Taming the Outback, “1986-1989″

January 31, 2012
By Bryon Hayes

There’s something to be said for elegant packaging. Case in point: this career-spanning retrospective of British post-punk trio Taming the Outback. TTO were perhaps most famous (or infamous) for their crucifixion-emulating promotional photo spread – the results of which adorn the cover of a slick gatefold sleeve. Also included are a fold-out poster, a sticker and a thick booklet complete with anecdotes, an interview and lyrics to all the legitimately released tunes. Very nice, indeed.

The story of TTO is one that is similar to that of many pre-Internet bands that never really went anywhere. Lots of gigging; the release of a single and a tape; preparation for an LP that was never released; feeling lost in a changing musical landscape; implosion. The song remains the same, as they say.

Sonically, TTO began life as a spitting image of Echo & the Bunnymen albeit with a real drummer – so much so that their debut single (“Blue Heart” b/w “Fire & Smoke”) could have been released under the name of those famous Liverpudlians without anyone being the wiser. The driving rhythm section of Jason Sherwin on bass and Daryl Amos on the kit continued to evolve and solidify, and eventually TTO found their own voice in the post-punk universe – somewhere between the Bunnymen and Killing Joke. Meanwhile, guitarist/vocalist Tony Sampson continued to mine the territory that Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant made famous with a dramatic warble and shimmering effects-laden guitar lines.

Years after the group disbanded, the members of TTO scoured their attics in search of lost artifacts of their glory days. This is the result: all of the recorded output, plus a few demos and live tunes. A band’s entire career boiled down to a shiny silver disc. It’s sad, really, but expected. Not everyone can be U2… …and who’d want to be, anyway?

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