Able Tasmans: The Tired Sun
12" EP | 1985
The Able Tasmans debut release, The Tired Sun 12” was considered a bit of an oddity at the time with its keyboard led quirky full sound. And with the term “oddity” comes the unspoken implication that this is a one-off novelty. The EP is certainly novel. The Able Tasmans were formed in 1983 by Graeme Humphreys. He built it around the rhythm section of his old Whangarei band Sister Ray (Craig Baxter and Dave Beniston) and augmented it for this recording with singer Peter Keen (who stayed) and guitarist Anthony Nevison (who left and later joined the Headless Chickens).
The band spent a couple of years playing around Auckland and getting mentions and live reviews in Rip It Up. They were drifting dangerously towardsvthe no-man’s land of perennial support band when Graeme got to know Chris Knox and Doug Hood and hooked up with Flying Nun when they were successful in applying for a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council recording grant. Spending the money at Progressive Studios with Terry King and Anthony Nevison engineering they recorded 6 songs that would appear as The Tired Sun in 1985.
It’s a jaunty keyboard affair. The band is unashamedly a keyboard lead combo. An unusual beast at any time let alone in the guitar driven mid 80’s. Outstanding tracks include 'Patrick’s Mother' and 'Nelson the Cat'. There is a certain manic feel to it all. Enthusiastic Graeme Humphreys gets excitable on the keys and it sounds and feels like anything could happen.
Anything does happen; the rhythm section is distinctive with the bass assertive and drums adventurous, but it is keyboards that dominate with an assortment of actual keyboard sounds in a traditional sense with nothing synth to be heard. Sounds that can be deep, reverberative, sweeping, majestic, melancholy and rousing. It’s about hammer on string action creating music that emotes and resonates. A sound that the Able Tasmans will develop and perfect throughout their career.
With the Able Tasmans being different to the largely guitar led bands on Flying Nun meant that lots of music fans had trouble working them out let alone being able to describe the music. But they were very much enjoyed as fully paid-up members of the extended Flying Nun crowd.
There are snippets of influence to be heard here, um, the Strangers, Suicide, Todd Rundgren, The Chills and probably hundreds of others. No doubt a lot of parts of the covers played by Sister Ray back in Whangarei seeps into the music here. The time changes and switch of direction are reminiscent of early busy Split Enz. This is unashamedly busy record.
Leslie Jonkers created the front cover with crayon and was soon to join the band as an additional keyboardist. An oddity or a novelty? Neither really, this EP signals the start of a long and illustrious recording career. This is not a one off; this is just the start of something truly wonderful.