12 Days To Paris
There’s no denying the unbridled free feeling you get whilst listening to well executed power pop; equal parts The Breakfast Club (that wind-in-your-hair irresponsibility of a teen playing by their own rules back in the 1980s), equal parts The Pixies (dark clothes and shoegazing rubbed in the dirt and the fuzz), it’s something that grabs you just right and has you flipping your middle finger to the man all whilst kicking up your heels with reckless abandon.
In Melbourne, back in the early ‘80s, this was a common occurrence, as any regular attendee at places like The Seaview Ballroom and the Prince Of Wales will tell you. Bands like Corpse Grinders and Olympic Sideburns, kicking out the jams, drawing heavily on ‘60s garage rock ‘n’ roll, punk and rockabilly, twisting it just so, give it a bit of sugar and it’s power pop (or is it?) at its Australian best. Then of course, came Huxton Creepers, and stages, eardrums and the world at large were never the same again.
These cats cut their chops live, that’s where they belonged, on a stage. Nothing they ever recorded adequately captured what that live set was like – the theatrics of frontman and main songwriter Rob Craw, the rock solid rhythm section of Matthew Eddy on bass and Arch Law thumping tubs, Paul Thomas’ guitar wrapping it all up – the power and the passion these four exuded had ‘em jumping in the isles and they lived the life and became part of the furniture.
When they did come to record, whilst the results lacked the power so evident in the live setting, it was never by half. Debut 12 Days To Paris, originally released in 1986, was perhaps where they were firing best; re-released today through Fuse (the full record, plus four bonus tracks), you do get that feeling of almost, of a caged beast perhaps – the idea that a full-on live band is indeed in there, lurking just beneath the surface.
Still, this is where this particular re-release tops all others – the bonus disc. Live versions of crowd favourites ‘Shake Some Action’ and ‘Ramble Tamble’ (albeit live on 3LO’s Sunday Night Live, as opposed to at a venue) as well as ‘Iceman’ and ‘Wishing Well’ (both recorded at The Ballroom in St. Kilda in late 1984) are there to remind you of those heady days when it was all you could do to keep the Creepers off a stage.
12 Days To Paris, the album proper (here, remastered) remains to this day a cult classic. That unmistakable guitar intro courtesy of Thomas as he leads into ‘My Cherie Amour’ makes your arm hair stand on end; it epitomises a time and place for many, and the passing of said time has done little to dull that. The record continues to pulse from there – the chugging rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Autumn Leaves’, the freewheeling ‘Guilty’, the punkish (with a rockabilly twist) ‘King Of The Road’ – it’s all here in its remastered glory, as strong and catchy as it ever was.
Back to the bonus disc: along with the aforementioned live tracks, you’ve got demo versions of a number of the 12 Days… tracks, a couple of unreleased demos and a couple of tracks which featured on various compilations circa 1984 (including ‘King Of The Road’, which featured on Au Go Go compilation, Asleep At The Wheel). All told, this is as powerful and full a picture of a seminal underground band as you’ll find around. Huxton Creepers were at the top of their respective pile during the mid-‘80s, and this set shows exactly why.
Samuel J. Fell