This fortnight we’re stoked to have singer/songwriter/guitarist and frontman for Melbourne power pop aficionados The Wellingtons, Zac Anthony. Not only does he sing, write songs and play the guitar, he’s an absolute monster on the drum kit. If you ever get the chance to see him on the drums go check him out cos he goes bananas on ’em and he’s one of the best around. I was honoured to have him as a band mate of mine for a little bit so I got to see first hand. Anyhoo here’s Zac’s top ten!
WEEZER Pinkerton (1996)
The first time I heard Weezer was on a school bus heading to Year 7 camp. A girl who was a few years older than me in school was entrusted with helping the teachers to look after us ravenous year 7s. She had a trusty Walkman with her, and was kind enough share her headphones to turn me onto Weezer. “Sweater Song” was the first song she played me followed by a few other choice cuts from the Blue Album. Really I could have picked the Blue Album or Pinkerton here for this list, but I’ve gone with Pinkerton for the raw emotion and dynamics they managed to capture onto tape. The way Rivers screams ‘WOAH’ after the first chorus of “Tired Of Sex” under a wall of crunching guitars always gave me chills. The softness and fragility of songs like “Across The Sea” and “Butterfly” really hit home. The immediacy of “Why Bother”, the singalongabilty (yeah made that word up) of “El Schorcho”. And I haven’t even mentioned my favourite song from the record “Pink Triangle” yet! Weezer was pretty much the blueprint for what I wanted to achieve with my own songwriting.
PHANTOM PLANET The Guest (2002)
I moved to Melbourne from country Victoria when I was 18, and my band at the time slowly followed me and relocated too. I can’t recall exactly how it happened but I came to meet Scott Thurling (Popboomerang Records) soon after who showed an interest in our band. At the time he was running a mail order service disseminating pop music for discerning listeners around the world. I went over to his house quite a few times, dropping off Sweet Chuck (our band) cds that he was selling via his mail order service. Each time I’d drop 20 cds off, he’d kindly lend me a similar amount of CDs of bands he thought I’d like from his excess stock. Invariably he was right. Phantom Planet Is Missing (their debut) was one of those CDs, but again (as per Weezer) it’s their follow up record that is my favourite of theirs. You can hear the Californian sunshine in their melodies. “Always on my Mind” laconically bops along. The mandolin solo, I assume, a suggestion from producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Elvis Costello, The Bangles), only increases the So-Cal jangle of the doubled acoustic guitars (think Byrds/Eagles) and works sublimely well with the bounciness of the mildly distorted Fender Rhodes keyboard. The rest of the record overflows with memorable melodies summing up those innocent, awkward and sometimes frustrating boy/girl interactions that turn your stomach in knots. “Hey Now Girl” and “Nobody’s Fault” are prime examples of the crafted hooks and idiosyncratic vocal delivery of Alex Greenwald. I loved the record so much we even stole the font from the album artwork to use for The Wellingtons.
SOUL ASYLUM Grave Dancers Union (1992)
I was in grade 6 when “Runaway Train” was a hit and I liked the song enough to tape it off the telly to VHS for repeat listens. A few months later the single “Black Gold” followed and I gave it the same treatment. The second single hinted that there was a heavier edge to the band, more than the MOR acoustic balladry that was “Runaway Train”. It wasn’t until a few years later when I saw the album in a store. I was record shopping with my Mum and I think she was a little concerned by the name of the band and the album title, and she tried to coerce me into to buying something else (a few years back she had understandably confiscated my copy of the Motley Crue classic Doctor Feelgood) but I went on my hunch and with some trepidation took it home with me. The opening riff of “Somebody To Shove” in its minor key was quite jarring and the darkness of the lyrics delivered with fragility and a clear sense of anxiety was a little alarming for a pre-teen. But the explosion of the chorus with its shift to the major relative key excited me like few songs have before. This might not be their best album but it was their most influential on me. Dave Pirner’s creative and quirky lyrics blew my mind and made me smile, and the melodies and arrangements were like nothing my naive brain had heard before – experimental, punky, and containing enough hooks to have me engaged and wanting more.
YOU AM I Hourly Daily (1996)
In Grade 6 I did my work experience at Clarks Sound Centre in Leongatha (don’t look for it, it’s no longer there). My payment for the week’s work was $25 and my pick of any CD from the store. Hourly Daily was due for release on the Monday and I took it home on the Friday night (three days before its official release) with a bonus live disk attached, no less. I first discovered You Am I via JJJ (a national Australian radio station for those outside of Australia). I was deeply saddened and had concerns about my singing career when I couldn’t hit the high note from “Berlin Chair” while singing along. You know the note that not even the great man can hit himself these days just before the musical interlude at the end, he sings TOO LATE……… TOO LAAAAATTTTTEEE…
Hourly Daily built on the pop smarts that You Am I had hinted at prior to this, their most ambitious and dense record. Sounding more like the Kinks (before I even knew who they were) and less like Nirvana, this record was, as you say, right up my alley. Such a clever, well thought-out record. “Good Morning” was instantly added to the set list of my high school cover band. Rusty’s drumming style (flashy, busy and animated) really changed the way I approached playing drums (much to the disgust of every producer that has ever had to record me behind the drums). I went to see Soundgarden at Festival Hall mostly because You Am I were the main support. A diverse record (horns, strings, 12-strings) that ties together brilliantly.
THE POSIES Frosting on The Beater (1993)
I came upon this record around age 20. Hearing “Flavor of The Month” on RRR was enough to prick up my interest and I found the album in Dixons Recyled Records. Starting an album with “Dream All Day”, “Solar Sister” and “Flavor Of The Month” is as strong an opening stanza as you’ll find. Another great drumming record and Jon and Ken harmonizing is a thing of beauty. When The Wellingtons were asked to play our favourite record live top to bottom this was the record we collectively chose.
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
Hard to pick a favourite album from a band that haven’t put a foot wrong their whole career. I recall my high school girlfriend came over to my house one Friday night after school sometime in ‘96 with a copy of the debut F.O.W. record and Car Button Cloth by the Lemonheads. Me knowing little to nothing about both bands (and thinking I was abreast of all the cool new bands), I was quick to dismiss her new purchases. I was probably jealous. “Why’d you buy those?” I said. “Nothing good out huh?” By the end of that weekend I was proven wrong as we played them on repeat and did things teenagers do while behind closed doors.
ELVIS COSTELLO The Very Best Of (1999)
Yeah I know picking a Best Of is a cop out. But it’s honestly the way that I began my research on Elvis. I first heard “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding” in the movie 200 Cigarettes in around 2000 – the soundtrack featured several of his tunes plus Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to Be Kind” (the author of “What’s So Funny…”) plus The Ramones and The Cars among others. If I had to pick a favourite album of his without too much thought I’d lean initially towards Brutal Youth or This Year’s Model. Hard to sum up what it is about Elvis that makes him so great. He’s been a Punk, a Balladeer, a Country Crooner and everything in between, but one thing remains: he knows the value of a well-written tune.
MIKE VIOLA AND THE CANDY BUTCHERS Hang On Mike (2004)
So hard to pick my favourite record by Mike (the voice of the song “That Thing You Do” and recent member of Ryan Adams’ band and production team). Falling into Place and Lurch are other albums of his I could have easily picked. Mike’s voice has a tonal quality that is just so magical and emotive, you can perhaps sense his vast life experiences in his vocal delivery. This record is really intimate and personal and he lets you inside his life. The perfect combination of piano and acoustic jangle. Beautifully arranged.
JELLYFISH Spilt Milk (1993)
A much-loved, short-lived, ill-fated group. Again, very hard to pick which album (of their two) is best. Another band that I have Scott Thurling to thank for. Peerless harmonies, inventive arrangements, pushing boundaries (and multi-tracking) until they break. Belly Button, their first album, may be more consistent but doesn’t reach the heights Spilt Milk does. “The Ghost At Number One”, “Joining A Fanclub”, “New Mistake” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” are good examples.
RHETT MILLER The Instigator (2002)
Expertly produced and backed by Jon Brion (who nearly made this list himself with Meaningless). The harmonies and guitar playing on this record bring further joy to these great songs. “Our Love”, “Four-Eyed Girl”, and “Hover” would all contend for some of my favourite songs ever written. Rhett’s usual ‘bag’ runs more into the alt country mode with his group Old 97’s but here he focuses on some of the best pop ‘n’ roll ever made. The production is really dry and thick and makes for a rich listening experience. Pretty sure my ol’ bud and ex-Wellingtons keyboard player Amy Walters got me into Rhett.