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...
DAMO SUZUKI NETWORK + BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR LIVE @ THE ED CASTLE / Friday February 13th 2009
Warning: what you're about to read here is what we would like to laughingly refer to as an existential crisis and by "existential" I clearly mean that it'll be rife in half baked philosophical concepts bordering on the farcical, fuck full of biting sarcasm, self depreciation, metaphysical malaise and riddled with all manner of crass dick and fart gags; only for it all to collapse into a discombobulating drivel about three quarters of the way through with no hope for a conclusion; or in other words it's everything I love about art! Yup, it happens every year, around about this time of year: mid to late February through to March, I can see it all around me. I can see it everywhere. The hype, the hysteria, the festivals and me very much becoming a cynical bastard. Or in other words it's that fine line between art and bullshit. It's been that same fine line that's always existed between art and bullshit, between science and bullshit; between religion and bullshit, politics, ethics, love, sex, economics, sport, fashion, entertainment and bullshit; between life, death, taxes, the truth and bullshit; between just about everything I've known and bullshit; but now it's personal, I can't help but be skewed in my perception of it, in just about everything that exists and its relationship to it. Bullshit: THE all pervasing force in the universe. It's 95% of everything I see and hear. I'd like to think that statistically that's quite possibly ALSO bullshit (and in any other time I could live in sweet denial of it) but they've actually done tests on it, it's dead real maaan! It's always been out there, by any other name you'd care to call it: the nature of God, good and evil, heaven and hell, astrology, alchemy, time and space, dark matter, you name it; it's all bullshit. Most of what your reading on Spoz's Rant, all that I've written; complete and utter bullshit (although let's face it, I don't think they'll be any arguments over that one.. weeeee!). Spend a lifetime attempting to rise above it, doubting my own worth against it, then begrudgingly accepting it, making money of it and eventually becoming it? Bullshit. There's really no way around it..
I admit, I often feel guilty of it. I wonder whether anything I do has any real "value". Is this art that I create, collect and celebrate? and how do I know if this art, this truth, reality, or anything else I know of isn't bullshit? If all that we can know for sure is that our five senses are lying to us, that our minds are simply filling in the blanks, that we are nothing more than an abstract thought process hardwired to ignore the inevitable; then what ISN'T bullshit? If everything is just "paper currency", if everything is inherently useless save for the worth that we bestow upon it, then what does this say about the very meaning of life itself? that everything is bullshit!? fuuuck!
Or maybe I'm just over thinking the situation? it happens to me all the time. Every argument has a devil's advocate. I easily run rings, ridicule, twist and distort just about anything till I find myself coming full circle around on that möbius strip with all my notions turned upside down and back to front. My sense of reason is constantly butting heads with the ridiculous: I'm full of mocking self doubt, it's got me into trouble in the past. I often don't know what to believe, I question everything (shit no wonder I have trouble sleeping!). What constitutes art? is it accumilated wisdom? inherited wealth? elected status? years of experience? a lousy five star rating? Clearly it's all bullshit by every other name. And what the hell does any of this "bullshit" have to do with the Adelaide scene, or what's on tonight at the Ed Castle? duuude.. where do I even begin!?
BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR (****1/2) myspace :: Yup, I think we can see where all this is heading and there's no shortage of it here tonight. Adelaide's damn near infested with it: psychedelic, post rock, prog rock, prog metal, stoner metal, math rock; extended fifteen minute jams, horns, sirens, strings sections, and multiple percussionists (more cowbells.. more cowbells!) all shrieking with an overflated sense of self worth. I ask you: is it art or complete and utter bullshit? it takes keen observation skills to tell the difference. Many would say there isn't any (and many of them are in punk bands) *cough* still that being said damn we're really in for a treat tonight! Many are the superlatives we could speak of Damo Suzuki tonight but we don't dare go into this cold. We need to stretch it a little first, stretch that mind where it wouldn't normally go (rather like a balloon animal); we need an opening act. Originally this honour would've gone to a shock and awe tactic like Lady Strangelove; but in hindsight we could've easily imagined just how that might've ended badly: a category five skull fucking? a voice screaming outside of ourselves as if from afar? followed by a red rochart spray from ears, eyes, nose, throat and the back of our heads splattering all over the band room walls!? Sure it may be MY kind of fun but I think your autopsy would've spoken otherwise. No we needed a more mellow hit, we needed Billy Bishop Goes To War, and they sure as fuck delivered tonight..
Granted they're not always THIS good but when they are? duuuude they're like nothing else; and I believe I've figured out why. Billy Bishop Goes To War don't need to think, they don't need to "act", when they nail it? they simply tap directly into their id, their instinct, their inner imbecile, the kind of raw genius that only an idiot savant could truly express in coloured crayons and monosyllables (and in no way am I implying Josh on vocals.. weeeeeee!) and they speak directly to us without having to speak at word at all. It's mostly instrumental, it's one song flowing into the next, ever so effortlessly, seamlessly, like a stream of consciousness floating down stream and into the ocean that unites us all. Guitars are lightly dappled in a dizzying array of pedals and effects, like sunbeams singing through green leaves, like Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express blowing smoke on a caterpillar and out of his mind. Lyrics are sparingly used if ever. Josh howls like a wolf let loose amongst the sheep, he's all shrieks, echoes and unintelligible delays; Tom's vocals are very much reminiscent of a doped up Lou Reed at his Velvet Underground best. They're like all the best bits of Broken Social Scene, Mogwai and Pavement rolled into a joint, there's no note here out of place, there's NO bullshit, no paranoia, it's simply beyond words! Of course I realise that's just made my entire review redundant but it's true. So instead of believing all my rambling bullshit, check out both of these live videos: they truly say so much more than I ever could..
12:16AM - So here we are an hour or so in between bands waiting patiently for the "magic" of Damo Suzuki to happen (what!? I didn't say anything!). There's a crowd slowly gathering around the stage in mad anticipation. Most of them are what you'd usually come to expect to an event such as this one: lifelong fans, musicians, artists, the avant-garde, the professionally vague, unemployed, undergraduates, post graduates, drop outs, weirdos, wastoids, shoeless hippies and aimless drifters from a veritable rainbow of uppers and downers (hi Mathias!). Others you wouldn't normally expect, such as one idiotically intoxicated middle-aged woman (and you couldn't possibly miss her) who spent most of Billy Bishop's set with a glass of white in her hand drowning out a good portion of their songs reminding us how excited she was to be here, and has now (rather conveniently) chosen this exact moment for all her drugs to kick in. I believe she may've been a Senator for the Democrats once.. YEAAAS! And then there was the awesome soundtrack selection to accompany all this, as from out of the house speakers comes a cheerful cacophany of: temple chanting, droning, buzzing, atonal wailing, throat singing, gnashing, gongs, wooden blocks, white noise, excruciating bowel movements, sinus decongestion and what sounded for all the world like a man giving birth to a hippo. Yup, Damo Suzuki really couldn't come any sooner..
DAMO SUZUKI NETWORK (****) website :: When it comes to describing what we're seeing here tonight, there are two undisputable facts at play. Firstly that this backing band, formed by members from both Like Leaves and Skeletons, are quite simply one of the BEST improvised psychedelic art rock ensembles you could ever hope to find in all of Adelaide. There's just no argument. From Like Leaves we have Juliet Hunter on both violin and bass (who many of you would otherwise recognise thanks to all those years of her melting our faces off in Artax Mission), Daniel Varricchio on guitar, Patrick Saracino on both bass and guitar and Ryan Manolakis on both drums and bongos (who pretty much moonlights in every other band in Adelaide). From Skeletons we have Tim Deane-Freeman on bongos and drums and a saxophonist so ridiculously fuckoff awesome he doesn't even have need for a name (as clearly I'm not attempting to bullshit my way out've all my slackarse research that failed to come up with one.. *cough*). The soundscapes they weave, the textures, the flavours? quite simply unparalleled. You could live all four seasons, birth, life and death in the space of one gig and die happy. The second undisputable fact is that Damo Suzuki is rather short; I think he's barely 5ft tall. Hmmm yup, let's just pause to consider that for a moment.. aaand we're moving on!
Of course clearly we're skipping over a pretty sizeable fact. As, for those of you otherwise unitiated (ie: pretty much everyone reading this right now who ISN'T in Like Leaves or otherwise known for smoking copious amounts of weed), Kenji "Damo" Suzuki is a living legend. Which means everything I'm about to tell you has been otherwise stolen from his wikipedia entry. He was once the lead singer of legendary 70's Krautrock act Can. He recorded a number of well regarded albums such as "Tago Mago", "Future Days" and "Ege Bamyasi". Since 1983 he's toured the world as the "Damo Suzuki Network", which he leads as vocalist. Former members of this network (he picks locals from every city he plays) have included members of Broken Social Scene, AIDS Wolf, Augie March and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta. He's also breeds Mogwais in his spare time, launch fireballs in a special flying fist attack, and has occassionally doubled as Tommy Chong for public appearances. And yes, some of what I've just told you may be complete and utter bullshit (I mean Augie March.. really!?). His vocal technique fronting a band, here tonight, or otherwise, has been known to be largely improvised, like free-jazz scat. It's not necessarily in any language, it mostly consists of him twisting about the microphone violently, like a flag flapping in a strong breeze and emitting a sound not unlike Louis Armstrong crossed with Yoda, the Cookie Monster and a camel gargling mouthwash; but it has an infinite charm to it. Throw in a backing band (or as he likes to call them "sound carriers") and the combined effect could best be described as attempting to synchronise Pink Floyd's "Dark Side To The Moon" to The Wizard Of Oz, "Dark Side Of The Moon" to The Matrix, or pretty much anything else to the SpongeBob SquarePants movie whilst completely blitzed out of your skull. Yup, that's the Damo Suzuki Network! It's simply awesome when they get it right, but it can be a little hit and miss when they don't..
Tonight however it's a truly inspired performance. Damo Suzuki and his band conjure up a freeform primordial soup mixing influences and nuances from just about everything; I sometimes wonder if I'm imagining half of this shit. There's Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Mars Volta, The Dirty Three, 60's Pink Floyd, something not unlike Tricky's "Angels With Dirty Faces" (especially in the gutteral blues delivery) and this one insane moment that I swear sounds almost exactly like the opening refrains to Radiohead's "Planet Telex"; clearly I'm tripping balls for even thinking that, but it's there regardless. It lurches seamlessly from one extreme to the next, from contemplative, meditative mumblings to a surging maelstrom of howling, shredding and gnashing malevolence. Songs that ebb and flow organically over fifteen minutes, reach their crescendo naturally and simply sink below the waves. Volatile, aggressive, energetic, and infinitely expressive, there just so many subtle nuances you could explore here; one and a half hours of this set barely covered the potential! Granted, most of it is thanks to Like Leaves and Skeletons. I'd seen Damo Suzuki before (almost two years ago to the day) with a similar band as the one playing tonight, he took the lead and it was nothing but a mumbling, awkward, stumbling mess (might I add: everytime he visits a new city, he never rehearses with the band either, it's all improvised from scratch!). So I figured they learnt something that first night. The trick was to lead and not to follow him. Take the reigns, go anywhere, and Damo would simply follow, obediently, like an old dog learning new tricks. Once you became aware that this was in fact happening, you wondered.. I mean really.. for all his grunting, gurgling, maching gun mumbling, all those wild jerkings behind the microphone and his role as "figurehead" tonight; what exactly DID he even do out there!? do we dare call it? Are we seeing that line being crossed? we could argue back and forth about this for days. This is a solid performance, there's no doubt. It's a sound theory. It truly IS amazing that he's been doing this improvisation thing for over twenty six years now, but I can see where it's mostly coming from now; and I'm wondering just what the point of this is. Is it him? or is it just the band he inspires? Is this the TRUE genius of the Damo Suzuki Network? Or are we calling his bluff? discuss! :)
2:18AM - And there we have it. Fuuuck. I'm nothing if not more confused. There's a million thoughts colliding in my head right now. I don't know what the hell to make of all this. Clearly I'm missing the point, and that point is best held between thumb and forefinger, lit, inhaled deeply and passed around a room; or at least it would be if it didn't otherwise completely fuck up my ability to string two sentences together (and trust me.. I would know!). Scratching that there's always beer, too many beers, I've probably wasted far too many nights, here at the Ed Castle, here in the beer garden, doing just that with all these resident wastoids (hi Mathias!) instead of doing more important things. Actually was Mathias even here tonight? whoaaaaa headspin!
2:20AM - Yeah I know, I'm probably just overthinking shit again. If beer has but ONE value, it's in silencing all these unanswered questions that constantly fly about my head like this. "In Vino Veritas" indeed (or y'know.. the nearest beer equivalent). And no I have NO fucking clue why all these idiots wanted me to photograph them doing this shit either. Got drunk, forgot the significance of it all, awesome huh? let's put THAT in a blog and let everyone else figure it out!
3:36AM - With my train of thought successfully interrupted, shunted, munted, and dragging knuckles across the ground before me; we were eventually thrown out because apparently that's what they do at closing time (whodathunkit!?). You'd think this would be an opportune moment for me to end this episode. If anything it makes for a poinant, if utterly stupid solution to any of all manner of philosophical condundrums you'd choose to throw at it. "Mummy.. why does God kill good people!?". Get drunk that's what! Huh!? yeah I know I don't quite get it either..
3:55AM - Because nothing is quite as head explodingly awesome as reading about all my drinking habits, no matter how trivial and utterly inconsequential to ANY inane argument I may otherwise be banging on about; like when we all went to the Bull And Bear afterwards!? FUCK YEAAAH!
4:05AM - Thrill to the endless, off-the-wall, zany adventures that is a night of Transmission. The excitement never ends! Just like when we spent way too much time than was entirely neccessary taking photos of Todd by the bar, looking utterly ambivalent as he drank his beer.. YEAAAS!!
4:13AM - Or this exploding packet of cheese crackers that I stepped in soon afterwards. Cheese crackers!? ZOMG! LOL! LMAO!! what will we think of next!? I'm pissing sideways with glee!
4:22AM - Aren't you so happy I'm writing all these blogs again.. no really, hold the applause!
4:31AM - And since clearly the Bull And Bear couldn't possibly hope to contain me one minute longer without simply exploding with joy, or quite possibly exploding with something else that would otherwise require a hasty visit to a dry cleaners, a blow torch and a public apology; we find ourselves here. Because clearly you needed to know that (and didn't otherwise assume I'd choose this trajectory from the billion OTHER times I've always been here). Yes I went to Supermild, yes I got even MORE ridiculously drunk.. "Woweee Spoz! tell us something we DON'T fucking know!!".
Yup, we could all use some editing. Too many examples immediately spring to mind. Kings Of Leon should never have released that fourth album (I don't care how awesome "Sex On Fire" is, that album's a joke!). You don't need thirteen years to write an album; no matter how freaking genius it is to have a guitarist with a KFC bucket on his head (fuck I love that freak!). The Smashing Pumpkins should never have returned (Portishead however.. you're excused, that album was fucking awesome!). We never needed two sequels to The Matrix, or a third Terminator movie, or for that matter a fourth (despite the hilarity that is Christian Bale), we didn't need three Star Wars prequels or all those Saw movies. And while we're on the subject: M. Night Shyamalan, seriously what the FUCK!? Kevin Smith I could ask the same of you! And don't even get me started on attempting to explain myself out of THIS mess that I choose to publish twice a week. Less is more, the less I think about this the better, duuude it's just better to live in sweet denial!