Australia's most original, idiosyncratic, enigmatic, visually exciting, infuriating, catchy, smartarse, profane, iconoclastic and flat out funny pop group. Ever.
One reviewer, after their performance at Melbourne's Hi-Fi Bar in 2003, captured it best:
"TISM. There's not a band remotely like them anywhere else in the world."
TISM have, for nearly 20 years, hovered on the left bank of Australian popular music, with a seemingly regenerating cult following. They have achieved chart success whilst appearing to do exactly as they please. They have the rare distinction of winning two ARIAs at different phases of their career. They frequently disappear for lengthy periods, yet always sell out major-city rock venues when they do return.
Some things you should know about TISM:
TISM always perform in disguise - part Dada, part-paramilitary, part-comic.
TISM are not famous OR ugly OR even particularly unusual under their masks.
TISM are not influenced by, do not sound remotely like, and will not be unmasking like Kiss.
TISM's music is not confronting, or avante-garde, or "ooh...scary" - they write pounding, upbeat pop songs which collide together dance music, punked-up guitars, and Beach Boys harmonies.
TISM's songs then get unusual because on top of this very friendly musical approach, they write biting, satirical social comment, with a liberal dose of silliness and a fanatical desire to harpoon the sacred cows of "cool."
TISM's song titles are deliberately silly, obtuse, profane. Many rock critics have fallen at this hurdle.
TISM's live performance is an amphetamine ride from start to finish - a furious rush of chaos and choreography, dance beats, guitars, poetic monologues and a huge communal singalong all rolled into one. And that's without the "extra" bits...
... like debating competitions, jumping castles, onstage weddings, leaf blowers and motor mowers, Brechtian alienation, complete performances of Shakespeare or twenty extra guitarists playing one note at the end of a song - to name but a few. That TISM are streets ahead of any other live act in this country is not a PR boast.
TISM's first press interview had them fifty feet away from the journalists, separated by a piece of string, using megaphones to communicate. Such behaviour - like answering questions for a radio interview in written form, or delivering "pre-prepared" answers on a tape player, or making their hapless interviewer wear a wetsuit in a crowded restaurant - fostered an atmosphere of hatred from some sections of the rock press which still exists today.
However, TISM's public faces-in-the-mask, Ron Hitler-Barassi and Humphrey B. Flaubert, pride themselves on being the politest men in rock. They are also rock's most entertaining interview subjects, provided you don't mind them failing to answer a single question.
TISM'S 20 year history? Here it is in 30 seconds:
Late 80's - TISM bursts out of nowhere onto the Melbourne inner-city scene. Release sprawling double-album debut "Great Truckin' Songs Of The Renaissance" and win their first ARIA
Early 90's - TISM release a book and two further albums, whilst cementing their awesome live reputation and fanatical Australia-wide cult following.
Late 90's - TISM's "Machiavelli And The Four Seasons album goes top ten nationally, wins an ARIA and spawns world-wide cult classic "He'll Never Be An Ol' Man River"
2004 - TISM releases 3 disc DVD "The White Albun" and continue to confound critics with the European chart success of their single "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me."
TISM's current whereabouts are unknown. This is not unusual. This is standard behaviour for the only band this country has produced, that TRULY doesn't give a shit.
Or in the words of another live concert review:
"TISM. A national treasure."