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Encyclopedia entry for 'Exploding White Mice' LETTER:

Formed in 1984
StylePunk rock
 Original line-up: Paul Gilchrist (vocals), Gerry Barrett (guitar), Andy McQueen (bass), Craig Rodda (drums; on loan from Screaming Believers)
 Albums: A Nest of Vipers (mini-album, Greasy Pop, 1985), Brute Force and Ignorance (The Greasy Record Company/Festival, 1988), Exploding White Mice (The Greasy Record Company/Festival, 1990), Collateral Damage (Normal/Shock, 1992), We Walk Alone (Au-go-go/Shock, 1994), A Nest of Vipers (CD reissue with extra tracks, Bastard, 1995).

On the post-Radio Birdman independent scene of the mid-1980s, Adelaide band Exploding White Mice was the right band, at the right time, playing the right kind of music. Taking inspiration from The Ramones, Radio Birdman, MC5, The Stooges, Johnny Thunders and American 1960s garage-punk, the Mice played high energy, melodic, hard-edged rock'n'roll.

Inevitably that led to accusations of unoriginality and, worse still, pure retrogression. Yet that hardly mattered to fans of that style of music. Exploding White Mice became one of the most popular bands on the Australian independent scene of the day. The original line-up of Exploding White Mice came together in mid-1984 to play a one-off gig at a party. In the spirit of the event, the band took its name from the cult film Rock'n'Roll High School. The initial live repertoire was all cover versions. Two weeks later, the band began playing pub gigs and decided to keep going.

Soon after, Giles Barrow (rhythm guitar) joined and Jeff Stephens (lead guitar; ex-Firm Grip, Spitfires, Tombstone Shadows) replaced Gerry Barrett. At the end of 1984, the band recorded enough songs to fill a mini-album which came out as A Nest of Vipers on Greasy Pop (October 1985). By that stage, David Bunney (ex-Zippy and the Coneheads) had replaced Rodda, who had returned to his commitments with Screaming Believers.

A Nest of Vipers featured a mix of originals and covers of The Chantays' `Pipeline', The Wheels' `Bad Little Woman' and Bo Diddley's `Let the Kids Dance' (as covered by Radio Birdman). The record spent eight months on the Australian independent charts after having reached #2. The track `Dangerous' appeared on the soundtrack to the US feature film The Allnighter. The band's version of The Stooges' `Down on the Street' also appeared on Greasy Pop's Various Artists' album An Oasis in A Desert of Noise, plus Au-go-go's 1988 Stooges tribute album Hard to Beat.

The band became regulars on the interstate touring circuit. `Blaze of Glory'/`He's Gonna Step on You Again' came out in March 1987. Brute Force and Ignorance (August 1988) continued The Ramones/Birdman fixation with its buzz-saw riffs and breakneck tempos. It contained the singles `Fear (Late at Night)'/`Without Warning' (May 1988) and `Breakdown #2'/`Bury Me' (November). David Mason (ex-Acid Drops, Primevils) replaced Barrow at the end of 1988.

The new line-up recorded the single `Make It Right'/`Ain't It Sad?' (July 1989) before Mason left to be replaced by Jack Jacomas. One of Jacomas's earliest gigs with the band was supporting the Mice's New York heroes The Ramones in Adelaide. The band spent the early months of 1990 touring Europe, returning to Australia in May for live dates to support the release of the album Exploding White Mice and single `I Just Want My Fun'/`First Time is the Best Time', `Do the Crunch'. The album included one side of fresh studio recordings and one side of live cuts, including covers of The Saints' `Misunderstood' and Alex Chilton's `Bangkok'.

Long-serving frontman Paul Gilchrist called it a day in 1991, and the band was down to a four-piece. Stephens took over vocal duties in addition to lead guitar. Andrew Bunney (ex-Coneheads) replaced Jacomas in 1991. Fellow Adelaide band The Cone-heads had recorded a couple of tough guitar pop singles, `Barn Burnin''/`Action', `Evil Little Elmer' (October 1986), `Chewy Chewy'/`Skippin', Skippin', Skippin'' (January 1988), the EP Burned Again (1987) and the album Bum (1990) on Greasy Pop.

By 1991, Exploding White Mice's standing in Australia had subsided. Interest in Europe, however, was still at a premium. The band's next album, Collateral Damage (August 1992), came out on German label Normal, and was imported into Australia via Shock Records. In 1994, Au-go-go issued the band's fifth album, We Walk Alone. Among the album's tempered guitar riffs and rough-hewn harmonies, reference points still abounded, and included The Ramones, The Stooges, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, DMZ, Bad Religion and New York Dolls. The band made an appearance in Bill Young's 1994 black comedy The Roly Poly Man, playing—what else but—a `punk-rock bar-band from Hell'.

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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