Cream of The Crate: Album Review # 180 – Flowers: Icehouse

0
4

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

“Icehouse LP a stunner for Flowers." - (Mark Trevorrow - The Sun October 15, 1980) .. .. .. "The album is replete with killer material." - (Bruce Laird - Beat December 2010) .. .. .. "Let's face it, they had it all - the sound, great compositions, a great front man and, the right look for the time." - (This review)

This is album retro-review number 180 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

Time to pull another Aussie album out of my crate – and this group changed its name to that of the album shortly after it was released, and I for one am glad – for it’s a far better name!

The group I am talking about is Flowers and this, a vinyl album is titled – Icehouse.

Released on the Regular label and distributed by Festival Records in 1980, it has the identifying code of L 37436.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It is a single album released in a gatefold format and has eleven tracks, five on the first side and six on the other side.

So using a gatefold cover, even though it only has a single album, allows for some creative design work.  The interior left and right hand side is a basic but effective design, showing the faces of the four members of the group.

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Inside gatefold – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

In what might have been confusing to later generations of music fans, Icehouse was the name of the first album by an Australian group called Flowers, but then became the new name of that group.

Flowers kicked off as a band around 1977 as one of many pub-bands. Around this time the “new wave synth-pop” sound was coming out of the UK and the young Sydney music wanna be, Iva Davies was drawn to this style immediately.

He was the mainstay of both Flowers and then Icehouse, and deciding stylistically that was the direction for him, it became the direction for the band.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Iva Davies – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Iva played guitar, did the vocals and provided in the first instance, the arrangements of the group’s music. He also very quickly also became the principle song writer.

Along with his mate Keith Welsh, who played bass and contributed vocals, they formed Flowers and after a short period of uncertainty as to who would be the permanent members, they settled on:

Iva Davies – Vocals & guitars
Keith Walsh – Bass & vocals
John Lloyd – Drums & vocals
Anthony Smith – Keyboards & vocals.

So it was that for a while Flowers were touted as the most successful, if not most popular group, who were unsigned to a label.

So this situation lasted until the early part of the 1980’s when they signed to the independent Regular Records and entered the studio to place their first album on record.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Flowers – [CLICK to enlarge]

Flowers released their debut single in May 1980, Can’t Help Myself (written by Davies), which hit the Australian Top 10 in June 1980.

This was followed by their debut album Icehouse, which reached No. 4 on the National albums chart and became one of the year’s biggest selling albums in Australia.

The groups popularity was recognised when they were awarded the 1980 TV Week / CountdownRock Awards ‘Johnny O’Keefe New Talent Award’ ahead of The Dugites, INXS and Karen Knowles.

They were also nominated for ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Album Cover’ for Icehouse but lost on both to Cold Chisel’s East album. 

Iva Davies was also nominated as ‘Best Songwriter’ but lost to Cold Chisel’s Don Walker.

By 1981 with a hit single and album under their belt, Davies made the decision to change the name of the group to Icehouse.

So it was that they continued right through until 2012, albeit toward the end, they relegated themselves to doing limited gigs at corporate functions. In late 2011 the band went back to playing gigs, and played some gigs in Melbourne and Sydney under the name of “Dub-House“. 

But we are interested in this first album, produced and recorded under that first group name of Flowers.

Track Listing:

Side 1

  1. “Icehouse” – 4:22
  2. “We Can Get Together” – 3:46
  3. “Fatman” – 3:53
  4. “Sister” (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:22
  5. “Walls” – 4:22

Side 2

  1. “Can’t Help Myself” – 4:41
  2. “Skin” (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 2:41
  3. “Sons” – 4:32
  4. “Boulevarde” (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:14
  5. “Nothing to Do” (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:22
  6. “Not My Kind” – 3:35

 

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Rear cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

We can’t go past track one which is Icehouse.

Now the track was released in the UK and the USA as a single, but to my knowledge not in Australia but then only after the group changed its name to Icehouse. 

The story behind the song is interesting. It was written by Davies and involves an old house that was opposite where he was living and,  that had its lights on all night and seemed to be the home for short term itinerants.

Davies then learned it was in fact a halfway house for drug rehab patients and psychotic patients, and that stimulated him to write the song about, the “Icehouse”.

In so many ways he “nailed” that British new wave/synth sound, and at the same time went a long way to establishing himself as a very good composer and, a very good vocalist.

It’s always cold inside the icehouse
Though the rivers never freeze
There’s a girl outside the icehouse
I can see her clearly through the trees

Now she’s dreaming of a new love
And she hopes he’ll be there soon
She’s got so long to wait for him
‘Cause he needs another year to get there
She’ll wait another lifetime longer

There’s no love inside the icehouse

Devil lives inside the icehouse
At least that’s what the old ones say
They say, he came a long time ago
He came here with the winter snow
Now it’s colder every day

She’s still dreaming through the summer
And she’s hoping through the spring
She say’s, she’s got no time for winter nights
She doesn’t notice as the days grow darker
She can’t remember getting any older

There’s no love inside the icehouse

Now she’s dreaming of her new love
And she hopes he’ll be there soon
She say’s, she say’s, she’s got no time for winter nights
Doesn’t notice as the days grow darker
She can’t remember getting any older

There’s no love inside the icehouse
There’s no love inside the icehouse
The icehouse

Icehouse

Track 2We Can Get Together was the group’s second single.

It certainly helped cement their position as not just a group with promise, but possible the lead Australian group in this musical genre.

However track 5Walls,I  believe is a better track. A good uptempo piece it continues that pop/synth sound but the more dominant use of the guitar adds another dimension to the track.

It has a fine element of David Bowie in both the vocal delivery and in the composition of the track.

A fine track indeed that just crept into the Top 20, at number 20 in January 1981.

Walls

Side 2 of the album kicks off with one of their most memorable tracks – I Can’t help Myself.

Released as a single in May of 1980, in fact it was the group’s first Australian singles release. It was put out before the album was ready for release and raced to the number 10 position in the Aussie charts.

This meant not only had people talking about them, but provided a great amount of impetus for the group to finish that first album.

A strong drum opening, a great “grunge’ synth sound and highly recognisable guitar riff it is a seriously fantastic composition.

For me, no matter how good the various compositions on this album are, this track was heads and tails above them all.

It has everything a great pop track needs, it is bright, happy, well balanced and has a great hook in the chorus. Ivor Davies excelled in the lyric writing and the band played brilliantly.

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouseShe comes walking down the street
That’s the kind, hey,
That’s the kind I want to meet
I think I’m making it up
I should be putting it down
and it’s beginning to show
I get it fixed in my head
and it won’t let go

Oh, I can’t help myself
when I feel this way
I want to be someone else
When I get this feeling
it gets in my system
I can’t put the brakes on

Now she’s walking next to me
that’s the place, yeah,
that’s the place I want to be
I think I’m making it up
I should be putting it down
and it’s beginning to show
I get it fixed in my head
and it won’t let go

I Can’t Help Myself

The remainder of the tracks vacillate between good and just OK.

Skin is one of those tracks that you might play at a party as it’s a good track to dance to and worthy of mention.

Now I have to declare that as a music genre this sound was never a favourite of mine, but in terms of Australian music, Flowers, and certainly Icehouse deserve the acclaim they received.

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Iva – 1980

 

The track Sons has an element of the British band Joy Division about it – and some call it a “dark” track. I find it lacking in that “certain something”, that makes a track stand out.

Track 4Boulevarde on the other hand, is a most excellent track.

It’s not so heavy on the pop-synth sound, but stronger on guitar. A nice track with very good vocal delivery, it stands out for me above most of the other tracks.

It kicks along at a nice tempo and reminds us that Davies was no slouch on guitar.

Boulevarde

The penultimate track, Nothing To Do, is interesting for the change in delivery style – very reminiscent of of Lou Reed at time, but without Reeds cuttingly clever lyrics.

The final track is Not My Kind and showed promise as it kicks off, but to my ears was not a balanced production.

I hate to say it, it’s almost a filler. There are some nice guitar pieces in it.

In June 1981 in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the album, and because the band had renamed itself Icehouse, the album was re-released in the UK.

This “new” album had a different cover, one track (Nothing To Do) was left off and the other tracks resequenced and some even remixed.

cream of the crate: album review # 180 – flowers: icehouse
Iva Davies – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

However for collectors, the album under the group name of Flowers remains the one to collect.

Let’s face it, they had it all – the sound, great compositions, a great front man and, the right look for the time.

Does it hold up over time – well a track like I Can’t help Myself is a classic and will always stand out.

True aficionados of the group will always like the album, but it has dated somewhat, yet still deserves recognition for breaking some serious ground in the development of the Australian music scene in the early 1980’s.

The original album (there has been a re-release) Icehouse by Flowers is available on Ebay for around $50.00. 

It was re-released on Cd with bonus tracks, but unless you are a fanatical fan of Icehouse, and are just interested in picking up the first album released while they were Flowers, then you can get a decent copy for around $30.00


VIDEOS:

Popping into youtube finds several clips of tracks from this album.

 

We can Get Together – Countdown

 

Sister

 

Can’t help Myself


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –