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)

Click image for larger version.  Name: Flowers---Icehouse_Front-Cover.jpg  Views: 6  Size: 46.7 KB  ID: 27653This 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 titledIcehouse. 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 theysigned 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 group’s popularity was recognised when they were awarded the 1980 TV Week / Countdown Rock 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

Click image for larger version.  Name: Flowers---Icehouse_Rear-cover.jpg  Views: 3  Size: 48.7 KB  ID: 27720We 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

Icehouse

Track 2We 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 5Walls 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.

Walls

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.

Click image for larger version.  Name: Can't-help-Myself_label.jpg  Views: 3  Size: 44.6 KB  ID: 27714It 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.

Click image for larger version.  Name: Davies_1980.jpg  Views: 3  Size: 43.0 KB  ID: 27715Iva – 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 4Boulevarde 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.

Boulevarde

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.

Click image for larger version.  Name: Iva Davies.jpg  Views: 3  Size: 45.5 KB  ID: 27717Iva 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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I have been with the Toorak Times since April 2012. I work as Senior Editor of the Toorak Times, but I also think of myself as senior contributor. I've been in the Australian music scene as a musician since 1964, and have worked in radio and TV and newspapers (when they were paper ), serious experience in audio editing, and a lot of video editing experience. Currently I'm working as a radio program producer for a national interview program as well as my work with the Toorak Times