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Cream of The Crate: Album # 180 - Flowers: Icehouse


  • Cream of The Crate: Album # 180 - Flowers: Icehouse

    Icehouse LP a stunner for Flowers."(Mark Trevorrow - The Sun October 15, 1980)
    The album is replete with killer material."
    (Bruce Laird - Beat December 2010)
    Let's face it, they had it all - the sound, great compositions, a great front man and, the right look for the time."
    (This review)

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    This is album review number One hundred and eighty in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection.

    The series is called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production. The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Time to pull another Aussie album out of my crate - and this group changed its name to that of the album, after it was released, and I for one am glad - for it's a far better name!

    The group I am talking about is Flowers and this, a vinyl album is titled - Icehouse. Released on the Regular label and distributed by Festival Records in 1980, it has the identifying code of L 37436. It is a single album released in a gatefold format and has eleven tracks, five on the first side and six on the other side.

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    It is actually a gatefold cover even though it only has a single album, and the interior left and right hand side is a basic but effective deign showing the faces of the four members of the group.

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    Inside gatefold

    In what might be confusing to later generations of music fans, Icehouse was both the name of the first album by an Australian group called
    Flowers, but then became the new name of that group. Flowers kicked off as a band around 1977 as one of many pub-bands. Around this time the "new wave synth-pop" sound was coming out of the UK and the young Sydney music wanna be, Iva Davies who was the mainstay of both Flowers and then Icehouse, decided that was the direction for him, and therefore the direction for the band.

    Iva played guitar, did the vocals and provided in the first instance, the arrangements of the group's music, but very quickly also became the principle song writer. Along with his mate Keith Welsh, who played bass and contributed vocals. They formed Flowers and after a short period of uncertainty as to who would be the permanent members, they settled on:

    Iva Davies - Vocals & guitars
    Keith Walsh - Bass & vocals
    John Lloyd - Drums & vocals
    Anthony Smith - Keyboards & vocals.

    So it was that for a while
    Flowers were touted as the most successful, if not most popular group, who were unsigned to a label. So this lasted until the early part of the 1980's when they signed to the independent Regular Records and entered the studio to place their first album on record.

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    Flowers released their debut single in May 1980, Can't Help Myself (written by Davies), which hit the Australian Top 10 in June 1980. This was followed by their debut album Icehouse, which reached No. 4 on the National albums chart and became one of the year's biggest selling albums in Australia.

    The groups popularity was recognised when they were awarded the 1980 TV Week / CountdownRock Awards 'Johnny O'Keefe New Talent Award' ahead of The Dugites, INXS and Karen Knowles. They were also nominated for 'Best Album' and 'Best Album Cover' for Icehouse but lost on both to Cold Chisel's East. Iva Davies was nominated as 'Best Songwriter' but lost to Cold Chisel's Don Walker.

    By 1981 with a hit single and album under their belt, Davies made the decision to change the name of the group to Icehouse and they continued right through until 2010, albeit toward the end, doing limited gigs at corporate functions.In late 2001 the band went back to playing gigs, and played some gigs in Melbourne and Sydney under the name of "Dub-House". They still are performing in a limited way today.

    But we are interested in this first album, produced and recorded under that first group name of Flowers.

    Track Listing:

    Side 1
    1. "Icehouse" – 4:22
    2. "We Can Get Together" – 3:46
    3. "Fatman" – 3:53
    4. "Sister" (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:22
    5. "Walls" – 4:22

    Side 2
    1. "Can't Help Myself" – 4:41
    2. "Skin" (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 2:41
    3. "Sons" – 4:32
    4. "Boulevarde" (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:14
    5. "Nothing to Do" (Iva Davies, Michael Hoste) – 3:22
    6. "Not My Kind" – 3:35

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    We can't go past track one which is
    Icehouse. Apart from the fact it was released in the UK and the USA as a single, but to my knowledge not in Australia and then only after the group changed its name to Icehouse, the story behind the song is interesting. It was written by Davies and involves an old house that was opposite where he was living, and had its lights on all night and seemed to be the home for short term itinerants. Davies then learned it was in fact a halfway house for drug rehab patients and psychotic patients, and that stimulated him to write the song about, the "Icehouse".

    In so many ways he "nailed" that British new wave/synth sound, and at the same time went a long way to establishing himself as a very good composer and, a very good vocalist.

    It's always cold inside the icehouse
    Though the rivers never freeze
    There's a girl outside the icehouse
    I can see her clearly through the trees

    Now she's dreaming of a new love
    And she hopes he'll be there soon
    She's got so long to wait for him
    'Cause he needs another year to get there
    She'll wait another lifetime longer

    There's no love inside the icehouse

    Devil lives inside the icehouse
    At least that's what the old ones say
    They say, he came a long time ago
    He came here with the winter snow
    Now it's colder every day

    She's still dreaming through the summer
    And she's hoping through the spring
    She say's, she's got no time for winter nights
    She doesn't notice as the days grow darker
    She can't remember getting any older

    There's no love inside the icehouse

    Now she's dreaming of her new love
    And she hopes he'll be there soon
    She say's, she say's, she's got no time for winter nights
    Doesn't notice as the days grow darker
    She can't remember getting any older

    There's no love inside the icehouse
    There's no love inside the icehouse
    The icehouse


    Track 2 - We Can Get Together was the group's second single, and certainly helped cement their position as not just a group with promise, but possible the lead Australian group in this musical genre. However track 5 - Walls I believe is a better track. A good uptempo track it continues that pop/synth sound but the more dominant use of the guitar adds another dimension to the track. It has a fine element of David Bowie in both the vocal delivery and in the composition of the track.

    A fine track indeed that just crept into the Top 20, at number 20 in January 1981.


    Side 2 of the album kicks off with one of their most memorable tracks - I Can't help Myself. Released as a single in May of 1980, in fact it was the group's first single release, it was put out before the album was ready for release and raced to the number 10 position in the Aussie charts, and not only had people talking about them, but provided a great amount of impetus for the group to finish that first album.

    A strong drum opening, a great "grunge' synth sound and highly recognisable guitar riff it is a seriously fantastic composition, and really no matter how good the various compositions on this album are, this track was heads and tails above them all.

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    It has everything a great pop track needs, it is bright, happy, well balanced and has a great hook in the chorus. Ivor Davies excelled in the lyric writing and the band played brilliantly.

    She comes walking down the street
    That's the kind, hey,
    That's the kind I want to meet
    I think I'm making it up
    I should be putting it down
    and it's beginning to show
    I get it fixed in my head
    and it won't let go

    Oh, I can't help myself
    when I feel this way
    I want to be someone else
    When I get this feeling
    it gets in my system
    I can't put the brakes on

    Now she's walking next to me
    that's the place, yeah,
    that's the place I want to be
    I think I'm making it up
    I should be putting it down
    and it's beginning to show
    I get it fixed in my head
    and it won't let go

    I Can't Help Myself

    The remainder of the tracks vacillate between good and just OK. Skin is one of those tracks that you might play at a party as it's a good track to dance to. Now I have to declare that as a music genre this sound was never a favourite of mine, but in terms of Australian music, Flowers, and certainly Icehouse deserve the acclaim they received.

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    Iva - 1980

    The track Sons has an element of the British band Joy Division about it - and some call it a "dark" track. I find it lacking in that "certain something", that makes a track stand out.

    Track 4 - Boulevarde on the other hand, is a most excellent track - and is not so heavy on the pop-synth sound, but stronger on guitar. A nice track with very good vocal delivery, it stands out for me above most of the other tracks. it kicks along at a nice tempo and reminds us that Davies was no slouch on guitar.


    The penultimate track is interesting for the change in delivery style - very reminiscent of of Lou Reed at time, but without Reeds cuttingly clever lyrics. The final track is Not My Kind and showed promise as it kicks off, but to my ears was not a balanced production, I hate to say it, it's almost a filler. There are some nice guitar pieces in it.

    In June 1981 in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the album, and because the band had renamed itself Icehouse, the album was re-released in the UK. This "new" album had a different cover, one track (Nothing To Do) was left off and the other tracks resequenced and some even remixed.

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    Iva Davies

    However for collectors, the album under the group name of Flowers remains the one to collect. Let's face it,
    they had it all - the sound, great compositions, a great front man and, the right look for the time. Does it hold up over time - well a track like I Can't help Myself is a classic and will always stand out. True aficionados of the group will always like the album, but it has dated somewhat, yet still deserves recognition for breaking some serious ground in the development of the Australian music scene in the early 1980's.

    The album Icehouse by Flowers is available on Ebay for a range of prices from $20.00 up to several hundred for signed copies. It was re-released on Cd with bonus tracks, but unless you are a fanatical fan of Icehouse, and are just interested in picking up the first album released while they were Flowers, then you can get a decent copy for around $30.00

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    VIDEOS - Popping into youtube finds several clips of tracks from this album.

    We can Get Together - Counrdown


    Can't help Myself - Countdown

    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click here

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    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty (50) CD's reviewed, just click here

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    If you are interested in checking out reviews 101 to 150 (Vinyl & CD) as reviewed, just click here

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    Past album Reviews - Numbers 151 onward:

    Number 151 - The Shaggs: Philosophy Of The World

    Number 152 - The Animals: The Animals

    Number 153 - Omar Khorshid: Live in Australia 1981

    Number 154 - Alan Parsons Project: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe)

    Number 155 - Billy Thorpe: Tangier

    Number 156 - Aretha Franklin: The Best Of

    Number 157 - Big Bill Broonzy: Big Bill Blues [His 23 Greatest Songs]

    Number 158 - The Supremes: Where Did Our Love Go

    Number 159 - The Band: Stage Fright

    Number 160 - Ray Brown & The Whispers: Hits and More 1965 - 1968

    Number 161 - Guitar Junior: The Crawl

    Number 162 - Jimi Hendrix: Radio One

    Number 163 - Memphis Minnie: Queen Of The Blues

    Number 164 - Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

    Number 165 - The Loved Ones: Magic Box

    Number 166 - Various Artists: On The Road Again [An Anthology Of Chicago Blues 1947 - 1954]

    Number 167 - Janis Joplin: Greatest Hits

    Number 168 - David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust

    Number 169 - Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication

    Number 170 - Chain: Two Of A Kind

    Number 171 - Bob Marley and The Wailers - Legend

    Number 172 - Coco Taylor: What It takes

    Number 173 - Stevie Wonder: Original Musiquarium

    Number 174 - Various Artists: The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

    Number 175 - Noeleen Batley: Little Treasure

    Number 176 - B.B. King: The Best Of

    Number 177 - Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (The White Album)

    Number 178 - Memphis Slim: I Feel So Good

    Number 179 - manfred Mann's Earth Band: Live Budapest

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