Monday, August 30, 2010

Sidewinder - Tangerine


Y'know, while we're doing this review-a-day thing I generally play my cards pretty close to my chest when it comes to music bought by YourZ that I'm not really familiar with.  I like to let him wait until I've written it down before he really discovers how I feel.  But when I heard Tangerine, I couldn't wait to come home and confront him, saying "How fucking good are Sidewinder?" (I'm trying to cut down on my profanity so you can tell I was moved.)

Side note: is a band a singular or a plural?  Do I say: How good is Sidewinder or: How good are Sidewinder?  Weirdly I would say R.E.M are touring next year but Bon Jovi isn't.  Thoughts?

This album is O-L-D... 1997 and recorded when they were young lads from our hometown Canberra (the nation's capital).  I'm horrified they never made it past this album, which sounds like the guys from Cream, the Byrds and the Beatles all had kids together who formed a band.  The songs Titanic Days and Here She Comes Again are particularly gorgeous.  I will play this album over and over agian, and I'm furious I didn't know about it before.



I was at the very first live show Sidewinder did, at a long-gone venue in Canberra called The Terminus Tavern.  It was a Sunday afternoon gig and friends (hi Nadine and Tim), who were in the headlining band, told us about this great young act and said my friends and I should make sure we get there early to see them.

Well, my friends weren't wrong - this band were young.  I think Martin was all of 14, although he looked somewhat older, while his big brother, Nick, may have been 16.  But as these kids played their set, everyone there soon realised that, despite their ages, this band had more potential than most of the other bands on the scene at the time.  And how right we were.

Sidewinder went from strength to strength, developing both as songwriters and performers.  I can't tell you how many times I saw them perform, first as support to the band I was in at the time then as headliners of their own shows.  We all loved them but we were also envious of their natural abilities and shining talents. Once they started recording, they outgrew Canberra very quickly and became a well-established name, not just locally, but Australia-wide.

On the recording front, they took their time and released a number of EPs, attempting to find their feet in the studio.  Their earliest, T Star, while probably not as confident as they would have liked, showed so much promise, it was scary.  This promise continued to show with the EPs that followed, Yoko Icepick and The Gentle Art Of Spoonbending and started to fully blossom on their first album, Atlantis.

But it wasn't until the first singles from Tangerine emerged that this promise really bloomed.  Titanic Days and Here She Comes Again were both huge songs, but also served to not only show the path the band had taken to get to where they were but also to show the direction they were heading.  When the album came out, local music press fell over itself trying to describe the depth and scope of the album.  From the beautiful, summery Sunshine In My Pocket (which Martin previewed on my guitar in my lounge room one afternoon) to the trippy Mad Women Of The Universe, as well as great rock tracks like God and Intensify, there was so much to take in.

What it showed to those of us who knew the band so well was the promise we knew they had absolutely realised.  But it was so much more than this, more than any of us expected.  And we were stunned.

Listening back to Tangerine now, I still feel stunned.  It's every bit as brilliant as I remember it but perhaps even more so because it still sounds so fresh, inventive and, more than anything else, relevant.  What pains me so much about this is that Sidewinder didn't last beyond this magnum opus.  Despite the promise, despite the blooming and the brightest of futures, they didn't last.

Tangerine is not just a Forgotten Gem (although it was hardly forgotten) but is quite possibly still one of the best pieces of music I own.  I was proud to call them friends.  And I still miss them.


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