The key to Tactics is singer Dave Studdert. To get an insight on what inspired their first and best record we're gonna quote liberally from Bob Blunt's great interview with him in Blunt: A Biased History Of Australian Rock.
As a kid growing up in the 1960s I moved around a lot to wherever the family landed, meat work towns. I only had two records, Hendrix's Smash Hits and the Stones' 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!'. I wasn't musically trained or anything and, to tell you the truth, from my late teens into my early twenties I was more into cricket than being a songwriter or musician. It wasn't until I was about 21 that I started feeling lost in all that suburban marriage bullshit. I started reading NME and hunted down records by Love, Bob Marley, Syd Barrett and Dylan. I was drawn to that because I had always constructed myself as an outsider, so I hunted down dub albums and some Burning Spear. I was on my own a lot in those days. I developed an antenna for what was deemed good or bad.In the mid '70s in Canberra, Studdert dropped out of uni and formed a band. Punk had arrived in Australia but he didn't like the Australian copyist take on it.
Everyone was copying stuff straight out of the NME. All that punk stuff was kind of funny in retrospect but I had heard the Stooges and didn't want to sound like that. The music in punk never did anything for me. I preferred Jamaican stuff and Arthur Lee, Television and Talking Heads, which was more rhythmical with lyrics that weren't so straightforward and narrative, but more symbolist and double edged. Punk to me was an attitude and a kind of spirit. It was like the old is dead and the new is antibodies. I used this attitude because I was angry, very angry. I was doing shitty jobs, like cleaning out incinerators, and being hassled by my parents because I was 22 and didn't have a real job. With all this psychological tension in me, I wanted to release it all. I was wired, all the time. I was reading Rimbaud and Nietzsche and going out at midnight and driving around Canberra until the sun came up. I really related to Travis Bickle because I went a year or so without speaking to anyone.Tactics began as Studdert and Angus Douglas and another soon to be famous Canberran.
Steve Kilbey was this computer programmer who couldn't play bass very well. We played a few shows with him in Canberra. Our first show we played two of his songs that I could never get quite right.Oh well. After losing Kilbey and adding Geoff Marsh and Bob Whittle on bass and drums the band supported The Thought Criminals at ANU. Tactics followed them back to Sydney for shows, the first at Garibaldi's in Darlinghurst with The Thought Criminals and Crime and the City Solution.
I remember the joint was really packed. We played first and we weren't very good in comparison, but because I was this maniac it had something. When we returned to Canberra people slowly started to like us, mainly because Sydney bands liked us. The crowds still didn't get it. Copy bands were still the flavour of the month, especially the ones who belted out I Wanna Be Your Dog. Everything and everyone was a shadow of another. To this day that annoys me about this country because poor old neo-colonial Australia has always been good at copying. It's part of not wanting to be the excluded other.Taking the tenets of originality and otherness with us, we leave the interview here and focus on the band's first recording, the Long Weekend EP. From the "postcard from another dimension" sleeve on in it delivers on the fronts Studdert wanted it to. The quest for originality doesn't lead the band up their own backsides; rather the visceral energy of the playing and the uniqueness of the structures deliver in spades. For us, Standing By The Window is the highlight with the double tracked spoken parts and the great guitar refrain. One of the best art punk tracks from this country, and while Studdert's voice can be an acquired taste, it's a pleasure to hear a Canberran guitarist play with conviction.
It was a surprise to rediscover Watch My Hands while researching this post - a sublime drum led track with, again, some great, gnarled guitar playing; landing somewhere between the first and third Urinals eps, without sounding like the second. We'll leave the third track, Buried Country, for you to track down. Tactics' story is long, and we're not going to cover any more of it here today. Maybe another time...
Standing By The Window [Download]
Watch My Hands [Download]
|Standing By The Window was reissued as the b-side to the Gold Watch single.|