Each month we handpick a collection of reissues, limited editions or just straight classic long-players that deserve a place in any record collection.
It’s 1993. Nirvana are the biggest band in the world. In Utero is fresh out and the band have been asked to record a set for MTV’s Unplugged series. The days leading up are tense: how will the trio, known for their raw, unpredictable live shows, perform under such a restrained premise? Kurt Cobain threatened to quit 24 hours before, and, concerned about the effect drums would have on the acoustic show, even considered dropping Dave Grohl. However, what ultimately ensued was arguably the best Unplugged ever recorded. Picking one song from Bleach, four from Nevermind, three from In Utero, and six obscure covers, this is an emotional performance from Cobain. Stripped of adrenaline, it is tense, deeply personal, and utterly beautiful, creating the final, yet indispensable, entry in Nirvana’s canon.
TOP TRACK: Where Did You Sleep Last Night
FAST FACT: The cardigan Kurt Cobain wore during the recording sold for AUD $470,000 in 2019.
INXS, Kick (1987)
The successful Listen Like Thieves US tour opened the door for INXS, who recognised the urgency in putting down a follow-up album that wouldn’t just turn heads, it would wrench them off shoulders. And the intent was evident out of the blocks: Guns in the Sky opens Kick with a sonorous snare and bass drum, Hutchence’s groans, and a stabbing two-chord guitar riff that rips the door clean off its hinges. The excellent funk-driven pop of New Sensation, a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a Prince album, rounds off the edges, and from there Kick just keeps delivering the glory. Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart and Mystify spill from the record like an INXS anthology of greatest sonic achievements. Kick is 12 melodic, tangible and infectious tracks, engineered to complete pop perfection. In ‘87, it stood unparalleled. This was the band at its zenith. The album would never be eclipsed.
TOP TRACK: Never Tear Us Apart
FAST FACT: When he first heard Kick, Atlantic Records president, Doug Morris, told the band, “I’ll give you a million dollars to go and record another album.”
The Panics, Cruel Guards (2007)
REMASTERED RED VINYL REISSUE
Back in 2007, The Panics were justifiably winning critical acclaim through the release of their excellent third long-player, Cruel Guards. The quintet would work with producer Scott Horscroft, pulling together an unpredictable yet melodic suite of songs led by singer Jae Laffer’s distinct husky vocals. First single off the album, the beautiful Don’t Fight It, would feature on several TV shows including Underbelly, and received high radio rotation, increasing the band’s profile. Cruel Guards displays exceptional songwriting and was recognised thus with a number of awards including a 2008 ARIA for Best Adult Contemporary Album.
TOP TRACK: Don’t Fight It
FAST FACT: Jae Laffer and guitarist Drew Wootton met on their first day at high school in Perth.
Whitley, The Submarine (2007)
The bloke who his mum knows as Lawrence Greenwood cemented himself a place in Australia’s alt-folk pecking order with his debut long-player, The Submarine. Just 22 when the album was unleashed, both his voice and deft way with a heart-tugging lyric belied Greenwood’s youth. The album’s second track, the anthemic Lost in Time, is a perfect example of the troubadour’s ability to meld predominantly classic acoustic folk stylings with pop hooks, while not being at all shy of the benefits that modern electronics can offer. Meanwhile, the album’s title track is a gradual builder that almost defies any labelling of folk.
TOP TRACK: Lost In Time
FAST FACT: Nowadays, Greenwood describes his Whitley project as “what I did in my misspent youth.”
Bluejuice, Head Of The Hawk (2009)
LIMITED CYAN BLUE VINYL REISSUE
Wow, that’s a bloody big chook! Debut album Problems sent out the message that Sydney’s Bluejuice weren’t the sort of band to stick to any one genre, and this sophomore effort underlined the fact. While loosely categorisable as indie rock, Bluejuice weren’t afraid of embracing pop hooks, or making deviations into hip-hop, funk and ska. Lead single Broken Leg was not only a shining example of their melting pot, fun mentality, but also toted a RAGE favourite video ode to skipping. While peaking at number 27 on the ARIA charts, Broken Leg hit number five in the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100.
TOP TRACK: Broken Leg
FAST FACT: The album’s producer, New Yorker Chris Shaw, has worked with acts as diverse as Public Enemy and LL Cool J through to Lou Reed and Bob Dylan.