Sunday, 20 November 2011

Jackson Zumdish - Flyblown 7" Agro Fish 13081, 1981

"Relentless art school mirth", or RASM for short - it's what led Johan Kugelberg to reserve a place for Jackson Zumdish in not only the Worldwide Punk Top 100, but in his Top 100 DIY list as well. RASM is also the reason we dealt with Jackson Zumdish so flippantly back in August 2010. Truth be told, we're quite partial to the odd piece of RASM - the first Avant Gardener 45 is a personal favourite, and it might be the quintessential RASM record - and in retrospect, perhaps our dismissive tone didn't do justice to JZ's first single. Which is not to say that we don't have our reservations - we do - but if we can treat pissweak singles like PJ Hooker with some dignity, then Jackson Zumdish deserves at least the same level of respect.

The full Jackson Zumdish story is revealed by the Kuge's interview in Ugly Things #22, combined with a dig around various sections of the band's website (which is like a Tardis journey back to 1994). In short, the band began in late-'70s Adelaide as a high school recording project for Antony Kimber (a.k.a Kimber Dean), Baden Smith, Michael Spargo and Andrew Bayfield. Musical inspiration is cited as the Sex Pistols, Bonzo Dog Band and the Tubes, a triad that manifested perfectly in the recordings which followed. After a couple of low-key cassettes, now compiled on an equally low-key CD, the band released the (I Wanna Be) Dr Who/Knup in Your Eye 7" in 1980, for which they have become best known. Less widely recognised is the second Jackson Zumdish single, the Flyblown EP, released in an edition of either 650 (according to the JZ website) or 500 copies (see below) in 1981.

In the Ugly Things piece, Kimber described Jackson Zumdish's lyrics as "an expression of anarchy and madness", but here is where our reservations kick in. Like Alain de Botton doing a karaoke rendition of Paralyzed, what comes through is an intellectual play at being unhinged, rather than any semblance of the real deal. That feeling is exemplified here by Internal Organs, a song interpreted by some as a pisstake on the morbid fascinations of Throbbing Gristle et al., but which sounds to us like something that might have been heard at the 1980 Adelaide Uni Med School Revue. However, what makes the song a success is that its skewed take on "It's what's on the inside that counts" is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. We're particularly fond of the redundancy in "Pancreatic juices come from the pancreas" - the "Tonight I'm gonna rock you tonight" of Adelaide DIY - but the kidneys and the appendix turn out to be connected to the funny bone, too. Unfortunately, the joke wears thin over five minutes, especially in the later spoken section, and a Just Urbain-like edit would have given things more punch.

Internal Organs [Download]

The real sleeper on the EP has turned out to be the title track. Initially overshadowed in its whimsy by the sledgehammer approach of Internal Organs, Flyblown has revealed itself over time to be the record's highlight. We're compelled to slot its entomological vocalisations between those of I'm A Bug and Human Fly, but the real insight into the band's inspiration comes from the alto sax solo which references Flight of the Bumble Bee (we recommend headphone listening for maximum bug-like effect). And unlike its subject matter, at a relatively economical three-and-a-half minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Flyblown [Download]

The record is also notable for the inclusion of two early JZ compositions, dating back to 1978. The House Detective wins points for the use of cardboard boxes instead of drums (something of an Adelaide DIY tradition, but we'll get to that later); and marriage to a potted plant, as detailed on Plant Phase, is duly noted as being fraught with pitfalls. Musically, though, these songs are less impressive - readers are invited to track down the EP to make up their own minds.

Lastly, this record has added a useful term to the Wallaby Beat lexicon. The state of being flyblown - in which flesh becomes infested with blowfly maggots - is an apt description for vinyl housed inside a PVC sleeve for 30+ years. Flyblown's cover, an elaborately printed plastic wallet, is prone to inducing the same "clouding" effect as that caused by the bane of every record collector's existence, the thick plastic protective sleeve. The hissing you hear in the sound files above is from our particularly flyblown copy.

"The music is nonsense, but the approach is no-nonsense": from the Adelaide Advertiser, 1981.

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