ALBUM (2000)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


Blood Red River: 1982-1984
The Scientists
Sympathy for the Record Industry

Get any Australian of a certain age drunk enough - and reminiscing - and chances are you'll be informed of two 'indisputable' facts.

First, that it was the Brisbane-born outfit The Saints who jump-started the international punk movement with the release of their single (I'm) Stranded in September 1976 - long before the Britishcame along and put their stink on the genre and tried to claim it as their own.

And, second, it was a group of musicians who had first gathered together in the suburbs of Perth in the 1970s who dusted off the musical limitations of punk and emerged into the light of the '80s with a sound that more than a decade later would universally become known as 'grunge'.

Led by the irrepressible talents of singer-songwriter Kim Salmon, The Scientists burned bright but all too briefly in the '80s, picking up and leaving Perth for the big smoke of, first, Sydney and then London before they imploded. But their legacy has lingered long and hard, built on a foundation of pounding drums and feedback and vocals that grind like gravel.

Blood Red River began life as an EP released in 1983 when the band were at the very height of their powers, with a line-up that consisted of Salmon on guitars and vocals, Boris Sujdovic (bass), Brett Rixon (drums) and Tony Thewlis (guitar). An expanded version, though, lengthens the tracklist to include what was recorded in 1985 for the Demolition Derby EP, thereby giving us Murderess in a Purple Dress, a song which if ever heard stripped right down to its bare bones, charts a bloodline that reaches right back to the likes of Robert Johnson and the blues of the Mississippi Delta.

Far more important than that, though, was Salmon's vision - and it was a loud and nasty one that had found a spiritual home in the inner-city sweat pits that posed as Australia's live scene in the '80s.

The Scientists had begun life with James Baker on drums and, before he left to form chart-topping surf-rockers Hoodoo Gurus, he gave The Scientists the fierce beat on which they could build their sound.

If you listen to the likes of Blood Red River itself or Rev Head, you can see where the bands from Seattle that would champion the grunge cause found their inspiration, particularly the likes of Mudhoney (a band Salmon would later play with during one near-mythical tour).

Salmon's grunting and growling cast a template for a generation of singers, as would his method of swelling the vocals towards a final, bone-shaking scream.

The band called an end to things in 1987 after undergoing a series of line-up changes.

In the decades since, Salmon has continued to cast his spell across the music world as a sometime member of Beast of Bourbon and with Kim Salmon and the Surrealists.

This package, released in 2000, also throws in two of the tracks that first brought The Scientists to notice - (This is My) Happy Hour and Swampland.

So for the uninitiated it provides the perfect entry point to one of the underground music world's most influential bands.