Sydney band The New Christs has existed in several different incarnations, with the only constant factor being redoubtable frontman Rob Younger. Although the Radio Birdman legacy has continued to overshadow Younger's subsequent work, The New Christs remain one of the most important independent bands that emerged during the 1980s.
With the break-up of Radio Birdman in 1978, Younger initially formed the short-lived The Other Side with Clyde Bramley, Charlie Georgees (guitar; ex-Hellcats, Hitmen) and Mark Kingsmill (drums; ex-Hellcats). The Other Side played predominantly covers of 1960s garage-punk and R&B material, with a smattering of Younger originals in the same vein. Georgees was a rock-solid guitar player of tremendous skill, and Kingsmill was, even then, one of the best drummers in Australia. The Other Side earned a reputation as the archetypal, hard-driving, inner-city rock band, but the odds always seemed to be stacked up against any notions of sustained success. Just as the band was hitting its stride, Kingsmill left to join The Hitmen. Ron Keeley (ex-Radio Birdman, Visitors) took his place, but by the end of 1979 the band had fallen apart.
In early 1980, Younger and Bramley formed the first version of The New Christs with the above line-up. The original line-up was short-lived and never performed live, but did record the searing acid-punk single `Face a New God'/`Waiting World' for the GREEN label. The Thought Criminals' Ken Doyle played drums on the recording session. Issued in August 1981, the single has since emerged as one of the most collectable artefacts of the Australian punk/new wave era. The New Christs' name did not appear again until June 1983 when Younger pulled together three members of The Hitmen (Chris Masuak, guitar, Mark Kingsmill, drums and Tony Robertson, bass), plus The Celibate Rifles' guitarist Kent Steedman, in order to support Iggy Pop on his Australian tour.
Initially, it was intended that The New Christs would only exist for the duration of the tour, but the aggregation proved so potent that they decided to work as a full-time band. Richard Jakimyszyn (guitar, ex-Lime Spiders) replaced Steedman, whose commitments to The Rifles precluded any lengthy stay. The new line-up recorded two consummate, guitar-driven, hard rock singles for the Citadel label, `Like a Curse'/`Sun God' (April 1984) and `Born Out of Time'/`No Next Time' (April 1986). `Like a Curse' and `Born Out of Time' later appeared on Citadel's essential double album compilation Take Everything Leave Nothing (March 1988).
Following the band's break-up in May 1984, Younger spent the next two and a half years producing a number of Sydney independent bands (including Lime Spiders, Died Pretty, Eastern Dark, Psychotic Turnbuckles and Hard-Ons, plus Stems from Perth). Of the other members, Masuak joined The Screaming Tribesmen, Kingsmill joined Hoodoo Gurus and Jakimyszyn re-joined The Lime Spiders. Younger revived the New Christs' name in February 1987, for the third time, with a line-up comprising Charlie Owen (guitar; ex-Tango Bravo), string-bean bass player Jim Dickson (ex-Railroad Gin, Survivors, Passengers, Barracudas) and Louis Burdett (drums; ex-Powerhouse, Ed Kuepper Band). Nick Fisher (ex-Wet Taxis, Paris Green) replaced Burdett and that line-up recorded four singles for Citadel: `The Black Hole'/`Addiction' (July 1987), the double 7-inch `Dropping Like Flies'/`Dead Girl'; `I Swear'/`You'll Never Catch My Wave' (December), `Headin' South'/`I Saw God' (November 1988) and `Another Sin'/`The Burning of Rome' (June 1989).
The New Christs' explosive debut album Distemper (August 1989) remains the definitive statement on the band's sound and style. It contained a wealth of powerful tracks like `No Way on Earth', `Afterburn', `Circus of Sour' and `The Burning of Rome'. The album attained the #1 spot on the alternative chart. As well as touring constantly across Australia, The New Christs also undertook two successful tours of Europe, where the band's records sold exceedingly well. The band broke up in late 1989, but there was a short-lived reunion at the start of 1991 when The New Christs were booked as support for The Ramones at that band's Sydney concert. Dickson went on to work closely with ex-Radio Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek, while Owen has worked with everyone from Don Walker and Tex Perkins (as Tex Don and Charlie) to Beasts of Bourbon. Owen also issued a solo album in 1994, Vertigo and Other Phobias (Red Eye/Polydor), which featured the old New Christs rhythm section of Jim Dickson (bass) and Nick Fisher (drums).
The next New Christs line-up appeared in January 1992 when Younger recruited Billy Gibson (guitar, organ; ex-Eastern Dark), Christian Houllemare (bass; ex-Happy Hate Me Nots), Stevie Plunder (guitar; ex-Plunderers) and Peter Kelly (drums; ex-Flies, No Man's Land, Vanilla Chain-saws). Plunder left at the end of the year to join The Whitlams; he died in 1996. Tony Harper (ex-Viscounts, Voodoo Lust) joined on guitar. Harper's previous band, Voodoo Lust, also comprised Gary Slater (vocals), Brad Ferguson (bass) and Dean Muller (drums). Voodoo Lust issued the singles `Shake Shake, Hey Yey'/`No No No No' (August 1986), `Stop Breakin' My Heart'/`Gossip' (July 1987) and `Cathy's on Heat'/`How Do You Sleep?' (May 1988), plus the mini-albums Voodoo Lust (August 1987) and Life, Love, Booze and Bitterness (June 1988; both on Rattlesnake). The line-up on the latter comprised Slater, Harper, Steve King (bass) and Phil Jacquet (drums; ex-Celibate Rifles). Originally from Brisbane, the band broke up in Sydney in late 1989. Ferguson joined The Hitmen; Muller later turned up in Melbourne band Hoss.
The New Christs issued the Pedestal CD EP in October 1994. A month later, Gibson left (he later joined Lemonheads) to be replaced by Mark Wilkinson (guitar; ex-Girlies, Lime Spiders). That gave a tenacious line-up of Younger, Houllemare, Kelly, Harper and Wilkinson. The New Christs issued a new CD EP, Woe Betide, in November 1995. At the same time, Lance Rock Records in Canada put out the retrospective album Born Out of Time that drew together 13 tracks of prime New Christs aural mayhem. Younger also produced Died Pretty's Sold album in 1995. He toured with the re-formed Radio Birdman in early 1996 and then reactivated The New Christs again for the powerful Lower Yourself album at the start of 1997. The line-up on the album comprised Younger, Wilkinson, Houllemare and Kelly with assistance from John Hoey (keyboards; from Died Pretty). In April 1997, The New Christs toured Europe with newcomer Al Creed (ex-Fruitworld, Hey Charger!) on guitar and vocals.