07.08.2019

The story of seminal underground post-punk band, Tactics

Words by Morgan Mangan

These guys have been severely underrated throughout their career.

With the recent release of Early Shift at Charles de Gaulle, Tactics have announced they will be touring around Australia for the first time since 2008. Out of Canberra in 1977, Tactics remain underground and relevant still to this day.

1980 saw the release of My Houdini, arguably Tactics’ most popular album amongst fans. Somewhere in the space between new wave and post-punk, the twelve tracks catch attention on first listen, opener ‘Second Language’ is a catchy pop song that cosies listeners into the rest of the album. The lyricism by songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and longest-standing member David Studdert is unique and thought-provoking. As expressed in the liner notes by Studdert, the lyrics to many of the songs written as early as 1977, were reflections influenced by Aboriginal Australia. “I was reading lots of black history and stuff about Aboriginal art and singing and trying to make something which reflected the life I knew in Australia.”

The EP Long Weekend released in 1979, a year before Tactics’ debut album, featured ‘Buried Country’, a song about the “hidden Australia which no one knew about or even spoke about much”, as well as ‘Standing by the Window’. The latter song is “based upon Aboriginal song cycles where the sentences describe situations without metaphors”.

After the release of My Houdini, Tactics gained popularity in Sydney, where they lived at the time. In 1981, their second full-length album Glebe was released with the hope of creating something that was opposite to what My Houdini was. The overall subject matter of the album was trivial parts of life, “voices you hear falling asleep, voices in unfamiliar accents, tones and phrases; men’s voices, female voices all floating in a seamless ocean”.

‘Better than Mermaids’ and ‘Centrepoint #1’ were written after being inspired by the sights outside Sturdett’s window, including buildings being constructed and planes flying by. Glebe is often overshadowed by My Houdini due to the differences, yet when not being compared to one another, Glebe was equally influential in revealing Tactics as an evolving band, both in playing and writing.

1982 saw the release of The Bones of Barry Harrison, a collection of live recordings from 1979 to 1982 and marked the end of a certain Tactics era. The band proceeded to go on hiatus but have reformed in different capacities with different members ever since. As of today, they’ve released seven albums and the latest, Early Shift at Charles de Gaulle, marks a new style and sound of Tactics. Nevertheless, their uncompromising lyricism and vocals remain intact.

On Thursday August 15, Tactics will emerge for ‘The High Speed Picnic Tour’, their first tour in over a decade. Sharing the stage on the night will be support from local favourite Hearts & Rockets and Porpoise Spit. Grab your tickets here.