New Music

Listen: Wonderfuls – Freezing Cold

Wonderfuls is a Brisbane duo consisting Bobby Bot (or Robert Vagg) and Danny McGirr. According to their bio, Wonderfuls was formed “shortly after Bobby was released from a relapse stint at the local psych ward [during] 2003-2004”. They released a 7 inch on Negative Guest List Records last year, and have just issued a live recording through Breakdance the Dawn, which we’ll review shortly. Bobby Bot also plays in Kitchen’s Floor, if you need a little bit of context.

The topic at hand is Wonderfuls’ Salty Town EP though, which is breathtakingly sad downer pop: bereft and hopeless, and glazed with a kinda dreamy autumnal patina. It’s just beautiful, frankly, but in a discomforting and broken way. I’m kinda stunned. The Negative Guest List 7 inch is great, but this is entirely different.

Some of the material on the new Breakdance the Dawn CD-R sounds like Jandek tuned to EADGBE, but this Salty Town is comparatively orthodox: chiming guitar melodies, tonnes of reverb and chorus, and a mood stuck somewhere between Death in June and Galaxie 500. It’s being issued on vinyl in December with five previously unreleased tracks. We’ll live Tweet the news as it comes to hand. Listen to all five tracks on the Wonderfuls Bandcamp.


Degreaser – Sweaty Hands (LP)

There’s an established continuum for the type of rock ‘n roll Degreaser trade in, but cards on the table: I’ve never followed it closely. To me, Degreaser’s new record sounds like Hendrix with all the benevolent and pleasant sensibilities forcedly syphoned out. In their place, delirium and debasement is injected. There’s a blues rock and psychedelic element about Degreaser that few people would deny, but a comparison to Hendrix still feels like drawing a long bow. But draw it I proudly will, if only because it’s like a horrid monochromatic inverse to the blues, or indeed any vaguely paisley inclinations later torchbearers have contributed to that tradition.

There are lots of colours here, but none of them you’d associate with happiness. There’s an almost malevolent pursuit of satisfaction, but the way Tim Evans sings it’s like he’s always very far away from reaching it. He sounds like he’s keeling over, clutching a signpost, gasping for air. His voice doesn’t sound like it’s communicating at all, but instead making sure that it’s at least still there. The way Sweaty Hands is mixed, it kinda just glides over you like some sickly red gel: it’s a mass of phlegm-like texture, warm like a womb but impure, and frankly, not good for your health.

Sweaty Hands is a convincingly modern blues record: its neurosis isn’t borne of heartbreak or even poverty, but instead an overwhelming dread at the spectre of the Earth: everything is a silhouette, and its emergence from the shadows is a thing of horror. Imagine being so drunk on cheap spirits that all you can do is lazily struggle in the corner while it approaches you – that thing, mass or phenomenon. That’s what Degreaser sounds like: doomed. There’s not a shred of idealism or hope. An appropriate direction for the blues, then.

Label: Negative Guest List
Release Date: October 2012


Kitchen’s Floor – Bitter Defeat / Down (7 Inch)

There are two versions of each of the tracks on this new Kitchen’s Floor 7 inch. The versions included on the vinyl were recorded after a friend’s death, while the ones excluded (though available as a download if you order it) were recorded before. As Matt Kennedy told us in a recent interview, the newer versions were recorded as a tribute, and the difference between the two are like night and day. Originally, ‘Bitter Defeat’ was a sad, but unusually colourful (by Kitchen’s Floor standards) pop song. Now it’s a beautiful monochrome dirge. In the former, Kennedy’s vocals lifted from their usual low monotone into a higher, more melodic wail. On the latter, they’re comparatively flat and resigned.

In light of that interview, it’s difficult to divorce this new release from its context, and the difference between these versions of both tracks makes that connection all the more stark. But as an artefact in Kitchen’s Floor’s small but increasingly strong catalogue, Bitter Defeat is all the more interesting for what it says about Kennedy’s songwriting. Previously, and especially on his debut Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress, Kennedy seemed eager to put a song to bed in the most efficient way possible. Three minutes was an epic. Verses and choruses bled into each other amid heavily distorted guitar and purely serviceable percussion. Here, Kennedy lets the ensemble run its course without the aid of vocals for long stretches at a time. The song slowly burns, and getting the words out feels like a challenge, for Kennedy, that needs to be risen to.

The other key difference here is instrumentation: Kennedy plays a nylon acoustic, while Andrew McLellan (Cured Pink) traces the melody with an organ that sounds serrated and on the verge of doom. What emerges is a kind of inverse to what we’ve heard before from Kitchen’s Floor: while they’ve always vendored desperate music, previously that tension was offset by the scrappy energy of a rock band. That energy compromised the soul of the songs, somehow, or at least beat it into less overt shapes. But now, it feels like that ever-present darkness has overcome those elements, resulting in the most affecting – and sometimes exhausting – music this songwriter has yet released.

Sometimes, and especially on this record, it feels like Kitchen’s Floor is the perfect mirror of our times. There’s a resignation to a certain kind of failure. It’s incredibly passive: all of the assertive elements of punk and rock ‘n roll are syphoned entirely. Kitchen’s Floor sounds like the result of an age group chronically over-diagnosed and frankly, scared, at the new challenges involved in scraping together a living passed down to us by previous generations. It’s the cumulative cost of living and the erosion of options.

And despite the fact that this is beautiful, honest, heart-rending pop music, Kitchen’s Floor sounds squeezed. It’s girded by fuzz and it clips at the edges because there’s always the sense that these songs are being buried by greater forces. And it’s because of this that Kitchen’s Floor ties a knot in my gut almost every time I listen. Because it exists despite all of this, and it’s honest, and it doesn’t back down, and it (sounds like it) feels the same way as me, sometimes. It sounds like its own awkward victory, because it hasn’t capitulated, because these songs are here, and they’re lovely, and Kennedy isn’t rotting in a call centre selling dial-up internet to off-the-radar folk in far-North Queensland. In this way, Kitchen’s Floor is the most spirited and important sadness there is, and these are his best songs yet.

Label: Negative Guest List Records
Release date: September 2012

New Music

Listen: Kitchen’s Floor – Bitter Defeat

‘Bitter Defeat’ is the a-side from a forthcoming Kitchen’s Floor 7 inch through Negative Guest List Records. The clip below seems to have been shot in/around the same house that features on the cover of the band’s 2009 7 inch through R.I.P. Society, or maybe there are heaps of houses like that in Brisbane. Whatever the case, ‘Bitter Defeat’ sounds a lot messier and more miserable than the songs we heard on Kitchen’s Floor’s Siltbreeze LP last year, or so it seems to me. The shitty old synth / organ really adds a layer of un-hope to the tune.

The 7 inch is available right now. It’s limited to 300 copies.