Album Reviews

The Scientists

A Place Called Bad

Artist:     The Scientists

Album:     A Place Called Bad

Label:     Numero Group

Release Date:     08/19/2016


Every so often, the Scientists, always restless and unruly, needed a change of scenery.  Birthed in 1978 in Perth, Australia, these feral rogues, who toiled in obscurity and experienced a high degree of personnel turnover over a decade of producing primitive, captivating rock ‘n’ roll that loved danger, moved to Sydney and then London, before coming full circle and ending up back home.

Never interested in staying in one place too long creatively or physically, they were the coolest of transients, who savagely drowned their simple, modern elegance in noisy, dirty squalor, hypnotic drone and swampy murk of tracks like “Blood Red River” and “Set It on Fire.” A new archival collection christened A Place Called Bad traces their evolutionary journey into the heart of darkness.

All of the band’s studio recordings are wrapped in fully loaded four-CD, 80-song set enhanced with scintillating live show recording and a 64-page book packed to the gills with liner notes and vintage photos. Less complete, but more concise, a two-LP vinyl offering a 22-song survey and 24 pages of insightful, historical commentary is available for the less adventurous.

Regardless of how this incendiary material is packaged, A Place Called Bad makes a strong case for the Scientists as Oz’s most fascinating and daring punk export. To start with, only the bare essentials – tightly coiled bass, taut drumming and sparkling, slashing guitars – were necessary to whip up heartsick concoctions of sweet, serrated power-pop for their nervy, jangly debut single “Frantic Romantic” and “It’s For Real,” both songs tapping into adolescent obsession and frustration with the opposite sex with honest sincerity. Feeling their oats, they rocket forth with the spirited, shambolic glory of the New York Dolls in unleashing the youthful, full-throttle punk rock of “Shake (Together Tonight),” the unapologetically rowdy “Pissed on Another Planet” and “It’ll Never Happen Again,” and they seemed innocent and wild, capable of crafting great hooks that exploded on impact.

All the while the Scientists, led by singer/guitarist Kim Salmon, were hiding an inclination toward something much more savage and scary, culminating in the deconstructed, avant-garde violence of “Demolition Derby” and “Murderess in a Purple Dress.” Setting a bad example for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to follow religiously, they indulge in shadowy surf-rock on “Swampland,” and both “Atom Bomb Baby” and “It Came Out of the Sky” – with its inky, muscular groove and noir atmospherics – adopt an irresistibly campy swagger only matched by the nutty, morose repetition and black humor of “This is My Happy Hour.” Just give them a Nobel Prize already.

–       Peter Lindblad

Got something to say?