An album a week #11: Suddenly by The Sports
How good were the Sports? That’s rhetorical; they were brilliant. I completely believe that if they had been English they would have been huge in the late 70s, up there with Elvis Costello and other big new wave acts. Or maybe not, given how their experiences in America worked out (their single ‘Who Listens to the Radio’ made the charts there, but they failed to capitalise…). Anyway, while this album does not have that hit on it, nor ‘Don’t Throw Stones’ which was probably their second most famous song, it is a better album that Don’t Throw Stones, and a must for anyone who likes snappy guitar rock with odd (though not always heartfelt) lyrics and perfect tunes.
The Sports began in Melbourne in the later 70s, growing out of a bunch of Melbourne acts, meaning that every member was already a pub rock pro by the time they started. The initial line-up had Ed Bates on one guitar and Andrew Pendlebury on the other, but after the first album Bates left and Martin Armiger came in; thus formed the definitive version of the Sports. In total the band released four LPs (all excellent, but this one the best, I think) plus a couple of EPs and a belated live album (Missing Your Kissing) which is hard to find.
On the original LP the cover was die-cut, with sort of louvres in it, which always got damaged. That explains the off look of the CD cover, which is pretty ordinary.
‘Strangers on a Train’ is probably the most well-known song here, but the album takes off with disciplined energy right from the start. The band races through a bunch of three minute pop-rock songs as if they’ve got to get the riffs and tunes out before their arms explode. ‘Murmurs’, ‘Go’ and ‘Suddenly’ border on the frenetic. ‘Oh Mama No’ veers into territory similar to the Who’s ‘I’m A Boy’ (‘Everybody knows/Even when I keep my pants on/I’m gonna get arrested some day…No, mama, no, don’t make me wear that dress tonight’), while ‘The Lost and the Lonely’ makes the best use of a theremin in popular music since the Beach Boys. It is an ode to the late night lonely hearts requests radio announcer — ‘there’s a letter from a mother of three, she wants to hear Gene Pitney, she’s got to hear Gene Pitney’. I love the hint of suburban, housebound desperation wrapped up in just that one little lyric — it’s like poetry in how much it packs in . ‘I Tried to Love Her’ (‘but she’s a lunatic’) adds a little more humour. The overall vibe is one of inner city relationships between grown-ups who kind of know each other lie but can take it. So there’s irony, there’s cleverness, there’s a little feeling, but it is anything but confessional.
I can’t list my favourites. The only track I ever even consider skipping is ‘It Hurts’.
This is my number one album when I want to be picked up and forced to enjoy the beat. A tight, professional band playing great, unpretentious tunes with consummate skill, never hanging around long enough top get boring, never indulging themselves. It’s commercial guitar pop/rock at it’s best.