Record Collector, Issue 389, June 2011 (reviewed by Ian Shirley) :: Visit web site here
Southend’s 'echo' to The Bunnymen
Operational between 1986-89, Southend’s Taming The Outback steered a musical course somewhere between purple-era Bunnymen and The Alarm, though their official discography was limited to a sole 7”, Fire & Smoke/Blue Heart, and a cassette-only EP from 1988. Any momentum the band had gathered was halted when a publicity shot of the trio, crucified out in a field, landed them in hot water with both the local and national press.
Having now compiled a limited edition CD release, the aforementioned 7" and EP, 1987-88 live recordings and a second single cancelled in controversy’s wake reveal Taming The Outback to have been a cracking outfit. How Fire & Smoke/Blue Heart didn’t get them a major deal is a mystery, as these cuts are firecrackers, while tracks on the EP proved that they were far from being one-offs. Despite playing glorified toilets such as the Half Moon in Herne Hill, this three-piece managed to project a widescreen sound onstage, as captured with the live recordings.
As new obscurios crop up with the passing of the decades, Taming The Outback are to the 80s what the now-sung heroes of psych 45's were to the 60's.
Norman Records 2011 (reviewed by Brett) :: Visit web site here
These Southend lads seem to have had a bit of a raw deal back in th'eighties: recording an album that was never released, copping loads of comedy tabloid flack for their crucifixion photoshoot.
It's all fully detailed in the copious liner notes for this lovingly-produced retrospective.
On this evidence it seems a bit of a travesty that their stuff remained largely unheard as they do a very mean job of the whole gloomy, post-punk, goth-rock sort-of-thing, most obviously recalling Echo & The Bunnymen (particularly vocally) but also bringing to mind early Bad Seeds and even the likes of Wall Of Voodoo with the slight surfy western twang to the jagged, chorus-drenched guitar.
I guess that's the 'outback' thang.
They've got tunes to spare, for sure.
A little bit samey perhaps but then this sort of thing often is, I find.
This collection is obviously a total labour of love for the Equation label;
what with the 'regular' CD version coming in a hardback gatefold sleeve with a hefty booklet, photo reproduction and double-sided poster and the even more limited box set version containing all that plus a 7", four badges (for that black raincoat you'll no doubt have dusted off before the first few songs are over), a numbered card insert and a reproduction of a vintage fanzine.
Pull out all the stops, why don'tcha?
Aquarius Records, June 2011 (reviewed by Andee) :: Visit web site here
From the always amazing Equation Records, who in the past have brought us incredible records from groups like Fear Falls Burning, Bass Communion, Nadja, Landing, organum, R.Y.N., Troum, Ultrabunny, Apse and more, comes this comprehensive collection of everything ever record by late Eighties UK new wavers Taming The Outback.
Never heard of these guys? Nor had we, but listening to this now, it's a little surprising they didn't make a bigger splash, the label describes them sounding like Killing Joke and Echo & The Bunnymen, which is not that far off.
The sound is dark and jangly, the guitars reverbed and chiming, the bass thick and gloomy, and the vocals, a super anguished dramatic delivery that's a dead ringer for Ian McCulloch, and a perfect match for the group's angular downer pop.
We also hear plenty of old U2, back before they became stadium rock whores, that sort of brooding urgency they once trafficked in, and that seems to be the thing with TTO, their sound is dark, and a little bit sinister, a gloomy vibe that makes their sound that much more compelling, especially now, with so many bands looking back to that era to cop their sound, but ultimately unable to conjure up the same sort of passion and pathos.
And while this isn't some earth shaking lost treasure discovery, it is pretty damn great, and for anyone into Eighties post punk, or who digs the current crop of retro Eighties rockers, but would rather hear the real thing, then this will definitely hit the spot.
And where on first listen we were thinking this was just okay, repeated and frequent listening has found this to be a definite grower, and definitely revealed Taming The Outback as something special indeed.
The normal cd version comes in a gorgeous oversized Stoughton-style mini LP sleeve style gatefold jacket, with a big booklet, jammed with liner notes, pictures, interviews, articles and more.
LIMITED TO 385 COPIES.
The super deluxe version includes the same fancy cd version, but also an original copy of the band's only 7", a miniature reproduction of the Alive & Kicking fanzine, a sticker, a two sided mini poster, 4 badges and a special card insert designed by Organum's David Jackman, all housed in a super swank embossed box. LIMITED TO 75 COPIES!!
Brainwashed, 29 May 2011 (reviewed by Craig Dunton) :: Visit web site here
There's a mix of joy and sadness for me when it comes to releases such as this.
On one hand, there's an archeological fascination of seeing and hearing a band’s entire output compiled into a single release.
However, there's also the slightly depressing realization that their hours of blood and sweat and trying to "make it" can be so succinctly collected.
In this case, an entire career of unsung, aggressively sharp post-punk is tightly compiled into this lovingly-packaged collection.
In their four year career, the trio of drummer Daryl Amos, bassist Jason Sherwin, and vocalist/guitarist Tony Sampson, never managed to even put out a full album, though most of the pieces for one were recorded.
Instead there was a limited 7" and cassette EP that found their way out.
All of that material appears here, along with a few unreleased studio recordings and live tracks of not stellar, but better-than-expected quality.
Taming the Outback's sound feels of the era: not dated, but there is a certain sense of epicness that early Echo and the Bunnymen and U2 traded in.
Lots of big echos and reverbs that make even the slightest guitar sound a massive production.
That, paired with a taut rhythmic section that is reminiscent of Killing Joke’s mid-period career.
"Fire & Smoke," the A side of their only 7" exemplifies this, with prominent bass rhythms and rapid drums alongside expansive guitar notes and punctuated with piano.
The other track from that release, "Blue Heart" is of similar construction, but has a slower, more dour tone throughout.
"Mistrust" or "Eight-Hour King" both have guitar and drum passages that definitely made me think of (early) U2's 'Boy' (which isn't a bad thing), but with more of a sense of aggression rather than stadium grandstanding.
"No Soul To Bare," on the other hand, feels far more immediate and energetic, even through the less than polished production (it is essentially a live in the studio demo).
The unreleased live tracks vary in quality, but are all listenable.
"Devil's Calling" could pass for a studio demo, with its clear production and distinct instrument sounds.
"Wild," on the other hand, has that muffled, fluttering cassette tape sound to it that detracts, but also adds a little bit of nostalgia for anyone who ever enjoyed a multiple-generation analog bootleg.
In retrospect, I don't know how the band’s career would have panned out had they existed longer.
A controversial gig flier depicting the band crucified in a field (reproduced on the cover to this disc) that was likely part artistic statement and part publicity stunt didn't really help the band publicly, and was probably one of the first nails in their coffin.
I say I'm not sure because I can't declare that this is some lost diamond in the rough or anything.
It's a very well done and memorable post-punk collection that fans of the genre, such as myself would enjoy.
It isn't, however, some sort of revelatory piece of art that will change the universe with this greater level of recognition, but it doesn't need to be.
Monsieur D'élire, 16 June 2011 :: Visit web site here
A group from Southend (Essex, UK) who, for a while, recorded a handful of strong alternative rock songs.
This CD retrospective culls every trace the trio left behind: a single, a cassette EP, demos and live recordings - 21 songs in all.
The first eight tracks compose a planned debut LP that never materialized.
Too bad, there was real talent here.
I’m reminded of Echo & The Bunnymen and Peter Murphy when listening to Tony Sampson’s voice.
There’s something gothic in the attitude, something pre-emo in the delivery, and some of the guitar tracks are twisted.
Chain D.L.K., 26 February 2012 (reviewed by Barton Graham) :: Visit web site here
Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Every now and again I find a band or artist that I just am absolutely in love with, only to find upon further research, that they have fallen to obscurity and little to no more material exists to be had.
That is very much the case with Taming the Outback.
Being a big fan of the post-punk movement as a whole, I was certainly excited to give this disc a spin, but I had no idea what was in store.
A 'definitive' collection, culled from the entirety of their 3 year lifespan, '1986-1989' may just be one of the most quintessential post-punk records I've experienced.
From the opening notes of 'Fire & Smoke' to the moving, dramatic leads of 'Mistrust' to the final notes of 'American Dream' this CD is a near flawless listen.
So many classic influences are channeled throughout this disc, while not a single one of them can quite be used for comparison.
The Outback were able to draw from these influences and really put their own stamp on it all.
From bass sounds very reminiscent of the Cure's 'Disintegration' album, coupled with certain melodies containing the ghosts of Joy Division's early work to the angst of Killing Joke and hint of the "western vibe" of Fields of the Nephilim (with whom The Outback shared the stage for a tour) to the tension building vocals of Echo and the Bunnymen and Mission (UK).
The list just goes on and on, yet I can't stress enough, that at no point does it sound like any of these bands have been recycled in any way.
Taming the Outback had something so magical that this world just couldn't accept it, and after just three short years, tensions grew to a head, and the magic was no more.
Lucky for us the trio, after 2 decades, decided to release this retrospective of singles originally slated for an abandoned LP, demos, and live tracks.
While the quality of some of the live tracks isn't 100% pristine, some of the almost inaudible tape noise, really at its worst just adds a warm, nostalgic feel the latter half of the album.
Even the packaging is impressive.
A thick, heavy, double gatefold style cardboard sleeve is adorned with the band's infamous crucifixion publicity shot, and comes with a poster, and full 24 page booklet containing lyrics, interviews and reprints of more than a few press clippings about the band; and a second edition limited to just 75 copies (which at last inspection were still available) comes with the same, as well as 4 badges, a mini reprint of 'Alive and Kicking' fanzine from 1987 featuring the band, and an original copy of their only 7" in a picture sleeve.
Once again, just a phenomenal record in every way; go out of your way if you must, just make sure you get this one under your belt before you die.
Foxy Digitalis, 31 January 2012 (reviewed by Bryon Hayes) :: Visit web site here
There’s something to be said for elegant packaging. Case in point: this career-spanning retrospective of British post-punk trio Taming the Outback. TTO were perhaps most famous (or infamous) for their crucifixion-emulating promotional photo spread – the results of which adorn the cover of a slick gatefold sleeve. Also included are a fold-out poster, a sticker and a thick booklet complete with anecdotes, an interview and lyrics to all the legitimately released tunes. Very nice, indeed.
The story of TTO is one that is similar to that of many pre-Internet bands that never really went anywhere. Lots of gigging; the release of a single and a tape; preparation for an LP that was never released; feeling lost in a changing musical landscape; implosion. The song remains the same, as they say.
Sonically, TTO began life as a spitting image of Echo & the Bunnymen albeit with a real drummer – so much so that their debut single (“Blue Heart” b/w “Fire & Smoke”) could have been released under the name of those famous Liverpudlians without anyone being the wiser. The driving rhythm section of Jason Sherwin on bass and Daryl Amos on the kit continued to evolve and solidify, and eventually TTO found their own voice in the post-punk universe – somewhere between the Bunnymen and Killing Joke. Meanwhile, guitarist/vocalist Tony Sampson continued to mine the territory that Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant made famous with a dramatic warble and shimmering effects-laden guitar lines.
Years after the group disbanded, the members of TTO scoured their attics in search of lost artifacts of their glory days. This is the result: all of the recorded output, plus a few demos and live tunes. A band’s entire career boiled down to a shiny silver disc. It’s sad, really, but expected. Not everyone can be U2… …and who’d want to be, anyway?
The Big Takeover, Issue #70, May 2012 (reviewed by Terry Banks) :: Visit web site here
This impressively packaged, limited-edition (some 385 copies apparently) retrospective captures the everything-they-could-find recorded output of this English post-punk guitar trio. Sounding like a hard-edged mix of early Bunnymen, Killing Joke, and
Bauhaus, the 21-track collection starts off with "Fire & Smoke" and "Blue Heart," which, as a 1986 7", comprised Taming The outback's only vinyl output!
From there, the track list quickly moves non to material from cassette-only, and later, a host of '80's-era live tracks.
An info- and photo-packed 24-page booklet tells the band's story.
Level 4 Magazine, Issue 12, May 2012 (reviewed by "Drednaught") :: Visit web site here