Just Your Average Bloke Next Door: Snake Cassette Reviewed


At a recent Dick Diver show in Sydney, Al Montfort’s on-stage appearance felt like that of a sitcom character as received by a live studio audience. He would smile wryly, and before he had spoken, the crowd would meet him with whoops and hollers. I found it unsettling that an audience could so outwardly and unquestionably enjoy a moment that hadn’t happened yet, but I supposed that was the strength of his charm. If Al Montfort has the ability to turn a crowded room into a canned laugh track as part of Dick Diver, then he has let that slide for his solo tape. On the Snake cassette, there’s very little to laugh along with.

Snake was recorded by Montfort both on his travels in India and on his return home. On it, songs are written around any one of a saxophone, guitar, organ, drum machine or – more unexpectedly – Eastern instruments like the Sarangi and Assamese buffalo horn. The tape sounds very insular (as you’d expect from a bedroom/dorm-room recording), but that feels like a requirement. It explores ideas that would probably be rapidly vetoed by a group, and it’s those undesirable sounding concepts that are so deeply affecting.

Culturally and emotionally, this tape is flooded with loneliness, and Montfort drives at feelings of alienation via two approaches. One is to mindlessly wander over a foreign instrument as a backdrop; the other is to tunelessly narrate wayward thoughts over cheap, conventional instrumentation. There are also meditative moments subtly disguised as drawn out lyrics. It’s a travelers tape, and the feelings of culture shock, confusion and neurotic personal explorations won’t be lost on anyone who has ever walked down a foreign street as the lives of strangers played out unsettlingly.

In looking at these ideas, Snake doesn’t force the point. There are no over-literal stories or blatant musical moments of East-West fusion, just backdrops and vocal snippets left to be read into. He hums “I can’t help you” over the toy tones of a drum machine a few moments before a Sarangi takes over. He repeats the panicked line “What’s he laughing for?” as foreign sounds interject. Later, he mutters “The world is made for two, I don’t think that’s true, but hell I’m glad I found you,” through lazily filled silences. These feelings of re-filed personal philosophies and self-assessment permeate slowly, but always strongly.

Snake leaves me feeling insignificant and unsettled in the same way that I have felt when I’ve travelled and returned to social circles that carried on unaffected. It’s also surprisingly good company. When the tape ticks off abruptly at the end of each side, I find the ensuing silence as affecting as anything that has actually been recorded.

It takes the wind out of my sails when I listen to it in the morning and it leaves me restless when I listen to it at night.


Released by Hideotic, the Snake cassette is available through Distort and Repressed.


Straightjacket Nation – Nationalism (7″)

Earlier in the year I went to see Straightjacket play with a much-loved Australian rock and roll band. I didn’t even want to go to the show. I didn’t even want to go to the show. I was tired, high, and pissed off about lining up to see a band I thought I’d seen play the best set they were capable of at a house party a few months earlier. There were cunts everywhere, most of them stupid looking, and it didn’t seem like it was going to be fun. Long story short: it wasn’t. I copped a black eye and had to put off the job hunt for another few weeks. I found out later that the eye was fractured, and it still feels kinda fucked if I touch it now. Don’t think this is a cry for masculine adulation: it is pretty awkward admitting to a doctor as a grown adult that you willingly entered into a situation where someone headbutted you, and you didn’t care.

Wistful anecdotes aside, Straightjacket Nation have released a new record and it rips. The shit-stirring title potentially intends to take the piss out of the PC punks SJN cut their teeth playing with when they started out, or maybe it’s just snappy marketing and will sell more t-shirts as a result. Really, who gives a shit – it could be called Joshua Tree and still be one of the heaviest records of the year.

Nationalism is SJN matured but no less dangerous sounding than they were seven years ago. Despite its members moving into other, less expressively prohibitive (pissed off) areas of music, these three songs affirm that when they return to their roots no other contemporary hardcore band comes close to nailing the sound of alienation, dissatisfaction and small-town frustration as well as them.

The A-side is two songs. ‘Nice Talk’ isn’t nice. Lyrics on hardcore records usually don’t matter, but here they do. It’s an ode to displacement and not easily communicating with suits. I hear ya. A bullshit bass and drum break leads into the title track, which is easily the staunchest cut of the three. ‘Nationalism’ possesses the same kind of tension as ‘Get In The Boot’ off the LP (Cheap Kicks, 2008). Put this on in a room of youths and don’t expect the furniture to stay where it is. If it does, call their parents and let them know their children are well balanced. The b-side, ‘Child Care’, is directed at people who probably should’ve been neutered at birth, people who pawn their existing spawn off onto others while they fornicate. Opens slow, ends fast, sounds good.

Listening to Nationalism reminds me that it is okay to want to kick someone’s teeth in sometimes, and I’m fine with that. I think they have an LP coming out on No Patience later in the year.

Label: Iron Lung
Release Date: May 2012