Record review: Going Swimming – Deadtime Stories (2015, LP)

Going Swimming Deadtime Stories

Calling your band Going Swimming and putting a song called ‘Shark Attack’ on your debut record can only mean one thing: you see piss-taking as a duty rather than an option. A quick glimpse at the track list provides confirmation: song titles include ‘Yoko, Oh No!’, ‘Cosmonauts and Crosses’ and the supremely satisfying ‘I Think I’ve Been Had, Lads’. Ramshackle garage-punk is the vehicle which takes the Melbourne quartet’s howling horror stories and tales of debauchery on a gutter-bound journey, but while the whole deal threatens to fall apart at any second, the band just about hold it together until the final chords ring out. Single and opener ‘Them Shakes’ wastes no time getting among the surf-punk licks, with lyrics which could pass for both a bedtime story about friendly monsters or a transcript from your latest therapy session; whichever suits the mood. ‘Your Sister’ follows in a similar vein; its commanding and raucous riffs hint at the scrappy punk aesthetic being a construct rather than a necessity, although ‘Whatever Happened to the Plan?’ suggests the contrary. The aforementioned instrumental ‘Yoko, Oh No!’ could have been lifted from an alternative-dimension Rocky Horror, and ‘Careers Counsellor’ finds the gang railing against convention. Nick Leggatt’s tireless bawling and Aswin Lakshman’s red-hot riffs are at the centre of Going Swimming’s piss-taking punk, and make for an album which is frantic, frayed and damn good fun.

For The Brag

Record review: Food Court – Big Weak (2014, EP)

food court

Some garage bands should probably stay in the garage, and others have a duty to kick the door down and explode into the street with a furious blast of colour and imagination. Sydney’s Food Court is most certainly of the latter variety; this gang of jangly fuzzmeisters is exactly the type of shot in the arm Australian guitar-rock could do with right now. Recorded by Straight Arrows’ Owen Penglis and mastered by the always-excellent Mikey Young of Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring, this seven-track EP takes more from ‘90s garage than it does from the original ‘60s wave, with hints of Weezer and early Green Day, and the results are all good. Single and opener ’14 Years Young’ is the obvious high point; its shouty chorus and brash guitars set the quartet’s stall out in no uncertain fashion. ‘Red Wine Teething’ is more measured, even if it reeks of hangovers and walks of shame, while ‘Dripping’ is rougher around the edges and points to what ought to be a pleasingly destructive live show. The cocky swagger of ‘On The River’ is a fitting climax to an EP that sits well beside anything from Palms to The Frowning Clouds, and a lot more besides. Building from here is what will make or break the band, but with only one song out of seven finishing up anywhere near the four-minute mark, this is urgent and necessary stuff from a promising addition to garage-rock goodness. (Independent)

For mX

Record review: The Ninjas – The Ninjas (2014, EP)

the ninjas ep

Swagger can take you a long way in music, and garage-rockers The Ninjas have it in spades. But when it comes to the crunch, you have to be able to back it up with great tunes, and luckily the Brisbane quartet have come up with the goods on this five-track debut EP. As with many first releases, it’s a record of two halves; first comes the angular lo-fi indie-rock, before the riff-heavy second half cranks the rock up to eleven. Opener ‘Can’t Go Back’ could have been lifted from The Strokes’ underrated Room On Fire album, while second track ‘Kill ‘Em All’ combines Josh Stewart’s towering Britpop vocals with Pat Ferris’s likely-lad guitar glory à la The Libertines circa 2002. What possessed Ford to use the sleazy bass-driven grooves of ‘Yeah Yeah’ in an advert for their latest gas-guzzler we may never know, but it’s a driving and danceable track that’s more suited to a Happy Mondays gig than a used car lot. Pleasingly, the closing double of ‘Boogie On It’ and ‘Never Had Much Time’ show that this is a gang whose hearts truly belong to the golden Gods of rock and roll and all their resplendent glory. While there’s probably not a jot of martial arts talent among them, it’s reassuring to know this particular band of ninjas are slinking around the shadows of Australian music making tunes that pack a punch as powerful as this. (Independent)

For mX

Record review: Doctopus – Wobbegong (2014, LP)

doctopus wobbegong

Shortly before his death in 1982, gonzo music journalist Lester Bangs played down the importance of using sophisticated recording techniques by claiming that the best records are made and played on garbage equipment. By that standard, lo-fi slacker-rockers Doctopus must have made one of the records of the year, because their second album is so heroically sloppy it should be served with a napkin and wet wipes. Not that the Perth trio would be the types to give a damn; it’s just good to be pre-warned when dealing with such a gloriously unfocussed piece of work. As their name suggests, the band have a minor preoccupation with marine life, as on the mostly nonsensical title track, which finds bassist/vocalist Stephen Bellair bawling “I wanna live underwater” repeatedly before switching to “I wanna live in a spaceship with you,” in move that’s more indecision than evolution. Naming a track ‘Stadium Rock’ and making it five minutes of squalling, rampaging feedback manically laughs in the face of everything that hair-metal stood for, and the eight-minute tuneless ballad that is closer ‘Chronic Reprise’ kills any chance of clarity and finishes off the record. If you’re looking for an overall idea or a general concept, you won’t find it here. Instead, it’s the utter lack of direction, whatever-goes attitude and general overall mess of sound that is most appealing about this seven-track effort. Musicians take note: this is how to stuff up an album good and proper. Lester would be proud. (Independent)

For mX

Record review: Straight Arrows – Rising (2014, LP)

straight arrows rising

Even on record, Sydney’s Straight Arrows sound like a band you want to party with. Semi-strict devotees of the original wave of ’60s garage-rock they may be, but they’ve also got more than enough primal middle-fingers-to-the-air punk attitude to make sure their second album smells more like beer and sweat than it does of nostalgia.

Not that nostalgia is necessarily a bad thing; it just sounds better when it’s run through the musical meat grinder that is Straight Arrows’ perfectly primitive guitar thrashing, barely discernible vocals and so-lo-fi-they’re-almost-non-existent bass lines.

The breakneck ‘Can’t Stand It’ immediately harks back to the classic garage bands of the ’60s, while the 90-second ‘Rotten Teeth’ is appropriately titled to be the most ‘punk’ song here. Single ‘Petrified’ catches singer and Arrows mainman Owen Penglis in a more measured mood, before the song grinds to a halt, broken and battered by the waves of messy surf guitar spattered all over the final minute.

‘Without Ya’ is an anomaly in that a prominent, driving bass-line features for the first time, with the end result benefiting hugely in what could almost be called a groovy fashion, recalling much more of a West Coast garage vibe than anything else here, but the most pleasant surprise is that there isn’t only reverb-laden garage-rock on Rising, as might be expected. At times the path trails off on tangents with strange or dark undertones, as on the introductory track and ‘Fruit of the Forest’.

This aside, be happy in the knowledge that bands like Straight Arrows – on the whole – don’t exist to take us on long-winded musical journeys into the unknown. They’re here to make us want to jump around like idiots; and thankfully this album more than does the job.

For FasterLouder

Record review: Dead Shades – Garage à Trois (2014, EP)

Dead Shades

Dead Shades’ bio lists their interests as “playing shows, drinking shandies, talking shit”, but it should probably have “making hard-rocking garage EPs that punch you in the face then buy you a beer” on that list. Garage à Trois (see what they did there) is one of the first genuinely exciting releases of a year that has been more than a bit thin on the ground in terms of quality new records thus far. The Brisbane trio’s second EP may only be fifteen minutes long, but it manages to pack enough of a punch in that time to warrant repeated listens. Opener ‘Spring Hill’ – named for the band’s home suburb – gets straight into the garage rock riffs and barrels along at a frantic pace before singer-guitarist Brian L’Huillier shreds heavily with a savage and scratchy solo; a common element in the band’s songs. ‘Killing Me’ and ‘I Need You’ are more measured but still rock with a slow-burning intensity; a comparison could be made with Band of Skulls without the sheen that makes them less appealing to lovers of the DIY aesthetic of garage-rock. There’s also an element of the late ’60s power trios like Cream and Taste about everything the band does, whether intentional or not, although the spaghetti western flavour of closer ‘Ain’t Easy’ takes the sound in a new direction just as the EP comes to a close. Cheesy title aside, Garage à Trois is an accomplished and engrossing release. (Bird Fire)

Record review: Drowners – Drowners (2014, LP)


Named after Suede’s 1992 debut single, Drowners is a New York quartet fronted by a 25 year-old male model with all the pop pretentiousness of Morrissey circa 1985 and the unashamed retro-leanings of The Strokes on their 2001 debut; but don’t let that put you off. Being so obviously indebted to certain bands (including Camden likely lads The Libertines, and thus – to a lesser extent – The Clash) could either be a blessing or a curse (it worked for Casablancas & Co. after all), but Drowners have just enough chops to pull it off on this self-titled debut. Frontman Matthew Hitt moved stateside from his home in Wales while on the hunt for modelling work, but ended up forming a garage-rock quartet, releasing a little-known EP and supporting the likes of Foals and The Vaccines on their North American tours – as you do. Despite being three-quarters American, the band’s sound sits much more comfortably in that sweet spot directly between ramshackle and tight that so many groups of underfed and over-posh groups of London lads have done in the past couple of years. Spurts of Smiths-esque self-loathing, longing and alienation come from the likes of ‘Watch You Change’ and ‘A Button On Your Blouse’, while opener ‘Ways To Phrase A Rejection’ and single ‘Luv, Hold Me Down’ get amongst the angular guitar lines with alternating Johnny Marr-like control and Pete Doherty urgency. While sounding like a microcosm of garage-rock isn’t going to be enough for Drowners to build a career on, this is a pretty good starting point. (Frenchkiss)

Interview: The Ninjas


Until very recently, garage-rock quintet The Ninjas were probably Brisbane’s best kept musical secret, but the release of their excellent new single ‘Yeah Yeah’ may be about to change all that. The band already have support slots for the likes of The Cribs and Sticky Fingers under their belts and with more recordings in the pipeline, the future looks bright for the group. I spoke to Pat Ferris (guitar) and Josh Stewart (vocals).

How are things in The Ninjas camp? What have you been up to recently?

Pat: Things are going great at the moment. We are currently recording some new songs with Sean Cook (Big Scary, Jeremy Neale) at his studio The Plutonium, and experimenting with an old Beta-movie camera and a green screen for our next video to go with our follow up single, ‘Kill ‘Em All’.

You’ve been thrust into the spotlight fairly suddenly with the release of ‘Yeah Yeah’. What’s it been like so far?

Josh: It’s been pretty rad; Ford choosing it as the soundtrack for their new Ranger commercial has been awesome for us. It’s sort of weird though; its not like we haven’t heard our music played back before, but when you’re watching your favourite show on TV and your song randomly comes on it feels kind of rewarding.

Describe your song-writing process. Is it a collaborative effort?

Josh: Our song writing process begins with ideas Pat and I have, then we jam them out with the rest of the band to work out and finalise the structure.

Supporting The Cribs was a pretty big deal. What are your memories of the gig?

Josh: Supporting The Cribs was definitely our favourite show. My memories from the gig are pretty hazy but I remember watching them side-stage and thinking “winning”.

Your music gets compared to a lot of different bands, from The Rolling Stones to The Stone Roses to Oasis to The Vines to The White Stripes. Which or any of these is most accurate?

Josh: They’re all awesome to be compared to, and they’re all pretty accurate in regards to our band’s underlying influences.

What would you rather be: a poor but revered cult band with heaps of critical acclaim, or a stadium-filling international juggernaut that nobody admits to liking?

Josh: Stadium-filling international juggernaut definitely has a nicer ring to it.

What would be on your ideal rider and why?

Josh: Budweiser; the king of beers. Plus some Captain Morgan Spiced Gold.

What are the band’s plans in the short term?

Pat: We’re looking forward to unleashing our next single ‘Kill ‘Em All’ around mid-January, with launches in Brisbane and Sydney around the same time. We have also been in talks with some peeps in the U.S., so another trip over there is looking likely soon as well.

When can we next see The Ninjas live, and what can we expect from the show?

Pat: I believe a sneaky little show at Rics Bar on Friday 13th of December with a special guest appearance by Jason on tambourine.


Check out the video for ‘Yeah Yeah’: