Icehouse – White Heat

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Review by Brian McGowan

Constantly panned outside of their native Australia for being nothing more than Bowie/Roxy wannabes, Icehouse’s worldwide breakout moment came with 1987’s ‘Crazy’, written by main man Iva Davies and guitarist, Bob Kretschmer.

The single, taken from their 6th album, ‘Man Of Colours’ charted all over, a success that was further cemented by the follow up, ‘Electric Blue’, a Top Ten hit in the USA and the UK.

Prior to that, as those who were in the know will know, there leads a long trail of high calibre synthpop/new wave single releases, starting with 1980’s ‘Can’t Help Myself’. Hits in Oz but nowhere else (except NZ).

For every irritatingly eighties’ Walls’ and ‘Glam’ there are timeless rock tracks like ‘Great Southern Land’ and ‘Street Café’, with Davies showing a lyrical awareness that escaped most of his contemporaries. His insights on life in his native land – inside and outside the city limits – resonated with the listening public.

The singles to follow, 84 through 86, ‘Don’t Believe Anymore’, ‘No Promises’ and ‘Cross the Border’ were dark, dramatic affairs, contrasting sharply with the upbeat, feel good songs of the eighties. The band’s fourth album, ‘Measure For Measure’ was released during this purple patch. The clue is in the title. Davies was ramping up to an artistic peak, his songs sounding like the work of a wiser, more worldly writer, amply backed up by lushly textured production landscapes, courtesy of Rhett (Roxy/Genesis/Eno) Davies and David Lord.

The band reached their commercial peak with 1987’s ‘Man Of Colours’. Apart from ‘Crazy’ and ‘Electric Blue’, three more singles – featured here – were released, all charting in Australia, but nowhere else.

Three singles were released from 1990’s ‘Code Blue’. Surprisingly bad judgement was shown in the selection, with ‘Mercy On The Boy, ‘Miracle Mile’ and ‘Jericho Bay’ – where Davies showed his deftness and versatility as a songwriter – all ignored in favour of less lyrically audacious tracks.

Sandwiched between is ‘Touch The Fire’, a “previously unreleased” track from the 1986 compilation, ‘Great Southern Land’. A personal favourite, where a memorable melody and a yearning lyric are joined together by a perfectly pitched production, filled with driving rhythms, impatient guitars and a sensuous saxophone solo.

Arguably, Davies’s finest moment.

1993’s less than satisfying ‘Big Wheel’ also yielded 3 singles, not among the band’s best work. Consequently, this single collection would end with a whimper not a bang, if not for the shrewd inclusion of the 1992 single release, a re-recording of ‘Love In Motion’, a duet with Christina Amphlett of Divinyls’ fame.

The DVD comprises of the videos of all the singles released 1980 – 1994.

Where relevant, the Australian, UK and International versions of particular tracks are all included, making this DVD a nirvana for Icehouse completists.

It’s a formidable package, a fitting tribute to an outstanding band and recognition by the label– if any were needed – of an exceptional talent in front man, writer, musician and vocalist, Iva Davies.