The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
DIPLOMAT + THUNDERCLAW + CORTEZ LIVE @ JADE MONKEY / Saturday November 8th 2008
The past has a funny way of catching up with us. Nothing we see is instantaneous. It comes to us in particles and waves. I'm told it starts with the speed of light. It's a distance travelled to get here. It flickers in and out of our view like ghosts. We're forever slow to react to it. It's 1/24th of a second fleeting in an instant. It's all of them strung together into the one narrative. Like a motion picture it creates an illusion of the ever present now but none of it is truly here; we are but fumbling in the dark. It's a doppler shift of sound. It's timing all the words to the faces. It's already gone. A lot of it is lost to erroneous data. We imagine all the lines between those points, we put those pieces together, we're outstretched fingers to falling leaves, we interpret the tree however we may, we draw them to our own conclusions, we write, we conjure it up as history. The past has a funny way of catching up with us. We live for the moment but it develops a momentum, a pendulum swing, a gravity, a life of its own. They're the event horizons that draw in the light all around them. They're a distance travelled to get there. We form memories to their lingering scent. We build walls and ceilings to house them. Buildings refashioned, refurbished, flyers and frequencies transmitted to mark the passage of time. From week to week the time we share expands and contracts around us. We collect them as memories. We drink to forget. Sometimes I stop to think and it hits me like an avalanche and I'm weighed down by the impossible weight of it all. I've seen so much in so little a time. I've collected it all. It drives me insane. It comes back to haunt me. It's here with me still. The past has a funny way of catching up with us all.
I'm at the Jade Monkey, it's a Saturday night, I'm sure of it, I've been here many times before, but I'm already gone. Shit. Maybe this just isn't my week. Maybe I'm misplaced, displaced, disoriented, scrambling to transmit these fractured thoughts through modems, optics, neurons and sentient species. Maybe I've come from outer space. I'm sure as fuck writing like it now! Or maybe I'm right where I want to be: past, present, future tense and a grammatical malfunction all colliding as one. I see them now standing as one, layered over the top of each other, every other night I've spent in here till it's nothing but a blur. A full spectrum as seen from afar. We narrow the field. The human brain can only take so much. We're down to single frequency. A time and a place for everything. A title that makes sense of it all. Duuuude what the fuck am I on about? and what the fuck did they slip into my drink the night before!? Whooaaaaaa headspins!
Sometimes I wonder what effect all this temporal flux is having on me: from past, present and future colliding, then seen as a whole. Not so much for the alcohol, the chemical, the mad clutter of people and the pollutants that flit in between, this is all part of the simple joy; more so for the madenning repetition. For all the things that change, so many things stay the same. You begin to lose touch with the finer details. You tune them out. You sustain that note long enough and you don't hear anything at all. Week to week from place to place, I travel everywhere, I see it all, yet I go nowhere at all. I'm going around in circles. I forget where I've been, I forget where I'm going. I see a drumkit. I've seen many before. I collect them all. The winking faerie lights. One spotlight red and one yellow. A few months ago that second one was white, before that it was red. It's the smallest things that mark the passing of the seasons. You are being reassured that you're forever moving forward, that there's a trajectory, propelling you forward down time's arrow but it's all an illusion. There is no future, there is only the past. You get hit with the déjà vu, the rubberband snaps and it sends you arms and legs flailing right back from whence you came.
Take our opening act for instance. From what we are told this is their first gig tonight, they're all kinds of shiny and new and if not for the subtle visual cues I'm giving you now (ie: the lack of any introductory title, the cheesy sepia tones) that would otherwise signify that these were freeze frames I'd shot well in the past (*sigh* if only I had some wibbly wobbly flashback effects to go along with it), you would otherwise assume these were captured in the here and now. Do not be fooled, this is not our opening act, this is in actual fact Mirrorline: captured circa 2005 and 2006. And yes, this is me digging up all of this history with a certain measure of dementing glee..
Even further back we have a drunken photo I've unearthed circa 2003. Note the familiar freak on the left with devil finger's raised. Note the shrinking gimp to the right, hiding from view. Note the pissmonkey with the paper bag over his head in the middle, doing his very best to disguise his identity and how he relates to absolutely nothing in this story at all (although there's a good chance Sean from Booster will still have some words to say regardless). They've been here in the past, they've visited this space many times before and they're returning once more..
And the less incriminating anecdotes I can write to accompany this CD: unearthed even further back circa 2002 (as released by an Adelaide band formerly known as J-Ded), the better. I'm sure there's a connection in here somewhere but my lawyers advise me that I have the right to remain silent and any words that I say, can and will be used against them in the writing of this review (hehehehe check it out dude: Tom Spalls got freaking eyeliner on.. wooooooo!).
CORTEZ (****) myspace :: And thus we present the mad hit of déjà vu that is our opening act tonight. Or in other words (for most of you still failing to connect the dots over all the injokes I've been throwing your way) they're a band that's been formed from the ashes of two other bands that have had a long, checkered (and occassionally flannelled) history in Adelaide music scene. The first is Mirrorline, formerly known as J-Ded (and a littany of ridule that I've kept on them for all these years.. or the less I mention about the numerous times I spotted Tom Spall working the counter at Greater Union Cinema on Hindley Street the better). The second is Loemax (who I would've otherwise also ridiculed at length if only I'd actually seen more than two of their gigs and had nearly as much dirt on THEM as I had on Mirrorline *cough*). And finally, after more than a year's absence from the scene, from playing way too many gigs sharing the same bill (many of them at the Jade Monkey where they secretly got married in June of 2007), they've returned once more and joined forces to form THIS band: Cortez. From Mirrorline they've brought in the ridiculously talented Tom Spall (aka: the 80's John Cusack disaster and soon to be victim for many MORE of my jokes for years to come) on guitars and vocals, and the lumbering giant Ben White (aka: the Cookie Monster) on drums. From Loemax they bring in the cold and calculating Gabe Phillips (aka: the Screaming No-Neck) on guitars and vocals. And finally from no other band in particular they bring the ever talented James Hastings (who's only claim to fame I'm aware of is a half bag of "mushrooms" he ate at a New Year's Eve party I attended way back in 2002/2003.. YEAAS!). Yup, for all this insane pedigree they've brought into the band, they've got one helluva reputation to live up too; but I can tell you now, even from the outset they're holding nothing back! They're nothing but grunt, they're nothing but shred, they're nothing but all our innard shooting clean out of our nostrils and splattering all over the four walls of this room, they're every Pre-Columbian civilisation in South America being wiped off the map. They're Cortez: it's all over duuude, we're already dead!
The sound of Cortez harkens back to a bygone era of mid 90's rock, grunge and alternative shred where everything that was worthy was rough hewn, fly blown and carved out of meat. They're the jangling discordia of Nirvana's "In Utero". They're the propulsive chug of Helmet's "Betty". They're both the above as reinterpretted by The Mark Of Cain swinging cinderblocks on rusty chains, leaving impact craters wide, and spitting teeth in their wake. It's Tom Spall introducing a song as: "yup you guessed it, this one's also about a girl" before leering, sneering, and chewing off half of his microphone like a weasel grown to ten times his size on nothing but spite. Its his cohort Gabe Phillips tag-teaming in the second song sounding like a stobie pole being hit by a drunk driver again and again at 3AM, yet barely flinching at all. Its the rhythm section of James Hastings and Ben White hammering it out like insolent teenagers banging sticks to chain link fences and inciting the trashyard dogs ever closer to violence. And yet there's also a surprising amount of subtlety to be found in here too. It's in the itchy trigger guitars buzzing like chainsaws in the chorus only to drop to soothing watercolour tones in the verse. It's the melodies that carry it, it's the power chords that drive it straight into the ground. It's that classic grunge rock dynamic: the soft loud pendulum bringing home the bacon again and again. Endlessly and effortlessly addictive they have the formula right from the outset. Oh yes! They're a deadly and diabolical combination indeed!
THUNDERCLAW (***1/2) myspace :: And speaking of all things deadly and diabolical, this brings us rather neatly to our second act tonight. Granted they don't nearly have the same wealth of (potentially embarassing) history proceeding them as the other two bands tonight, but they'll still be more than familiar to most of you if you've been following any of the recent events on this blog (or in other words you may remember the last time we both faced off in heated battle and most of us barely got out of there alive). In short I'll save you the sepia tones and most of the gory details and simply direct you here. Upon reading THAT you may understand why I greet this band with some trepidation tonight. Thunderclaw. They've been a tricky customer at the best of times. We've found ourselves in some downright dicey situations that made it all the harder to appreciate their "finer" qualities. But tonight in the more meditative surrounds of the Jade Monkey, where all can live in harmony as one: most if not all of these concerns are soon forgotten. This is not me getting my head kicked in by a littany of dickheads behind me. There is no Izzy from Robotosaurus hurling molotovs smashing on the stage, tossing over mic stands and upchucking vomit (granted he's still here playfully tossing beer bottles with a soft click onto the stage but it's totally different!). The mood is rested, relaxed and I might actually leave without my camera shattering in pieces before me. YES! Or in other words (and with Diplomat's bass player running the mix well through the red) there is no better time than now to truly appreciate what this stoner dirge metal act has to offer!
Thunderclaw. They're an instrumental act. Introverted, introspective, prone to noodling blunt and chunky neanderthal guitars in circles for ten minutes at a time. On the surface you'll think they're annoying as piss and the more you concentrate on it, the more it will drive you to violent distraction; and yet I've since discovered that maybe this is all because I was taking the wrong approach. Thunderclaw are a band that demands and challenges you in different ways. They're a white bearded sensei part Yoda, part Yeti, wrapping you over the knuckles time and time again if you misread them. Let all other concerns slide, empty all other thought, switch off the frontal lobe and let the limbic system show the way and then you'll see. They're a sound that goes right back to the prehistoric, the preverbal and the Paleolithic. They're the dull banging of Olduvian stone tools. They're the rough hewn spear taking down woolly mammoth and wildebeast. They're red ochre and arcane burial rites. I'm imagining Metallica raking zen gardens with elephant tusks. I'm imagining Sepultura playing ping pong with human skulls and paddles made from monster truck hubcaps and crowbars. I'm seeing the furrowed brow and sloping chin as the shaved ape takes one look at his iphone, shrugs his overdeveloped shoulders and simply smashes it to bits with a blunt rock. Artfully brutal. Fiercely meditative. It goes nowhere but it needn't have to. It's not Tool. It's not wank. It's simplicity. It's right where it should be, it was waiting for me to find it all this time and the louder you crank it, the better it sounds. Fuck! Why didn't I ever see THIS before!?
And now for our final flashback I bring you THIS arcane artifact. This is Adelaide band Rash and a CD that they released way back in 1997 called "Find It In The Noise". I bought this at a live gig sometime in early 1998 at the Holdfast (aka: "The Holdy") for the measely sum of $5. I even got all three members to sign it. Beats me why (as it's probably next to worthless now) although it may have something to do with the fact that (a) I was hideously drunk at the time and (b) the person in front of me got theirs signed too. I've listened to it once or twice, I haven't listened to it since, up until this very moment it's been collecting dust on my shelf and I have no idea why I'm mentioning it now (unless of course you see past all my feigned ignorance, put two and two together and realise that this band with one extra guitarist is in actual fact our headlining act under a different name tonight, ten years on). Wow, sure makes you think doesn't it!?
Which may begin to explain why this band is so bleedingly insane, or may begin to explain nothing at all. Diplomat. The loudest band in Adelaide. For all of their documented history, for all the sightings, hair, footprints, stool samples and the proof of their furthering post grunge brutality, there's a lot of unanswered questions that are yet to be explained by science or religion (or a 4th edition AD&D Monster's Manual). Not least of which: how either of us are can both exist in this same room tonight, after all these years, without a parole officer or a dedicated nursing staff on hand; clearly defies at least three of the four known laws of thermodynamics. Or how any of us are able to walk out of this same room afterwards, instead of our teeth and bone fragments being found hours later, embedded, five to six inches thick through these walls floor and ceiling when the clean up crews arrive; clearly defies the fourth. But such is the way of Diplomat. They're a weapon of mass destruction manifest in a singular sound. They're a sound all to their own. They're a sound beyond a sound. They're the decibel range beyond even that with which the US military in all their mad science is willing to toy with. It's a sound that'll turn sperm whales inside out, collapse the moon into a howling blackhole singularity and pass a rhinoceros through the eye of a needle. It's everything you loved about the closing scenes of Raiders Of The Lost Ark when the fat nazi guy's face melts off, only you're all of five years old, cowering behind your seat in the cinema and screaming hysterically moments short of a fullblown psychotic breakdown (fuck damn my parents were awesome!). And it's all the above with the volume turned screaming way up beyond that which causes dogs to explode. Oh yes! They are the very end of time and space itself!
Which makes describing any of the finer intricacies of their music all the more difficult, although not exactly impossible; not if you have the technology. If you shave at least 50-100dB from the top and bottom ends, you may begin to discern clear troughs and peaks in their apocalyptic aggression. Clear up some of the other frequencies and you may uncover an angular, off kilter, structure to their songs, how it swings like a drunk pendulum or rather like a prize fighter tenderising an upright cow carcass. Hang around an airport tarmac for a few months straight watching the 747's take off mere metres from your microwaved innards and you may even hear what they hear themselves, as they weave through it all with an aristocratic air, a measured ease that's taken them years to perfect. You'll hear those guitars as they dangle their sweet melodies like busted up wind chimes, you'll hear those punchy basslines, you'll hear the crooning vocals, you'll hear the phone ringing for days but such is price for such sweet insanity. Back in the day they might have sounded like any other Australian alternative, late nineties, post grunge act. They might have resembled Something For Kate's "Elsewhere For 8 Minutes", Not From There's "Sand On Seven", maybe even a small sprinkling of R.E.M. from their "Green" album. But ten years on they're far more brutal and brilliant than we could ever imagine! I'm bleeding from my eyesockets and ears, my shadow is blasting up against those four walls. OOOOH FUUUCK!
And then just like that, they pull it right back down again and tickle our shattering innards with a surprise interlude that I've not yet seen them play before. Compare to what we've just lived through it's surprisingly contemplative, lightly dappled, almost acoustic even. I don't quite understand the full meaning of this brief reprisal (then again at this point I'm finding it hard to understand or distinguish most shapes and colours) but I'm rather enjoying it all the same. The drummer swaps to guitar, the bass player swaps to drums, and then along comes an anonymous female bass player who joins the lead on stage for something that rather resembles what Johnny Cash would sound like playing a murder ballad whilst lightly fried in vegetable oil..
Only for that eye of the storm to pass us by, and then we're right back to being thrown around like a bag of popcorn in a microwave again. Yup, you may pause and briefly wonder what kind of illbient fool would ever choose to kill themselves retarded like this, you may begin to question the very outer limits of our stamina, our hearing loss, or what little sense we have at all, only to soon realise that we aren't even sentient at all. Our skulls are ringing, but we're not here to answer it. We're atomised and we're everywhere. We're the past and present are colliding as one. We're being deep fried like tiny ants under a giant magnifying glass.. whooaaaa what a fucking buzz!
12:18AM - And then moments after the gig (and quite in the kamikaze spirit of the times), one of the more adventurous fools among us seizes his opportunity for "greatness" and lunges towards the front. A brief struggle follows, only for him to plucks THIS bass guitar free from all the wreckage that Diplomat left behind. He holds it aloft ever so proudly like a relic of yore, the rest of the crowd soon sees what he has, and then they all surge forth to claim it as their own..
Of course his moment of victory that was to be ever so shortlived. There was a "feeding frenzy", there was blood and then by the end, there was nothing at all save for a smoking pair of shoes (and then they all came back and they stole the shoes too). Such is the price to be paid in laying claim to your own little piece of history. Such is the price of re-entry. Sometimes all you have to show for it is a flame trail and two long scorch marks in the sky. Sometimes all you have to show for it is a littany of insane literature written in a blog that makes little or no sense at all!
12:29AM - But all too often in my insane attempts to capture the past and the ever present, I lose track of the finer details, they become little more than a blur, a shifting sea of colour and noise. But then I remember that these are simply the people that make it ever so much more. Take Carly for instance (from everyone's favourite Adelaide supergroup Humble Bee). She's all about the people. She loves the people. She's here every week, captivated, reading all about them. Or more accurately she's sifting through them all in search for the more eligible members of the "male species" to make her own. And clearly in my quest for the bigger picture I'm just not focusing on the little things like this that make the picture whole. I mean shit, who knew THIS was the real reason some people use for reading this blog!? I know! I feel her pain! Well ok, maybe not "feel her pain" in quite the same weird way (as lets face it I'm really just in it for all the chicks who play bass.. woooooo!) but I understand her pain all the same and it's time I should address this shortfall. It's not just "history" its her story too! (and yes, clearly I've gone fucking insane!).
And thus, just in case she's missed them, just in case you've all missed them and they've all been forgotten: here (quite possibly by singular demand) are all the brightest shining examples of the male species that I managed to dig up from these last few months. These are the ones that make this website ever so special week in and week out. Oh yes ladies, THIS one's for youuuuu! :)
Oh yes, no need to thank me all at once: I'm doing this all for you! I'll give you all the time you need, don't rush on my account! Doesn't it make you heart race, your stomach gurgle and make you run screaming out that door? I know it sure as fuck makes ME want to change the locks! (seriously, I don't know what the fuck kind of insane gibberish I writing here sometimes).
12:49AM - And speaking of misshapen freaks that only a mother could love (wait.. what the hell am I on about now!?) it was at this exact moment, halfway through scheming every possible way that I could make Carly regret she ever told me she uses my blog to gawk at guys in the first place (apparently she's keeping score in my comments box now!? awesome!) when up comes the mother of our bass player from Diplomat, begging me to take this photo; and of course I just had to oblige! I mean how could I EVER refuse such an awesome photo opportunity like this!?
Yup, for simple moments just like these, you could almost forgive all the other crimes against humanity I've been inflicting on the Adelaide scene for all these years.. awwww aren't they cute? (or in other words, oooooh maaan is that bass player gonna kill me when he sees this!).
12:53AM - And clearly none of anything I've just written has been inspired whilst under the influenced of anything left swirling in glass or bottle that you happen to be looking at right now. Wow that's a whole other terrifying thought isn't it? If we stacked up all the pints, schooners, wine glasses, bottles, stubies and shots I'd ever consumed in the creation of THIS blog over the years, how far do you reckon they would stretch: to the moon? to the outer orbit of Pluto? and how much memory have they helped to obliterate in the process? anything I'd miss!?
1:23AM - And so, weighed down again by the impossible weight of it all once more: all those stories, all those memories, half recollected, best forgotten, flitting in and out of my dreams and my worst nightmares (and scribbled in chalk all over the roads before me); I wake up to the reality of it all. The past, the present, the future: it's all just a feedback loop maaaan. I'm doomed to relive the same day and the same night, repeating the same mistakes in a million different ways ad infinitum. Thus I do the only thing any half witted fool would do in a moment this: get the FUCK out of this monkey hole before I add even more paragraphs to this ridiculous tale..
1:31AM - This is me getting the hell out of this ghost town before those ghosts of past, present and future conspire to kill, stuff and mount me as one of their trophies on the mantlepiece. This is me haunted by it all in passing. This is me seeing too much. These things that were here just a moment ago and have long left my field of view. And this is me in no way ducking out early on a Saturday night because I've run out've pocket money for beer. OOOOOH NOOOOO!!
Yup, the past has a funny way of catching up with us. It sneaks up on us. It ambushes us in the weirdest places. Its coming up with new surprises, patterns, rhymes and reason to make sense of the disorder. It's our history forever repeating, twisting, turning, churning in the pit of our stomachs and changing its tune. It's the same story reinterpretted a million different ways, through a million different people, through a million different points of light from one end of the infinite to the next. And it's me never learning my lesson and always coming back for more!