Ups & Downs – Out of the Darkness

John Carozza

FEEL PRESENTS/FUSE: Brisbane band Ups & Downs were ahead of their time; now this compilation album presents their classic indie sounds for a new generation.
Ups & Downs – Out of the Darkness
The Ups & Downs were, as happens on occasion in the arts world, a bit ‘out of time’. A fabulous 1980’s Brisband who produced achingly beautiful indie-pop (before such a term was a fashionable label), they were out of synch with a way for their music to reach the audience they richly deserved. In pre-JJJ days and at a point in Brisbane’s cultural history where a band virtually had to re-locate for an audience or career, let alone a venue to play in, Ups & Downs made the journey to Sydney from Brisbane in 1984 and for whatever reason, were not fortunate enough for their music to take them to the next step, which they so richly deserved.

Bracketed in the ‘paisley pop’ cluster of indie bands (when indie actually meant that) they had some mainstream success with the fabulous ‘The Living Kind’, a single to be sure, but a single that perfectly captured the mood, feel and construction of the best songs, from the best bands of the time.

Placed in their Australian context, they sat slightly below The Church in the pecking order, largely due to the ‘Rickenbacker jangle’ and stylings, but as time has moved on, it is clear that the sound and the stylish guitar interplay between the band’s Peter Shaw and John Flade was more akin to some of the American independent releases of the time, from bands such as Let’s Active and the more atmospheric The Feelies, as well as the sounds and atmosphere of the kernel of REM, before the stadiums beckoned.

In combination, the Atkison brothers, Greg on vocals and bass and Darren on drums, drove the core of these crafted and powerful songs through a great vocal and skilful drumming. The songwriting is pure indie pop, great hooks, strong choruses and atmospheric production.

This compilation album draws from the 1986 Sleepless EP (which featured ‘The Living Kind’ and a stand-out cover of Neil Diamond’s 'Solitary Man'), the 1990 EP Rash and the 1988 album Under the Watchful Eye. This is a collection of songs rich in texture and mood; a snapshot of a great Australian band that produced guitar pop at its best, song after song. A band out of its time, maybe? There is no way of really telling, but place these songs in the context of the multitude of bands unearthed or driving the alleged indie circuits of Australia now and a lot of pretenders would be shown up.

Out of the Darkness: Sleepless, Singles & Other Stories is an album, and a compilation, that deserves to be in the collection of any music fan. Twenty five years later, the songs and sound still jump out of the speakers at you, letting you revisit a unique period of Australian and Brisbane music, but also sitting comfortably in the contemporary Australian pop music canon.

Ups & Downs – Out of the Darkness: Sleepless, Singles & Other Stories
Out now through Feel Presents/Fuse

Greg Atkinson: Vocals and Bass Guitar
Darren Atkinson: Drums, vocals, percussion and drum machines John Flade: Guitars
Peter Shaw: Electric and acoustic guitars
Trevor O’Niell: Keyboards, bass guitar and vocals

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

John Carozza is a teacher and artist based in Brisbane. He is presently working at the QLD Academy for Creative Industries where he has developed the (award winning) Film Studies Program for the international Baccalaureate. He has over 20 years of teaching experience, as well as being commissioned to develop units of study and lead workshops in digital pedagogy and visual literacy in schools around Queensland and internationally. John teaches into the QUT film courses, lecturing in his specialist area of de-construction in World and Australia cinema where he has been invited to speak on various films.