After four decades, Australian postpunks the Scientists make their first U.S. tour | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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After four decades, Australian postpunks the Scientists make their first U.S. tour



In the mid-70s, guitarist and vocalist Kim Salmon dreamed of playing punk music in his hometown of Perth, the isolated capital city of western Australia. Though he initially had nothing to work from except a six-week-old issue of NME and a Ramones record, by the summer of 1978 he’d spent time in one of Perth’s few early punk bands, the Cheap Nasties, before joining up with local group the Exterminators, which morphed into a new group he christened the Scientists. The band cut their teeth making the sort of blunt, hooky garage rock that fills their 1981 self-titled debut, but after Salmon discovered the Cramps in the early 80s, the Scientists went through a transformation that would cement their classic lineup—Salmon, bassist Boris Sujdovic, drummer Brett Rixon, and guitarist Tony Thewlis—and define their sound. The bandmates soon relocated to Sydney and introduced an evocative, feral “swamp rock” strain of punk, best captured on the sun-baked, swashbuckling 1982 B side “Swampland,” and on a couple of seven-inches and a mini LP they dropped on Australian indie Au Go Go. In 1984, the Scientists moved to London, where they landed big gigs and tours with the Gun Club, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the Sisters of Mercy. Despite this success, prolonged legal issues with Au Go Go kept the band impoverished, and eventually the group started ripping apart. Rixon (who died of a heroin overdose in 1993) left in early ’85 and was replaced by Leanne Cowie (nee Chock) by the end of that year, and in 1986 Sujdovic left the UK and the band due to visa issues. The Scientists officially called it quits in 1987, after Salmon, Thewlis, and another new drummer (Nick Combe) recorded the noisy album The Human Jukebox. The band played a handful of reunion shows in the 90s and 00s, including their only U.S. appearance to date at the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in upstate New York. In 2016, Numero Group dropped a massive Scientists box set, A Place Called Bad (with liner notes by Reader contributor Erin Osmon), and earlier this year Salmon, Sujdovic, Thewlis, and Cowie announced their first U.S. tour. The band also returned to the studio to record new material for California garage indie label In the Red. The A side to their July single, “Braindead (Resuscitated),” is a cleaner, tighter version of a Human Jukebox track, and the heat-wave eeriness of “Survivalskills” on the B side shows the Scientists still have chemistry.   v

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