Review of tism.bestoff, Brett Buttfield, dB, 08/02

 

When the seven pop-culture commandos then known as This Is Serious Mum made their big push over the top with '86's 'Great Truckin' Songs Of The Renaissance' many speculated on the identities of the men behind the masks. Were they fun time punkers playing pop-funk (Painters & Dockers in disguise), or a proper rock band arsing around anonymously (Hunters & Collectors on downtime)?

They've never made an easy place for themselves in Oz Rock terms but run this set up against, say, Midnight Oil's '10,000 Watt RSL' Best Of and do TISM emerge as any less exciting and significant? If only they would lay down and die maybe Australia could get some perspective and venerate these vengeful, exhilarating bastards as happened with The Saints and Radio Birdman, but age has not mellowed TISM nor the years condoned.

They remain testy, agitated and great nuisance value. 'Best Off' plays like an ideal sampler for the casually familiar, containing tunes from their Uni smart-arse days when every song mocked your set texts through to the unhesitatingly polished venom of their senior years. There's the hits like (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River and Greg The Stop Sign!! but 'Best Off' avoids being a straight-up singles compilation instead selecting a few B-sides, album tracks and live cuts to offer an overview of TISM's seductively snide pop brilliance. If there's something sad about seeing such a hard-fought and defiant career reduced down to sixteen classic tracks, two essential new efforts and a lovingly lewd dance-floor remix of Defecate On My Face courtesy of Machine Gun Fellatio, then it's only apt for what stands as one of the least self-congratulatory Best-Of releases ever.

This, then, is TISM: glorious, malevolent, in pain and in the right. 'Best Off' doesn't beg for respect or recognition. It celebrates meagre commercial success in the face of true originality and spirit. Rather than gesturing with smug nonchalance towards a wall of gold records 'Best Off' is TISM wounded and snarling, as at the end of Lillee Caught Dilley Bowled Milli Vanilli: "Okay - you come up with something better, fuck face!".

 

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