2015 In Review, State By State

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It’s December 1st, so that means its time for the inevitable yearly wrap-up that gets all the clicks. But before I head into the dreaded listicle territory, I’m going to look at Australia’s literal territories, and just what the fuck they got up to this year, from the perspective of a child in Sydney who struggles to charge a phone, let alone understand the intricacies of the music scenes available within each state.

Short answer: bloody heaps, moite. Long answer:

Sydney, NSW

Look, we dropped the ball with the lockouts, and none of our NRL teams made the final. But other than that, Sydney did real well this year, with FLOWERTRUCK, YEEVS, Low Lux, Gordi, Le Pie and Palms being just a handful of the names that kept this dying city propped up.

In very important news, Sydney punk got re-ignited this year, specifically because of two bands: Orion and White Dog. Seeing these bands is akin to setting yourself on fire, Thich Quang Duc-style. Equally terrifying and exhilarating, you’re just as likely to be hit in the jaw by a flying crowd surfer as you are commit the violence yourself. Other new punk bands like Dry Finish, Point Being and Tim & the Boys popped up as well, which makes me feel like it’s going to be only a matter of time before Maggot Fest relocates North. Oh yeah, and Royal Headache returned in order to promptly release the best album of 2015.

Brisbane, QLD

Brisbane continued its reign as kings and queens of weird, as the local labels Sonic Masala Records and Tenth Court put out some fantastically obscure and refreshing records, whilst the pop was on point, with a few new teasers from The Creases, Babaganouj, and Love Signs. Blank Realm melted all our hearts with another masterpiece that was possibly BETTER than 2014’s Grassed Inn. Synth strangeness hit its peak, as the new bands 100%, and Corporate Vibes released some incredible tapes, and shoegaze returned in a big way with DEAFCULT and FOREVR injected a couple hefty doses of mind-caving avalanches of guitar.

Melbourne, VIC

Another year, another straight flush of amazing rock and punk. Thanks to Power, Little Desert, and Dribble for being the best a pimply teenager from Sydney’s suburbia could wish for.

However, Melbourne’s usual spot on proliferation of jangle-pop stalled a bit this year – there were great records from big hitters The Ocean Party, Twerps and Dick Diver, however none of these releases rose above their preceding material. They were good, but not enough to warrant the feverish excitement that accompanied previous albums.

On the other hand, electronic music regained its foothold in the Southern State – NULL, Planete, and Sui Zhen forced heads to pop up and start salivating, whilst friendships, Total Giovanni  and NO ZU proved to be the most entertaining and fun live acts that Australia provided this year. But it was Roland Tings who takes out MVP – that record of his is a work of fucking art.

Adelaide, SA

Wireheads, Bad//Dreems and Summer Flake provided the best material from the City of Churches, although the latter has pissed off down to Melbourne, so it’ll probably only be another few months before she disappears into an alleyway and becomes swallowed by that famous coffee culture. Another Adelaide export, Lord Fascinator released a whole swag of tracks that had an approximately 50% hit rate.

Besides the big names, there were a few newish bands from Radelaide that are showing a fair bit of promise – Old Mate released another album, Rule of Thirds put out their debut, and in very recent news, The Yabbies and The High Beamers have put out a few tracks that points to them becoming the biggest things out of Adelaide since Paul Kelly became the official sponsor for Coopers [sic].

Perth, WA

Tame Impala released a pretty average record, POND released a really good one. The various side-projects between these two bands number into the millions, and they’re all varying engagements of the same incestual psych village. There’s just a bit too much, and it’s all a bit “Eh”.

Similarly to the psych boom, there was an over saturation of electro-pop and grunge. Both of these scenes started off exciting, with KUCKA, and GRRL PAL providing satisfying starts in the former category, and Tired Lion, Pat Chow, and Black Stone From the Sun churning out detuned Heimlich manoeuvres in the latter. But by the end of the year, it became a bit tiresome hearing the same old thing. These bands are still good, but with the exception of LOWER SPECTRUM and Catlips, it felt like people in Perth are either listening to too much Grimes or Nevermind.

Hobart, TAS

The most underrated and painfully ignored album of 2015 came courtesy of Tassie’s Heart Beach. We, as a collective society, should have raised this album to triple platinum status, at a bare minimum. Heart Beach is flooring, and I feel ashamed that I didn’t review it. If you’re after a record that you can curl up with, that’ll both comfort you and turn your bones to ash, turn to Heart Beach, and don’t stop listening until you’ve reached the highest point of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If there was going to be an album that guided you towards a higher consciousness , it’ll be this one. Please, do yourself the greatest of favours and jump on over to Heart Beach’s Bandcamp, where the album is still listed as a ridiculous name-your-price.

Darwin, NT

I have no idea what happened in Darwin this year. Can someone let me know?

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New: Lower Spectrum – Proxima

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You ever wanted to know what would be playing on the stereo of an ultra cool political assassin who looked like George Clooney? This. This fucking song would be on the stereo, blaring out of the alien version of a Ferrari. “Why am I doing this? What purpose does this serve? Am I evil, or just a product of a society that looks suspiciously like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner?”. All these questions and more stir around our protaginist’s mind as the deep groove of Lower Spectrum “Proxima” beckons from the speakers.

The inner turmoil rages, and the only hope to drown the questions out lies within “Proxima”  Shades donned, silver fox hairdo slicked back, blaster pistol tucked into a pair of expensive jeans, and a piercing gaze that would have us all bowing in submission, the saving grace of our anti-hero lies within the lush stare of Lower Spectrum.

Album Review: Black Stone From the Sun – Death Threats & Cigarettes EP

This is a rock band. Not a rock band in the sense that they play guitars and drums and are kinda loud. Whoop de doo, that’s known as Eskimo Joe. Black Stone From the Sun are a rock band bound for fuck off massive stages. Their loudness demands it – they need to play with bigger speakers than what they supply at the pubs.  They need to be playing to thousands of people, all climbing on top of each other, desperate to get a hand to one of their instruments, which they can then they can later chop off and sell on eBay for thousands. Their music clamours to be blasted from a bedroom stereo, with the remote either controlled by a bunch of teenagers brimming with angst or by a recently divorced dad re-connecting with their youth. It doesn’t matter – this music belongs to anyone who constantly has their arms cocked in an air-guitar position.

On their second EP, Black Stone From the Sun propel themselves with a gnashing appreciation for grunge and garage. The mission statement is to instil tinnitus in the naive passerby, to rip the average Joe’s attention away from what they were previously doing, and immerse them in a riotous din. Although obviously indebted to Nirvana, Mudhoney and JEFF the Brotherhood, Black Stone aren’t ripping off, so much as they are continuing the standard of shredding their vocal chords and blunting fingernails for a listener’s sadistic pleasure.

Through six tracks, BSFTS plunder the grunge textbook, but consistently keep the bar at “Punch-A-Wall” levels. “Post-Stress” opens things up with a straightforward Bruce-Lee kick to the stomach of a riff, and introduces us to the snarl that could level the earthquake-proof apartments of San Francisco. “Pastel Roses” goes for the loud-quiet dynamic, but still manages to rip apart jaws with a chorus that could make the Sub Pop office perk up its ears. Meanwhile, “Tables Turned” showcases a new sense of urgency, and “Monkey” tears strips off with a hook of blistering rock, a finish that leaves you gasping for air, like if you’ve just put down your life savings on The Raiders taking out the Premiership.

Black Stone From the Sun play OAF Gallery Bar this Saturday, with freakin’ WHITE DOG! You can grab the EP from their Bandcamp here.

New: Helta Skelta – 55mm

38 years ago, The Victims released the ‘Television Addict’ 7″. The introduction to that song changed the way that music was perceived by a lot of people, myself included. That’s what’s going down in Helta Skelta right now – not only are both bands from Perth, and HS are obviously taking a lot of influence from the Victims, amongst others, but they’ve both nailed the ability to infect pop music with punk snot.

The most interesting thing with this new Helta Skelta track is how far removed from the original hardcore/thrash stylings abundant in Helta Skelta’s first incredible album (it’s free download here, it’s absolutely essential). Instead of tumultuous brutality over squall, Helta Skelta have moved into something new but just as exciting. A throbbing, distinct bassline, fiery guitars that spit fire parallel to each other and a wistful sneer, Helta Skelta have dropped the most romantic single since ABBA’s “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”.

New: Black Stone From the Sun – Post Stress

Black Stone From the Sun are the peak body of Perth’s very apparent slobbering for recreating 90’s rock. On the one hand, you gotta make the joke about how Perth is, “just so far behind the times, grunge only just hit the airwaves over there”. LOL. GOOD ONE, M9, YOU’RE FUCKING KILLING IT WITH THE WIT THESE DAYS, BRUH. *hi-fives self, rides off into the sunset, damsel nuzzling around the chest, slab of VB tinnies tucked into the shoulder, all-knowing smirk creasing an otherwise godlike face*

But where the crunchy riffs of Black Stone from the Sun are concerned, you can’t help but go – well, shit mate, those 90’s bands were onto something. At the time, every record label had their dick in their hand, signing whatever band with a fuzz pedal their jizz happened to land on. That’s how a band like Stone Temple Pilots exists. Shooting star, the more you know.

Bands like Bleach-era Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Mudhoney inform Black Stone From the Sun’s tried-and-true aesthetic. They’re not re-inventing the wheel, but, to quote the great Danaerys Targaryan, they’re going to break the wheel. Armed with disembowelling riff, a snarling bellow, and the ability to conjure more noise than a 21st set at a bush doof, Black Stone From the Sun score the official seal of “fucking legends”.

New: Methyl Ethyl – Twilight Driving

Like PJ Harvey being drowned in fuzz and saxophone, Methyl Ethyl burst in with such a beautiful tune it’s a wonder they’re not having their inbox flooded with requests of marriage. For the record, I can shout a dowry of whatever special Liquor Land have going on at the moment, as well as 2 x Golden Retrievers.

If you feel like a serene and luxurious tune fit for a dream sequence in a David Lynch film, look no further than these Methyl Ethyl folks. This “Twilight Driving” track is beautiful!

New: MUGWUMP – Lazy Bones

Stomping along like a T-Rex wearing cinder blocks, MUGWUMP inject a whole new energy into psych music that hasn’t been felt in a little while. There’s a rock ‘n’ roll glam in there, and it’s not just because of the acidic flashes of shimmering guitar that  the band so often dive into.

POND and King Gizzard are the obvious reference points here, but there’s a sense of something cooler, and perhaps a little more evil and twisted going down. The way that “Lazy Bones” contorts itself, bending over backwards with a gleeful, manic grin during its many guitar freakouts, it gives off the aura of genuine insanity. And for a genre like psych-music that can so easily fall prey to boring repetition, this is a very, very good thing.

Video: Pat Chow – Pleasure Unit

Pat Chow are gonna be huge. I can feel it in my loins. As soon as that grumbling bass belches “Pleasure Unit” into existence, you just have that innate knowledge that Pat Chow are gonna be big. Everything about this song is right. From the way that Pat Chow painstakingly build this sludgy grunge masterpiece into a squealing, untouchable masterpiece of angsty rock, getting every note, every ascent juuuuuuust fucking right…you know these dudes are onto something special. There’s a chemistry existing here, bubbling beneath the surface, that’s as vital, deadly and soon-to-be-as infamous as that of Walt and Jesse’s. They’re surely doing themselves some favours there with a (most likely unintentional) allusion to that pivotal desert scene in the first episode of Breaking Bad. And just like that mystical TV show, Pat Chow are going to take off into the highest echelon of pop culture. Watch ’em go, exploding like a badly-cooked batch of meth.

New: Tenru – Oceans

It’s been a while since any electronic music has graced these hallowed pages, but Tenru picked me outta this slump of garage and punk rock, and plumped by overbearing carcass firmly back in the society of knob-tweak appreciators.

Hailing from Perth, old mate takes the love we all feel for Bonobo, and turns it into something even more sensual and seductive, turning our platonic friendship into something that can only be described as lust. Strong, earthy lust, the kind one feels after reading 50 Shades of Grey, or watching bootleg videos of Channing Tatum working out.

New: Catlips – Fade

Hey, big fan, big fan of this one. Everyone’s mate Catlips, from the dusty old Perth has just put out a subtle, sensual blast of lusty house music. Sure, it was still 10 or so years before I became considered my parents biggest mistake, but Catlips has an innate ability to reflect the closed-eyes euphoria that I’m sure a lot of the folks who experienced the original wave of Chicago House. It’s got enough groove to constantly slick down the constantly kicking drums, and Catlips’ vocals are more on point than Robin Hood at an archery range. Get “Fade” into ya before you choke on mediocrity.