Mushroom Records turn the big 40. Warner Music are now the owners of this fine catalogue and they are celebrating with the compilation, Mushroom 40 Rock. It gathers together 40 tracks from Australian and New Zealand artists from the rock genre and is supposed to cover the 40 years they’ve been in operation but does so with mixed results.

The collection does an excellent job of looking back and celebrating the past with most of the songs originally being released during the seventies and eighties. The words Pub rock and Oz rock spring to mind when summing up the collection, as the electric guitar has certainly been placed on the mantle. It also means a lot of these songs have already been released on previous compilations like those celebrating earlier anniversaries, the Countdown television show and even the beer and bourbon drinking compilations.

The set overlooks a lot of the more recent talent on the books. The most current single to be offered is Eskimo Joe’s Black Fingernails, Red Wine, which was released in 2006.That’s seven years of material that’s been overlooked. It’s a sorry state that the nineties and naughties are represented by so few acts considering the likes of Alpine, The Drones, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The Jezabels, Lior, Magic Dirt, The Panics and Powderfinger all could’ve been included.

The collection isn’t without its fair share of rarities however, with the label’s first two releases- Madder Lake’s 12lb Toothbrush and Friends’ Lucille offered. The latter is a cover of the Little Richard classic. It was also recorded live at Sunbury along with Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs’ New Orleans.

The term Rock is used rather liberally on the first disc as you have the blues offered by Matt Taylor, some country from The Dingoes and the rock ‘n’ roll of Ol’55. Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons’ Shape I’m In sees the group doing their best interpretation of The Specials and ska in general.

The compilation does feature some quintessential Aussie classics like Paul Kelly’s Leaps and Bounds and The Triffids’ Wide Open Road’. Split Enz are represented by I See Red but Crowded House has sadly been omitted. There’s also some unnecessary novelty tunes with The Swingers’ Counting the Beat(which most people will remember for being in the K-Mart ad) plus Painters & Dockers’ Nude School and Machine Gun Fellatio’s The Girl of My Dreams (Is Giving Me Nightmares).

Some elder statesmen of Oz music are also offered but not with their most obvious creations. Jimmy Barnes is represented by No Second Prize while Ian Moss gives us Telephone Booth and The Saints have Just Like Fire Would. This is only confirmation of the fact that the label has had its fair share of hits and misses over the years. Skyhooks were one of the first to fit into the former category and they had aimed to Invigorate, activate and instigate things. They had the biggest selling album in Australian history and you could say they paved the way for the solid gold, rock nuggets to follow.

Mushroom 40 Rock is an adequate celebration of four decades in history that could’ve been improved by sequential programming and more attention being granted towards the present state of things. As it stands, the compilation is drenched in nostalgia but with 40 songs spanning so many different sub-genres sitting under the banner of rock, it is impossible for every listener to enjoy it all.

One thing’s for certain, the compilation does succeed in capturing the spirit of Oz at the time; whether it was in the grungy, smoky pubs with sticky carpets or as a number of young artists took inspiration from their English and American counterparts and as they escaped their hometowns and the local cringe by obliterating negativity with a cloud of electric guitars and incendiary drums. Our local rock is an explosive genre and there would be a large void were it not for labels like Mushroom being prepared to go out on a limb or two back in the day.


Originally published on 4 September 2013 at the following website:—40-years–40-tracks-04092013.html

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