Australia - Full Moon 81 - 05/16/03
Two Fisted Art (1980-1986)
W Minc Records
My first encounter with Dave Graney was in his Coral Snakes guise in around 1991 at the
Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney. He was in lonesome prairie acoustic mode, with a handle bar moustache
and a zen-like stage demeanor. Lush and laid-back, it sounded as though Graney had a whammy bar
fixed permanently to his voice and run through the PA. The pubs at this stage were being bludgeoned
mercilessly with 'all thrash-no chat'. It was a revelation witnessing rambling narratives dropped
among wistful songs about love n' loss and Graney's continuing dialogue with show business. The
'Snakes were wonderfully out of step with the impending wave of grunge breaking over the scene
and it's what endeared him to many during those meandering, intimate shows.
Rewind to the late seventies - from humble beginnings in Adelaide and Melbourne The Moodists
soon realised better things may have been on offer overseas. Not wanting to remain humble they
jetted off for London like many of their contemporaries (Go-Betweens, Triffids, Birthday Party).
They spent most of their career in the UK trying to make a fist of it and despite the notoriously
fickle English press lumping them in with other visiting Australians (because they all sound
the same) and their seemingly hand to mouth existence, managed a not insignificant output in
a relatively short period of time, cutting two albums and a handful of mini albums and singles.
The first disc contains studio recordings and the second comprises live material recorded at
gigs in Australia and the UK from 1983-85. There's a kind of beauty through repetition in their
most impressive stuff, whether it's the heated "Some Kinda Jones" or the knife-edge "Boss
Shitkicker" and the relentless rumble of "The Disciple's Know". No matter how many times you
revisit these tracks, they'll leave you with the sensation they could fall apart at any moment,
truly compelling listening.
The insistent muscle of the rhythm section over a scathing guitar, alongside Graney's rich
vocalising were all vital ingredients, not to mention the intuitive power of Clare Moore's
drumming. Also in the band was Mick Turner (currently Dirty Three and Tren Brothers) and The
Moodists' sound engineer Victor Van Vugt (now residing in New York) whose credits include Beth
Orton, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
The second disc captures The Moodists live in all their blistering menace. "Enough Legs to
Live On" is unrelenting, anchored by a huge bass sound that'll have you wishing you could've been
present to feel it in the pit of your stomach. A true mess of dark stuff pervades "Bullet Train",
the perfect vehicle for Graney's impassioned vocals backed by an ever-present brutal rhythm and a
nasty layer of chicken-scratch guitar. Although largely ignored in Australia during their existence,
The Moodists' influence can't be denied; this here punter can hear their attack echoed in the moody
urgency and lurching bass of nineties band Crow and current Sydneysiders, the confronting Bluebottle
Excellent liner notes penned by David Nicholls (responsible for the engrossing Go Betweens
book of 1997) accompany the release. Nicholls recalls a humorous meeting with the band for the
first issue of his fanzine Distant Violins and a vivid account of witnessing the band's live
intensity on several occasions.
A great overview of a truly unique and influential band - the response to the Two Fisted Art
retrospective has been such that they've decided to reform for a small run of shows in Australia,
which will be essential viewing for original fans. It will also be of particular interest to those
like myself who, though not old enough to have witnessed the band at the time, have been both
entertained and intrigued by this guy Graney and his impressive output and performances following
Copyright © 2003 Brian Stradbrook