So what period are we in now? Hard to keep track: Are we post-punk, or post-pop-punk, or retro-electronica-post-funk? Are we core-, slip-, trip-, or splatter-? What hyphenates will we finally find to define this moment in rock history, two years before the millennium and four plus years after the death of grunge?
And where, to get to the point, would you place a band like Litany? Four girls whose classical music training began at age 3, but who move through and absorb rock and glam and goth and punk and come out breathing a sound that is uniquely theirs?
Maybe a little history, because it's kind of cool: Fran Evans (vocals, guitar, bass), Stephanie Bourke (drums, vocals), Melanie Schmidt (guitars, vocals), and Suzannah Pearce (bass, guitar, drums) meet at Rock 'n Roll High School, a loose collective of mentors and students that now numbers 200 plus and has spawned some of the most exciting music to come out of Australia...well, ever. A place where girls play all day everyday using instruments borrowed and discarded, and has spawned bands like Sheraw, Tuff Muff, Midget Stooges, and Bindi. In 1993 the three original members, Fran, Stephanie, and Melanie, form Hecate, which would eventually blossom into the four piece, Litany and spend four years playing their hometown of Melbourne and the rest of Australia. They raised the cash to release an E.P. on their own label RnRHS Records. In 1997, the band spends time in the U.S. touring and recording a debut album, Peculiar World, with producer GGGarth Richardson for Time Bomb Recordings.
And it's a pretty amazing recording, too. Just a few of the nuggets: "By Myself," already an Australian hit, is a daydreamy ditty about imagining independence... and then kicking ass to get it. "When You Gonna Stop" is sweet pop about self-sufficiency, both personal and political. "Rome," a boisterous jam with fret-smoking guitar work and almost heavenly vocals. And just when you've got Litany pegged as pop pure and simple, dig deeper: "Rapunzel" is thunderous and heavy, and "Madrigal" will pull out your brain, roll it fat, and smoke it. A classical excerpt performed on violin, cello, and piano appears mid-record, listed simply as "Schubert," followed by another classical excerpt, "Cathedral," which opens simply with guitar and bass, adds organ then drums, and erupts into a mercurial mix of ambient harmonies and some of the heaviest music this decade.
It's the extremes and everything in-between, from sublime lullabies to kicks in the gut; this music will constantly surprise and amuse and fascinate and transport you, and it may just be the seminal Art-Core touchstone, and a panacea for the three-chord hangover - it's that defining.
So where would you place a band like this? Litany doesn't fit squarely into subdivisions new or old. Yeah, women, yeah, but not chick-rock or baby-doll, not dyke-punk. You won't find Litany on-stage sucking their thumbs and wearing teddy-packs, nor are they burning bras and giving fingers. So what, then?
Litany transcends the parameters so forget the banal labels and the faddish hyphenates and the next big things. Put simply, its just great music.
© 2000 Time Bomb Recordings