Tuesday, October 20, 1987
The Michigan Daily
Music for the
By Beth Fertig
Damien Lovelock's head is in a
whirl. The lead vocalist has been on
the road for eight months with his
band, the Celibate Rifles. The Rifles
are from Australia, but they've spent
this tour in America and Europe, and
are now back here to finish the last
leg of it to support their new LP,
Roman Beach Party (on What Goes
On Records). The record just hit the
stores within the last week or two.
They recorded it during the tour, but
it's not of a live performance or
anything conventional like that.
That would be too easy. Instead,
they took a week "off' to book a
studio in Holland where they could
record it. The Celibate Rifles know
how to get things done.
Roman Beach Party is one of the
Rifles' finest albums. After their last
Ann Arbor gig in April, it seemed
the band might have been getting
tiring. The show lacked the energy
of their records, and certainly wasn't
what the word had of their
performances. I'm told it was just an
off night, although not everyone was
entirely unimpressed by them. Local
politician/graduate student Dean
Baker thoroughly enjoyed himself,
and was supposedly seen slam
dancing at the front of the stage. We
can expect at least that much from
them tonight, when they reclaim the
Pig's tiny stage for their second area
appearance of the year.
The Rifles have gained quite a
diverse following, as demonstrated
by myself and Dean Baker. Their
grueling, dueling guitar lines are a
veritable powerhouse both live and
on record. Following in the post-
punk, grunge guitar tradition, the
Celibate Rifles are among the best
of Australia's exports. Exciting
keyboards and percussion sounds
have also swirled around their past
tunes, although on Roman Beach
Party they dropped the former, and
have pushed their guitar-based
creative juices to the limit. This new
LP is probably their most diverse
one yet, and even contains a
sparkling, catchy hook on the briefly
upbeat "It's a Wonderful Life,"
something previously unheard of for
Lovelock is very happy with the
new album. "I think it's not that
different structurally or songwriting-
wise from Turgid Miasma (the
previous studio album). But the
production and recording is a lot
better, which makes it catchy.
'Wonderful Life' is a wonderful
hook, and so is 'Jesus on T.V.'
Maybe if you write songs together
for six years you want to write stuff
that's more memorable!"
There were lots of problems with
the last album that Lovelock didn't
have the time to elaborate. "It was in
the studio for 18 months... I got
sick, we couldn't get the money
together... it was a nightmare. It was
the reason we came to America the
first time, to play a few shows
before we broke up. And then it (the
tour) was such a success that we
America kept the Celibate Rifles
"We got such a different response
here, people bought our records. It
was revitalizing. Europe was, too."
Unlike many other Australian
bands who have done well mainly on
the college circuit, Lovelock feels
his band's following is very
"We seem to have done the
reverse of what the Lime Spiders and
other Australian bands do. We don't
seem to be so big in college towns,
but in bigger cities we do well. And
Ann Arbor - with obvious links
with our music in Ann Arbor. But
I'm not sure how many of those
people that were in the audience are
aware of those links, Radio Birdman
and the Stooges, know what I
connection has to do with that sonic
roar the critics love to cite. Lovelock
admits, "It's part of our music.
Radio Birdman in Australia were a
huge inspiration to a lot of people.
They were the first band to play that
kind of music."
"Actually, we were more inspired
by Little Richard and the Rolling
Stones - anybody from early '60s
rock and roll, not necessarily the
Stooges. They showed people you
could do things that weren't done
before. But I guess Kent (Steedman,
guitarist) would say a lot of his
basic ideas of guitar playing come
from his early days of listening to
Lovelock's vocal inspirations are
a little more diverse. "My mother
was a jazz singer, so I grew up
listening to Carmen McRae, Esther
Phillips, John Coltrane..." But he
adds, "I guess Patti Smith is one of
my favorite vocalists."
Lovelock writes the band's lyrics,
and senses a gradual change in his
style. "I still use the same narrative
ideas now," he says. "A couple of
albums ago I started to invent
characters. I did it on Turgid and on
this album in the same way. I
actually had to finish four songs in
the studio because I got this deal to
make the album in Holland in three
days... on 'Downtown' I used the
lyrics as a rhythm instrument."
Lovelock is new to extended tours
like the current one, and says that
previously the longest he had been
away from home was only four
months. "I've never done anything
like this before," he says, adding that
it becomes surprisingly normal after
a while. As Americans are beginning
to take a more active interest in
Australia, Lovelock feels that
spending so much time in America
has taught him a lot about the
similarities and differences between
our country and his own.
"American culture since the
second World War has covered the
planet like radioactive fallout. The
Protestant work ethic is stronger
here than in Australia, and in that
sense it's very different. I noticed it
as soon as I got here. Everybody's
busting the gut. In Australia it's not
like that... life's not worth it, by the
time you got everything done you'd
be dead of a heart attack. I think it's
got a lot to do with who came to
this country and what happened to
Maybe so, but the Celibate Rifles
are undoubtedly one group of
Australians that are definitely
busting their own guts right now.
The Celibate Rifles will play the
Blind Pig with Spot 1019 tonight.
Cover charge is $6.
The Celibate Rifles considered breaking up before finding new success in the
United States and Europe. Be sure to catch their engulfing aerial assault on
Ann Arbor tonight.
...... . .... ... ... b.
By Tad Tuleja
Why do graduates wear long robes
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