ICEHOUSE

        

The Flowers of Lonliness (1981)
The Flowers of Loneliness
by Andrew McMillan, from The Australian Weekday Magazine, Monday, May 18, 1981


For a headlining act with a national top 10 album, Sydney band Flowers are in a rather extraordinary position.

Over the weekend they launched their Odd People tour with a pair of sell-out shows at Sydney's Union Theatre, but while each performance drew an enthusiastic response they did serve to highlight Flowers current dilemna.

Although they've been playing together for more than three years, the band's chief composer, Iva Davies, has completed only 15 songs. Of those,12 are instantly recognisable having been released on record last year. And of the three compositions completed in the past six months, only two,"Good Night Mr. Matthews" and "All The Way" were presented during the Union Theatre performances. The third, an untitled instrumental, failed to measure up to Davies' stringent standards during the first sound check and was dropped from their set. Consequently, their shows took on the air of a favorite movie. If you enjoyed it the first time you won't be disappointed with subsequent screenings.

For the first time, Flowers are touring with a photographic exhibition compiled by the Sydney company Shoot and Run. All photographs, which are used as a backdrop for the band and in some cases as a complimentary exhibition in the foyer, were taken by the Angels' guitarist Rick Brewster and his wife, Bitsy.

Like Flowers' music, the photographs in the Odd People exhibition depict stark scenes of loneliness, alienation and genetic corruption.

Consequently, a Flowers performance is now one that appeals to each of the senses, while songs like "Icehouse", "Walls", "Sons" and "Skin" evoke an overwhelming atmosphere of loss and decay where hope lingers like smoke in a motionless room. The backdrop of photographic blow-ups stimulates the imagination under the ever-changing lighting conditions.

Opening each show with "Not My Kind", Flowers unashamedly bear their influences like hearts on the sleeve. The pioneering motif of artists like Bowie and Bolan, Lou Reed and Ultravox are combined with the pop sensibilities of acts like The Sweet and David Essex to produce a sound that's instantly accessible. Through this combination, Davies has crafted ambitious arrangements that can draw you in with their simplicity and then turn the listener inside-out with the tension of their restraint.

While Anthony Smith's keyboards paint graphic soundscapes, Davies' lyrics presents bleak scenes of madness and despair. But rather than reaching the brink and letting go, releasing the tension in rock's traditional display of pure mania, Flowers fight for control. It is that overwhelming air of tension that spirits every Flowers performance. The tension of the music and the tension between musicians produces the sound track for the audiences' release.

Even when covering the Easybeats up-tempo "Sorry" and John Lennon's "Cold Turkey", Flowers fail to lose the impact of their original material. For even the covers are so carefully selected that they enhance the overall presentation which works to great effect under concert conditions.