THE alternative music boom of the '90s meant that labels signed up bands that would have been unlikely to get deals in the musical environment that came in the decade that followed.
Genre-hoppers such as Beck and Ween, uncategorisable acts like Primus and Mr Bungle, and outlandish weirdos like Butthole Surfers and Flaming Lips all got contracts with major labels - something unimaginable today.
In Australia, one of the more left-field acts who found themselves signed up with the big boys was Regurgitator, a trio that effortlessly mashed musical styles together and laced the results with humour and nifty pop hooks.
Earlier this month, the band released their seventh album SuperHappyFunTimesFriends. Here's a look back at their first five mind-bending records.
(PS: they're in Ballarat on August 25 and Melbourne August 26).
Tu Plang (1996)
REGURGITATOR started as a side project for Quan Yeomans, Ben Ely and Martin Lee, who were all playing in other (more serious) bands around Brisbane. Warner Music was sniffing around one of those bands - Ely's heavy outfit Pangaea, who were considered one of the big hitters on Brisbane's underground scene - but instead signed Regurgitator. Two EPs followed that displayed the Gurge's unhinged merger of metal, punk, funk, hip-hop and strange production ideas, and both cracked the ARIA top 50 singles chart. Two songs from those EPs - Couldn't Do It and Blubber Boy - ended up on their first album, which the band recorded in Bangkok (a cheaper option than recording in Australia). Titled after the Thai word for jukebox, Tu Plang went to number three in Australia and showcased not only their developing sound but their wild sense of humour - it's a brave debut album that opens with a dig at the music scene called I Sucked A Lot Of C**k To Get Where I Am, which just happened to be the poppiest and most single-worthy song on the record. In fact, the album's first single was F.S.O., a blistering punk tune that railed against domestic violence, while the most successful track was the riff-rapping salute to fortune cookies Kong Foo Sing. Elsewhere they dabbled with surf music (348 Hz), electro-rap (G7 D**k Electro Boogie), a tropicalia-infused muzak version of Couldn't Do It, and grunge (Manana). But all that still didn't hint at what was to come next.
This has swearing in it, but it's the lovely tale of two Eskimo lovers who reunited through a magic ritual after one of them dies... or so we're told:
THEIR record industry cynicism continued here - the title is label parlance for an album - but despite that (or perhaps because of it) this "shifted units" big time. Tu Plang went platinum (70,000 records), but Unit did three times that. Triple J's recent Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time poll saw it voted in at number 10 and its enduring popularity stems from its uniqueness - it's an '80s-infused pop album (before the post-millenial '80s revival made such a thing cool) that satirises modern society, as well as providing some good laughs and catchy hooks along the way. Some fans felt they'd genre-hopped one genre too many (something the band pre-empted with opening track I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff), but others lapped it up. The Gurge wittily disected the increasing sexualisation of society (the c-bomb dropping World Of Sleaze and their biggest hit Polyester Girl), thoughtless pollution and social disconnection (Everyday Formula), consumerism (Modern Life), computer games (Black Bugs) and the nightclub scene (the Prince-influenced The Song Formerly Known As) - all of which are highlights. Recorded in a warehouse studio they'd built in Brisbane, Unit won the band five ARIA awards and concluded with one of their most under-rated songs, the existential Beatles-esque Just Another Beautiful Story.
Again, another swear word, and a keyboardist stealing the show. But hands up if you miss Recovery:
Bonus track - here's Regurgitator getting their Prince on:
AS with the track I Like Your Old Stuff..., Regurgitator attempted to beat the detractors to the punch by attaching the warning "actual product may not match expectations" to the front cover of their third album ...art. It proved sadly accurate. Despite being their highest charting record to date (it reached number two in Australia), it only sold 35,000, suggesting the band's appeal was waning. This was despite a strong lead single - the guitar pop of Happiness, which continued the themes of Unit with its dig at the brain-rotting powers of TV and tabloid magazines. The album is as diverse as previous efforts - second single I Wanna Be A Nudist returns to their punky roots, third single Freshmint! would have been at home on Unit, The Lonely Guy is a welcome diversion into new wave, and there are many variations of funk (the warped electro Feels Alright!, the Hoodoo Gurus-ish I Love Tommy Mottola, the dancey instrumental Are U Being Served?). But the downside is that a lot of the songs seem straight-ahead compared to past efforts, such as Ghost, the existence questioning Strange Human Being, the Lee-penned Obtusian, and the one-note gag I Like Repetitive Music. It would be the band's last album with Lee at the kit - the excessive use of drum machines made him feel redundant, while his frequent absences made the band feel his heart wasn't in it.
Here's Happiness - great clip too:
Eduardo & Rodriguez Wage War On T-Wrecks (2001)
THE Gurge celebrated the Sydney Olympics by releasing their excellent sporting piss-take Crush The Losers. Then, with new drummer Peter Kostic (Front End Loader/Hard Ons) on board, the trio headed to London to record an album and take another left turn - one that brought them back closer to where they started. The hip-hop largely absent from Unit and ...art returned in a big way - opener C'mon and single Hullabaloo hit hard with Yeomans' lightning rhymes, while the lame rap-rocker Fat Cop was a surprise hit (and their last charting single). As good as some of the rap tracks were, they lacked the subtlety and cleverness of their non-hip-hop tracks (Fat Cop and F**k The Goddamn World are prime examples of the lack of subtlety) and ended up riding a fine line between parody and rap reverence, such as on Head 1 Psycho or Famous. They still dabbled in other genres - punk-rocker Nothin' Ever Happens is a blistering 71 seconds and Corpse Xplosion is an inventive mess of ideas. The distinct standout is the suburban skewering of Superstraight which, like Happiness, showed their deft knack for merging social commentary with guitar-pop perfection. Produced by Gang Of Four's Andy Gill, Eduardo & Rodriguez... was their last album to crack the Aussie top 50. They were dumped by Warner after this and a hastily thrown-together best-of Jingles failed to dint the charts.
One of the better tracks off the album, here's C'mon (do we need to keep warning about swearing?):
Mish Mash! (2004)
AFTER so-so between-albums single Bong In My Eye, Regurgitator did the unthinkable - they built a giant "bubble" in Federation Square in Melbourne and spent three weeks in there recording Mish Mash! in full view of the public. It would be their best album since Unit but sadly the stunt seemed to overwhelm the end product. Despite the massive amounts of publicity and some of their best tracks in years, the album only reached number 52 on the charts. Opener The Drop is one of their best rap-rockers and The Game was another great example of their hip-hop skills. Ely again provided some fast dumb fun with punk tracks like My Computer Crashed and My Friend Robot, while Yeomans added some hooks and wry wit with power-pop songs Metal Is Big In The Baltic States and the mostly lo-fi Sonnet Of A Media Mogul. The great thing about Mish Mash! is that Regurgitator felt surprising again - never had they done anything like the oompah-based My Ego or the massive dirty blues/riff rock of If This Is The Blues Why Do I Feel So Green?. Nearly every song is a winner, especially the sweet sounding closer I Was Sent By God To Get You Off. It's even so good they left one of the best songs off it - Pretty Girls Swear came out a year later, despite being recorded in the bubble.
Here's the band in the bubble doing The Drop (and yes, there's swearing):
Bonus clip - here's Pretty Girls Swear. Is it just me or is this clip deliberately bad (and yes, swearing...):