It is a bitterly cold Adelaide night. It’s supposed to be spring but feels like the dead of winter. In the Arctic. Across town tens of thousands are packed into a stadium to watch men kick a ball around a field and there are a lot of other gigs on in the city tonight. At the Gov, on the other hand, things are pretty quite. For a double bill that boasts two of the most innovative bands Australia produced in the 1980s, the turn out is, well let’s go with disappointing. Before things kick off there is some speculation about everybody being at the sports ball. Perhaps the horrendous weather was to blame. I do wonder if maybe the audience for acts of this vintage are harder to find these days, or if the prospect of the first band not going on til 9pm is a deciding factor for people who are of a certain vintage whether to go out or not.
Those things said, the people who did attend last night were richly rewarded with both band turning in bloody great sets, heavy with hits, fan favourites and excellent musicianship. First up was The Machinations. They may not be on every 80’s compilation CD you see these days, or have the kind of historical significance to the general public as a band like INXS, but at the time Machinations were about as cutting edge as you could be. In the early 1980s there was brand of Australian guitar funk which was really unique. It was heavy on American bass sounds and syncopated rhythms, but had guitars, and pop centric vocals and some of the sensibilities of the UK new wave and new romantic flair for fashion. But it also had to work in Australian clubs so it had to be tough.
There were a number of bands making this kind peculiarly Aussie dance music. I’m Talking and The Rockmelons spring to mind, but Machinations were leading the pack. Tracks like Pressure Sway and Jack were firm club favourites all over the country and became cult classics in pockets of Europe and the USA. By 1984 Machinations were a big draw in Australia and appeared on the Oz For Africa concert, part of the Live Aid broadcasts. It has been a long time since they were last in Adelaide and the people here tonight are up for it. They were always a dance band and people were dancing from the opener Dance The Machination and their debut single Average Inadequacy from 1981.
It takes me a few songs to work out in my brain what is striking me as odd about the dancing of the people tonight. But there is a woman down front dressed in a suit jacket with oversized white shirt, an outfit that could have easily been appropriate in the hip clubs of 1982 and she is doing a dance I remember vividly. It’s a rhythmic kind of hop from foot to foot, arms straight out front bent at the elbow and lot’s of arm waving. She is through design or muscle memory, dancing EXACTLY the way she would have danced at The Tou-Can-Tou, DaVinci’s or Limbo back in the day.
Then I start to notice everybody else is doing the same thing. Not the exact same dance, but each tapping into their own dance memory and transporting themselves back thirty plus years, to when they would have been dancing to this band in the clubs of their youth. Machinations these days are a tight as a drum four piece and played a blinder under trying circumstances. Presenting most of their big singles and some welcome album gems, they were splendid. Highlights included 5 Miles Black, You Got Me Going Again, Do To You and for me Intimacy and Hearts. There is not many people here, but most of them are up and dancing for much of the set and by they time they finish with the killer double punch of Pressure Sway and You Got Not Say In It the dance floor is packed.
The Models basically had two phases to their career. They started as a kind of subversive art school band making dangerous sounding records with a knowing twinkle in their eye and a distain for mainstream pop. Their first (self-financed) album AlphaBravoCharlieDeltaFoxtrot deliberately had no singles from it. Next came the breakthrough ep Cut Lunch which established them as a force to be reckoned with. After some line-up changes in 1982, James Freud joined on bass. Freud and Kelly had been at school together and their first band was the punk outfit Teenage Radio Stars who recorded a couple of songs for the Lethal Weapons compilation, Suicide Records attempt at cashing into the emerging ‘punk’ scene in 1978. It also featured the first recording of Nick Cave’s The Boys Next Door. Far from ‘punking’ up the sound of the Models, Freud brought a great pop sensibility to their music and they were soon having hits and being on Countdown and whatnot.
What followed was an amazing run of classic singles that were often massive chart hits and their unexpected morphing into traditional pop stars. Freud had the pouting and posing good looks down, drummer Barton Price was a spunk-rat and front man Kelly and keyboard player Andrew Duffield all ended up in teen magazines as pin up of the month. They may have initially been reluctant teen idols, but were soon poncing around in designer suits with the best of them, and ruling the charts with INXS with songs that still sound as ground breaking and innovative as they did three decades ago.
James Freud sadly struggled with alcohol and other addictions, chronicled in two biographies, and sadly took his own life in 2000, just one week after The Models were inducted into the ARIA Music Hall of Fame. Perhaps brought back together by this tragedy, Kelly, Duffield, Price and original bass player Mark Ferrie (who had gone on to be in The Slaughtermen and the Rockwiz Orchestra) have been playing together on a semi regular basis and next year marks their 40th anniversary as a band. They take the stage with a minimum of fuss and start with Two Cabs To The Tou-Can, from Cut Lunch. A song I have always loved for it’s jaunty rhythm, call and response ‘Hey, Ho’ and the fact it was written about them trying to get to the Adelaide nightclub which was the first place I ever DJed. Hold On was the third single from their Media album in 1986. Ferrie takes the lead on Unhappy from Local &/0r General. They are sounding great and the dance floor is more and more crowded as the set progresses.
When they hit Out of Mind Out of Sight, their monster hit from 1985, the place goes nuts. At the time it was going head to head with What you Need from INXS and both had fantastic remix 12″ mixes that became club staples (including the Tou-Can). It’s 32 years later and it is still a killer track. Happy Birthday IBM leads into Evolution. They released an EP called GTK in 2014 and Drive Through Love makes an appearance tonight.
I have loved this band for over half my life and they can do little wrong in my book, but Barbados has always been my least favourite song of theirs. People LOVE it, and are dancing and singing along at top volume. I grit my teeth and let them get on with it. I Hear Motion was released in 1983 and was impossibly modern. It was the equal of anything released Internationally in that period. sounded like it like it could have been out of London or Berlin. Catchy synth lines, thundering bass line and super chorus. The sounds popped out of your speakers and from the radio. It was one of the rare times in Australian music were production techniques weren’t lagging behind the rest of the world. It meant that bands like INXS, Models, Kids in The Kitchen, Icehouse, Pseudo Echo, Real Life were all making incredibly slick and world class contemporary sounds, that were not like a 60% approximation of the UK or American originals. It was a glorious time to be a music fan in Australia.
The Models were infinitely more popular here than say Ultravox or The Thompson Twins, they had considerably more chart success and could outdraw them in any venue in the country. I Hear Motion still sound incredibly fresh and unique. The encore sees Duffield taking the lead on Pate Pedestrian (from Alphabravo…) and is a great inclusion for the die hards. They finish with the gigantic hit from 1984 Big On Love. It brings an avalanche of memories. Countdown, the fantastic video with Freud as the spivved up lounge singer Frankie Babylon, Price as a ventriloquist act and Duffield and Kelly as a pantomime horse.
Models playing at the Australian Made concert or supporting David Bowie on the Serious Moonlight tour. It still has swagger and groove and it’s a great reminder of just what a great band The Models were/are. They deserved a much bigger crowd tonight. I would like to thank them for the Pleasure of their Company.
Review by Ian Bell