Continuing our recent trek to discover the songs that help paint a portrait of life in Australia, today we're jetting west to where life is best over in Perth, WA. Jam-packed with beautiful landscapes and beaches, the most isolated city in the world has been a source of constant inspiration for musicians both at home and abroad, as is the ensuing boredom and feelings of isolation that tend to accompany the faraway gem of the west. Here's some of our favourite picks.
'Highway To Hell' - AC/DC
Of course, no list about Perth would be complete without a reference to WA patron saint Bon Scott. AC/DC's iconic track 'Highway To Hell', while seemingly penned about the band's misadventures as a touring rock band, also refers to the roadtrips AC/DC would take down the Canning Highway after each gig to go sauce it up at the Leopold Hotel in Fremantle. An Aussie classic, and a true anthem for Western Australians in general - RIP Bon Scott.
‘I Love Perth’ - Pavement
The American five-piece wrote ‘I Love Perth’ about their love for the Western Australian capital. It’s a limited edition track that was only available on the vinyl version of their 1996 EP Pacific Trim. The legendary US indie-rockers were influenced to write the track after their 1994 tour of Australia, where the band have enjoyed a pretty sizable fanbase ever since. ‘I Love Perth’ talks all about the sights and sounds of Perth, and mentions the band's love for the state’s world renowned popular beaches.
‘Wide Open Road’ - The Triffids
‘Wide Open Road’ was written by Perth folk rock band The Triffids about their hometown and the long open plains of WA in general, and taps into the alienation that imbues a lot of music to come out of WA. The Triffids were known for their tracks about their hometown and broader Australia. ‘Wide Open Road’ was featured on their 1986 album of the same name. Check it out below.
‘Perth’ - Bon Iver
Featured on the folk group’s 2011 album Bon Iver, Bon Iver, this Justin Vernon-penned track is heavily influenced by legendary actor Heath Ledger, who was born in Perth. Justin was set to meet with a music video director, who was good friends with Heath, during the time the Oscar winner passed away. This track is written about his experiences during this time, Justin also said that it’s influenced by ‘Perth’s feeling of isolation.’ Listen and try not to cry.
‘Perth is a Culture Shock’ - The Victims
‘The Victims’ were an early incarnation of legendary Aussie band The Hoodoo Gurus. You can definitely hear some musical choices similar to that of ‘The Right Time’ hitmakers. As the title suggests, this 1977 track is about how the customs and way of life in the W.A capital may be considered surprising and different, but they don’t care as ‘that is where they’re from.’ It's quite reminiscent of some of the raw, punky numbers coming out of the UK around this time, and offers a unique twist on the Gurus sound we'd become acustomed to later on.
'Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder’ - Alex Lahey
This standout track was featured on the Melburnian rocker’s 2017 album, I Love You Like A Brother. It’s about Alex’s love/hate relationship with the city, drawing on past experiences to paint a common narrative of leaving home. She mentions that even though it is a long flight between her hometown and Perth, she still loves to travel there, all the while saying that if Perth wasn’t as beautiful as it is, she’d ‘hate that city’. It's a feeling that all of us who've left our hometowns for bigger and better things have felt at one stage or another.
‘African Summer’ - Dave Warner
This 1978 track was written by Aussie rock musician Dave Warner (not the big-tonking cricketer we know today) comparing the heat of Perth to that of Africa. On top of that, the track gives insights into the life of suburban life in Western Australia, namechecks a few Perth-ect hotspots like the ‘Ocean Beach Hotel’ and Scarborough. He currently resides in Sydney, and has lived a very interesting life so far, writing musicals, plays, novels and screenplays - his works can be further read about here.
‘Heaven Must Be There’ - Eurogliders
This track was co-penned by the group’s frontwoman Grace Knight, and guitarist Bernie Lynch. The Perth group wrote this track about their dislike for living and life in the West Australian capital. The lyric mentions reasons why they’re done with Perth; such as living so close to the sand. It was featured on their 1984 album, This Island.
‘Sleepy Little Deathtoll Town’ - The Panda Band
A Triple J hit of the early 2000s, this track from The Panda Band is a bit of a hidden gem. Following a trend set by many other songs of the era, 'Sleepy Little Deathtoll Town' was a tongue in cheek track written about the group's disdain for their hometown of Perth. It’s a story of all the different things you can find in Perth, like the wide roads, sailors, and surfers. Accompanied by a great stop-motion style video, this track will send you back a few years. Listen to it below.
‘Perth’ - Beirut
American folk outfit released ‘Perth’ on their 2015 album, No No No. It was penned by frontman Zach Condon, he stated that the influence behind it was at a bad point in his life; ‘I was trying to get to Perth and I just couldn't get on the plane. I felt like I was on tour for four years straight. It was a slow burnout’. Part of the accompanying music video was filmed on a Perth beach, adding a little touch of home to the US video.
Revisit some of our other favourite songs about Australian cities.