Album review – “Grand Slam”

Spiderbait burst onto the Australian “all ages” scene in 1995 and, despite an unlikely setup (drummer Kram providing musical direction and vocals, with bassist Janet and lead guitar Whitt merely tagging along), they quickly gained a huge following with ‘The Unfinished Spanish Galleon of Finley Lake’ – a hyperactive, catchy collection of sub-3 minute pop.

Album Cover of Spiderbait's "Grand Slam"The follow up ‘Ivy and the Big Apples’ however was patchy and, coupled with a reluctance to tour and the fact that the group were spread across Australia, it seemed the band was heading out to pasture.

How the hell ‘Grand Slam’ is so focused then, is a mystery. Opener ‘Cracker’ features a rumbling bassline, a jumpy electronic beat, overlaid by a whispering vocal, but is just a taster before the next few tracks. Well basically they career wildly into territory best described as 1970s Fanta commercial with a 2010 futuristic twist. Make sense? Try to imagine it – it works!

Towards the middle it’s obvious Kram has been listening to the same records as the lads from
Supergrass – though it’s doubtful Gaz Coombes & Co would ever write a song about a girl who excels at brushing her teeth. Throughout ‘Grand Slam’, Spiderbait are as cynical as ever: taking potshots at drugs, their own small town and, of course, the music industry. They manage to top their own classic ‘Buy Me a Pony’ (incidentally, #1 in the Triple J Hottest 100 of 1997) with ‘Glockenpop’: “you can be happy when people are singing your song / and think of the cash you can make when they all sing along / it doesn’t matter if all of your songs sounds the same / ’cause people are happy to hear them over and over and over again”.

They do blot the copybook a little toward the end with a couple of heavy and directionless numbers, but mostly the material here’s catchier than a year’s worth of TOTP and with a damn sight more variety. Not perfect, but pretty damn good all the same.