TISM – arguably Australia’s most iconic slice of the alternative underground – are on Spotify and Australians aged 35 to 45 are rejoicing!
The band developed their craft on the mean streets of Melbourne’s painfully middle-class eastern suburbs, and then took their absurd and twisted humour to the masses with iconic stage shows involving outrageous costumes and even more outrageous poetry.
Their debut album Great Truckin’ Songs Of The Renaissance came out in 1988 and featured songs like Anarchy Means Crossing When It Says “Don’t Walk”, The Penis Is Mightier Than The Sword and Defecate On My Face. The song Mordialloc Rd. Duplicator features arguably the most hyper-localised reference of any Australian song – a point that saw them referenced in the Victorian state parliament last year.
Ultimately, their biggest success came with their fourth album, Machiavelli and the Four Seasons, which featured the techno-influenced (He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River with the unforgettable lyrics “I’m on the drug, I’m on the drug, I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix!”, as well as the most infectious song about a car crash, Greg! The Stop Sign!.
TISM mastered the art of mixing shock-value with genuine comedy. From 1998’s www.tism.wanker.com, the band’s single I Might Be A Cunt, But I’m Not A Fucking Cunt made everyone laugh. Lines like “I might like porno but Baywatch is fucking sick”, “I might agree with Jesus, but I got no religious belief, at least I clean the drops up when I piss on the toilet seat” found their way into the stereos of giggling schoolkids and parents alike. From here, the song Thunderbirds Are Coming Out featured a clip filmed in the pre-developed Docklands in Melbourne showing a snapshot of Melbourne’s local scene in 1998. In it you’ll see Bloodduster, Dynamo and the Hornosexuals, Git and even the Ringwood Secondary College Choir and Orchestra in full school uniform.
By the time their final album The White Album came along in 2004, most of their contemporaries had come and gone, but TISM had outlasted them all. Their yearly shows at The Big Day Out had moved to the main stage and the mainstream had embraced them. Singles like Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me and I Rooted A Girl Who Rooted A Guy Who Rooted A Girl Who Rooted Shane Crawford saw them go out at their poppiest peak.
If you ever wanted a cultural study of Australian suburbia in the 90s, Spotify have you covered.