"I'll show ya a trick," Ben
Mendelsohn's Kev repeatedly says to Jeremy Sims' Mick in
David Caesar's electrifying new feature film, Idiot Box.
Something wild always ensues. It's a line you can imagine
the two producers of this equally rewarding soundtrack,
You Am I's Tim Rogers and noted production head Nick Launay
(silverchair, Midnight Oil), throwing at each other. As
a mixture of covers and new tunes from some of Australia's
leading alternative acts, Idiot Box captures the joy of
priimal rock & roll, all delivered with bravura performances.
At the same time it brings back to light
a few lost classics. In the hands of Magic Dirt, God's "My
Pal" is an uncompromising last throw of the dice, ragged
and nihilistic; You Am I smash their way through the early
Perth punk stomp "Television Addict" ("Humphrey
fucking Bear!") and Mark of Cain summon all their considerable
drive to turn X's "Degenerate Boy" into a pulsating,
But the new tracks deserve as much attention.
These aren't album cast-offs unearthed from the vaults.
You Am I's "Cats and Dogs" is a melodic and infectious
as anything on Hi Fi Way, while "Gasoline for Two"
is an evocative paean to skipping out on a dead-end existence
before it swallows you up. The underrated Hoss, whose Joel
Silbersher was the teenage author of "My Pal,"
feature with the plaintive "The Bullshit Never Ends"
and Winter Salsa," a desolate cut from Gram Parsons'
Not everything works. Mark of Cain's "Hindsight"
is just too Nietzche with a backbeat, while Crow's "Halo"
is a moment of arch methodry amidst the sense of release
surrounding it (thier pulsating cover of Tactics' "Second
Language" is far more effective). Around these tunes
there's a selection of dialogue, a la Pulp Fiction, and
three variations on You Am I's ricocheting instrumental
theme. As a soundtrack Idiot Box succeeds in mirroring and
bringing to life the film it evolved from. But beyond that
it serves as a rollcall for the strength that has, and still
does, flow through independent music in this country.