I’ve Been Training For Years: Peter Escott’s The Long O reviewed

peterescottThe solo album is a cliché

The ‘solo album’ is always sold as more personal, revelatory or heavy-hitting than what would have been recorded as part of a band. ‘The solo album’ cliché states that the recording is freed of any restraint that comes with collaboration. It’s thus sold as the ‘pure vision’ of the songwriter in question. In truth though, ‘the solo album’ is almost always less interesting than the collaborative one. It can be self-indulgent, containing the ideas that no one was around to shoot down. It can be bullshit. I generally dislike ‘the solo album’ as it seems like it only exists to be sold to me. Middling Australian rock bands have front-men that release solo albums which receive attention thanks to tightly crafted press releases. The mainstream music press loves ‘the solo album’ because it provides easy content. That is the level that ‘the solo album’ usually operates on.

Peter Escott has always felt like a solo musician

How the solo album cliché fits with Peter Escott is uncertain since he was releasing solo recordings before he started The Native Cats with bassist Julian Teakle. It’d be fair to use that fact to excuse all the connotations of ‘the solo album’ as it relates to The Long O, but the songs of the Native Cats are usually very Escott-focused anyway. It could be difficult to distinguish Escott’s solo work from his collaborative work since both projects have similarities, so it would be easy to ask why he’d go solo at all. It doesn’t take long listening to The Long O to see that much of the act’s feeling is lost in the transition to a solo project. Without Teakle’s bass-lines, there’s nothing around to drive the songs – they’re left weightless. The aspect of mocking faux-cool that comes with the guttural quality of the duo’s interplay is missing and you are left with something laid bare. The songwriting isn’t better nor worse on The Long O, but it’s interesting when it’s left to float off its anchor.

The Long O seems like it fits the cliché

The Long O has all the staples of ‘the solo record.’ For the most part, a grand piano takes the place of That Native Cats’ electronic oddities, but there are moments that tease the fact that Escott has come from a different realm. Some songs abandon the grand piano to briefly apply muted drum machines or burnt-out synths. Occasionally, these last for barely a minute. These moments feel like Escott didn’t want to completely let himself go into potentially hackneyed piano-man territory. Slices of hesitance that recall where he came from exist just long enough to distract the record from sounding like a freedom-reaching solo outing. It’s a solo record that occasionally teases itself for being one at all. These straying moments are important on this record.

Unfashionable contemporaries

If The Long O was entirely stripped back to a clean vocal and piano, then the closest contemporaries to Escott would be people as unfashionable as that-irritating-comedy-covers-guy from The Chaser, or some distant memory of Tim Freedman. Escott is a lot less forgettable than those two, even when the songs cross into awkward territory. ‘Angel’ feels like a comedy track in waiting, and it just as well could be. References to wizards, heroes and “the boys” paint a vaguely comedic picture, but there are no apparent laughs – more a sense of responsibility and broken spirit. It’s likely the worst song on the album, but there’s something to its awkward placement that’s weirdly affecting. It reminds me of the moments in TV shows like Welcome Back Kotter when it stops making comedy-fodder of poor kids from bad families and reveals a stark truth behind their livelihood. There are school-teacher evocations to ‘Angel’ because Escott’s voice often sounds very adult and sensible.

The need to interpret

Escott follows ‘Angel’ with a brief synth-reprieve, pulling back from the stark emoting with a fade out; a young John Travolta stares at his feet for a few seconds then someone cracks a joke and the credits roll. It’s a strange form of hesitance, but ‘O’ continues on the prior’s eeriness. “I think about changing sides,” Escott sings, with no signs of finality.

‘My Arm is True’ is an odd song that plays out as another with an exposed heart. Like an ode to the first realisation of love, or to that of a born child, Escott hums, “it’s a body that breathes / it’s a body that aches / and it’s yours.” It’s a sweet sentiment that rolls into a similarly toyish opposing sentiment in ‘I Believe in Devil World,’ likely a funny, incisive comment on imagined hells, but it’s sometimes easy to over-interpret the songs of Peter Escott. If anything came of Escott’s long-form explanation of the themes behind the songs of the Native Cats’ Dallas, it’s that I never had a clue of what he was  singing about.

Relatable voyeurism

By the album’s end, I feel like I know a lot about Peter Escott despite never having met him. This was a similar feeling I had after listening – somewhat obsessively – to the Native Cats past two albums. It’s what some of my favourite musicians make me feel – that their world is not inaccessible or unfamiliar. I want to relate.

Escott has a way of delivering his words that makes it feel like they could be about you, which is probably why it’s so easy to over-analyse and misconstrue the song meanings. On ‘A16’ he sings, “I took solace in my studies / they said you can’t get that spark from a laboratory / but then the grids and patterns opened up in front me.” I immediately interpreted this to be about general introversion, or obsession in the workplace because I realte to that personally at the moment. Yet that may not even be the case. Just because I feel shut off from the world, it feels as though Escott is shut off from his too – you hear what you want to hear.


Peter Escott’s The Long O is available through Bedroom Suck Records. He will launch it in Brisbane on August 22 with Melt Unit and Fatti Frances, among others, at the 4ZZZ Happyfest.


Mutant Eye: Woodboot’s Krang Gang reviewed


Starting and stagnating as a two-piece, this jangly Brisbane duo of Daniel and Julien decided to thicken their sound last year, and so formed a fully-fledged band. The addition of second guitarist Sam and drummer Donnie prompted an album, and Krang Gang is the first release for these garage grime ‘n’ rollers. The group follows in the footsteps of The Spits and the Ramones with fast-paced, three-chord gusto.

Krang Gang is nine songs for the attention deficit, charging by at under two minutes each and with a vibe which emulates that of a Warriors-type street gang. “Krang” is a super-villain from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so that must position Woodboot as the bad guys. Listening to this tape, visually that’s what you see: a gang of wannabe tough greaser fellas with their white tee sleeves rolled up threateningly. Get to know them though, and they’re a lot of fun. Mean thugs but harmless. The vocals come through clear in the tape but live they spit and dribble them out, sing-song along to fuzzy and strung-out but up-beat guitars.

Their lyrics are like a rumble: delivered simply and as they see it, dumbed down and with little depth. ‘Head Crack’ runs along similar lines of blunt-force violence, while ‘Avoid Me’ moves into the comically sci-fi with paranoid guitar bridges emphasizing the craziness of gamma rays causing your skin melt off. The rest of their songs run along those two themes of action scenes and weird ’50s style radioactive mutations. ‘I Hate Summer’ is stand out: a tune to dance to as long as you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, which complain that it’s too hot to do anything, contrary to what the music makes you want to do. Lyrics contrary to song titles like ‘Genius’. Ultimately the songs are descriptive more in the mood created with the music that builds scene and story, the lyrics providing only the basic plot line.

Woodboot aren’t trying to do anything different. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before but it’s done with such angsty energy and enthusiasm that it doesn’t matter. This tape contains feel good tunes that are easy to listen to and don’t take much dissecting for ultimate partying.

This album has been pressed twice and sold out both times. Initially available through Long Gone Records, the repress by Nailgun Murder Records has updated artwork and lyrics included, both done by Sam McKenzie. He has also done art for similar bands such as Nobunny, touring soon, and other Brisbane locals like Sick People.


Krang Gang is available on the Woodboot bandcamp page.



Just Space: LA County Morgue’s It Was Become Over reviewed


I don’t understand why people find noise music ‘difficult’ or ‘pretentious’ or ‘not musical enough’. Take this LA County Morgue cassette for instance, recently issued through Altered States Tapes. Few lives are lacking space for music like this because it’s virtually nothing. That is what’s appealing about it. It’s an adornment to silence. It’s an accessory for absence.

LA County Morgue is tainted silence. Unlike song, unlike composition, it’s not a sequence of moments. It’s a space. It is something you do not listen to, so much as visit. Above all else this LA County Morgue cassette reminds me of a flavour, or a paint colour, in the way it lends a certain charcoal shade to an otherwise white room. It’s unremarkable. It’s just a louder form of nothing.



No doubt many listeners and writers obsess over and question the relevance of noise music in 2014. I suppose noise music can no longer be a statement. I suppose it is no longer radical. It is ambience above all else. Actually, that is exactly what it is: it’s an ambience. It’s an impression and a point from which to begin. You do not gain answers or insight from a noise recording like this LA County Morgue cassette. None that are prescribed, anyway.

Pop music has to resonate widely in order to be deemed worthy, and rock music is currently in the midst of its umpteenth return from the grave. Why do we believe in these narratives? My belief is that noise music, ironically, is a type of music we can resort to when we do not desire meaning, or when we have tired of canned, readymade meanings.

What can this LA County Morgue cassette actually mean? What themes does it contain? How does it represent us? It doesn’t, and that’s a relief. How can any cultural artifact contain a truth? Noise music, once pregnant with theory and meaning, is now exactly what it could never have been when it emerged: totally lacking meaning. It took this long for its name to arrive at its purest meaning. This lack of meaning is the ultimate reflection of our reality.

There’s nothing particularly special about this LA County Morgue recording. It’s valuable because it lends a certain charcoal shade to an otherwise white room. I enjoy it for this reason, and that’s why you might choose this cassette over any other noise cassette.

I suppose it’s better to speak of noise music now, in the same way we do paint colours. But instead of the names of colours, we might use words for emotions, or impressions. Apply this LA County Morgue cassette when everything else leaves you feeling empty, or condescended to.


LA County Morgue’s It Was Become Over is available through Altered States Tapes.


Beautiful Error States: Soft Power’s If You Come Around reviewed

soft-power-if-you-come-aroundThere is no room on this Soft Power record; it is thick and overripe. It feels like these songs have sat in a moist basement for a long time, and through doing so grown larger, furier and more complicated.

Andrew McLellan, Joel Stern and Josh Watson are all involved in this. All featured in Greg Boring, and there is a fair bit in common between the two entities. Soft Power is softer and less wacky, but it’s also stranger than Greg Boring. This is no small feat because Greg Boring seemed to pride itself on being strange. Instead, it was wacky. I’m sure you appreciate the difference.

Soft Power has the clarity of pop music thanks to the vocals of Sophia Brous, who is the fourth member of the group on this record (Soft Power is usually just McLellan and Stern). I suppose that is why the group is called Soft Power: its pop veneer appears eager to please at first but there are less scrutable motives at play. A macabre streak underpins these bright synths and illustrous vocals, undermining the pop elements in an unusual way. ‘Siren’, for example, seems to break apart at times. The effect is like textures in a virtual landscape wavering, and the song resembles a beautiful error state. Brous sounds like she might belong to another song altogether.

That is what’s interesting about Soft Power. The music seems poised to illustrate a particular kind of 21st century technology anxiety, but it does so in a more subtle way than most. It seems to relish the minutiae of strange systems by humanising sonics we’re used to hearing in more sequenced, rigid environments. It is strange to hear a song like ‘Wundering’, with its drowsy synthetic pulses, and notice the imperfections: how the tempo shifts upwards or down accidentally at times, or how a note will fall out of step with the rest. These lapses breathe life into cold systems.

Soft Power’s songs sound like they have been tampered with. They sound as if they are functioning despite data corruption. Maybe instead of locked in a basement, these songs have sat on an old PC for years, across the fragmented blocks of a hard drive touched by an old virus, absorbing the surrounding data. During a year which has seen several overtly dark synth pop records (Nun, Mob), Soft Power is frightening in a more fascinating and inadvertent way, but it is also very beautiful.


Soft Power’s If You Come Around is available through All Day Breakfast Enterprises.


Depression Took Over Me: The Friendsters self-titled 7 inch reviewed


While there’s plenty of immediate appeal to the songs of The Friendsters (a Sydney trio comprising Roberta Stewart, Sally Pitmann and Liam Kenny), the ragged qualities of the band (dreary delivery, sub-standard gear and murky recordings) are unlikely to gain them mass appeal. Regardless, these qualities are an appropriate guise for what they represent. The Friendsters, and their new self-titled 7 inch, personify all-encompassing hurt, depression and pain set in a relatively pleasant sounding world. Like feeling down in good weather, your mood can only be mildly improved by the blue skies.

The saccharine veneers tacked onto the band’s first 7 inch are flimsy and superficial, but no less powerful. Stewart’s lyrics are ridden with persistent depressions and stained by a struggle to cope, but they’re sung with such self-aware brutality that it’s actually charming. It’s an odd sensation to find yourself smiling at a line like, “drain my blood / leave me for dead,” but even though these songs are ostensibly downers, there’s a sense of joy in them. By virtue of being a recorded piece of music, these sorts of lines exist with a level of comedy because they look back at dark days having passed. That’s not to take away from the power of a song like ‘Shark Bait’ though. If it ever feels as though the Friendsters have been freed from their internal trials, the fact stands that they’re laid out for you to empathise with.

There’s an intangible quality to this recording where everything feels just out of reach; it sounds as though the band are playing with their backs to you. This sound matches the flatness and dejection in words and delivery. Stewart’s vocals can sound disinterested (but never uninteresting) even when shouting, but it’s forever contrasted by excitable guitar lines and ambitious key changes. It’s an unusual quality for a band of this kind to possess, to be thrusting their music outwards but still feel relatively distant.

Listening to the Friendsters can feel like staring at an open bedroom door with a completely able body, but being too heavy in the chest to move an inch towards it. At other times, it’s like finally pulling yourself out of bed at 9 pm and violently grinning your way through social interactions to mask the fucker of a day you just survived. I feel like it could be a pretty important recording for anyone who has felt these things before.

My favourite parts on this 7 are the extremes. Whether that lies in obscuring the moping with big guitars on ‘Shark Bait’ or comedic affirmations like “I’m gonna kill you” on ‘Revenge is the Best Revenge,’ it gains just as much affection in the peaks as it does the troughs. It’s full of small internal victories and both the acceptance and denial of personal flaws. It goes from utterly dejected to maniacally triumphant, which is as broad a spectrum as you’ll ever get from a three-piece rock band.


The Friendsters’ 7 inch is out now on Matt Kennedy’s Brisbane label, Eternal Soundcheck.

(Featured Image: Andrew Gove)