I’ve had a deep appreciation for music that has found its way to New Jersey from Australia for about as long as I’ve known about punk rock, first discovering bands like The Eastern Dark, Exploding White Mice and The Celibate Rifles when I was in grade school.
Three decades later, contemporary albums by Ooga Boogas, Exhaustion and Native Cats traveled across continents to WPRB and were each highlights of my 2013 radio shows.
Which leads us to TV Colours, a band cut from a similarly tremendous cloth I likely would have never heard were it not for a throwaway comment I made on-line under a friend’s exhaustive “Best of 2013” list about how the year was yet another great one for groups from Oz.
“This is a really good album by TV Colours from Canberra, which is like our Washington DC,” a stranger added plainly.
I pressed play on the link provided and by two songs in I knew I was listening to something special.
“Purple Skies, Toxic River” is a record I would have loved when I first encountered Aussie punk and it is an album that still thrills me now. It is an LP for “the kids” and about “the kids,” capturing the electrifying, agonizing, alienating, turgid miasma of youth. I want to put it in the ears of every kid with tattered jeans and badges on their jackets to reassure them that it will take longer than they like but eventually it all will be fine.
Made by enigmatic perfectionist Bobby Kill, TV Colours’ debut was six years in the making. It is full of teenage anthems, overdriven guitars, and unrelenting drum machines trying to outrun the sirens.
“Purple Skies, Toxic River” saw previous release in Australia by Dream Damage and was pressed by the French label XVIII, where it received rave reviews, several of which are quoted below.
This issue courtesy Comedy Minus One is the first time it has been available in North America with any ease.
500 vinyl copies and digital downloads through all popular providers.
My favorite record of 2013 is now your favorite album of this calendar year.
Let’s hit the freeway.
Running with the Creeps
The Kids Are All Grown Up
I Soon Found Out My Lonely Life Wasn't So Pretty
Livin' After Midnight
The Lost Years
Dark Days Against The Fade
Comes with a download code. Do not worry.
"The product of six years’ hard work is an excellent debut album that’s far more than just a collection of songs; it is a self-assured record and one of the year’s best." - Mess & Noise, Best of 2013 (#3)
“It's hard to imagine there'll be many other albums released this year that can better it.” - Canberra Times
“Purple Skies, Toxic River is a six-year labour of love for Canberra musician Bobby Kill, who wanted to create his own version of Hüsker Dü’s loose concept album Zen Arcade. He succeeded, weaving a story about a kid leaving home for the city, around claustrophobic production, paranoid guitars and found sounds. At turns cathartic and beautiful.” - The Guardian’s 10 Best Australian Albums of 2013
"Everything about TV Colours is exaggerated: the colours are rich, the sentiments are instinctive, and the album itself - its structure, its moody interstitials, its crests and troughs - is unreservedly overblown." - Crawlspace
"When I saw him play two years ago I thought he was great but I didn’t know he was brilliant. Kill’s vision is definitely comparable to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade; a boy leaves his suburban home for the big city and the songs chronicle his journey.
He did it. He pulled it off. Purple Skies, Toxic River is the real thing. 45 minutes of alternative rock that holds your attention the whole way through. Doing concept albums ain’t as fashionable as it used to be, all the best ones were done by artists that disgraced themselves long ago. The first track, The Neighbourhood, divulges just how bold and rich this record sounds. It’s a triumphant overture with dueling guitar solos, the type you could do yourself in your bedroom. Sonically I guess the whole record has lo-fi engineering with a hi-fi production to it. Lost Highway really screams. There’s all these visual prompts: the car starting, the heavy metal on the stereo, everything sounds too noisy for the speakers and the wind is so loud against the car. There isn’t much traffic in Canberra.
Run With The Creeps is a great song it starts with industrial drum machine kinda thing trying to resemble movement before this AC/DC-sized riff that keeps getting bigger. Crowds of people shouting down empty streets in the chorus. Would you know what I meant if I said ‘Flatbed truck’? You may challenge that idea of low-fidelity, you may say to yourself “maybe it’s all digital”. Never has horrible practice amp hum sounded so legit. Beverly was an obvious single; it’s the power ballad with the most adrenaline. That fade at the end is there only there for your convenience - he probably kept playing that riff with that intensity for hours.
The hooks keep coming “I just don’t care anymore”. It feels like the drum machine is getting faster. The tone of the album shifts, heavy metal riffs and saxes that drift off into the night. Bad Dreams could be a single too, just about every song could. There isn’t a song on this record I would say is misplaced or not hitting its mark, Kill has given them all the attention they deserve.
Purple Skies, Toxic River is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It is compelling in its coherence, impressive but not overstated and never corny. You don’t have to be a big bald whinge to make alternative rock." - 4ZZZ FM
"There's reason to believe that Bobby Kill is a perfectionist. The Canberra native's debut as TV Colours, Purple Skies, Toxic River, was completed and scrapped twice before Kill was satisfied. On album cut "Beverly", it doesn't so much come off like Kill was micromanaging; rather, it sounds like he needed every second of those six years to accumulate the kind of pent-up frustration required to make a chorus like this sound as cathartic as possible.
Though the synthesizers and harsh drum machines give "Beverly" a more synthetic edge than Japandroids' Post-Nothing, the intoxicating and intoxicated do-or-die urgency is there, as Kill's yelpy vocals and the scuzzy guitars make "Beverly" sound like it was recorded on a runaway train. It's an anthem forged by a perfectionist, and there are few better ways for an artist to stress, "There is no Plan B," than with the high-stakes emoting of "Beverly.” - Pitchfork
“Bobby Kill is the enigmatic genius behind TV Colours and a key figure in the close-knit Canberra punk scene that's coalesced around the Dream Damage label (Danger Beach, Kill's Assassins 88 project and the Fighting League). He's also a perfectionist by the sounds of it, scrapping two versions of debut album Purple Skies, Toxic River, before finally releasing it in June after a six-year gestation period. Six years!
Kill has described the album as his "personal Zen Arcade", and it really does unfold like Bob Mould's recurring dream: claustrophobic bedroom production, industrial shards of noise, found sounds, and desperate vocals straight out of the isolated wastelands of the nation's capital.
Following first single Beverly comes Bad Dreams, a timeless anthem about looking back on your teenage fantasies with bone-chilling hindsight. Like almost everything on Purple Skies, Toxic River, the melodies come bursting out of the sludgy morass, and the sentiment will surely resonate with anyone who's fallen short of those grand pubescent plans.” - The Guardian
"[A] saturated mix of lo-fi drum machine/guitar anthem STOMPERS and VHS-informed soundtrack/synth interludes…The hooks are tight and well-considered, the drum sounds are suitably gunshot-esque, and the whole notion of youthful, now-or-never, ride-your-bike-down-the-stairs impulsiveness pushes this thing well over the top. The enthusiasm behind this one is off the charts, and for once it actually improves the quality of the overall product. There should still be room for dreams, and this record is a reminder why … having them fulfilled, being able to send off for some random record and have it turn out to be great, that’s a good feeling, and it happened to me today. Soon it could happen to you.” - Still Single: Comedy Minus One : : TV Colours :