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The Age, 3 September 1997
The Earthmen,
by David Challenger
For a while there, one could have been forgiven for thinking The Earthmen had joined the much-hyped about Pathfinder. Hurtling through space towards Mars, perhaps discussing the fall and rise of their favourite '60s girl, The Earthmen seemed destined to join the ranks of the many good, but ultimately unsuccessful, pop bands. This self-imposed exile occurred just after their '94 US and UK tour. Arriving back in Australia, most of the members decided to leave the band. And, despite numerous singles and EP releases through Atlanta's Slumberland label, it looked as if The Earthmen's days were numbered. But that was then and this is now, and my how things have changed.

The Melbourne-based band has stabilised with what appears to be a genuinely fixed line-up; they've signed with the prestigious Warner Records; and, most importantly, released Love Walked In, an album that has left critics gushing with praise. "Yeah, it makes you feel pretty good," enthuses singer Scott Stevens, "and the high praise has been quite surprising. But if you accept the good reviews, then you have to take the bad ones as well." Stevens, who started the band in the early '90s, still works a day-time job in South Melbourne, helping young, long-termed unemployed people find work. The band's other main protagonist, guitarist Nick Batterham, forms the crux of The Earthmen's creative partnership. "Our songwriting style changes from song to song. Sometimes, I might sing the melody to Nick first, or he might come up with some chord structures. It chops and changes."

Despite the differing songwriting process, the end result is always the same: richly structured pop melodies. So perhaps it's not surprising to find that Stevens' influences encompass pop legends such as The Byrds (the band owns a Fender amp that was used in The Byrds song Turn, Turn, Turn,) The Smiths and The Go-Betweens. "I love The Byrds, partly because, like us, they've had so many line-up changes! Oasis have a few songs that are just amazing, while I sort of like Blur, but it's hard to warm to them."

Music critics have been quick to throw The Earthmen into the so-called Brit-pop basket, a tedious label even for bands that actually come from Britain. "It's a really lazy comparison," says Stevens. "The term is like a manifestation of a dying country ... a jingoistic and nationalistic response. It's just a tag. Every year there's a different fad." The album Loved Walked In took about three months to record and, like The Go-Betweens' masterful 16 Lovers Lane, reflects personal subjects and romantic themes. "The CD is about people and relationships, and how people get along. Each song has a thread - some lines may be autobiographical, some might be about friends ... writing about relationships [is] implicitly political."

There's no doubting that The Earthmen's latest recording is impressive, particularly in a country that continues to embrace Seattle-esque rock in a sycophantic manner. Love Walked In will remain an important milestone in Australian pop for some time to come.

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