Your guide to Australia in 15 songs

I’ve been mostly sitting at home this week with an effing cold, coughing my lungs out. The weather’s not helping, either. It’s either pissing down with rain, windy AF, dark as hell or everything together. In other words, full on winter blues. (Translation for the Northern Hemisphere folks: that’s right, winter has officially begun Down Under -> it’s the opposite of your smoking hot summer). So, taking advantage of the comfort of my bed, I’ve been listening to a lot of random stuff and come across a few so-called Aussie classics.

Part OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

And it got me thinking. What does it even mean: an Aussie classic? Is it a ranking done by Aussies themselves? Does it depend on the number of awards a particular title has received or copies it has sold? Or is it a “my favourite Aussie songs” playlist put together by expats? Or maybe a totally random collection of Aussie tunes voted on by tourists listening to what’s currently played on the commercial radio? Probably a combination of all three. And I know that there are way too many publications out there covering this topic. But I’ve decided to do it my way anyways. Because I’m bored and because I can.

And yes, some tracks on my list overlap with the usual rankings but you can’t not include Men At Work, can you? Some others will seem totally random. Most importantly, each song represents something I’ve learned about The Land Down Under, either politically-, socially-, geographically- or musically-speaking. And I want to stress that it is a list made today, 7 June 2019, and my super subjective choices are fully dependent on my current knowledge of things Australia-related. It’s not about whether it’s right or wrong, or what’s better or worse, either. So the below 15 tunes are just listed in the alphabetical order rather than anything else.

About You – G Flip

For me G Flip is a perfect example of what’s currently happening in the Aussie music scene overall. A girl who wrote a song in her bedroom, uploaded it to Triple J Unearthed in February 2018, and gained thousands of followers in a pretty short time. That same year she performed at SXSW in the US and had her own single tour. In 2019 she was already one of the artists on the Laneway bill. It’s amazing to see what talented and hard working musos can do these days with all the state-of-the-art equipment that pretty much anybody can buy and learn to play/program out of their homes. It’s also due to young Aussies’ dedication and perseverance to make their music dreams come true. And on top of that, girl power!

Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? – The Angels

Right. This is where my blog series title comes from. The song itself was not that significant until the audience response “No Way, Get F*****d, F**k Off” was added one day. Apparently, if you can shout it back when it’s being played, it’s a sign of being “True Blue (Real Aussie)” or having embraced the Aussie culture. It’s a like the “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi” callout, only slightly more brutal 🙂 Unsurprisingly, I was introduced to it right after coming to Straya.

Don’t You Worry – Electric Fields

Okay, so it’s not exactly what Electric Fields were trying to convey here. But this positive, dancy tune and its lyrics make me think right away of a very Aussie thing which is “No worries” and the omnipresent chilled mateship vibe that Aussies are famous for in the world. I also love the fact that the duo represent so many faces of Australia: the white one, the Aboriginal one, the queer one, the electronic one… And that’s a very, very good combination.

Down Under – Men At Work

This tune is pretty historic already and there are so many hilarious references to the Aussie culture, both in the lyrics and the video. My fave line is, obviously, “He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich”. I don’t think there’s anybody in the whole wide world who hasn’t heard this song and wondered if Oz is really all about “beer [that] does flow and men [that] chunder”.

Elastic Heart – Sia

Sia will always be a reminder that there are artists out there who do things their own way, whether we like it or not. She’s also a good example of an Aussie musician who has made it overseas and, who, on the other hand, doesn’t pay enough attention to their own country and music industry nowadays (my very private opinion). Nevertheless, with her powerful voice, prolific songwriting, famous collabs and stubborn attitude, she is one of the few instantly recognisable Australian faces (get the joke?) in the showbiz these days.

The Horses – Daryl Braithwaite

I’ve said that before, I’ll say it now again and I’m sure I’ll repeat it in the future: there is NO Aussie party without this tune being played at least once. I’ve been to or assisted at heaps of birthdays, weddings, high school reunions, sports games, club parties, cover band live gigs, club events, festivals etc., so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn it inside out. And I could sing the chorus even at 2am without fail, I assure you. So learn the lyrics because knowing Horses is like a test of whether you truly fit Down Under.

Marryuna – Baker Boy

Marryuna means something like “dance” in the Yolngu Matha Aboriginal language that Baker Boy speaks as good as English. And that’s exactly why it’s such a breakthrough tune. This super cool and approachable young rapper from the Northern Territory combines both tongues in his music. He’s not the first one but Baker Boy brings it closer to home for younger people in Australia through the one genre they identify with particularly strongly. It’s also worth mentioning that he does it in a peaceful way, without swearing or being too political – which is not very representative of hip hop, but people love it anyway. If I add that Baker Boy was named Young Australian of the Year in 2019, you’ll know what I mean.

Native Tongue – Mojo Juju

On a very similar note, Mojo Juju talks about an issue I’ve noticed in Oz as well. Yes, it is a very multicultural country. According to a 2017 census, 26% of Aussies were born overseas and the population is just below 25 million. And whilst everybody is welcome to embrace the Aussie mateship, you also want to cultivate your ethnicity and traditions from your homeland. It turns out, it’s a rather complex and uncomfortable topic that politicians don’t really know how to handle well. So many people simply feel lost, not knowing where they belong, as if they had lost their identity. Not many have the balls to speak out on that topic, so kudos to Mojo Juju for bringing it to Australia’s attention.

Never Be Like You – Flume feat. Kai

When I landed Down Under in January 2017, Triple J’s “Hottest 100 2017” was about to be revealed. Flume’s song was no. 1 that year. I’d seen the artist on a different continent at a festival before he was even Flume and, back then, I didn’t know how beloved he is in Oz. His career is a good indication of where the Aussie electronic/club music scene is heading in the world, and it’s straight to the top. There are some seriously good DJs in Australia making waves around the globe. So they should definitely look up to Flume for advice on how to step up their game.

Never Tear Us Apart – INXS

I’ll never stop regretting not having seen INXS live but I was quite young when Michael Hutchence left this world. I’ll sound like a total cliche but INXS songs ARE timeless. And very romantic. And sexy. Since I came to Oz, there have been a couple documentaries (another one is coming shortly) about the Man himself, the band, the struggles with stardom, touring, being away from the people he loved etc. It seems like the whole country needs a closure and there are still some wounds that are ripped open from time to time. We can’t turn back time but INXS WAS one of the greatest Aussie bands, mostly because of Michel Hutchence’s charisma, regardless of all the unfortunate incidents, scandals, bad press and lack of happy ending. And this is one of the most beautiful love songs.

Pub Feed – The Chats

If you ever needed a lesson on how to behave at a pub when you go out with your Aussie friends, you can thank The Chats for a comprehensive visual and audio guide. Featuring chicken parma, rump steak, tomato sauce and chips. Also, take good note of the (bogan) fashion choices in the vid.

These Days – Powderfinger

Another one of my regrets, this time related to the fact that I didn’t really know Powderfinger very well before coming to Straya. Worse even, they disbanded in 2010. In my humble opinion, they are one of the last true Australian rock bands. I kinda feel like this is one of the genres that have become somewhat forgotten or neglected Down Under. I wish I had discovered Powderfinger earlier. At least, their music will always remain.

Thunderstruck – AC/DC

That’s right: not Highway To Hell and not It’s A Long Way To The Top. For me, Thunderstruck‘s got everything that the world loves Acca Dacca (AC/DC in Aussie) for: guitar riffs, the vocals, the signature walk (jump?), the energy, the audience freaking out, the famous beret… Funnily enough, the video wasn’t even shot in Australia but London. It also talks about Texas, not Oz. It doesn’t matter, it’s AC/DC at its best. And AC/DC is sooo Straya, trust me.

6 Pack – Dune Rats

If The Chats introduced you to the pub culture, then Dune Rats give you an overview of all the rest: the surf culture, living at your parents, getting a job, drinking beer etc. Oh, and do watch the vid carefully. You’ll learn so much more about Oz in the global context from it. (I can’t stop LOLing at the Adelaide airport reference.) On a side note: watch also their clip for the song Bullshit to find out what a shoey is.

26 January – A.B. Original

If Baker Boy is a nice guy in the Aussie hip hop world, A.B. Original (that is, Briggs and Trials) are the complete opposite. But in a good way. They don’t f**k around with their choice of words, don’t give a damn about being polite or censoring their vocab, but go straight to the point. They shone light on the complex issue of celebrating Australia Day that Aboriginal people label “Survival Day” or ” Invasion Day”. The album the track comes from, Reclaim Australia, is one of the best Australian hip hop records with a very political message. Thanks to the song and the whole record, there has been a significant shift in the Australian mentality related to the Indigenous heritage, especially amongst young generations. It has also sparked a much needed national debate on how to coexist together (that is: White Australia and the First Nations) in the future. This is a topic that can’t be taken lightly or solved within a day, but even the fact that Aboriginal folks are finally listened to a bit more is encouraging.

Last but not least, my sincere apologies to all those iconic Aussie artists or musos killing it in the charts today for not making it to my subjective ranking. I appreciate you, nevertheless. It’s an open list, and I’m sure in a few weeks, I will have already changed my mind. Australia evolves constantly as a country, and so does its music. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

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