Tame Impala’s doe-eyed psych rock and Courtney Barnett’s witty commentary might be among the most enduring sounds to be exported from Australia in recent years, but the latest revelation in 'Straya might be the East Coast’s storm of punk.
With The Chats going viral at the end of 2017, Clash Magazine went down the rabbit hole from whence they came to discover that there’s a whole load of like-minded slackers and ruffians hanging out down there; frequently touring together, producing each other’s music and generally bigging each other up. That makes it a scene, yo.
And with certain alumni of the Aussie East Coast’s new punk tidal wave starting to wash up to play on UK shores, we thought it was about time for a closer look.
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Probably the most Australian thing since Neighbours, The Chats’ accidental anthem ‘Smoko’ might be the perfect embodiment of slackerism on the East Coast. In fact, some internet warriors are even demanding it be made the Australian National Anthem.
It’s racked up nearly two million Youtube plays since it was released in October, plus spins in the UK on Phil Taggart’s Radio 1 show, and a feature on one of Australia’s most popular news shows, Seven News. Not bad for a three minute track about smoke breaks, that took “about ten minutes to write” in a shed in Queensland.
The band’s chugging four chord pop songs are alluringly half-arsed; there’s no fancy effects or studio production here. Eamon Sandwith has no interest in spouting lyrics about politics or social order; he’s more interested in singing about spending his bus money on sausage rolls, with his epic ginger mullet and thick Aussie accent.
They claim that their main influences are the “pub rock” bands of the East Coast, which helps to define their appeal - The Chats are the band you want to see at your local after a hard day on the building site, over a few messy pints. They’re a meat-and- bones power trio, full of spunk and wit, and they don’t care what anyone thinks. “Pub punk” at it’s finest.
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Amyl & The Sniffers
With high-waisted jeans, sweaty leather and a mullet for each of the four members of the band, Amyl & The Sniffers look like they were plucked straight out of the street level second wave of late '70s British punk. They claim their debut EP was written, recorded and released all on the same day and their live shows feature the kind of boot-stomping energy that lends that claim plenty of credence.
Snarling vocalist Amy Taylor is the focal point of a band that’s difficult to take your eyes off (though she frequently goes missing amidst the crowd, herself). “People look at me like I am a hooker, but all I want to be is a venue booker”, she snaps on the band’s empowering ‘I’m Not A Loser’, in an unlikely contender for lyric-of-the-year.
With high-octane blues riffs, call-and-response chants and snare-heavy beats taken straight out of the book of Dr. Feelgood, it’s an infectious call-to-arms. Other blistering two-minute tracks with titles like ‘Blowjobs’ and ‘Cup Of Destiny’ ensure that the band’s forthcoming trip to the UK - including shows at The Lexington and Rough Trade East in London, and The Great Escape Festival - will be full of schisms.
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Slightly less convulsive are Sydney suburbia garage punks Pist Idiots. Their source of tension largely comes from the gravelly shrieks of portly frontman Jack Sniff, who channels Captain Beefheart both visually and sonically.
Despite song titles like ‘Fuck Off’, the four-piece’s propensity for intricate, mid-tempo guitar jangles makes them more emotionally resonant than some of their contemporaries, although the occasional face-melting guitar solo doesn’t slip by unnoticed. ‘Leave It At That’ is one-such example, cementing the band’s Black Lips-via-White Fang sound.
After being named as one of Triple J’s 2018 Ones To Watch, the band supported the UK’s latest saviours of guitar music, Shame, on a series of Aussie dates. They’re currently tearing it up on the scene-encompassing ‘Coin Toss Tour’ in their native land, which also features fellow stalwarts Amyl & The Sniffers and Mini Skirt among the rotating line-up.
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Mini Skirt are a bustling outfit from Byron Bay whose tightly melodic output tackles surprisingly serious subject matter. Propelled by shuffling beats and Parquet Courts-style guitars, ‘Dying Majority’ attacks ingrained racism in Australian society with a profane but poignant narrative: “I accept defeat as I stand at a urinal, next to a racist who follows the same team as I do, and sadly I'm the minority. It's easier to pretend that I blend in, which is piss weak and fucking embarrassing.”
It’s a bold and unrelenting tirade that lends heaps of substance to the band’s focused style. Meanwhile, the refrain “Change is as good as a holiday, but we’ll never find it here”, on ‘Holiday’, suggests that the band’s outlook isn’t the most positive. But the acute social commentary they’re built around suggests that this is a band who have a big statement to make.
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Also from Byron Bay are SKEGSS, who hit the UK in May for The Great Escape and Dot to Dot Festivals, among other dates. According to one Triple J Radio commentator, “the surf was bad so these guys just decided to get wrecked and started a band” - which seems to be a common theme among many of the upstarts on this list. But several EPs down the line since their conception in 2014 prove that it really wasn’t a bad idea.
‘Holiday Food’ is their latest triumphant release, channelling jangly indie bands like Twin Peaks and Ty Segall as they rip through songs about skateboarding (‘Got On My Skateboard’) and other summery past-times. There’s even hints of the Beach Boys on the surfy “ooh”’s of ‘Spring Has Sprung’. It’s the musical equivalent of receiving a postcard from the Great Barrier Reef.
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Words: James Balmont
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