Saturday, May 22, 2010

Custard - Wisenheimer and Wahootie Fandango (double album special)


Listening to Custard today I was struck by how much of a Britpop band this strictly Aussie act sounds like.  Some of the songs have a Blur flavour, others remind me of Supergrass.  And given the bands were doing their thing at much the same time, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

What is a surprise to me is that I don't believe I've ever seen Custard.  But that's probably because they were touring at a time when i didn't do too much band-seeing, as I was preparing myself for a career change into radio by spending a lot of my time on a community radio station.  And not one that played music, but one that read printed material for the print handicapped.

Whatever the reason, I wish I had seen them.  They sound fun and bright and just damn good at what they do.  I did pick up Wisenheimer when I was at radio school in '96, and Apartment has been a firm favourite on my gymPod ever since I got it.  Just what you need to power you through the next set of weights...



The last time I saw Custard live was when they were supporting Weezer on a national tour.  I remember thinking at the time it was completely appropriate these two bands should share a bill as they both write wonderfully skewed pop songs and feature enigmatic, idiosyncratic frontmen.  Residing in the musical territory somewhere between the aforementioned Weezer and the weird pop of The Pixies, Custard were a highlight of the Australian scene during the 90s.

I first heard them on a compilation called Youngblood, which featured unsigned Australian bands.  Their track, Rockfish Anna, showed their knack for writing pop gems full of clever riffs.  As later releases would show, the band could shift stylistically, often within the construct of a single song.  Instead of confusing the listener, this added  to overwhelming sense of fun this band projected and proved hard to resist.

Wisenhiemer/Wahootie Fandango is a special edition packaging of their first two major label albums.  Both are stylistically diverse and were seemingly at odds with the grunge movement of the time.  This, however, did not affect the popularity of the band, who became a firm live and festival favourites.  Despite this, the band had a hard time finding mainstream success.  This, more than anything else, led to them breaking up after a decade of hard work.

Listening back to both albums, I was reminded just how good they were but also of how they were a band out of their time.  I am sure if they were starting out today, their ironic sense of lyric and ability to construct simple-sounding, beautifully arranged pop songs would almost guarantee success.  It is unfortunate the powers that be at the time failed to see what a large part of the general public could.  But it is hardly so surprising.


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