The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Cruel Sea

12-14-07 The Cruel Sea

(re-run from Aug. ’02)


514870.2 CD 1993 13 TRKS

GENRE: Late 80’s/Early 90’s, Australian swamp rock

Another group that I was introduced to via the magic of “Rage”, the Australian music video show. Thanks, again, go to Ken G. in Australia for providing me with many hours of the ABC’s “Rage”! It’s easily the #1 music video show in the world.

Apparently, The Cruel Sea came out of a band called “The Beasts of Bourbon”, who always sounded a tad Birthday Party / Nick Cave-ish to me.

“The Honeymoon Is Over” is The Cruel Sea’s 3rd album, I think. And it’s a good one. It was a huge hit in Australia. I recommend it to anyone who wants to hear Australians interpret (U.S.) swamp rock. My favorite aspect of The Cruel Sea is that their CD’s always include a nice dose of ‘swampy’ instrumentals (think Tony Joe White, Jerry Reed – slide guitars, Booker T-‘beats’ etc). On top of those references, please take into consideration that Australian bands usually work very hard and are very tight (Models, INXS, Divinyls etc).

I had the good fortune to see The Cruel Sea live in L.A., at The Troubador, about 1996 or so – probably because this album had received a U.S. release via A&M Records. They were excellent – the lead singer (Tex Perkins) was barefoot, and put on a hell of a show. The guitarists all had a lot of eye-contact with each other and the audience, it was fun to watch. They were huge in Australia, but, as usual, very few people in L.A. had ever heard of them. It must’ve felt weird for them to play such a small venue. To my knowledge, they never came back to L.A. They were a great live band.

For me, their best single is called “Better Get A Lawyer” (which comes from the album after “Honeymoon” = “Three Legged Dog”), the funkiest thing I ever heard come out of a Louisiana swamp, well, an Australian-Louisiana swamp. It described in amusingly lurid detail the fun one might have at the hands of the authorities in Australia. Good video, too. “…you’re gonna need a good one to get you outta this one!”

One of the sad things about liking non-US/UK bands on major labels – if they don’t get US/UK releases, you might never hear of them, even when they have a huge success in their home country. So, after “Three Legged Dog”, The Cruel Sea may have had another #1 album…but I won’t have heard of it unless I see it on “Rage” (which, sadly, I receive somewhat infrequently these days). This same formula goes for French, Dutch, Japanese music etc…it’s a lot harder to follow the mainstream than it is the ‘indie worlds’ of these countries!

2007 addendum: C’mon back, boys! All is forgiven!


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