Well, this one certainly came from left field to bring a smile to my face. The love for Icehouse is well established on PPM with not only The Monk but most of the usual gang of commenters also holding a torch for the Oz combo that Iva Davies has helmed for over 35 years going. Mr. Ware sent me the news the other day that Iva Davies had gotten the bug to radically reinvent the Icehouse canon as dub reggae with a spate of December shows being credited to Dubhouse! Given that we’d all given up for any new Icehouse events as the band seemed trapped in an archival holding pattern that saw the plethora of 12″ remixes being the latest place where reissue attention had been directed last year, this marks a point of new hope that Davies still has a restless spark that is firing new creativity.
Actually, it was due to overseeing that 12″ mix reissue program, that saw Davies pulled back into the various dub mixes that were done historically and he enjoyed the feel of it a lot. That, coupled with the experience of having met Peter Tosh at a German festival in 1983 and admiring the musician’s relaxed vibe onstage, gave rise to the Dubhouse notion that played out last month in a pair of Australian dates. The band have radically re-arranged their songs for a larger ensemble that encompasses bongos, percussion, and a horn section to keep the party moving. Better still, there is a limited edition CD that caught it all on hard drive.
Icehouse: Dubhouse Live OZ CD 
- Exodus/Great Southern Land
- Electric Blue/Could You Be Loved
- Hey, Little Girl/You Don’t Love Me [No, No, No]
- Walk On The Wild Side/Heartbreak Kid
- No Promises
- Can’t Help Myself
- Buffalo Soldier/Street Cafe
- The Israelites/We Can Get Together
As we see, some of these numbers have been mashed up with reggae classics. For example, Bob Marley’s classic “Exodus” has been gene-spliced with “Great Southern Land” and if you can’t hear that perfectly in your head, you aren’t trying hard enough! I see this getting on like the proverbial flaming domicile. But why not sample it yourself?
I’ve traditionally been cool to reggae. The vibe can be fine, but when the lyrics start invoking Rastafari, it’s just another form of religious music to This Monk. That said, there is a copy of “Exodus” in the Record Cell, because my wife sees things differently. As much as I remain cool to reggae’s pull, I have to admit that “Exodus” is massive. It’s the one Bob Marley tune I actively love, and hearing it cross-bred with the similarly massive Icehouse “Great Southern Land,” is a natural to these ears. The vibe of dub reggae is not too far from how Krautrock works for me. Dub reggae shares one stylistic trait with Krautrock to these ears; when the rhythms coil and release, I experience the sense of time stopping not unlike the effect of motorik beats have on me as well.
Ever want to hear “Electric Blue” as an upbeat ska number? Sure you did!
While we are still waiting for Bryan Ferry to cross the reggae line in the sand [“Valentine” came real close] we can always near the next best thing.
I just have to get my mitts on a copy of this CD! Currently, it’s been said that this disc is for sale at the Icehouse merch table but seeing as how the band play dates only in the Southern Hemisphere, I don’t hold out any hopes that a North American tour is on the books any time soon. It’s been over 25 years since Icehouse trod the boards in this hemisphere, and the band has only been reactivated following a long dormancy in their native Australia on their 30th year anniversary forward. It’s been also whispered that iTunes will be distributing Dubhouse, but I’ll bet that it’s the Australian iTunes only, much like the 12″ Mixes volumes that are currently being sold there.
Hopefully, Germany’s Repertoire Records, who issued the only physical CDs of “12” Mixes” will keep the love for Icehouse burning and see fit to license this material for CD in Germany; giving us all a chance on the open market to have this fun project in our own racks. At the very least, I am optimistic that this indicates a renewed fervor on the part of Davies getting back in the swing of things. I can see that this may pave the way to more Icehouse music in the future.
– 30 –
This is very intriguing!
Stephen Shafer – This is one of those rare times when our blogs may cross over! I think it’s pretty cool that Iva is experimenting and having some fun with the Icehouse catalog.
So true! Speaking of things crossing over between New Wave and ska/reggae, you might get a kick out of this release from a band I’m in called Rude Boy George: http://rudeboygeorge.bandcamp.com/album/take-one. We do ska covers of New Wave classics. (Sorry about the shameless self-promotion, but it does relate to what you cover here!)
Steve Sheafer – Rude Boy George? That’s genius!! Thanks so much for sharing that with me. You need to get together with chasinvictoria and finagle your way into his Crusty Old Wave podcast!
My mind is blown by what a great fit these arrangements are with the original songs. Joe Jackson would be proud of Iva! Yes, even if the only non-Aussie release is digital I will surely scarf this up — makes a nice bookend to the jazz-lounge arrangements (of cover songs) found on The Berlin Tapes.
Holy….!!! Chas, there are pieces of my brain matter mingled with yours on the ground! The freshness and intensity is, may I say it, ELECTRIC!! Hey Little Girl sounds like it was meant to be a lazy, breezy reggae track and Electric Blue makes me want a Red Stripe and a palm tree to sit under. But it’s Exodus/Great Southern Land that is really quite impressive. The opening made me immediately think of Ferry riffing on a reggae track and then going into a deep cut from Bette Noire. The quality of these rehearsal tracks is tremendous.
I have to think that Davies thought, if he’s going to tread the boards again with his catalogue he might as well bring something to the party. He brought fireworks!
Echorich – Iva wanted a fun party atmosphere for their Christmas shows and he couldn’t help but notice that the fun flowed like water when he saw a reggae act. I love how it was an unlikely concept that seemed to come together quickly. The quick and dirty CD was a gift that hopefully we can all share soon.
Now that the “ice has broken” dare I hope for some more Icehouse music of a traditional stripe?! Signs point to “yes!”
I checked out some of the audience videos and I see his son played guitar at one or two concerts.
Anything that gets his creative juices flowing will be welcome Monk. Not sure there is any tradition that Davies needs to follow any longer. His jazzy take on covers, his reggae nod here and his ability to write a really well thought out classical film score point to a man not ever going to rest on his laurels when it comes to new music.
Well, I give ’em an A for effort…but really, Great Southern Land, which is a song I absolutely love, has been butchered to these ears. Sorry, Monk, but I gotta call it like I hear it. But if you and the others here like it, have at it and enjoy!
zoo – Like I said, I’m not much one for reggae, but as one who loves both tracks, they work well together for me. Did any of the other arrangements please you or is the whole Dubhouse concept a non-starter with you?
I think the main issue is that I’m not that big of an Icehouse fan outside of the first album and Primitive Man. The other stuff I’ve heard hasn’t fired me up too much, and the reggae versions don’t make me want to explore further, either. I’ve got no problem with reggae or ska, but THESE songs don’t do it for me. That said, this is better than nothing from Davies, just not what it takes to get me interested.
zoo – Aha. This is where we begin to understand. Although I loved the first two Icehouse albums [particularly “Primitive Man”], my favorite of all are “Measure For Measure” and “The Berlin Tapes.” And “Big Wheel” wasn’t chopped liver, either. So except for the iffy “Code Blue,” I’m a pretty big Icehouse fan. I even think their mid-80s sellout album [“Man of Colours”] is one of the best of that sad lot, for what it is. This is such a crazy, impetuous thing that I never expected, and I think much of its appeal lies therein for me.
zoo, I was concerned about No Promises in the same way, but having heard a couple live renditions which can be found on YoumeandeverybodyelseTube, I was happy to say that the Calypso vibe actually worked and Davies’ delivery was still emotional and capitvating.
I’ll have to put myself in Zoo’s camp. I’m a card carrying Icehouse fanatic, but reggae just does nothing for me. I find these arrangements amusing in a novelty way, but I’m just not emotionally engaged in any way. But yes, anything that may light Iva’s creative fires is certainly a good thing.
Hey Monk. Sorry for bad pun – but I come from the ‘Great Southern Land’.
Recent discoverer of your blog and have been ‘enchanted’ – I check in every day. Lots of similar interests, and some new ones arise (for me to search out and discover). Based on this entry – I’ve managed to obtain a copy of DubHOUSE (Live) for you. If you’re actually keen to receive it, more than happy to send it your way; even if it spends the rest of its life in the Record cell :)
Roger – Welcome to the comments. Once you are approved the first time [and this has happened] you are free to comment all you want without review! Wow! Readers want to send me CDs? This is what it’s all about!!! Bless you, my son! It’s funny you mention this because I just looked around and saw that “Dubhouse Live” has hit the US iTunes store. That’s nice, but if you read this hack rag, you’re aware that it’s all about the physical copy with me, and don’t think that I don’t appreciate greatly your kind offer. In fact, I was just poking around on the web yesterday after seeing it in iTunes to find a CD copy to no avail!
Physical copies – I hear ya. Iva and the crew were playing on small island off our coast and were doing ‘the reggae thing’. Really like them, but that groove, doesn’t completely sell it to me (Although I do have a soft spot for Shakespeare’s Sister with ‘Could you be loved’ – sorry; off on a tangent). I’ve made a conscious effort this year to not only be a lot better than last year (won’t be hard) but to extend the hand and help where it’s been asked. Christ that’s corny. Contact me via email and I’ll gladly send it across the pond to you.