Perks and the Thrills: Constant Mongrel’s Heavy Breathing reviewed

640x640-cTom Ridgewell and Hugh Young are the only two members of Constant Mongrel that also appeared on their 2010 split tape with Taco Leg, which was shithouse. School of Radiant Living’s Amy Hill was added on bass last year, and for this record Taco Leg vocalist Andrew Murray was added on second guitar to flesh out the low and high ends respectively. Hill’s bass is an unsteady and elusive throb, Murray’s guitar is creepy and treble-heavy and the two original members lay down a rabid spine that carries an oozing, low-torque density that is almost exhausting. If the split tape was irritatingly undercooked, this record is at least served at a point where the uncooked flesh carries a sense of hilarious revulsion. I think it’s hard to argue that it isn’t one of the better albums released this year.

Heavy Breathing is a wild-eyed, pill-fucked and perverted record that attacks the highs and lows, the colours and the comedowns, and ravages through moments of overwhelming hysteria before sucking it up and returning to the party. Like last year’s LP Everything Goes Wrong, Constant Mongrel spend time thrashing at the edge of control. There’s no triumph here, but there’s no defeat either; it builds and dies without reaching thematic conclusions, and it captures (possibly unintentionally or just by virtue of referencing the sounds of X, Wire and The Fall) a series of very intense sensations.

I hear humiliation, inconvenient arousal (the irritable throb of much of this record makes the band name feel disturbingly literal to me) and the exact dose of amphetamines or synthetic hallucinogens that makes you think maybe you over-did it a bit. It can be turgid and obscene, but it never feels especially confronting to me. If you have an eight hour trip ahead of you, you can appreciate that the odd bout of hysterical confusion is going to eventually make way for an endorphin hit. Still, it feels like trying to escape your first world agitation by replacing it with hours of paranoia and neuroticism instead. There’s a constant threat of the fun dying off alarmingly quickly.

Thematically, there’s a form of black humour that reveals itself when the threats are funny and the jokes aren’t. Ridgewell at one point chants ad nauseum, “you’re a little boy and you need a smack.” Any humour that lies in that line is quickly killed by its relentlessness, distorting its meaning towards the emasculation of being exposed and looked down upon. There’s humour in Constant Mongrel’s music for sure, but just like the laughter recorded at the end of ‘Reflex’ on last year’s LP, it’s forced and it’s menacing.

Heavy Breathing reminds me of all my favourite things that I never do from nine-to-five on weekdays (like sex and drugs) then it reminds me of the bad parts of those things (like coming down or unexpectedly tearing a muscle). Do you know what kind of person can have a constant mongrel? Perverts. Sex pests. Rapists and pedophiles. The idea of losing control is appealing at the onset of mundanity, but there are people in society who are incapable of gaining control. Constant Mongrel make guitar music that dangles you at the precipice of losing it without ever giving you the cathartic experience of finding out if you made it through or not.

I also spent six minutes waiting to find out if the deep recorded breathing that closes out the album ever finishes. On that, I wouldn’t waste your time.


Constant Mongrel’s Heavy Breathing is available now through Siltbreeze.


2012 in review: artists and Crawlspace editors


This is a collection of reflections and lists from Crawlspace editors, as well as a handful of the artists we’ve featured in 2012. Editor Shaun Prescott opens proceedings. Brace yourself.

At the beginning of the year I hated writing about music. I wanted to stop and work full time on a novel, which pretty much signals the end for any writer (unless they manage to complete that novel and it’s okay). The sentiment wasn’t born of dwindling interest in music, but more the brutal logistics of making a worthwhile outlet work. These are the logistics (pageviews / unique hits = revenue) that render a lot of the music we cover on Crawlspace virtually non-existent to outsiders.

For someone whose taste has always been driven by the written word (that’s old-fashioned at best and illogical at worst, I know) it felt like there wasn’t enough writing about Australian groups that would have made me dreamy as a teenager. Things that you read about that make you think, “wow, that sounds incredible and I must track it down,” or “why would anyone listen to that? Help me understand.” Stuff that opens up whole new avenues and ways of listening. If I hadn’t discovered groups like Castings, or Moonmilk, or Naked on the Vague, or Alps, purely by accident upon moving to Sydney in 2005 – where would I be? Crawlspace is largely a response to failed pitches.

The thing is, most of Australia’s best music is often only heard by the people who make it and by their peers. In Sydney, you see the same people at all the good shows. This is healthy enough: that’s a community. Music doesn’t always need to amount to more than that. But in other ways that’s just not good enough. As a believer that reading about music should be about discovery and, sometimes, re-aligning one’s understanding of what they already like, it just made sense to make this website. I also unapologetically believe that 99% of Australia’s music media is ignoring this country’s most important art, instead slavishly covering what the overseas market or the established local “industry” deems fit for consumption. This longstanding habit is an absolute fucking stain on a media that is meant to excite, educate and actually be there when something remarkable is happening just down the road.

Diplomatically speaking, there’s so much to discover, and there are heaps of bands that I wanted Crawlspace to cover in detail this year that never got a run: Collarbones released an incredible record that I greatly admire. Southern Comfort finally released a proper piece of wax. Newcastle’s Grog Pappy label sent us a package we haven’t covered yet (there is something in the works, though). Teen Ax released a great tape that I couldn’t quite articulate the appeal of.

Crawlspace has kinda defined 2012 for me, thus the tiring prologue. Sorry about that. Here’s the business:

  • 2012 has been a year of great songs. Circular Keys’ ‘Eurogrand’, Kitchen’s Floor’s ‘Bitter Defeat’, Nun’s ‘Solvents’, Lower Plenty’s ‘Nullabor’ are all favourites.
  • I feel like Breakdance the Dawn is the strongest LP-oriented label in Australia: their hastily packaged CD-Rs usually communicate one single idea incredibly well. Often they feel like transmissions from a world that is vaguely similar to mine, yet it’s somehow melted, fraught with illogical dream-state segues. Girls Girls Girls and Club Sound Witches both provided highlights.
  • My favourite LP this year was WonderfulsSalty Town, which I still haven’t reviewed, but will. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a record that captures small town loneliness and neurosis quite as effectively – and it’s not even (completely) about that. It’s a tough record to swallow. It’s emotionally challenging and confronting.  A close second is Mental Powers‘ LP.
  • Woollen Kits are a group I’ve maintained total ambivalence towards up until now. I’ve heard the 7s and bought the first LP, but found all astonishingly dull. They wouldn’t let me in. Magically, Four Girls did. Prosaically speaking I think they simply became better songwriters.
  • The best punk rock record of the year is Taco Leg‘s. Many thought my review suggested otherwise. Sorry about that.
  • Fatti Frances’ Sweaty EP is something I think about regularly when I’m not listening to it. It’s so strangely modern in its positioning of love and lust, and whether there should be a versus there.
  • If Australia celebrated new music as tirelessly as it did the old, than Midday Music: Brisbane 2012 is an essential a document as Lethal Weapons and… a bunch of other old compilations that people fawn over.
  • Melodie Nelson’s To The Dollhouse is objectively one of the best records in 2012, but I’m quarantined from all things MN because she’s one of my best friends. So don’t trust me. Listen for yourself. She also made the logo for Crawlspace. Thanks for that.

Anyway, without further ado, over the page is a series of reflections and lists from some of the groups and artists Crawlspace has covered since it launched in August this year, as well as our writers. We humbly thank everyone who participated.