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Michael Tunn’s Request Fest

Double J, Friday May 1st 2015 (online here):

We’ve dug up a classic TISM interview to celebrate 20 years since the release of their biggest album.

Today marks 20 years since the release of TISM’s massively popular fourth album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons.

The record was the anarchic Melbourne band’s most successful. It sold enough copies to go gold, it hit number eight in the charts and spawned singles like ‘Greg, The Stop Sign’ and ‘(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River’, both of which appeared in the top ten of triple j’s Hottest 100.

To celebrate 20 years since this excellent album’s release, we’ve trawled through the triple j archives and found some typically wild audio of the band back in the day.

They dropped by Michael Tunn’s Request Fest in 1995, where they proceeded to take calls from TISM fans. Unsurprisingly, the band weren’t overly pleasant and took the opportunity to abuse anyone brave enough to call in.

“We don’t like you,” they say to one caller. “You’re an ugly, boring, yobbo guy.”

That pretty much sums up the way the band responded to each of the callers. It makes for hilarious listening, though you have to feel for some of the callers.

Please enjoy. And remember, TISM are shit.

Greg! The Stop Sign!! by TISM – a metaphor for our collective mortality

The Guardian, Tuesday November 25th 2014 (online here):

Greg! The Stop Sign!! by TISM – a metaphor for our collective mortality
Adam Woolcock

Timeless wisdom and the thrillingly bizarre come together for a TISM track inspired by road safety ads

There can be no more difficult musical task than writing songs that successfully tell stories while also including gags that avoid landing with a loud clanging noise. And no Australian act has ever achieved this feat with the same strike rate as This Is Serious Mum (TISM).

TISM formed in 1982, playing their charismatically named the Get Fucked Concert the following year. But it was their 1995 song Greg! The Stop Sign!! that first turned my then young head in their direction. It was one of those rare moments where after hearing one song, you know you’ve got to seek out everything in the artist’s back catalogue.

A postmodern take on the Dead Man’s Curve-style “death song”, Greg! The Stop Sign!! uses the tragic fate of a carload of fictional teenagers as a metaphor for our collective mortality via a tribute to a series of road safety ads. In our current, media-saturated environment, it’s difficult to remember how shocking those ads were back then.

In typical TISM fashion the accompanying video attempts to torpedo any hope of chart success by opening on the baffling sight of AFL players Shane Wakelin, Chris Hemley and Justin Peckett earnestly riding exercise bikes in St Kilda’s Moorabbin Oval gymnasium while Josh Kitchen works the heavy bag. TISM were Sainters from way back, but how were those of us just coming on board supposed to know? All I saw was that for the first time Australian music was more than Daryl Braithwaite and his bloody Horses. It could also be thrillingly bizarre.

During their career TISM obsessed over death at considerable length and in Greg!’s lyrics “we get to do the driving, don’t choose the direction we travel” you find the song’s key contention: that whether you’re the most popular kid in school or the one who chooses to “graffiti the Dandenong line”, death is inevitable. It was hardly going to be played at your local Blue Light disco, but at the same time you can’t fault their logic. Who else could merge rock-solid philosophy with some of the greatest punchlines in Australian music history?

Such timeless wisdom as: “Sometime in the next 10,000 years a comet’s going to wipe out all trace of man / I’m banking on it coming before my end-of-year exams” spoke to me as a 14-year-old who would do anything to get out of going to school.

It is a song that burns less successful attempts at humour off at the lights. Lyric like “The rich kid becomes a junkie, the poor kid an advertiser / What a tragic waste of potential (being a junkie’s not so good either)” would die a thousand deaths in the hands of the Offspring.

One of TISM’s most endearing features was their refusal to go all-out for world domination. Had they been offered the choice to write a risible hit like Offspring’s Why Don’t You Get A Job? or a song like The TISM Boat Hire Offer,with lyrics like “Bon Scott would be alive this week if he just went fishing from Mordialloc Creek”, I’m sure they’d have chosen the latter, and if they’re not richer for it, the world of music certainly is.

It wasn’t all jokes; in Greg! we’re also treated to one of the all-time great skewerings of consumerism in eight lines so perfect that I expect to see them in Russell Brand’s next revolutionary manifesto:

Bought a car just the other day
Man could that baby run!
But you know what they always say
There’s always a better one
Got a tumour in my brain
It’s creeping to my lungs
And I’ve searched around in vain
Can’t find me a better one.

In a track that demands repeat listens to enjoy its subtleties, they are the lines that should be cut out and inducted into the Aria hall of fame. The point is that while he who dies with the most toys wins, we’re all equal while six-foot under.

A final furious monologue takes us home with the reminder that “growing up’s not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of wait and see”. And then the neatest balance of comedy and gruesome death ever written closes on the titular vehicular tragedy that is playing out in front of us: “I thought I heard a semitrailer. Greg! You missed the stop sign!!”

This in a year where Australians were too busy flirting with Coolio to notice the song failed to chart (albeit entering the Triple J Hottest 100) – but that was this country’s loss. Anonymity might have always suited TISM well, but there was no need to look to Los Angeles when all the best wisdom was coming from Melbourne’s suburbs.

 

Saints In Pop Culture

St. Kilda Football Club website, May 9th 2014 (excerpt; full article online here):

Greg! The Stop Sign

TISM was without doubt one of the quirkiest acts to hit the Australian music scene.

A seven member group that always made public appearances in masks to hide their identity, there were persistent (and ultimately never confirmed) rumours that they were in fact a collection of teachers at a suburban Melbourne school. Regardless, the intrigue and occasional controversy surrounding the group made it an obvious bedfellow for the Saints. One of the band’s most famous songs Greg! The Stop Sign!! was accompanied by a film clip that was filmed at the club’s base at Moorabbin Oval. The opening scene of the clip features Saints players Shane Wakelin, Chris Hemley, Josh Kitchen and Justin Peckett working out in the club’s gym before panning to a band member singing in front of a sign in the locker room reminding players that “Your (sic) a professional. Keep it simple.”

Click here to view the clip.

Obviously the need to keep it simple involved getting rid of punctuation and the odd letter.

Greg! The Stop Sign!! made it to number 10 in Triple J’s hottest 100 list of 1995, beating out slightly more famous songs such as Morning Glory by Oasis, My Friends by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley.

It is generally accepted in the music industry that those bands missed the top 10 due to an absence of Justin Peckett doing bicep curls in their film clips.

The Birth Of Uncool

Part of Melbourne University’s Free University.

MELBOURNE: MUSIC, MEMORY, PLACE
This course examines Melbourne’s music culture with a focus on the
way music works to generate memories. We welcome some of the
city’s finest songwriters, musicians, radio presenters, venue owners,
and academics to the MFU to discuss their involvement in Melbourne
music and to explore the relationship between music, memory and
place.

WEEK 4: 20.3.14
THE BIRTH OF UNCOOL: How TISM gatecrashed
Melbourne music
Damian Cowell (writer, performer, impostor)

The Birth of Uncool from Geoff Rossiter on Vimeo.

THE BIRTH OF UNCOOL: How TISM Gatecrashed Melbourne Music by Damian Cowell @ The Alderman (20th March 2014) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

Summer Heights High

Summer Heights High, September 26th 2007 (original air date):

So I was watching an episode of Summer Heights High last night and noticed a familiar looking sticker stuck inside one of the school lockers.

It is at the very start of episode 4, when Mr. G is talking about his unique sense of smell, and how he uses it to sniff out (amongst other things) “graffiti pens”: