Last night when I was thinking about who I would profile next in my exhaustive catalogue of early 1990s bands that have, sadly, disappeared, I became aware that I was perhaps being a little too shoegazer-centric.
Hence the inclusion of Ratcat whom, to be honest, I was never really that into at the time, except perhaps for ‘That Ain’t Bad’.
I guess I should also admit that in terms of Australian bands, my listening habits centered around Sydney bands, mostly because I lived there.
However, it’s one of the worst-kept secrets that Melbourne in the early 1990s was the place to be, especially if you were into indie bands excited and influenced by the new movements in UK and US indie pop.
I’m talking bands like The Earthmen, Rail, Ripe and The Fauves.
Ripe were a mystery band for me, a band I never saw, but whose influence on the Melbourne scene was palpable.
I heard them on Triple J in about 1991/92, upon the release of their Filterfeed LP (if anyone has a copy of this one, I’d sure love a tape of it) and their appearance on one of the Youngblood compilations—their track ‘Gaze’ was for me a standout.
Ripe evolved into a heavy sonic outfit, having started out as a sample-friendly band. Just listen to The Plastic Hassle, their second full length effort (released through Shock) and you’ll hear what I mean: big dirty guitars, thumping bass, drums with lots of cymbals.
Their music was very dark but also melodic, a bit like Straitjacket Fits I suppose, but perhaps closer in sound to The Fauves’ angular ‘science rock’ of The Scissors Within / Tight White Ballhugger twin EPs.
Lead singer Mark Murphy, who bears a passing resemblance to Pete Townsend, is an impressive songwriter with a real ear for the melancholy.
The Plastic Hassle was the definitive Ripe statement, a sprawling effort about fourteen songs long, standout tracks being ‘Something Fierce’, ‘Love Your Guts’ and the awesome ‘Moondriven’.
Funnily enough, Murphy and fellow Ripe member Kate Dixon now front a band called Moondriven whose sound is fairly similar to Ripe’s. The first week I was in Melbourne in 1998 I saw them play at the Punters.
In the last six years I think they’ve probably released about half a dozen songs, total. One of these, ‘Ghost’, is a real standout, though I’m not sure it’s on any of their releases.
As you can tell, I’m not really as excited about these guys as I should be, probably because they’re just so damned sporadic.
I remember in the early 1990s, however, there was a great deal of buzz surrounding Ripe and their temporary signing to SubPop.
Come 2004, however, and they’ve been relegated, just like The Earthmen, Rail, Autohaze, The Glory Box and Pray TV, to the dustbin of Melbourne’s musical history.
The next time you eat a Cherry Ripe, spare a thought for Ripe—actually, on second thoughts, scrap that.
Just eat the freaking Cherry Ripe, okay?