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In its twenty-year career, Australian band TISM became possibly the most notorious band in their country’s history, mixing the satire of Frank Zappa, the art-project long-game of the Residents, the songwriting chops and wit of Sparks, and the culture-jamming panache of Negativland. Now, forty years after forming and eighteen years after their last gig, an unsuspecting America can finally enjoy the pop-dance-satire band from Oz they never knew they were missing, as experimental music label Seeland Records proudly presents the TISM singles collection Collected Versus in a 2CD set that brings their greatest “hits” to U.S. audiences for the first time.
TISM albums such as Great Truckin’ Songs Of The Renaissance, Hot Dogma, Machiavelli And The Four Seasons, and De Rigueurmortis became chart hits while the band wowed live audiences with a series of absurd performance art happenings that inspired equal parts head-banging and stage-diving, danger and glee, laughs and total confusion.
Born of the early-1980s music scene of suburban Melbourne, the band was a hit onstage and on the pop charts, with the seven men of TISM remaining anonymous for decades. Performing in balaclavas and rocking stage names like Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix-Bun, and Ron Hitler-Barassi, their provocative live shows became the stuff of legend, as they blasted their fans with infectiously catchy guitar-laden electro-pop leavened with bottomless cynicism and dark laughs.
Career highlights included appearing on a children’s TV show to promote their song “Saturday Night Palsy” and gradually increasing the size of the band to twenty eight members over three minutes; playing an entire gig in front of platforms on which they staged a full wedding reception, complete with best man’s speech, bridal party, and a separate wedding band; holding a press interview on a football field with the journalists fifty meters away at the end of a taut piece of string; releasing their debut single “Defecate on My Face” as a 7-inch record in a 12-inch sleeve with all four sides glued shut; playing a benefit gig in which two separate TISMs performed at opposite ends of the same hall; and bringing twenty guitarists on stage to play a single chord.
Collected Versus includes a career-spanning survey of all of the band’s singles on disc one, plus eighty minutes of fan favorites on disc two.