Perth, Australia; May 1978. An unrecorded band named the Invaders (which included bassist Boris Sujdovic, guitarist Rod Radalj, and guitarist/lead vocalist Kim Salmon) joins forces with drummer James Baker, changes their name to the Scientists and releases “Frantic Romantic,” a bright little pop single. A four-track EP and a delightfully gritty LP of hard pop follow. But music life in Perth (on the far west coast of Australia, 2,500 miles of outback away from anyplace else) becomes frustrating. Baker leaves for Sydney where he meets up with fellow Perth renegade Dave Faulkner (who had been in a band named the Gurus and was then in an unnamed ensemble with fellow Perth-escapee Radalj). Baker joins the new Faulkner/Radalj group and they name it Le Hoodoo Gurus.
September 1981: Salmon also gives up on Perth and relocates to Sydney, where he and Sujdovic create a new Scientists with a manic swamp-grunge sound. Full of dirty feedback and great swaths of nod-out guitar, Blood Red River (one of several Scientists records to be issued by Au-go-go in the UK as well as in Australia) pays homage to Suicide with pounding basslines and echo-chamber-overkill vocals, while hinting at the hypnotic fusion of ’60s hookah smoke and screechingly overheated guitar that bubbles through This Heart Doesn’t Run on Blood and on into Weird Love to become the Scientists’ sound. From screaming blues-rooted mania laid over repeating circles of bass and twists of cacophony lead guitar, through the frenetic Cramps-meet-Birthday Party dirges of the Belgian-only Demolition Derby, each release nudges the band’s sound a step further through a path of deep, dark, nod-out blasts until 1984 when, ever in search of someplace else, the Scientists left Australia for London, where their story begins to fall apart.
Except for Atom Bomb Baby (a mighty collection of blistering rockers recorded in London in late ’84) and the very Crampsy “You Only Live Twice” single (a cover of the James Bond theme), the next three Scientists releases are mostly archive material. You Get What You Deserve combines the seven-song Atom Bomb Baby and Demolition Derby with the B-side from “You Only Live Twice” as a bonus cut. Heading for a Trauma has four new songs but is otherwise a compilation of pre-Blood singles, a radio session and the Demolition Derby tracks (again). The tape-only Rubber Never Sleeps digs even further into the vaults to include live material from two of the Scientists’ pre-Hoodoo Gurus lineups, as well as 1982-’83 live tracks.
Although the poundingly intense Weird Love (the only Scientists record released in the US) was — with the exception of the earlier “You Only Live Twice” — newly recorded in London (February 1986) with producer Richard Mazda, it again portrays the band’s music as history by consisting entirely of old material, including such tracks as “Demolition Derby,” “Atom Bomb Baby” and “Nitro” (originally on This Heart).
By The Human Jukebox, only guitarists Salmon and Tony Thewlis remained from the Australian band. A dreary album lacking the searing frenzy that gave the Scientists their impact, Jukebox‘s repetition comes off as industrial rather than mesmerizing; Salmon’s vocals are flat and droney as if he’d taken lessons from a reject from Lou Reed High.
In 1989, the “Frantic Romantic” single and the 1979 EP recorded in Perth’s Sweet Corn Studios were compiled and reissued as the Sweet Corn Sessions, a six-track EP. That same material was later reissued again with different artwork as Pissed on Another Planet, taking its name from one of the cuts.
Despite the Scientists’ demise, the band’s archives continue to be raided. In 1989, the Spanish fanzine La Herenica issued a four-track EP featuring alternate versions of “Swampland,” “Nitro,” “Solid Gold Hell” and “A Pox on You” along with its 72-page all-Scientists issue.
Since the Scientists, Salmon and his new band, the Surrealists, have been churning out wild and frenzied rock music: untamed, primal and filled with frenzy. Like the Scientists, the new group uses the mantra of repetition to suck listeners into its groove. Sometimes it’s a nightmare; other times (as in Just Because‘s cover version of “Je t’Aime”) it’s just a wet dream. But the music is always imbued with a fine and tortured spirit. Alternately funky and bluesy/rootsy but always based on the scrapes and squeals and manipulations of hard, electric guitar, the records are, above all, rock’n’roll. (Not content to limit his creativity to just one group or perspective at a time, Salmon has more recently released a solo single, “Lightning Scary” that couples ’60s AM radio-style pop with rap.)
Following the Scientists, Tony Thewlis assembled the Interstellar Villains, whose 12-inch EP (Right Out in the Lobster Quadrille) is a psychocandied fusion between pop and pound. More twisted than the mid-’80s paisley but not a self-indulgent space-rock ramble either, Lobster grafts American roots rock to British production styles, putting its pop proclivities across in a more cleanly textured surface than American garage bands working the same tradition, but with more guts than the glossier Brits.