Brisbane band Ups and Downs played a brand of ethereal, well-crafted, jangly guitar pop that called to mind Australian post-punk icons The Church. The bands’ influences also extended to overseas groups like Cocteau Twins, REM, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Flamin’ Groovies. Indeed, the name Ups and Downs was derived from a track on the Flamin’ Groovies 1978 album, Now.
Greg and Darren Atkinson got their start in late 1970s power pop band 42nd Street. Ken Allen (guitar) and Neil Coombe (guitar) completed the line-up. 42nd Street issued one single, Work It Out, on the Virgo Seven label in 1979 and also contributed a track called Mistaken Identity to radio station 4IP’s compilation album, That’s Queensland.
42nd Street made little impact beyond the Brisbane scene and in 1983 the Atkinsons formed Ups and Downs as a three-piece band with Peter Hamilton-Shaw (guitar) joining soon after to round out the sound. The band issued their debut single Living Inside My Head on the Basketcase label in December 1984.
They then issued a superb second single called Perfect Crime (also on Basketcase) before venturing down to Sydney. The Waterfront label re-issued Perfect Crime in September 1985, by which time Ups and Downs had built up a strong cult following on the Sydney inner-city music scene.
The bands second single on Waterfront, In The Shadows in April 1986, was a gorgeous slice of harmony-drenched guitar pop and one of the best independent singles for the year.
Ups and Downs signed a new deal with the True Tone label (through PolyGram) which resulted in the release of the mini-album Sleepless in August 1986 and the single The Living Kind. To coincide with the release of the single, the band supported The Flamin’ Groovies on their Australian tour.
In 1987, Trevor O’Neil joined the band on keyboards, which gave the band an even more spacious sound. By the end of 1987, Ups and Downs had signed with the Mushroom label.
The band entered Sydney’s Paradise Studios in March 1988 to record their debut album Underneath The Watchful Eye. Mushroom issued the singles Lit By The Fuse and Moments Away before the album appeared in November.
Underneath The Watchful Eye was a strong showcase for the band’s songwriting skills and musical adventurousness. Founder member John Flade left the band in June 1989.
The band ended its Mushroom association later in the year and moved to the Volition label for the 12″ EP Rash (1990). By the end of the year, the Atkinson’s had split Ups and Downs to form the decidedly noisier outfit Big Heavy Stuff.
In recent years Ups and Downs have reunited for Australian shows.