Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28: The Victims, "Television Addict"

Artist: The Victims
Song: "Television Addict"
Album: Television Addict (single)
Year: 1977

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though many try and write it off as only something that occurred in the US and UK, there is no question that punk rock was and is a musical form that has been able to touch every corner of the globe.  Even in its earliest years, one can find strong representations of the genre all over the world, and while many overlook it, there were few countries that churned out more top-notch punk music than Australia.  Within this relatively isolated musical environment, there was an edge and a fury within the punk rock bands, and yet an overwhelming majority of them only recorded a handful of singles and EP's.  Among this massive list of absolutely stellar bands, few can compare to the energy and passion that one can experience within the music of The Victims.  Lasting just under two years as a band, and only releasing a lone seven-inch single and an EP, what they lacked in material, they more than made up for in the raw power of their music and the pin-point execution with which they performed each of these songs.  With only these handful of tracks to their name, it is quite easy to argue that they never recorded anything less than amazing songs, and even in the larger group of Australian punk bands, they still stand quite close to the top of the list.  In a true display of their talents and powers, it is The Victims' debut single, 1977's "Television Addict" that stands as their finest moment, and brilliantly shows the unrivaled power of Australian punk rock.

For only three musicians, The Victims are able to generate a massive amount of noise and energy, and the opening guitar riff from Dave Flick implies a greater deal of musical understanding than most other punk bands of the time.  Within this riff, one can easily hear a strong base in the blues and "classic" sound of rock and roll, as he has given just enough distortion to his guitar to give it the idea amount of attitude.  It is the fact that Flick is able to stand with one foot firmly in the "old" sound of rock, with the other clearly in the punk realm that makes the song so superior to most others of the era, and it is one of the few songs that can be played endlessly without ever losing its impact.  Bassist Dave Cardwell matches this feat, as he brings a fantastic, deep groove to "Television Addict," and it is his performance that causes the song to sway, yet never loses any of its spunky spirit.  The Victims are rounded out by drummer James Baker, and it his relentless, lightning-fast pace that gives the song an unnerving, almost chaotic feel.  This fills are brilliantly tight, and the entire band seems to show far more musical maturity than one would expect on a debut single from any band of genre.  Though "Television Addict" does boast a solo, which some may say goes "against" the punk norm, it is the attitude with which the band thrashes through this section that serves as the ideal finishing touch to an absolutely unrivaled punk classic.

The Victims further set themselves apart from a majority of punk bands at the time due to the clarity of Dave Flick's vocals, as well as the rather thought-out and pointed lyrics which he sings.  There is no question that Flick brings as much venom and frustration as the other "great" punk vocalists, yet he leaves the almost cliché snarl behind, paving the way for a far more accessible lead vocal.  As he shouts and speaks each line, one can sense the high level of emotion in his voice, and it is the posturing and presence of his voice where one can almost take a sense of inspiration.  "Television Addict" is as much a rallying cry as has ever been recorded, and one can easily understand how the track became an anthem for the Australian punk movement.  Even if one is not aware of the real situation which inspired the lyrics, the theme is absolutely universal, and Flick holds back nothing as he unleashes an all-out attack on "the powers that be."  The lyrics of "Television Addict" speak to those who wish to blame popular culture, whether it be music, television, or any other aspect of "youth" when any young person flies off at the handle.  Though it was written more than three decades ago, one can see all across modern culture how applicable it is when Flick sings, "...they said too much sex and too much violence, on the idiot box spoiled his idiot mind..."  As he spits each line, Flick does a superb job at showing how shortsighted and pointless such accusations are, and it is within this performance that he almost instantly cemented his place as one of the finest punk vocalists ever.

Though both the band and song have become somewhat lost with the passage of time, whenever any compilation of Australian punk is put together, "Television Addict" is almost a required track on that album.  This is due to the fact that it is as close to punk perfection as one can find anywhere, and the slight cracks and pops on the recording only add to the raw authenticity that almost overflows from the song.  When one ignores the fact that the band was from Australia, there is no question that "Television Addict" fits in perfectly with the finest punk songs being recorded anywhere else in the world, and yet the fact that they were not from the US or UK only proves just how far the punk influence was able to reach in such a short time.  Perhaps it is due to their somewhat remote existence that groups like The Victims were not tainted by the rising "image" of punk, and this enables their music to be far more authentic and "real" that other bands that found far more commercial success.  Regardless, as soon as one hears the music of The Victims, the only reaction is to be frustrated that the band did not record more music, as the pure energy and unrestrained tone of their music embodies everything that there is to love about punk rock.  From the ripping guitar work to the breakneck pace of the rhythm section, punk rock rarely gets better than what one can experience on The Victims' phenomenal 1977 single, "Television Addict."

No comments: