If it werenâ€™t for Phil Turnbull and his NO NIGHT SWEATS web site/mp3 archive, a lot of us might not have any idea of the thriving Sydney, Australia post-punk scene of the early 80s, and some of the wildly creative weirdo lost bands of the time. Several years ago Phil sent me a couple of these â€œSydney Post-Punk Archivesâ€ CD-Rs, and one act in particular (besides SPK, PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS and the SLUGFUCKERS) really stood out: MAESTROS AND DISPOS, from approximately 1983-84. I was really dumbstruck by how gorgeously complex, tense & jarring this folk/pop music was, particularly the outstanding â€œBackslideâ€. The band never recorded a single 45, LP or even a cassette that we know of. Hereâ€™s how Phil describes them:
â€œDual female vocals weren’t heard much outside of folk circles and so the sound of Debbie and Ashley’s close harmonies was bound to be memorable. However, the band were always a little tentative, seemingly a bit uncomfortable with themselves and each other, especially on stage. Their strong point will always be the direct, confessional lyrics which made a marvelous change from the bluster that other bands produced. In songs like Inertia and the gorgeous Backslide, simple guitar and drums, strong bass, floating melodies and emotional text combine perfectly.â€
Philâ€™s site also posts a first-person 1984 account of the band live:
â€œâ€¦.Maestros and Dipsos are a bright bustling idiosyncratic pop-rock band. Although they have been playing in Sydney for over 6 months they are still virtually unknown. This will changeâ€¦.Describing their music is difficult. After a brief statement like “um…really good” my usual sparkling fountain of verbiage dries up. Well diluted snippets of Beefheart, The Raincoats and the Fire Engines spring to mind while they play. As do subtle fractured hints of Sly Stone and the Velvet Underground. This is not to suggest that their songs are like these other bands; they just seem to approach melody and language with a similar sense of pioneering intelligenceâ€¦.That Maestros and Dipsos sound even slightly familiar is in itself surprising. The band is a heady amalgam of polarized musical tastes. Ashley’s singing floats easily in and around the songs. Debbie’s moves swiftly with assured, well measured grace. Lindsay plays ambitious melodic guitar, devoid of heroics and pretence. The rhythm section, Ian Cummings on bass and Gordon Renouf on drums, is a beguilingly simple fascination. As with the whole band generally there is a hidden depth to their playing. Eacj time Maestros and Dipsos play I’ve discovered more and more within their songs. Layers waiting to be unveiled. Maestros and Dipsos are offering you and I and intelligent and exciting alternative to hairy types being gorillas in pubs and chinless types being goats in clubs. Nowhere to go but up…..â€
I love that the interweb can help bring back a band like this. Here are two mp3s of studio recordings that they did, with another one available by clicking here.