Saturday, January 14, 2017

The return (sort of) of The Cannanes

One of the key moments of my life, pathetic as it may seem (and may in fact be), was buying a copy of "The African Man's Tomato", the first album by The Cannanes, from Au Go Go records, in Melbourne. As was the way, back in those primitive times, word travelled slowly. I heard about The Cannanes via months-old copies of the NME. I was intrigued by this group from Sydney, who, so far as I knew, had no exposure on Melbourne radio or in the Australian music press, and yet were forging an international reputation. The album turned out to be a fine thing. I don't know, in fact, where my life would be without it. It inspired a small number of us, living and working in South Gippsland, to publish a fanzine. We heard from The Cannanes. We met them. We felt way cooler than we (at least some of us) probably were. As far as we could tell, we had captured the zeitgeist. And we wouldn't even have known what that was. (I still don't.)

Well, almost 30 years later, The Cannanes are still with us. But the band that is captured on that first album is not entirely representative of what they would later sound like: a large part of the feel of that album came from Randall Lee, who would soon wander off into his own world of self-released cassettes under the names The Nice and Ashtray Boy. (He is still going strong, too.) So by the time of their second album, "A Love Affair With Nature", The Cannanes, to me, weren't quite what they had been. They were a little bit less multi-dimensional. Mercifully, though, what they still had was enough, and the core of Fran and Stephen (often augmented by the rough drumming and, arguably, even rougher songwriting talents of David Nichols) has burned steadily ever since.

So it comes to pass, as the wheel of history turns once, twice, turns again, and so on, that "A Love Affair With Nature" has been given a slightly unlikely deluxe reissue treatment. Perhaps befitting a record (and a band) that have never entirely sounded "of their time", it sounds perfectly suited to the early hours of 2017. I'm not aware that The Cannanes ever sold many copies of their records, but, perhaps as is (I suspect somewhat apocryphally) said of the first Velvet Underground LP and the first Sex Pistols concert, everybody who heard it/was there was inspired to go off and make music of their own, and so it is that their influence, it can now be seen, is surprisingly strong. (Either that or they, and everybody else, was listening to the same things, and drawing the same things from what they were all listening too. Sorry, that sentence was a bit of a mess, wasn't it?)

Brief pause while I look up the word "interstitial".

While it is, of course, nice to see "A Love Affair With Nature" back in general circulation (and a relief not to have to sit on the porch with a shotgun while guarding my own copy of the original pressing), the real treat, for me, with this reissue is that it includes the two seven-inch singles that the band released in 1988, between those first two albums. I had always thought they neatly summed up what the band was all about, in both the Randall years and the post-Randall era. Listening to them again now, I still think that. (It's nice to be right for a change.) In fact, if you only had room in your life for four songs by The Cannanes, it might as well be these four. As a service to the community, I have collected them all for you, and, lo, here they are.