One of Australia’s best musical exports, the formidable Died Pretty, shone brightly in the eighties over a series of spectacular albums that were only out done by the band’s mesmerising live performances. I will never forget seeing them at the late lamented Mosman Hotel in Sydney in the eighties completely transfixed by singer Ron S Peno: a prowling wrath ranging across the stage with a burning, visceral intensity.
The announcement today of a Died Pretty live album from Citadel Records is utterly brilliant – with the force and power of their songs captured in a thrilling live performance. And the album is spectacular.
Died Pretty reached a peak with what remains in my view one of the best Australian albums ever – the statuesque ‘Doughboy Hollow’ – but their other albums were just as magnificent with their brand of dark gothic pop . From ‘Free Dirt’, ‘Lost’, ‘Every Brilliant Eye’ to later material which expanded their horizons, with ‘Trace’ (becoming their highest selling album) and their final two albums taking a more experimental electronic direction. A series of early brilliant EPs were later collated in the magnificent album ‘Pre-Deity’ – an album of such stature that it should be compulsory in any collection.
As with their compatriots and peers The Go-Betweens and The Triffids, the band never achieved the commercial success they deserved.
Peno, the mesmerising front man, and Brett Myers, the architect of the distinctive jangling guitar sound have gone on to other projects – Peno now based in Melbourne and playing with his band The Superstitions and Myers based north of Sydney playing in Joey’s Coop.
In 2008, the band reformed to play a series of gigs across Australia to celebrate ‘Doughboy Hollow’ as part of a ‘Don’t Look Back’ series, and the result are magnificently captured in ‘Live At The Forum 2008’.
Covering the album in its entirety, the band also brought to life some of their other classic tracks – the only tragically absent tracks are early classics ‘Out Of The Unknown’ and ‘Mirror Blues’.
The pop majesty of Died Pretty shines through in every track: soaring melodies and a precise delivery that is as fresh and enchanting as it was forty years ago. It is a sweet and pretty pop with a barbed-wire spine and an inherent heart of darkness, Peno’s extraordinary presence and vocals shining through the recording, capturing even the euphoric ecstatic falsetto whooping in ‘Satisfied’.
The sound and production on this double album are magnificent – crystal clear and capturing the incisive, arctic scythes of Myers’s guitar playing and Peno’s soaring vocals. The different moods of the band shine through – the psychedelic drone of ‘Battle of Stanmore’, the yearning statuesque beauty of ‘The Love Song’ and the raw emotions of ‘Everybody Moves’. Tracks like ‘Out In The Rain’ are delivered with the graceful beauty that typifies Died Pretty: urging, euphoric songs that are spectacular and theatrical.
The first eleven tracks on the album are from ‘Doughboy Hollow’ played in strict order after which the band turns to their earlier material – the earthier, darker grungier songs. Every track on the album could have been a single, every track should have made this band a household name. The second half of the performance is eye watering as the band launches into the most endearing material created when the band was in its infancy: a wilder, more chaotic and thrilling era, less polished at the time but ultimately perfect pop songs cloaked in a whiff of debauchery and excess. ‘Blue Sky Day’, ‘Everybody Moves’, ‘Stoneage Cinderella’, ‘Winterland’ and ‘Final Twist’ sound as vital and immediate, as angry and passionate, as they did more than thirty years ago.
‘Live At The Forum 2008’ is delivered with the quality and clarity of a studio-recorded best of collection – the performances are exemplary and precise with the added thrill of the expressive passion of a live gig – a little light in-between song banter, an exuberant yelp here and there, and an appreciative, demonstrative audience.
The album is available to download and stream now and can be ordered here. Died Pretty will be announcing a series of live gigs to celebrate the release of the album. Died Pretty will be supported by the equally legendary Underground Lovers at the following venues:
Friday 13th October: Enmore Theatre – Sydney (fully seated concert mode) – tickets here.
Saturday 21st October: Princess Theatre – Brisbane – tickets here.
Friday 27th October: National Theatre – Melbourne (fully seated). Presented by 3RRR – tickets here.
Tickets to the general public will go on sale this coming Monday, 27 March.
This seminal recording will be released in both CD and LP format. The double LP is 180g vinyl and comes in a full colour gatefold sleeve and contains a bonus track.
- Stop Myself
- Battle of Stanmore
- The Love Song
- Out in the Rain
- Turn Your Head
- Blue Sky Day
- Stoneage Cinderella
- Everybody Moves
- Whitlam Square
- Final Twist