Tactics were one of the most celebrated acts on Australia's new wave scene during the 1970s and '80s, boasting an eclectic sound that ranged from angular pop and stripped-down psychedelia to worldbeat-influenced melodies and fractured art rock, all married to the thoughtful and provocative lyrics of Dave Studdert, who was the group's leader, lead vocalist, guitarist, and the sole constant member throughout their career.
Studdert formed Tactics in Canberra in 1977, with lead guitarist Angus Douglas Marsh and drummer Robert Whittle; two bassists quickly came and went before the group settled on Geoff Marsh in 1979. After a few of local gigs resulted in little more than a handful of puzzled observers, Tactics relocated to Sydney in 1979, where they had better luck, earning a loyal cult following and releasing their first EP, Long Weekend, via Doublethink Records, an indie label founded by the band Thought Criminals.
In 1980, Tactics issued their first album, My Houdini, with Ingrid Spielman accompanying the band on piano; the album received enthusiastic reviews and is now considered a landmark release in Aussie indie rock, but was too challenging to click with the mainstream audience. In 1981, Tactics released their second LP, Glebe, which featured bassist Garry Manley, who had replaced Marsh earlier in the year. In 1982, Whittle left Tactics and Michael Farmer became their new drummer; the band also added keyboardist Duncan McKenzie, who filled in the spaces left by Spielman.
After a retrospective live album, 1982's The Bones of Barry Harrison, the group began to splinter, and in 1983, Studdert retired the group. He soon had a change of heart, and in 1984, Studdert unveiled a new version of Tactics, with Douglas on guitar, Nicky Baruch on keyboards and vocals, David Miller (aka Snajik) on bass, and Tony Donohue on drums. This edition of Tactics began work on an album, 1986's Blue and White Future Whale, but by the time it was completed, Douglas had left the group and he did not appear in the final mix. After the album's release, Baruch and Donohue quit the band, and Studdert, growing increasingly disillusioned with the music business, began working elsewhere.
In time, Red Flame Records, who released Blue and White Future Whale, asked for another album, and Studdert and Miller recruited Garry Manley (who moved from bass to guitar), Lex Robertson (keyboards), Malcolm MacCallum (drums), and Amanda Brown (violin and backing vocals) to form a new lineup of Tactics. This lineup recorded 1989's The Great Gusto with horn players Peter Kelly and Robert Weaver, but Studdert was extremely disappointed with the album, and after a handful of live dates, the band once again broke up.
Studdert next moved to the U.K. and joined the group Mumbo Jumbo; in 1999, he formed the Inside Up with fellow Tactics alumni Garry Manley and Lex Robertson. In 2006, Memorandum Records released The Sound of the Sound: Vol. 1, a two-CD retrospective that included My Houdini and a remixed version of Glebe as well as single sides and live recordings, and Studdert assembled a version of Tactics to play a few shows in support. A second compilation, The Sound of the Sound, Vol. 2, 1984-1988, was released in 2008 (and featured unreleased demos instead of the material from The Great Gusto), and Studdert once again played a handful of reunion shows after it came out, as well as recording a few new tunes with the band. ~ Mark Deming