Monthly Archives: March 2014

New(ish) Band: AUSMUTEANTS

New to me anyway and, perhaps, to you (you are there, aren’t you?…)

AUSMUTEANTS hail from Geelong (pronounced “jehlong”), Australia.  According to the interwebs (*cough* Wikipedia *cough*), Geelong is Australia’s largest non-capital city, located southwest of Melbourne in the state of Victoria.  The city’s tourism site lists attractions including a National Wool Museum, a series of more than 100 painted sculptures made from bollards (mooring posts, I think) along the waterfront area and something called the Potato Shed.  The city recently elected someone nicknamed “Mr. Paparazzi” as its mayor.

What does any of this have to do with AUSMUTEANTS?  Fuck all, probably, but learning’s fun, no?

AUSMUTEANTS are a four piece consisting of Jake (synthesizers, guitar, vox), Billy (drums), Marc (bass) and Shaun (guitar).  I’ve been listening to both Amusements, an album recorded, according to the label page, by Jake and Billy as a two piece, and an ep sagely titled 100 Ausmuteants Fans Can’t Be Wrong …100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can.  The band’s basic musical template draws heavily from early Devo and other more outré post-punk and new wave bands.  I also hear some early SoCal punk bands like the Weirdos.

There’s a lot to like on each release.  The vocals are shouty, the lyrics often gleefully sophomoric (see, e.g., ‘Flushing Problems’, ‘Pissing in Two Streams’ and ‘Stepping in Shit’ from Amusements).  Angular, herky-jerky guitar and retro scifi synth work is balanced, particularly on the ep, with tight rhythms at times reminiscent of Blondie’s more disco side.  The ep, particularly the bookend cuts ‘All Talk’ and ‘Nothing Rhythmic’, is great; the tracks feel like they were recorded more recently than those on Amusements and find the band honing its influences into something more unique and resonant.

Highlights:  “No Motivation”, “Kicked in the Head by a Horse”, “Tinnitus”, “All Talk”, “Flushing Problems”.

Track Review: Eccentronic Research Council ft Maxine Peake, “M.B. Motorcycle Enthusiast”

Eccentronic Research Council, M. B. Motorcycle Enthusiast (Desolate Spools, 2/10/2014)

“…with the demure of a silent and deadly assassin/Blessed with the vocabulary of a very blue comedian”

Actress Maxine Peake regales us with the louche tales of the titular enthusiast over a backdrop of Kraftwerkian synths and motorik beats, using wry quips that would make Mark E. Smith proud (hit the North!).  Like being driven through the streets of a nameless European city.  With a tour guide from the North of England.  In a 1977 analog future.

Brilliant lead track from the Eccentronic Research Council’s collaboration with Peake (of British legal drama ‘Silk’ and the UK version of ‘Shameless’), Magpie Billy and the Egg That Yolked.

[Note:  While typing this, I came across a remix the E.R.C. did for ‘Touch That Leather’ (see earlier review) – what a cowinkeedink!  It’s deliriously gonzo – somehow reminds me of a 70s sitcom theme, or something Prince Paul might come up with.]

Track Review: The Amazing Snakeheads, “Testifying Time”

The Amazing Snakeheads, Testifying Time/Truth Serum single (Domino Recordings, 6/19/2013)

“Come on child/There’s no need ta/fuckin’ hide!”

…yes, there is.  The Amazing Snakeheads hail from Glasgow, and the thick Scottish brogue attached to the psychotic snarling of lead singer Dale Barclay make this like a trip down a dark close, following a wee green faery, to a dark club full of wonderful, dangerous sounds.  It’s rock and roll bliss – until you get bottled and wake up in the gutter…with a shit eating grin on your face.

The a-side is solid psychobilly in the vain of Guana Batz or Reverend Beat Man; it’s the b-side, however, that glows – Barclay raining fire and brimstone over tones reminiscent of The Gun Club and even ‘Pink Flag’-era Wire.  Testify.

Track Review: Fat White Family, “Touch the Leather”

Fat White Family, Touch the Leather/Yellow Woman 7” (Hate Hate Hate Records, 3/10/2014)

“Sport socks and a/warm sweater”

Sleazy, sexy, ooky.  The Birthday Party carousing with Suicide and The Cramps at a bacchanal.  Writhing sirens ply you with drink and exhort you out of your humdrum togs and into something latex.  A masked figure leads you, leashed, to the inner chamber.  Touch the leather, indeed.

Loving this band right now, out of London-se-Algeria (per their bio) – their debut full length, out last year, was a mish mash of craziness.  This double a-side single (I particularly like the krautrocky opening bars of the “redux” version of the a-side) is slinky, but in a pleasingly menacing way.  Go get it.

[Shout out to Sam at the label for hooking me up with the download for this.  Cheers, Sam – whinging on Facebook really does work!]

Album Review: Eagulls

Eagulls – Eagulls (Partisan Records, 3/4/2014)

Eagulls are a Leeds-based quintet whose debut album I’ve been looking forward to for some time, having enjoyed earlier tracks like “Council Flat Blues”.  The band is often given the “post-punk” tag, and it’s easy to hear why:  their songs bring to mind equal parts early Killing Joke, The Cure and The Chameleons.  There are also hints of the more adventurous side of new wave and of early 80s hardcore punk in the vocals.

While many bands these days, it seems, draw heavily from these same influences, Eagulls manage to blend these into something more than merely the sum of their illustrious parts and, on its eponymous debut album, the band has clearly refined its sound from earlier releases into a solid collection of songs.

The band seems to dip a toe or two in the water at first.  Opener “Nerve Endings”, begins with swirling guitars, paired with sturdy, sold bass and drums, finally joined by vocalist George Mitchell, sounding a bit like “Seventeen Seconds”-era Robert Smith.  While decent enough, it seems the aural equivalent of first few drinks in a pub crawl:  the intent is there, but the inhibitions have not yet been cast aside.

It’s during the excellent middle portion of the album that the band conjures the raw emotion and vitality of the full-on bender:  Mitchell trades his Smithian yelp for belfry-clearing shouts, which interplay wonderfully with the guitar work of Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews.  On this run of tracks, beginning with “Tough Luck” and continuing on through “Opaque”, the music stumbles and lurches blearily through waves of dissonant melancholy – all shades of blue and black –  while kept on a (strained) leash by the excellent rhythm section of Tom Kelly (bass) and Henry Ruddel (drums).  Proceedings reach euphoric, drunken clarity on twin highlights “Possessed” and “Opaque” – the stuff of raucous sing-alongs, the kind which possibly (de?)evolve into fisticuffs.

All said, a very satisfying debut.  One complaint, however, is with the production, which bathes everything in something approaching cotton wool:  it seems, at times, as though the band were recorded from the next room.  While this does add to the already tense mood, it too often ends up blunting the impact.  I look forward to seeing the band – June 18 at Great Scott! – to hear the difference live.

Highlights include:  “Tough Luck”, “Amber Veins”, “Possessed”, “Opaque”.