237. Avalanches – ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ (2000)

“I felt strangely hypnotised
I was in another world
A world of 20, 20,000 girls
And milk! Rectangles! To an optometrist!
The man with the golden eyeball
And tighten your buttocks
Pour juice on your chin!
I promised my girlfriend I’d… the violin, violin”

Taken from the album Since I Left You

UK #18, AUS #49

‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ is an Australian classic. Legendary amongst anyone interested in alternative dance music, so “Pitchfork” that it hurts, and probably the greatest use of samples in the history of sampling. It also has one of the best music videos of all time, with a hilarious and non-pretentious attention to detail. Taken from a number of spoken word records and mixed up to create hooks and choruses, ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ is fascinating on a technical level but more importantly extremely fun to listen to.

Every little section of this song is a classic moment in itself, but some clear favourite include the verse above, “criminally insane-sane-sane”, “you’re crazy in the coconut!”, and the extended exchange at the end between the teacher and the little child. “Can you think of anything that talks, other than a person?” is a creepy question, and this whole song has a weird aura of being a trapped in a very old house in the sixties, hearing voices long forgotten, sounds made by people who most likely long dead. Does anyone know that series of Garfield strips where the tone was suddenly serious, as Garfield wakes up in his house abandoned and alone (one frame of which can be seen here)? That’s how this song feels – somewhere between humourous and weirdly unsettling. Those choir-style vocals make it sound a lot more important and meaningful than the song actually is.

It was never going to be a bit chart hit – in fact I think those chart positions above are really impressive – but ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ was a huge success on the Triple J Hottest 100, reaching number six. The album, Since I Left You, would be a top ten success in the UK and the Avalanches would win four ARIA awards. After Since I Left You appeared on so many decade-end lists, and “Most Influential Australian Albums Ever” lists, would you believe a decade after release we are still waiting for the follow-up?

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