100 for 2000 – #36. Soap Star Joe – Tell Her On the Weekend

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2003 – #6. Soap Star Joe – Tell Her On the Weekend
(Laughing Outlaw)

Soap Star Joe were a wonderful band from Sydney who never got their break. They were my friends, and I was a big fan of the band. But they always seemed to struggle, and shortly after this album came out, the band broke up, and most of the people involved in this album I never saw again, and we seem to never talk about it. We didn’t use the word in such a context in 2003, but I look at this record and I feel – fail. Which is a shame because Tell Her On the Weekend was not terrible, and is in parts pretty great.

When I first saw Soap Star Joe, they had a different line up, but the singer/songwriter/guitarplayer was still Mick Wilson. Of all the musicians I’ve had the pleasure to meet in this time of my life, Mick was one of the best – and most interesting. He was always such a fun guy, always seemed a little mad, but not in a look-at-me eccentric way (like having an afro at an indie gig of 20 people). No, Mick was very natural, he seemed out of step with the indie pub rock world. But he was writing fantastic songs.

They had a few self funded, cheaply made EPs (which I loved) and finally found a home at Laughing Outlaw Records, run by local rock scribe and record man Stuart Coupe. The first release, an EP called Handstands For Love, was excellent. Yet for some reason, radios in the country weren’t blasting Met Drunk In the Corner – a hit single if I ever heard one. They continued to struggle for gigs and make their mark.

They released another brilliant single – Ziggy Niszczot (Never Played Guitar) – named after the South Sydney Rabbitoh’s player, about an era when the club was being sold after a few years of big business blunders. Who was writing stuff like this? Mick Wilson was. He was brilliant.

Time came for an album. They certainly had the songs. Talking to the guys at the time, they all seemed excited, but they also seemed tired. They had been playing these songs for a long time, for little reward. And it’s very important to note how old these songs must have felt, because they decided to try and be more creative in the studio.

But no one seemed to agree on what that new thing was. Managers, labels, producers, friends, fans – everyone had an opinion. Saul gave me these mixes with an electronica, bubbly mix that he thought was brilliant. It sounded unrecognisable. It didn’t seem like anyone had a vision – or had the ability to speak up for one.

I remember sitting around with some of the guys and some friends one night, talking about album names, and how it was just a joke by then. There was a couple of serious suggestions that were made fun of immediately. Otherwise, it was write-off. The title used eventually – Tell Her On the Weekend – was flat, unmemorable, and the product of a committee. It was the one everyone could live with. Heck, I would have preferred the serious suggestion of ‘Sunglasses’. At least it was weird and striking.

It’s the story of what I felt happened to this record. I still know many people involved, and no one ever seems to discuss it. But it was a fail because no one could agree – and more crucially, too many people were involved. It seemed everyone had an opinion about what the band should do, and Mick kind of fell by the wayside. He was never the loudest person in the room in the first place.

Tell Her On the Weekend lacks some of the sparkle and weirdness that made their EPs so great. That’s all I want to say because anything else – well I’m just doing what everyone else was doing. It should have been this, it should have been that. It’s how it turned out and actually what we have is still pretty great.

And it’s great because of the songs, some of Mick’s best, were not lost. Bus Stop, which opens the record, greets you with one of the best opening lines in rock. Raguletto, Kosheree, BBQ Police, Sega Master…songs about things that only Mick Wilson could come up with. Have you ever seen songs with such titles?

There are three real winners on this record. She Will Shine, the single, is them at their pop best. And who can beat a line like ‘High rise construction keeps popping up like Mormons…”. Not a Mick Wilson song, but Stuck In Traffic is the saddest song they have.

Finally, If I Were A Telescope. I think it’s their best song. It’s certainly my favourite. A love song that mentions 2sm coffees, Nick Cave and Sandra Sully.

We don’t really talk about Soap Star Joe anymore. They broke up shortly after the album. I don’t keep in touch with the guys. Every so often, I see someone who was there, like Worth, and we have a moment of regret, what could have been.

(Oh yeah, obviously no film clips for this…)

Advertisements