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The Stems

Rare Grooves

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The Stems may have fallen off the radars of most American music consumers -- after all, it's been 20 years since the Australian combo's day in the sun, and even then it was limited to college radio. But among collectors of powerpop, garage and psych, the quartet still casts a long shadow.

Formed in Perth by vocalist/guitarist Dom Mariani, the Stems were key operators during a mid '80s musical renaissance Down Under that featured such talents as Died Pretty, Lime Spiders, Scientists, New Christs and Hoodoo Gurus. Certainly the compilers of Rhino's Children of Nuggets remembered the Stems, as two of the group's songs were included on that 2005 box.

Terminal Cool: Anthology 83-86 (Get Hip) is arguably a more representative overview than two prior Australian-only collections (Mushroom Soup, At First Sight) as it covers the group's entire career. Highlights? For the discriminating garage aficionado there's farfisa-and-fuzztone opener "She's A Monster," the Kinks/Plimsouls-tilting raveup "Make You Mine" and swaggering blues stomp "On and On." And for those who prefer their pop pureed on "lush:" there's the dreamy psychedelia of "Jumping to Conclusions," an irrepressibly jangly celebration of feminine pulchritude called "She's Fine" and the Hollies-like "Love Will Grow." Hardcore fans will appreciate four previously unreleased demos and a couple of rarities are sprinkled into the tracklisting.

Despite the Stems' enjoying significant Australian chart success, Mariani wearied of record label demands and he dissolved the band in 1987, going on to moderate fame with the Someloves and DM3 (both groups worked with NC's own Mitch Easter). A few years ago, though, the Stems held a series of reunion concerts. Response was so favorable that the group ultimately resumed operations; a new album seems likely for 2006. Meanwhile, Terminal Cool will show you where it all began -- it's certainly a collection that lives up to its title.

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