Young Modern

It’s Automatic: The Best of Young Modern, the essential collection celebrating fabled Adelaide late 70s pop revivalists Young Modern out 4th August 2023.

Out of step with their more punk inspired late 70s contemporaries, Adelaide’s Young Modern preferred to jangle like the early Byrds, explore dynamics like the 64-66 Beatles and Stones, and to occasionally strum like Doug Yule-era Velvets. The band were named after a short-lived Adelaide teen scene zine of the mid-60s, that local songwriter and vocalist John Dowler had in mind when he arrived back home after several years in Melbourne fronting highly touted group Spare Change.

Young Modern formed in mid-1977 only to split a couple of years later after experiencing hard times on the suburban beer barn circuit. The band’s total recorded output from that period counted an 8-track demo and one warmly received radio double A-side “She’s Got The Money”/” Automatic”, which were later packaged together to form the Play Faster album, released in 1979.

In 2005 an Aztec Records re-issue of Play Faster was received warmly encouraging Young Modern back together to record their second album How Insensitive, which was released in mid-2006 on Croxton Records. The release of How Insensitive led to more gigs, and then a few years later, a stellar 2010 Adelaide show became the band’s next release, immaculately recorded, and with the band in full flight, Live at the Grace Emily released on Grown Up Wrong! was a de facto best of, until now.

It’s Automatic: The Best of Young Modern is the document of a fine band who were cut down before their prime, but brave enough to pick up where they left off later, for no other reason than the music. Half of it is the sound of a band just getting started; the other half is the sound of a band rediscovering what they’d let go. It is remarkable how those two halves mix so seamlessly to create a cohesive whole, a whole that captures the sound of youth, lost and found, and the thrill of discovery and rediscovery, as guided by impeccable taste and musical intelligence.


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IT’S AUTOMATIC: the best of Young Modern


Play Faster
originally released 1979 on Local Label (Local 5)

side one:
It’s Not A Crime
Red Dress On

side two:
She’s Got The Money
Fool’s Road
The Radio Song
She Wants To Be A Singer
The Big Beat

How Insensitive
released by Croxton Records 2006 (CROXT035)

1  Do You Care?
2  Lies
3  Girl Of Mine
4  It Happened Today
5  Bracelets
6  Home Of The Brave
7  The Ravers Hit Town
8  It’s Her Way
9  Pensacola Blues
10 Catholic Girls
11 Goodbye Weekend
12 Yeah Yeah Yeah

Recorded at The Electronic Music Unit, Adelaide

Live at the Grace Emily 22.12.2010
released by Grown Up Wrong! (GUW!CD001)

She’s Got The Money 7″
released by Top Gear 1978

A: She’s Got The Money

B: Automatic


Predating the post-punk power-pop revival and all of its accompanying “knacks”, a bunch of Adelaide’s skinny-tied “young moderns” were sooo hip, it was actually unhip for the time being.

Calling themselves “the ultimate suburban band” they were said to be missing the power and angst of punk and were appealing only to nice people (!?), with their good taste getting in the way of late ‘70s punk outrage..

Hearing the not-really-punk-but-still-genuine-mid’60s-r’n’beat-inspired-nuggets such as Automatic, Countdown, Red Dress On or The Radio Song, makes clear enough where the initial inspiration for fellow Aussie bands like The Sunnyboys comes from, and the same goes for some of the bit more melodic stuff, all with an audible Kinky flavour to them, made even more distinctive with John Dowler’s voice, as heard in Sportsgirls, It’s Not A Crime and especially in She Wants To Be A Singer.

It’s only with She’s Got The Money that they get punky enough, in quite a “nice” way though, matching “them” Dublin origin’s of Dowler, as well as his Joe Kelly (The Shadows of Knight) good-looks, gracing the CD cover, which actually happens to be much closer to the band’s live sound, as evidenced by quite a few bonus examples, most notably Do You Care?, It’s Her Way or Girl Of Mine.

Considering all of the above said, I suppose Stuart Coupe had no idea (or did he?) how prophetic his original sleeve notes to the posthumously released 1980 album might sound in 25 years, now that Young Modern ARE “recognized as one of true greats of Australian rock’n’roll”. – pop

After last year’s expanded re-release of their 1979 Play Faster album on Aztec Music (reviewed elsewhere on these pages), and after being considered to be too-hip-to-be-hip for too long of a time, the self proclaimed “ultimate suburban band” has finally grown to become not really “young”, but definitely “modern” enough, and “recognized as one of true greats of Australian rock’n’roll”.

The not-really-punk-but-still-genuine-mid’60s-r’n’beat-inspired-nuggets are still what makes the bulk of their output on this long-awaited sophomore long-playing release, with some of them actually being first ever studio recordings of songs featured way back in their 1978/79 live sets (as heard among the bonuses on the Play Faster re-release), such as Do You Care, Girl Of Mine or It’s Her Way, all being reminiscent of “them” mid’60s British r’n’b tracks that inspired what’s now being considered for sixteez garage-punk in the first place.

Not getting much farther away from the concept, after an opening recalling The Knickerbockers’ Lies, supposedly not by an accident, Young Modern tell their own “Lies” by way of classic Merseybeat, the jangly pair of Bracelets and Catholic Girls, both being quite Kinky sounding, is delivered in a kind of a folk-rocking way.

And on a more traditional side of things, they also provides us with some real reelin’ and rockin’ Chuck-le, as heard in It Happened Today, Pensacola Blues and Yeah Yeah Yeah, sometimes sounding kinda like Lou Reed covering Chuck Berry, and it’s the late’60s Stones that he seems to be backed by in “The ravers hit town” … sort of.

All considered, this is quite a competent, and not insensitive at all, come-back for a bunch of not-so-Young MODerns, with just as competent MODernistic outfit, making them look cool enough to avoid the mediocre front cover art, which the booklet designer unfortunately didn’t seem to realise. –