Ask anyone what the world’s greatest music city is and there’s a chance that you’ll get Melbourne as the (rather correct) response. But if you go further and ask about Melbourne’s best time for rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll get a era of answers, with anyone who cites the mid-’00s likely putting the great Swedish Magazines directly in their sights.
Formed in the first half of the Noughties and taking their name from Iggy Pop’s “Five Foot One”, the Swedish Magazines were something of a revelation for the Melbourne music scene. Unleashing their What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Deadly EP and Eat More Baby album in 2005, the group’s hard-rocking sound was as wild as it was exuberant, with the group – comprising Van Walker, Cal Walker, Anton Ruddick, and Tim Durkin – drawing comparisons to Aussie greats such as AC/DC and the Powder Monkeys thanks to their classic balls-to-the-wall performance style.
Needless to say, Swedish Magazines and their lives shows quickly became legend; a rite of passage for newcomers to the scene, with even the most fervent non-believers being convinced that rock was nowhere near dead after witnessing one of their shows.
But after the release of 2011’s Wino Havoc, things went a little quiet on the Swedish Magazines front. Sure, countless local bands stepped up to the plate to fill the gap left by their absence, but as the likes of Amyl and The Sniffers became household names, many wondered about their forebears. The group’s members weren’t exactly lazy though, they just had other things to occupy their time. While Van Walker was active as a solo artist and in other groups, brother Cal could also be found a member of numerous local bands, including the likes of Tyrannamen.
Now, more than a decade since the Swedish Magazines went silent, they’ve returned with a long-awaited ‘best of’ compilation that collects – fittingly – their best work from their initial existence. Dubbed I Wish Life Could Be… (for the lyric that gave them their name), the ten-track release is less of a ‘greatest hits’ collection and more of a showcase of just why Melbourne was the place to be for rock music in the Noughties.
Kicking off with the opening track of their debut EP, “Movin’ Shakin'” quickly gives way to the material from their next two albums, with “She’s Evil” and “Bottles & Barstools” sounding almost seamless, despite their six-year gap.
For anyone who was lucky enough to witness the group at the peak of their powers, I Wish Life Could Be… is undoubtedly a walk down memory lane, with the forgotten Collingwood anthem “Girl From the Tote”, the riff-laden “Think Tanx a Million”, and blistering closer “Waves of Bering Strait” effectively underlining them as one of the seminal groups of the era.
But of course, it’s impossible to discuss a collection of tracks from the Swedish Magazines without making mention of “Head on Ice”, the opening track of their Eat More Baby debut, and arguably one of the most incredible Australian rock songs of all time.
Had “Head on Ice” been recorded by a globally-recognised band like Jet, or found its way into the hands of an garage-rock tastemaker like The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas, there’s a chance it might have been regarded as one of the greatest tracks to have been birthed atop Melbourne’s iconic sticky carpet. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, so it’ll remain a well-kept secret for the fans who know best.
In short, I Wish Life Could Be… is a sensational collection of one of the country’s most revered, yet highly-underrated rock bands, and highlights just why – even a decade since they last released an album – they’re still remembered so fondly.
For the trainspotters out there, the CD edition of the compilation also features a few extra live recordings at the end, all of which were taken from two in-studio sessions for Melbourne’s PBS-FM, and capturing the band in their element.
Thankfully though, the release of this new compilation isn’t one being done through the rearview mirror, with the Swedish Magazines set to complement its arrival with a handful of live shows in Victoria and New South Wales in the coming months. Check out the full tour details below.
Swedish Magazines’ I Wish Life Could Be… is out now.
I Wish Life Could Be… Swedish Magazines Album Launch Tour
Friday, November 26th, 2021
(With Leadfinger & Jupiter 5)
Marrickville Bowlo, Sydney, NSW
Saturday, November 27th, 2021
Grand Junction Hotel, Maitland, NSW
Friday, December 3rd, 2021
(With Warped, The Devours and Thee Cha Cha Chas)
Old Bar, Melbourne, VIC
Friday, January 14th, 2022
(With Warped, Future Tongues, and Thee Cha Cha Chas)
Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC