Top People is a bit of a Sydney “super group”, comprising Jonathan Boulet of Parades and singer Zacc Abbott-Atchison of the defunct but fondly-remembered Halal! How Are You?
While Halal’s whippet-lean neo-’60s homages were always good fun (the group weren’t averse to tucking snatches of the riff from ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ into sets), they always seemed slightly at odds with Abbott-Atchison’s husky histrionics. Think of something like an angry Tom Waits fronting Pink Floyd in jam mode, barking outrageous things like ‘Your body is a fascist zombie!’, or proclaiming ‘When I make love to you, it feels like I’m playing Daytona 2’. His antics never quite fit the music either – their brusque, perfectly rehearsed mod ensemble changes seemed a civilised contrast to Abbott-Atchison’s need to sing while throwing his beer-spitting bulk through the crowd, or teetering precariously atop the bar, swinging his shirt over his head.
Top People is an inspired pairing, because it sees the hyper-masculine instrumental tendencies of Boulet’s solo work rising to meet Abbott-Atchison’s manic presence. He sounds at once gleefully thrilled by the monolithic riffage that cages him, and slightly panicked by it, which is hilarious and exhilarating to behold. The music, managed largely by Boulet on this EP, is riff-heavy slow-mo power trio fare. They basically sound like Sydney’s answer to The Melvins, but with the grimacing long jams excised in favour of bilious sax and clarinet, care of “ex-Brisbanite and ‘cooking for therapy’ endorsee, Kirsty'”. Throughout, it seems as though Boulet has found his largest amps and drawn his forearm across the EQ panel of each of them. Every time the guitars slacken their onslaught – for some sludgy palm-muting or wanton stop-start dynamics – feedback whistles comically forth. It all sounds quite mad.
There are two drawbacks to this release. The first is that it’s more than a little puerile. In a way, that’s part of the fun, and it’s fairly obvious that the listener is meant to take most of it with a hefty pinch of salt. ‘It’s The Humidity’ begins with the line ‘I lost my teeth to a long-neck of Resch’s’ and the ensuing story sounds funny enough to be true; its racist/homophobic undertones painting the author as a hapless doofus rather than a ranting bigot. The ruptured levee of ‘Artesian Water’ is blessed with a gloriously absurd non-sequitur of a chorus (‘I hope in heaven together / we can drink artesian water’), and the title track needs no dilation, given its topic. One can only imagine that the “‘Working With Children’ certificate” mentioned in the liner notes next to Kirsty’s name stood her in good stead during the recording.
The other downside to the EP is that the whole thing is barely nine minutes long. And, from a listener’s perspective, there’s only so much air guitar/sax that you can fit into nine minutes.
Release date: August 2012