Australia

Gee Tee ‘Atomic’

“Irreverent monsters in muscle cars” is how Odd Rods describe themselves. A series of trading cards by National Lampoon’s B. K. Taylor depicting various cartoonish creatures in oversized hot rods in the vein of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink. #3 in the initial ’69 set is Gee-Tee-O, an über cool green goblin with buck teeth and shades sporting a straggly beard of coarse, rodent-hair, impishly pushing his skull gear stick into full throttle, smirking as he risks death in the chase of the acceleration high.

Cars, racing and speed were initially the sole subject matter for Gee Tee when forming in 2016. A lo-fi scuzzy garage rock project fronted by Aussie Kal Mason as former band Draggs ground to a halt, Mason decamped from his native Gold Coast to dive head-first in the weirdopunk revolution happening in Sydney spearheaded by kindred mutants Research Reactor Corp. and Set-Top Box. After a string of fantastically polluted rock ‘n’ roll releases and side projects with the aforementioned R.R.C. and Drunk Mums, Gee Tee show no sign of slowing down as they drop latest EP Atomic via Italian label Goodbye Boozy Records.

An infectiously corroded little Wurlitzer melody surrounded by strutting indie riffing opens the EP on the buoyant ‘Kombat Kitchen’ a fuzzed-out flaunt of garage murk that touches on the organ-driven sounds of ? and the Mysterians. Second track “Mutant World” shoves a straw up your nose and fills your mind with coke, blood and slug pellets, a feverish and electric synthpunk stomper that Gee-Tee-O would proudly exit this world in a fiery crash to. ‘Atomic’ is a beguiling beast, some no-nonsense pub-rock chug with a scratchy vocal delivery akin to War’s Low Rider. It shouldn’t work, perhaps it doesn’t, but you’re too taken with the warbling theremin to care. Things ends on a note of pure rock ‘n’ roll zest were it soaked in sewage and radiation, a bright and upbeat bopper with a killer chainsaw solo piercing through the noxious film.

Atomic is another gloriously rancid little fucker that further cements Mason’s reputation as one of the leading figures in Aussie scuzzpunk but skilled enough to allow sharp pop-hooks in his lo-fi murk. Messy, greasy, weird, and all the better for it.

Syzygy ‘The Pendulum’

“Any two related things, either alike or opposite”. Amid an aggressive socio-economic homogeneity, where any slight deviation of rabid capitalism’s ever closing peripheries of permissible discourse is crushed by a compliant media, the yearning for some elemental, binary pull only grows greater. The political pendulum which conventional wisdom tells us is forever swinging across the spectrum is currently stuck on Right, and perhaps the vital forces of syzygy need to be conjured to haul the lever back down, crashing through the dull certainty of the modern age.

Structures and balance are explored in Rebecca Maher and Gus Kenny’s new synth project Syzygy. Swapping the cyberpunk confrontation of prior band Spotting for shimmering electropop, the Melbourne duo injects the genre’s chilly aesthetics with a warm beating heart of rich melodies and bright analogue production. Preceding their debut EP with an inclusion on the excellent Blow Blood Records compilation A Long Time Alone, new release The Pendulum sees Syzygy’s search for duality in the form of four expert synthpop tracks.

The urgent title track opens the EP with dramatic heft, a great joyous hammering of jabbing basslines and glossy keys that strikes together radiantly, Maher maintaining a strong yet understated vocal delivery throughout. The crunchy ‘Social Fence’ retains their former punk snarl, a climactic frenzy of John Foxx style synth leads and punchy drum machines, while ‘Memory Distortion’ drops the tempo to a glacial groove, Maher’s icy detailing of blurred recollections and fragmented thoughts given an ethereal edge. Finale ‘(I’ll Just Be) Unfulfilled’ is an utterly infectious slice of euphoric heady dance which belies its lyrical resignations to a life of rigid, societal claustrophobia, the song takes off halfway in soaring and rousing lift of twinkling arpeggios and celestial sequencers to a thrilling, conclusive ascension.

The energy that fuels The Pendulum is effervescent and electric, an EP of bristling pop vigour bursting with life and a wonderful precariousness that hides underneath the assured front, the subtle forces that tantalisingly threaten life’s cohesion and harmony baring its teeth if you look close enough.

Armitage Shanks ‘Casual Employment’

Does any other brand have greater ubiquity in the British cultural landscape than Armitage Shanks? Usually lost under a film of days old piss, green lime build-up and a sprinkling of old pubes for good measure, its flourish logo has an unrivalled corporate authority and near-monopoly on our most base needs. It’s fitting too. The capitalist pretence that market reward is there for the taking should you have sufficient tenacity and drive is a cruel joke to every overworked and underpaid worker expected to give maximum labour for minimal wage. We all feel it, that the world is broken and geared to serve billionaire wealth hoarders, and that society is slowly swirling down a toilet of creeping fascism, environmental catastrophe and grotesque wealth disparity. If Tory, austerity Britain has a sponsor, it’d be the U.K.’s leading bog manufacturer.

“I’d have a hard time caring on minimum wage so I certainly won’t do it for free!” yelps Maisie Gilchrist on the rallying ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk (I’m Here For A Latte)’. Armed with Marxist resolve, Gen Z defiance and a cheap synthesizer, Aussie ‘Trotpop’ duo Armitage Shanks scores their yearning for class war with spoken-word style poetry and minimalist electronics attacking the miasma of neoliberal stagnation we’re all forced to participate in. The title of their debut tape Casual Employment states firmly where their solidarity lies and whose in the firing line of their cutting satire.

The bite that lurks within the observational jest across the 7 tracks (final track ‘School Boycott’ a bonus for fee-paying supporters) stings with familiarity. The choking busyness of the modern age, liberal hypocrisy, exploitative bosses, customer meltdowns, and the yearning for some basic fucking infrastructure all deeply felt and experienced symptoms of the failing social experiment which Gilchrist and fellow keyboardist Angus Clarke explore succinctly and savagely. Their lyrical attack is at their most hilarious and pugnacious on the piquant ‘I Hate Every Vegan Except Myself’, tearing apart the feeble futility of ‘green capitalism’ aided by Sleaford Mods style languid bass and hazy keys, Gilchrist’s sneering opine “if only you cared about refugees as much as vegan cheese” dripping with acidic accuracy. The aforementioned ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk…’ is a paean to every stressed hospitality employee navigating a quagmire of low-pay, ‘low-skill’ attitudes and nearing explosion, the rising blood pressure spurred by punchy, tight drum machines.

Occasional detours into surreal eccentricity provide different avenues to explore their progressive musings. The politics of space and the questionable judgments of what is ‘problematic’ within it are explored on the contemplative ‘The Pigeon Song’, muffled, buoyant synths jump and dart against an account of a pigeon’s extermination due to the fickle criteria of ‘public nuisance’. Their catchiest track, ‘Bug Beat 02’, is also their most puzzling: a curious declaration of affection for ones pet stick insects atop cool drum breaks and a simple yet infectious synth melody. These beguiling diversions create moments of evocations that stimulate the cerebral side while still retaining their sharp humour.

Novara Media‘s Ash Sarkar lamented the ‘dour cultishness and pomposity’ that plagued the public perception of the left for years, and that the road to communism needn’t be dominated by Soviet-style authoritarianism and grey edifices of bureaucracy, but that liberating people from the material and psychological shackles of rabid capitalism can and should be ‘joyful and exuberant’. Armitage Shanks’s Casual Employment tape demonstrates this perfectly: that Marxist rigour and class struggle can be colourful, freeing, and most importantly, fun.

Concentration ‘I’m Not What I Was’

Testosterone hangs in the air with such clammy fetor you taste it on your lips. America teetering on the edge of war with Iran over desperate displays of military virility, a victim of gang rape is convicted of ‘causing public mischief’ as the alleged attackers sing ”the Brit is a whore” after being released without charge, and the grim figures of femicide continue to climb in cartel-ravaged Mexico. The more masculinity is dissected and scrutinised whether through art, academia or activism, the greater the ferocity of the agents of patriarchy is in violently silencing any such discourse, and the world is more dangerous for it.

Building a reputation as the Bristolian vanguard of cutting edge underground music, sonic agitators Avon Terror Corps (an amalgamation of musical misfits including Schwet, Bokeh Versions, Bad Tracking among a host of others) have extended their slimy tentacles beyond the South West with new label subsidiary Global Terror Corps in a mission to deliver uncompromising, genre-defying acts from the dankest corners of planet Earth. The first release under this moniker is EP I’m Not What I Was by Aussie/German trio Concentration, a visceral powerhouse act of industrial smut comprised of artists Zachariah Kupferminc, Matt Sativa and Thrush twisting heads clean off with their live sets of hellish volatility.

The scraping electro-punk as heard on prior album Premature still grinds unmercifully but with greater ephemeral potency across four tracks of distilled fury. EP opener ‘Circumcision’ is a squealing vomit of naked runtish neuroticism impotently wailing against the rabbi’s knife amid crushing pummeling drums coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse were it not for the steady hypnotic tempo of the percussion. The stream of consciousness lyrics revealing the layers of pent-up Jewish dysmorphia take terrifying turns, sexual humiliation congeals to trans-generational Holocaust trauma with tortured confusion, yet Zupferminc’s nasal whine, references to ‘fucking Guardian articles’ and skewed klezmer pieces trigger a nervous hilarity to the nightmare.

Stuttering glitchy beats palpitate on ‘Jihadi Dole Bludger’, a cavernous momentum drives the track around points of eerie terse quiet and warped vocals, before the synth heavy ‘Spiderfuck’ pierces with Wax Trax! throb, arpeggios and drum machines creating a subtle groove beneath the noxious miasma. Last track ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ honours the scathing defiance against male entitlement and sludgy-grunge delivery of 7 Year Bitch’s original but adds further layers of haunted discord and collages of reverb drenched suffering.

The testosterone that clung stubbornly on your lips is replaced with blood, pre-cum, and testicular viscera. I’m Not What I Was is a horribly fascinating putrid dry-retch of disgust against poisonous machismo, as powerful as a sledgehammer to your face but revealing the deeply insecure and fearful heart of toxic masculinity with surgical precision.

Holy Serpent ‘Endless’

Black Sabbath. Electric Wizard. Acid King. How is it that stoner rock can flirt so perilously close to prog-rock fantasy both musically and in visual identity, yet avoid its silly pitfalls. Two naked children of the earth gazing out across a scorched desert toward a bellowing volcano, holding each other as if awaiting some monstrous entity, strangely feels prescient. Perhaps that’s the secret, ground your surreal Sci-Fi concepts in a feeling all too real. Less Tolkien, more Jodorowsky.

Melbourne psych-rockers Holy Serpent has once again joined forces with RidingEasy Records for their third LP Endless, a record still heavy with earth-shattering doom metal but with their love of 70s hard rock given greater prominence. Clocking in at 40 minutes across six songs, the band achieve a smart sweet spot of allowing each track to breathe and ooze with sluggish tempos yet retaining a punk-like punch.

Album opener ‘Lord Deceptor’ is an absolute monster, a colossal metal summoning of pounding riffs and phantom keys nearly swallowing singer Scott Penberthy’s eerie vocals. It’s rolling power is so seismic and evocative that for six and a half minutes you’re whisked away from grey reality and into some psychedelic and stirring plane of existence. ‘Hourglass’ reaches similar heights of cinematic introspection, Lance Leembrugen’s drums crush against superb metal wrath recalling Tony Iommi’s sludgier cuts from Masters of Reality.

Strung-out grooves snakes throughout lending the record essential moments of cosmic intoxication. Thick Bass rattles against melodic fretwork on the slack ‘Daughter of the Light’, while trippy acoustic guitar triggers heady contemplation on album closer ‘Marijuana Trench’, ending the record on a note of hazy optimism.

Holy Serpent has touched the holy metal grail with Endless: an album which honours their metal heritage with some of the finest hard rock currently out there, yet it’s haunted sense of melody and stirring momentum achieve a strange sense of cerebral serenity.

The Pinheads ‘Is This Real’

Rock & Roll’s in crisis apparently, not that you’d know it when surviving any one of The Pinheads’s legendary sets. Wollongong garage-rock wildfire is sprayed onto the audience like a flamethrower with front man Jez Player bouncing off every wall in a sweaty mania, all that’s missing is the peanut butter à la Iggy, but there’s still time.

Having stormed Europe and set SXSW alight since their 2017 eponymous debut, The Pinnies have teamed up with Bristol’s Stolen Body Records for their second effort Is This Real, a further dose of acid fried surf punk with Rat Fink hot-rod acceleration intercut with sunny splashes of desert psychedelia.

The expanded palletes of sound is evident on opener ‘Pure Hate’, an 8 minute living, breathing monster which builds from Roky Erickson riffing to anthemic power rock, a confident and bold distinction from previous LP’s opening thrasher ‘Second Coming’. The druggy and dreamy ‘Innocent Crime’ belies it’s bitter core, a plea of solidarity among the fringe and socially excluded, whereas the title track is an unabashedly wistful sing-a-long, deftly demonstrating Player’s vocal strength. The daze of album closer ‘Outro’ (curiously called ‘Spread Your Love’ on their Spotify) is a twisted and strung-out trip, under the influence of Dinosaur Jr.’s ‘Poledo’, with muffled whining guitars that drift off like the waning effects of a hallucinogenic.

Don’t think for a moment that the band have lost their nitro Raw Power however. Face melting punk rock explodes in your face on ‘Satisfied’, a wild mania leaps out of your speakers like an animal, chews your face off for 3 minutes before you hit repeat for another savage. ‘No Time’ is a Nuggets stomper with tight grooving bass and screeching solos, with simmering anxiety regarding the ever polarising world tapped into on the biting ‘Not Like You’.

The Pinheads wildfire burns with the same intensity as their debut, but has the aplomb to dare punctuate the rock and roll flame with moments of introspective respite. Is This Real is a bold and electrifying confirmation of their reputation as one of down under’s greatest new acts.