Recorded in the mid-’80s, ‘Late, Late Show’ is a suite of unreleased demos from Aussie outfit pel mel, led by a distinctive LinnDrum, casual vox and exotica synths, it’s gear for anyone who’s looking for more outsider post-punk/twee pop experimentation in the vein of Antena, Swell Maps or Young Marble Giants.
The only domestic signings to Factory’s Australian licensee label GAP Records, pel mel were an important part of the Sydney alternative music scene in the early ’80s, releasing two albums before going on hiatus until 2012. And while those records have embedded themselves into the Aussie rock timeline, there was more to the story – after finishing ‘Persuasion’ in 1983 and embracing a poppier sound, they recorded a set of weirder demos “free from the pressures of a commercial outcome”. Those tracks have now been dusted off and presented here, completing a picture of a band whose most vital material has been buried for decades.
The lineup is similar to ‘Persuasion’ with Jude McGee on vocals (Graeme Dunne took the lead on the band’s debut) and the rest of the crew mucking in with synths, drum machines, occasional live drums and guitars. And the material is an intriguing document of a band on the cusp of an evolution that never fully happened. They were known at the time for bridging the gap between post-punk and burgeoning electro-pop sounds, and on ‘Late, Late Show’ their interest in more esoteric electronic sounds is fully on display. ‘Love on a Funeral Pyre’ sounds closest to Antena’s enduring ‘Camino Del Sol’, McGee’s charming, theatrical delivery giving purpose to the band’s wonky LinnDrum smacks and carnivalesque synths – it’s pop, but stripped to its bones.
‘Shipwrecked’ leans even further into the Les Disques du Crépuscule mode, with plasticky electro-samba grooves bolstering McGee’s memorable cries, while Mr President harks back to the band’s earlier material, a lo-fi punk-funk scrape that bears up to comparison with Glasgow’s Orange Juice. On the title track, pel mel reveal how closely they’d been studying the UK’s pop output, curving reverb-drenched John Foxx-esque synths around smashed snares and Factory-style bass prangs. More than a set of discarded demos, ‘Late, Late Show’ is the ghost of a classic album that never was.