Now this is novel. A TISM best off. Given that they have built a career in self-deprication [sic] and denigration of others a best off record seems problematic. Offbeat wit and profanity litter their work, but given that one of their first live forays was at the University of Melbourne explains a lot. Tertiary knowledge combined with gutter expression can make strange bedfellows. Yet for years TISM have managed to pull it off seamlessly. Cynics argue that they are a puerile, one joke band trying to flog a dying horse. This argument has some merit and the band themself acknowledge this by allowing a quarter of this selection to come from Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance and earlier. This bias is even more prevalent on the bonus cd of "bedroom recordings", clearly indicating that their halcyon days were the late Eighties. During which time they made a impression [sic] on the psyche of many punters. It was novel, it was unique and no one thought it could become shithouse.
But what can one make of This Is Serious Mum? The masked japesters have eluded a potential minefield of litigation for quasi-defamatory declarations. Their highbrow insight and lowbrow delivery only serve to humour the listener. For example Defecate On My Face equates the fall of the Third Reich with a scatological romance. Or the unabashed commentary of Australian western suburbia (The History of Western Civilization) where one is condemned to "marry the ugly ugg-booted birds". In fact many subcultures, icons and various other entities cop a serve. Mods, River Phoenix, a 9 to 5 job, advertisers, homeboys, Milli Vanilli, Sophie Lee, Phillip Ruddock, et al are victims of an acidic tongue lashing from Ronald Dale [sic] Hitler Barassi and co. In between such irreverance [sic] they have managed to have some hits (no drug reference intended). Who could forget the bemusement of EON-FM programmers when 40 Years Then Death made their charts? Or the irony that a decade later TISM would promote Triple M football coverage, even after "Triple M/Up yer arse" (I'll 'Ave Ya). Who could condone Ken Done? Is not appropriation an unspoken principle in the visual art world? Of course, much later there was some real success with Greg! The Stop Sign! and (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River but by now they were intricately involved with the music industry they seemed to rail so much against. Hey, who can begrudge them making money? The Clash did it and got away relatively unscathed.
So Retrospective Works 86/92 is not a flawless appraisal of their 15 odd years of cultural/musical terror. But it does collate much of the essential TISM for the consumer society. For those that came in late, they have missed all the TISM exploits that have become part of Melbourne pub-rock folklore. The legendary shows at the Club and Old Greek Theatre, the stunts on 3RRR, their foray into literature with The TISM Guide To Little Aesthetics, and so forth. For such listeners, this serves as a sufficient overview of the band. Johnny Rotten once mockingly asked "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Only if you expected something in the first place.