Finding myself at a loss for which band to check out next at the recent BIGSOUND festival in Brisbane, I sauntered into Ric’s Bar where several hairy young men were readying to play. Thirty minutes later, after an intense onslaught of hardcore riffs and throat-shredding vocals, my state of mind could best be described by one the band’s songs: ‘Oh F_ck, My Face’. That band was Melbourne hardcore/punk quartet Clowns, and my semi-melted mug and fragile eardrums haven’t quite been the same since. I’m Not Right is their debut album, and it packs a punch in a similar fashion to that of The Bronx or Black Flag; all sweaty, beer-soaked hardcore and barely-restrained punk aggression. Movie nerds will notice a sound-bite of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s voice from ’80s cult flick They Live in 55-second opener ‘Awake’, before ‘Grave Junkie’ explodes with a savagery that is maintained for the rest of the twelve tracks. The album title is probably more autobiographical than is initially apparent, as the lyrics detail subjects like horse tranquillisers, acid, and various powders, and being an outsider on a daily basis, or “every day I wake up late, surround by the same old sh_t,” as the lyrics go on ‘Sheep in Black’. With song titles like ‘Eat A Gun’, ‘Jesus on Acid’, and ‘Rat’, this isn’t going to be an album you’ll play at your granny’s birthday party, but it’s a kick-ass collection of international-quality hardcore and punk that should come with a warning: must be played LOUD. (Poison City Records)
It’s Tuesday night in West End and The Hi-Fi is heaving. Not long after the doors are opened, it’s nigh-on impossible to get near the bar, the area in front of the stage is rapidly becoming an elbow-room-free zone, and the steps linking the two are filled with lines of people who always seem to be fighting the current. It’s time for this Brisbane audience to drain their beers and ready their eardrums – The Bronx don’t do things softly.
After a quick and heavy set by local lads Spitfireliar, including their song ‘I Want To Eat Natalie Portman’s Poo’, Brisbane thrash duo made-good DZ Deathrays take to the stage. It is immediately clear that Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley have become one hell of a musically tight pairing; made possible by the almost constant touring across North America, Europe, and Australia of late. What’s also clear as their set progresses is how much of a monster shredder Parsons now is; those local music fans who still consider DZ an offshoot of Velociraptor must realise that there was no way an indie-pop band was ever going to contain this guy’s riffs. ‘Cops Capacity’, ‘No Sleep’, ‘The Mess Up’, and a finale of ‘Dollar Chills’ sound great, and a couple of new (unnamed) songs are trialled with plenty of screamo gusto.
It’s almost eleven o’clock by the time Los Angeles quintet The Bronx take to the stage to the boom of a spaghetti western track that sounds like it could be a tune by their alter egos Mariachi El Bronx. If you were choosing a traditional frontman’s look, it wouldn’t be that of singer Matt Caughthran, but the day he realised he has a voice powerful enough to topple regimes must have been a momentously life-changing occasion. As ‘White Tar’ sends the audience into a frenzy, Caughthran announces “Brisbane is the favourite town of the motherfuckin’ Bronx; the first place we ever touched down in Australia,” before scolding the audience for not selling out the venue, climbing along the railing, crowd-surfing back to the stage, catching a random hurled garment with his forehead, before finally announcing “We have come home to Brisbane, make some noise motherfuckers!”
‘Too Many Devils’ is introduced as being “for all the chicas,” before Caughthran kindly informs the by-now sweaty and elated crowd that “after tonight you will be born again, and everything else will pale in comparison to seeing The Bronx.” ‘Six Days A Week’ and a massive ‘Youth Wasted’ sound fantastic, as the energy level doesn’t let up despite the obvious expenditure on stage.
Unlike many hardcore and punk bands, The Bronx have a backbone of solid musicianship, talent, and top tunes; they come across as the type of band who could be just as successful as a calypso/bluegrass/sea-shanty/whatever group if they set their minds to it. For now, their rock show will do just nicely. What a great night.