocals. But their musical roots and ambience really had more in common with the Stooges, punk rock, and 60s garage bands.

The first album of theirs I got ahold of was the Bloody Convicts EP, released by Greasy Pop records in 1988 while the band were resident in Adelaide. The second song was a cover of the 60s hit "You Must Be A Witch" by Lollipop Shoppe. Who, you ask? - as well you might ask of the Philisteins now. But the song is a gem and so are the Philisteins.You can also hear covers of the Troggs, Scientists and more on their new collection A Savage Affection.

Bloody Convicts EP (Greasy Pop records 1988)

The band's last album, Lifestyles of the Wretched and Forgettable (Dog Meat records, 1991) wasn't quite as memorable as Bloody Convicts - but still great rock and roll (and I have it on pink vinyl, beat that!).

When The Philisteins called it a day in 1992, Seattle sound "grunge" was just coming into vogue and I  couldn't understand how all these new retro-styled bands from the US were so popular when we had better talent, in pretty much the same musical niche, right here (and not just the Philisteins, to be fair). Marketing, schmarketing. The only of the famous Seattle grunge bands that could hold a candle to the 'Steins were Mudhoney.

Members of the band went into other Melbourne groups following their breakup - The Freeloaders, Glory Stompers and the Powder Monkeys. All good bands, but none had quite the raw authenticity of the Philisteins to my ears. Singer/guitarist Guy Lucas sadly passed away in 1998. Last I heard, you can still see guitarist Aidan raising hell with The Roobs in Hobart if you're lucky (and I highly recommend the experience!).

It's possible you can still order Lifestyles on LP - Corduroy Records advertise it along with much of the other Dog Meat back catalogue, if you're a vinyl collector. But I highly recommend the collection "A Savage Affection" from Off The Hip records.

And that's all folks... no politics in this post, for a change!


  1. Thanks for the review! It inspired a mental trip to Hobart in the late 80's. I never saw the Philisteins at the Dog House, but saw them live at a few other places around Hobart. I was there at the other end of their career: Their 1st ever show at the East Coast Wrecking Yard for KOG's 31st birthday party. I drove the band there in Nick McKim's old VW station wagon. See! Now look what you've done! I've started reminiscing.

  2. I saw them many times in Adelaide shortly after they arrived and they were simply brilliant. I don't think I ever saw or heard a band replicate 60s garage with so much power.

  3. Was looking up SA band Mark of Cain and ended up here, not sure how... Anyway, last year I bought a Vase bass amp from Music Swop Shop - came with a service receipt made out to an 'Ian Wettenhall' who was the bassist for the Philisteins from Bloody Convicts onwards and then went on to the Freeloaders. Google search has him now half of a Melbourne duo(?) called 'Wrong Turn' (with Myles Gallagher).
    It's a Tuesday.


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