TRENDS Down Under bands climbing to the top Musicians from Australia, New Zealand making their mark

DataFeatures Published:

By Neva Chonin

San Francisco Chronicle

Note to rock scenesters: Forget casing Detroit for the next White Stripes and searching Stockholm for the new Hives. Buy a ticket to the South Pacific. Young guitar bands from the lands Down Under are rising to the top, with Australias photogenic Vines gracing the covers of music magazines across the globe and a flush of musical activity earning New Zealand the dubious title of the new Sweden.

New Zealand bands such as the Datsuns and the D4 are more than ready for their international close-ups. Theyve spent years honing their euphoric pastiches of British and American music, and the results are good enough to rival the original inspirations. The self-titled debut album from the Datsuns, churns with vintage MC5 attitude, heavy metal vocals and rampaging guitar distortion. The D4, who release their debut, 6Twenty (Hollywood) on Tuesday, smoothly fuse punk with the chugging majesty of Queen- style metal.

Success has spawned competition between neighbors.

Aussie bands such as Jet and the Casanovas are close to next-big-thing status, and the Vines, were given larger play than the Hives at the last MTV Music Video Awards and have made the cover of Rolling Stone. More mainstream than the Hives and as radio- friendly as the Strokes, the groups 2002 album, Highly Evolved, offered something for every rock fan, from the punk anthem Get Free to the neo- grunge of In the Jungle and the Brit-pop-infused Mary Jane.

Though it has the patina of overnight success, the Australian and New Zealand scenes ascendance has been decades in the making. The new crop of bands can trace their lineage back to the late-80s, early-90s Australian scene spearheaded by the Flying Nun Records label and groups like the Bats and Straitjacket Fits. They, in turn, followed a precedent set by the likes of Radio Birdman, the Saints, the Celibate Rifles and others inspired by Detroit rock and post-punk New York to play fast and loud in an era of synth-pop.

Since the 80s, the two countries geographical isolation has allowed their grassroots music scenes to develop relatively free from music industry interference.

Isolation also breeds desperation, and desperation provides creative incentive. Auckland, New Zealand, was burning with boredom in the late 90s, and its kids responded by starting bands long before the major labels came knocking. The Datsuns sudden fame, for instance, took five years.

But woe to those who rise too fast too young. The Vines are already suffering the slings and arrows of their outrageous good fortune.

The Vines might be considered a lost cause in terms of street credibility, but the Datsuns, the D4 and other bands are too busy seizing their moment to fret over suffering a similar fate. Success could spoil the scene Down Under, but it will be a sweet spoilage, years overdue.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.