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An Audience with the Shiny Bum Singers
Review of CD

By John Dengate & John Warner
Posted Friday, October 13, 2006

Work Songs of the Public Service

I don’t pretend that this is an objective, detached review because I love the Shiny Bum Singers. I share with them a love of parody and satire and it brought me great joy to share a gig with them recently at the Loaded Dog.

All the songs are funny . . . and the Shiny Bums have the good sense to borrow the good tunes of good songs for their parodies. ‘Molly Malone’ becomes Mavis McPhee; instead of cockles and mussels, she dispenses coffee and muffins. ‘The Workers’ Flag’ metamorphoses into ‘The Office Fridge’: ‘So raise the putrid morsel high’; the audience loved it. Banjo Paterson doesn’t escape; his celebrated ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ is brilliantly parodied and emerges as ‘Nancy: Re Work Overflow.’

‘The Workers’ Flag’ metamorphoses into ‘The Office Fridge’: ‘So raise the putrid morsel high’;

These tracks are recorded in concert with live audiences laughing and joining in on choruses. Consequently, the slick polish of a recording studio CD is missing but the delightful ambience created by an appreciative audience more than compensates for this. Indeed, the notes accompanying the CD pay tribute to the audiences.

Most of the songs are comments on the esoteric idiocy of the public service culture but some attack our political masters [without naming them]. Examples are ‘I Saw Three Ships’ and ‘Hocus Pocus’. As governments generally, and the Federal Government in particular, move further and further to the right and attempt to bully and politicise public servants, the cheeky irreverence of the Shiny Bums becomes increasingly important … and increasingly indicative of the determination of this wonderful [and courageous] choir to lampoon the kings who strut about wearing no clothes.

The pompous and the powerful can ignore cold intellectual analysis but their pomposity withers in the gales of laughter generated by the Shiny Bums.

Yes, I’m a political person but even if you are not, you’ll still find the Shiny Bums very funny. This CD is bloody unique.

John Dengate


As the late Ned Kelly said " I suppose it had to come to this." The Shiny Bums have released a CD, and I have to review it. Such is Karma. I, too, once upon a time, was a tea-swilling clock-watcher.

It's brilliant! it's folk-music, but not as we know it.

It's brilliant! it's folk-music, but not as we know it. From the first line of the first song, I recognised the context, and was thrown back into one of many grand musical times I've had with this nefarious bunch. They opened with "I'm late for work again/", recorded at the "Loaded Dog" in Sydney on an occasion when I was in the audience - I can hear my own ... parts? ... popping out occasionally. The audience sang magnificently, but the Shiny Bums ...? The recording tells everything you need to know about the Bums. Their songs are for us to sing.

Average, ordinary performers they be - folksingers. But the lead, the laughter and the merciless and witty commentary they keep hurling at us, in tunes we know from both the traditional and contemporary canons, draw us into their celebration.

The internal language of the Public Servant is no bar to understanding this stuff. It keeps on popping up in the press as the Australian Wheat Board, the children overboard scandal and other horrors created by our governments drag our administrators to the witness stand or the media microphone, and Chris Clarke, Kerry Kennedy, Peggy Spratt et al are there to record and misrepresent it all for us to sing.

Thanks, Shiny Bums. This album makes no pretence at "Professionalism" or "Production" but it glows in the dark. It reminds us folkies that what we all do best is sing together. We enjoy our music when we do it collectively and the Shiny Bum Singers in all their polyphonic unison have given us a rich legacy of constantly upgraded satire to rejoice in.

And that's the other point! This CD shows how these scoundrels constantly keep up with the current upheaval and see it from the inside. We get great new songs, superbly inept morris dancing and horrendous hakas as soon as inspiration hits. I feel another CD coming on.

Buy this album, folks. You will find yourself joining in, guffawing at the punchlines and thoroughly celebrating the great Australian tradition of taking the piss out of our masters. Success to the Shiny Bum Singers.

John Warner


$25, available by mail though
Boris Books
PO Box 1388
Woden, ACT, Australia.

If you want to order on-line, please go to the Boris Books section of the Fasfind web site. This is a secure site where you can pay by credit card.

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