Bigger Than Tom Jones - Ignore Canberra Bands, Vote 1 TISM, Simon Kidd, The Melbourne Times, 31/10/01

[Picture at Brittletina]

There's an election on and Ron Hitler Barassi wants to talk politics. Barassi, looking like an Ulster car-bomber in a black ski mask and jump suit, picks up a sheaf of papers and appears ready to read out a list of ransom demands.

In fact, Barassi's ravings sound suspiciously like the launch of an election campaign. It's a disconcerting prospect.

As the singer with the identity-challenged collective of TISM, a band with a decade-long career founded largely on breathtakingly offensive diatribes against all things pretentious and dumb in Australian culture, Barassi's views were always going to be slightly dodgy. TISM, after all, lists a defamation lawyer on its album credits.

"There's a certain synergy in the TISM policies," he muses. "We don't just say here's our policy on immigration, here's a policy on road safety - there's a connection between them."

Take TISM's road safety policy, for example: "It's about time we changed the driver's licence so that it depended on your inability to think about other people. If you haven't got that Phillip Ruddock-like emotional scarring that lets you be totally unable to empathise with other people, then why the hell are you behind the wheel?

That's what gives me road rage - people giving way, people letting you in, people going at the speed limit just because someone might get hurt. Ron Hitler Barassi would like to appeal, and I think many readers of The Melbourne Times would agree with me that it's time for us to say stop the consideration."

Or check out TISM's ambitious education policy, exclusively revealed to TMT: "If you're a Year 11 student and you're sitting at the back of a government secondary school science lab, and you're tinking what is it about my life I could change to make me feel better, go straight to the TISM education policy which is Snot A Snob.

Go down to those tram stops where all those private school kids get off... and they've all got their boaters on and they're all dressed up like they're going to the opera, and just snot a couple. That'll make you feel better," he says.

TISM's new album, De Rigueurmortis, gets stuck into, among others, Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit, scooter riding adults, pubescent rock idols and schoolies week. It shows that TISM's lyrical terrorism is, against the odds, still funny.

The 31 tracks are intercut with other snippets of invective with a vaguely narrative flow. Does that make it a concept album?

Barassi claims the band was set to record a triple album - the "finger" album - with each of the three CDs devoted to bands Badfinger, Stinkfinger and Powderfinger.

Sadly, the idea was nixed by FMR records before it could get off the ground. "So what you've got here with De Rigueurmortis is the shattered corpse-like remains of the great original masterwork, the TISM finger album," he says.

Not that the album is without its thoughtful side.

"The themes throughout the album, if one can converge those things as well as our policies on education, boat people and driver's licences, are I feel, rather uncannily, the themes that revolve around Powderfinger's album, which is sexual inadequacy and the role of sex as an instrument of power in any relationship."

But it seems that, like cheap wine and Mick Jagger, TISM is destined to gain respectability with age, despite themselves. Even arch-nemesis Derryn Hinch jumped at the chance of sending himself up on the album, to Barassi's disappointment.

"When we asked Derryn to be on our album we were expecting the same old run of the mill, manufactured DJ rubbish Derryn usually spills out. That's what we wanted, to provoke him into a Ruxton-like frenzy and we could all have a bit of a laugh. But Derryn instead politely agreed and did the diatribe on the album.

There's only one thing worse than your heroes disappointing you, and that's your enemies disappointing you..."

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