Better late than never right? Primitive Calculators are one of Australia’s best kept secrets, the reason being they’ve been around for 30 plus years, and never released a fucking album. Well, that’s going to change later this year, and the first taste of it is this audible personification of the Grim Reaper coming to take your soul, otherwise known as ‘Dead’. It starts with a synth beat that makes out like a sample of a dying man’s final breath, followed by distorted bass ramblings and vocals that give a new name to stark-raving insanity. It is terrifying to hear the repeated shouts of ‘Dead!’Dead!Dead!’ thrown into your face like dirt over a grave. This song is dark and horrifying, intrusive and disturbing, a bogan’s version of avante-garde, a concept which is all the more mortifying. Think Cosmic Psycho’s meets Shellac in the middle of a Satanic ritual. ‘Dead’ both makes me want to crawl into a foetal position and cry, all the while waiting in nervous phsycosis for the debut Prim Calcs album….whatever they come up with, it’s going to be fucking amazing.
Ladies and gentlemen, to start the review, I offer a metaphor. The Hulk has just gone to Taco Bell. Uh-oh, bad move Hulk. After approximately 20 minutes, The Hulk eschews a wild hurricane of Hulk excrement. That, my esteemed reader, is my representation of the debut Thee Hugs record. Mean, green and dirty. Also, unique, slightly disgusting and revelling in the abysmal depths of a public toilet in a shitty chain restaurant. Goddamn it’s a beautiful thing.
There are four major hints before even listening to a single song on the album that it’s going to be a fantastic thing. Firstly, the band’s name: Thee Hugs. Every band with Thee tacked onto the beginning has a legendary status. Thee Oh Sees, Thee Headcoats, Thee Hugs. It’s a thing, trust me. Secondly, the album name: Drug Use and Alcohol Abuse. With a name like that, it’s not like your going into the album blind; you know that there’s going to be drug references abound, like a 2013 Fear and Loathing. Awesome sauce. Thirdly, the band members that form Thee Hugs are from the other juggernaut Brissy garage sphincters Tiny Migrants and Sulphur Lights. Highly recommend checking these acts out, if you have a soul. I mean, I don’t have a soul, and I fucking love them, so imagine how you’re going to react. Finally, the artwork for the album is done by Sam McKenzie, who also did cover art for the infamous Velociraptor and everyone’s favourite rabbit-masked maniac Nobunny, amongst others. So yes, before even listening to a track, I’m confident that I’m in very good hands.
And….I’m correct. Holy Fuck, am I correct. ‘Drug Use and Alcohol Abuse’ is a monstrous blistering ride through insanity. It cruises through the seedy streets of Brisbane in it’s shitty Toyota, picking up mates like The Wipers and White Lung, trying and failing to score with hotties like Tyvek and The Reatards, and finally ending the night by scoring some smack of this dodgy dealer called King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. That dude was fucking crazy.
Anyway, the LP is a spaced out, sped up affair that throws its weight around in sub-zero gravity, just because it can. Tracks like ‘She’s My Girl’ and ‘You Can Run But You Can’t Hide’ showcase a Cramps horror-punk style, enlisting reckless abandon and shoving it up every orifice of insane until spew erupts from the concept’s nostrils. Then there’s stuff like ‘Somebody Pooed in the Pool’ and ‘Nazi Shooter’ that are just plain fucking weird for the sake of it. Did I mention I love it? Because I do, I really fucking do.
Thee Hugs are unruly and unrestricted in the best sense of the word. For a debut album, this breaks all the boundaries of what is considered normal, and that is a fan-fuckin-tastic thing. It’s beautiful in it’s ugliness, shining a light into the murky water just to see how big of a shit is down there. Hint: it’s gargantuan, and you gotta be at least a little bit impressed. Very good stuff. Very, very, very good stuff. Lux Interior would be so proud.
You can buy (or stream, in case this review hasn’t convinced you of the retarded genius of Thee Hugs) on the band’s Bandcamp right here. There’s also a single ‘She’s My Girl’ on there for free. Get it….or a swarm of swamp monsters will bite off your genitals. Consider the circumstances and make the right choice.
MORE LIKE QUEENS OF THE BONER AGE!!! Because they give me a boner. Because they are so good. Excellent, in fact. Okay, I should go back a bit. QOTSA have just released a stellar new album, an album stewing in hibernation for the past 6 years, since the previous pyscho-drama of 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’. The anticipation that has been building in the collective rock community for ‘…Like Clockwork’ has been more twisted than a pigs dick. All the news of the guest stars, from Foo Fighter and Nirvana skinsman Dave Grohl to the Nine Inch Nail and human muscle Trent Reznor, from pipsqueak Scissor Sister Jake Shear to Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. Even Sir Elton John wanted some of that sweet, syrupy Queen action (Insert your own joke about Elton and Queens here). As the album drew closer to release, all the Homme fans in the house started to panic. Will it be a catastrafuck? Will all the guest stars crowd the record and turn it into a mess of mish mashed sounds? Will QOTSA go dubstep?! Holy fuck, they didn’t chuck a Muse did they!?. Luckily, no, they’re not that fucked up (except for Nick Oliveri) and, for the most part, every fans nightmares have been quenched, and the record remains a tauntingly morbid masterpiece.
Before ‘…Like Clockwork’s release, Josh Homme, lead singer/guitarist and my ginger ninja compatriot, described the album as ‘documenting the journey of moving forward, you know. It was a tough time and I thought, ‘I can run away from this, or I can run into it.’ Indeed, the album does present that sort of view. Howling maelstrom’s of horrifying sound swell and capsize, and there is a sense of moving down a never-ending highway, the conscious notion that pushing forward is the only option. Frenzied, buffed riffs tear through and shred undeniably, melancholy juxtaposing hope, torpedoing drums splinter a chaos, and, overall, the classic Queens of the Stone Age sound fills the entire record.
After that overtly pompous intro to the album, let’s get stuck into the great aspects of ‘…Like Clockwork’. It revels in that classic mysterious, doom vibe that has always separated Queens of the Stone Age from your average band. Explosions of sound have always worked in their favour, as well as cutting edge bass lines that dominate the listener, and force you into a cowering fetal position, and all these elements are present. ‘My God is the Sun’, probably the first taste of the album for many fans, as the band premiered the song at Lollapalooza Brazil earlier this year, is an infuriatingly dense track, filled to the brim with confident sound. It pounds ahead with primal instinct, thumping with undaunted and god-like fever. Homme’s vocals quail, and the guitar hook manages to perpetrate every corner of the brain. However, it is definitely the drums that create that tidal aspect to the track, and no wonder, Grohl is behind the kit. It is a shockingly awesome display of power, as is the clunky ‘Smooth Sailing’. Homme’s trailing, seductive voice calls the listener like a siren before bashing them with harsh, snarled disposition. It’s a ghastly incantation of slime and spatter, a whole wave of personalities present on the song, and even the classic bouncy harmonica meets-guitar sound solo making an appearance (A lot of fans might remember something similar on ‘3’s and 7’s’ or ‘Skin on Skin’, but this is much more intimidating and gruesome). The bouncin’, bopping rhythm makes me picture this: imagine John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, taking over the Splash Mountain ride at Disney Land, and then replace that ‘Skip-de-de-do-da’ with ‘Smooth Sailing’. Yeah, it’s fucked up, but that’s QOTSA for ya. Another stand out bomber is the slipping and sliding ‘If I Had A Tail’. The spectre-railing-against-your-window effect that chorus has is down right creepy, and there’s not many songs out there that can lay claim to a reaction like that. When Homme laments/accuses ‘IF I HAD A TAIL/ I’D OWN THE NIGHT/ IF I HAD A TAIL/ TO SWAT THE FLIES’ you can practically feel the buzzing drone of the guitar and bass combo needling away at your skin, breathing hotly on your neck.
Now all this is truly impressive stuff, and it’s mind-bogglingly good, but sometimes it’s hard not to wonder ‘Have I heard this before? On another QOTSA record?’. Sure, it stays diverse enough to be different, but it’s not a substantial difference to say, ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ or ‘Songs for the Deaf’. That’s not the only thing on the that puts a quizzical half-frown on my ugly mug. Some songs seem too big to fit their own shoes. Sure, Queens of the Stone Age have always had a penchant for the melodramatic, in fact, it would be strange to hear their music not pushed to the limit, railing against oblivion, but at points, such as moments in ‘Fairweather Friends’ and ‘I Appear Missing’, and indeed the entirety of the maelstrom of ‘Kalopsia’, it appears as though the dusty part of desert rock is gone. Then there’s the tragedy of title track ‘…Like Clockwork’, which is a completely mistaken way to end such a jam packed album. Instead of going full throttle, QOTSA loosen their grip and let victory slip off their dicks like the broken condom that led to the baby that led to your 9-to-5 clock examining job and the mortgage that has you by the balls, all for a house that looks like something a Star Wars Storm Trooper threw up.
Despite all this, it’s classic Queens of the Stone Age on display here. Instead of going all out alien, they’ve brought back what they know best: desert rock. They’ve proved that they can bust out an earth-quaking jam with the best of them, that their musicianship is nigh-perfect, and that their lyrical prowess for nihilsm and woe is next to none. This is an amazing record, and while not one of their best (I mean, who could top the genius of ‘Songs for the Deaf’?), it basks in an apocalyptic desert light, riding into the sunset on a skeleton horse, bound for fuck knows what. Nah, Queens of the Stone Age more or less fucking nailed it on this one.