TISM: Collected Versus (Seeland/Genre B. Goode, 2022)

November 25, 2022 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

TISM: Collected Versus

The newest release from Negativland’s Seeland label is a double CD anthology of a long-running Australian band called TISM (This Is Serious Mum). Going into this, I was expecting them to be some sort of mega-obscure experimental outfit that had loads of cassettes and maybe an actual record or two. Turns out this band was actually quite popular in their home country, even scoring a Top 10 gold-selling album in the ’90s. Musically, it’s very peppy, hook-filled dance-rock with bitterly funny lyrics that make fun of absolutely everything. Much of their music is filled with hyper-specific references to local culture that won’t make sense to anyone who isn’t Australian (or even from outside of Melbourne), but it’s easy to amused just by the absurdity of it all. Much like groups such as Sparks, Ween, and Captain Ahab, this is very much a band you have to get, but if you get it, they’re brilliant at what they do. The first disc of this compilation contains all their singles in chronological order. “40 Years – Then Death” appears early on, and it seems like a much more serious reflection on the brevity of life than their other songs. Besides that, though, it’s loaded with songs about subjects like Led Zeppelin’s drug provider, Martin Scorcese, wanting to quit the band and start a family, and Fred Durst as the messiah. The sound evolves from new wave to thrashy breakbeat techno, and I think they were at their best when they embraced techno-pop in the ’90s. I guess Chumbawamba is a good comparison, except TISM never had a moment of universal ubiquity. The more sample-driven tracks are definitely on the same wavelength as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (aka the KLF), and I’ve never listened to Half Man Half Biscuit, but they seem to have a similar sense of humor in regards to song titles. Also, I know I’ve heard someone, most likely Negativland, sample the unforgettable intro to “(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River”, which goes “I’m on the drug that killed River Phoenix!” And “Garbage” is an amazing song against classic rock and the endless recycling of nostalgia. The second disc tells much more of the TISM story, with another 80 minutes of fan favorites. This includes a long rant against Jim Morrison, a cheerful sounding pop song about clubbing seals, several songs and rants about how life is shit, and a rant against rave culture from an aging rocker (though I’m not sure why Elastica is mentioned, they were clearly a rock band. But I guess to a middle-aged grizzled dude who loves pub rock, they would’ve sounded close enough to dance music). Finally, the band throws themselves into the landfill with the rocket-powered rave-up “TISM Are Shit”. A fun discovery for the rest of the world; their Wikipedia page is worth a perusal as well.

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  1. Hi, I am a big TISM and Negativland fan. Can you please clarify further if there was ever a Negativland project that samples TISM? I’d love to make this more well known if true.

    • I don’t know for certain, it was either one of the recent Negativland albums or an episode of Over the Edge, and I do not have time to go through the archives and confirm.


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