(PB085) The Sugargliders: A Nest With A View 1990​-​1994

by Popboomerang

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about

When I first saw the Sugargliders, at the Baden Powell Hotel in Victoria Parade, Collingwood, sometime in 1989, they were nervous, sloppy, embarrassingly gauche and utterly compelling. These two boys – Josh was 19 at the time, his brother Joel 16 – from Melbourne’s far eastern suburbs played simple, original pop songs with such emotional honesty that I didn’t know where to look. Whether they were singing about girls, property developers or police car chases, you could tell they were singing what they believed, from deep in their hearts.

The DIY ethic was etched firmly in their DNA. Mostly self-taught, they wanted to create something new, something true, from the world as they experienced it, complete with its beauty and its injustice. It was not entertainment as much as something they knew they had to do. And so, just as it is compelling to watch footage of salmon struggling instinctively upstream, we became drawn to the journey of the Sugargliders.

They played lots of gigs, they kept writing songs, they started recording some of them. They were joined, at different times, by Marc Fulker on drums and Robert Cooper on bass. Their recordings improved under the guidance of Mark Murphy and Adam Dennis. They became better musicians. They inverted the standard pop set-up (a jangled electric guitar over a strummed acoustic); Joel, the acoustic guitarist, handled the lead breaks and intricate lines while Josh played the electric rhythm. A radiant acoustic riff over a strummed electric became a distinctive ’gliders trademark.

They had disdain for rock clichés and felt no affinity with Melbourne’s pub rock establishment or the vacant nihilism of the emergent grunge scene, identifying rather with the melodic, joyful, exuberant punk of Jonathan Richman. While they wrote from a male perspective, their music, lyrics and stage presence were devoid of machismo. They were not fashionable. Sometimes they would take to the stage in football jumpers. Once I’m sure I saw them do a gig wearing netball bibs.

Local pop nursery Summershine released their early vinyl singles, before they found a home at the legendary English label, Sarah Records. It was a good match. Both label and band believed in changing the world, one duo-tone sleeved perfect pop 7” at a time. They went to England. They returned to Melbourne. Ten singles in four years and they were gone.

What was the Sugargliders’ essence? What lingers after their brief moment in the sunshine? Perhaps a stark honesty or lack of pretention. They were always honest – sometimes painfully so (just listen to ‘Give me some confidence’ and ‘Police me’). Or maybe their idealism. They were deeply idealistic – so much so that it couldn’t last. But perhaps something did last. These 20 songs, lovingly re-mastered, capture the sparkle, the tenderness, the exuberance, the idealism and the honesty of the Sugargliders. A flawed but beautiful collection to touch the conscience and rekindle our fickle hearts.

Declan Weismuller
Melbourne
July 2012


It’s hard, but I will try…

How does one describe something indescribable? Up in the hills, high off the ground, sat the Meadows house in Montrose, in my memory perpetually see-sawing between mist and total fire-ban. I remember the weight of Joel’s guitar with the house number on it, stamp collections, North Melbourne Football Club stickers, crimson rosellas, an upright piano, Christmas presents. I spent a couple of weeks there once, while doing my teaching rounds, enjoying my aunt’s warm hospitality and my cousins’ vinyl collection. Then, like a season, I was gone, back to my bungalow in South Oakley. It had no insulation, a wall of windows and an A4 Sugargliders poster collection. Dancing lightly in a room of my own. Damn, they were danceable.

There’s a strange glow I associate with the ’gliders. A super-8 shimmer on the water, a jacket warm. Honesty, poetry, melody. Introversion I could move to. They had the courage to sing “I’ve never felt so shy” and “give me some confidence”. I owe to them my love of the word aquiline. Each new 7” single was warm, melodic, un-cynical, simple, clear. Like an invitation to be happy. In the galaxy of stars that are now available to download and forget is there anything that approximates that multi-sensory experience? Something has been lost on the way. Music is sent into the ether as zeros and ones and when it comes back to us, whether we like it or not, it is somehow colder. I wish for you, dear listener, the same possessive connection to these warm songs as I.

Tali White
Lucksmiths, Guild League, Josh & Joel’s cousin
July 2012

Find out what Josh & Joel did after The Sugargliders: www.thesteinbecks.net.au.

credits

released January 1, 2000

More info at www.thesteinbecks.net.au/sugargliders/

All compositions J. Meadows / J. Meadows, except 1, 2 & 15 J. Meadows / M. Murphy / J. Meadows

Mastered by Ross Cockle at Sing Sing

Thanks to Clare, Matt, Jason, Scott, Brad, Adam, Tali, Declan


On the songs below (unless otherwise marked): Josh Meadows – vocals, electric guitars; Joel Meadows – acoustic & electric guitars, vocals, harmonica, drum programs

1. Ahprahran (SARAH 72)

Recorded at CAT Music, Mitcham, London, December 1992. Engineered by Ian Catt. Bass by Joel.


2. 90 days of moths and rust (SARAH 86)

Recorded at Sing Sing, Melbourne, July 1993. Engineered by Kaj Dahlstrom, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Drums by Darren Seltmann, bass by Robert Cooper, backing vocals by AD & Murphy.


3. Seventeen (SARAH 67)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, May 1992. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Bass and special guitar jangle by Mark Murphy.


4. Trumpet play (SARAH 77)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, January 1993. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis. Drums by Anton Proppe, bass by Robert Cooper.


5. Reinventing penicillin (SARAH 83)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, May 1993. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Bass by Robert Cooper, backing vocals by Mark Murphy.


6. Letter from a lifeboat (SARAH 63)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, January 1992. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Bass by Mark Murphy, backing vocals by AD & Murphy.


7. Yr jacket (SARAH 86)

Recorded at Sing Sing, Melbourne, July 1993. Engineered by Kaj Dahlstrom, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy.


8. Fruitloopin’ (SARAH 67)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, May 1992. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Bass by Robert Cooper, backing vocals by Mark Murphy.


9. Unkind (SARAH 77)

Recorded at Satya, Derby, December 1992. Engineered by Jyoti Mishra. Backing vocals by Ilka White & Jyoti Mishra.


10. Give me some confidence (SHINE 007)

Recorded at Oasis (Timbertop), Ringwood, December 1990. Engineered by Andrew Porter, with Adam Dennis. Drums by Marc Fulker, Hammond by AD, bass by Josh, backing vocals by Ilka White.


11. Police me (SHINE 012)

Recorded at RMIT, Melbourne, April 1991. Engineered by Andrew Parks, with Adam Dennis. Drums by Marc Fulker


12. Aloha Street (SARAH 67)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, May 1992. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Drums by Marc Fulker


13. Will we ever learn? (SARAH 83)

Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, May 1993. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Bass by Robert Cooper, backing vocals by AD.


14. Beloved (SARAH 77)

Recorded at Satya, Derby, December 1992. Engineered by Jyoti Mishra.


15. Corn circles (SARAH 72)

Recorded at CAT Music, Mitcham, London. Engineered by Ian Catt.


16. What we had hoped (SARAH 63)


Recorded at C’est Ça, Melbourne, January 1992. Engineered by Siiri Metsar, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Backing vocals by Siiri Metsar.


17. Everybody supermarket (SEAGAP 1)

Recorded at RMIT, Melbourne, November 1991. Engineered by Simon Wood & Andrew Parks.


18. Another faux pas (MARINE 3)

Recorded at RMIT, Melbourne, November 1991. Engineered by Simon Wood & Andrew Parks.


19. Sway (SHINE 004)

Recorded at RMIT, Melbourne, April 1990. Engineered by Simon Wood, with Adam Dennis. Bass by AD.


20. Top 40 sculpture (SARAH 86)

Recorded at Sing Sing, Melbourne, July 1993. Engineered by Kaj Dahlstrom, with Adam Dennis & Mark Murphy. Drums by Darren Seltmann, bass by Robert Cooper, special guitar lick by Mark Murphy, trumpet by Adam Dennis, backing vocals by AD & Murphy.

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Popboomerang Australia

Australian music label founded by Scott Thurling and releasing its first CD in 2002 with over 80 recordings to date.

Specialising in melodic pop, jangle, folk and rock and predominantly working with Australian bands with the aim to building their careers locally & internationally.

Artists include Skipping Girl Vinegar, Georgia Fields, The Aerial Maps, Celadore, Bon Scotts, Tamas Wells & Tim Reid
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