This week: The problem with music
“You basically hate all music, don’t you?” remarked our friendly local Brisbane hipster —the one in the all-girl Breeders soundalike band, the one who thinks music shouldn’t have been allowed to continue past 1996 (ie: ‘indie grunge’)—after we’d singularly failed to be impressed by our absent host’s record collection (a lot of Butthole Surfers and Birthday Party, plus Bongwater, Gang Of Four, Flipper…even a little Ut). “Well, no. It’s because I know I already own every good record from that stack already,” I shot back. Well, no. But it’s kind of hard to put on some dirty, scuzzy rock’n’roll (as beloved in the Brisbane rock clubs) when you have a three-year-old running round naked, shouting “KILL KILL” and imitating Zurg from Toy Story 2. You really don’t need the competition.
“This sounds nice,” remarks Charlotte as I attempt to listen to Tenniscoats’ gently seismic Totemo Aimasho. (Blam! That was Isaac running into my coffee cup, and spilling it over his socks.) “It sounds like the sort of music you hear at massage places—meditative, soothing…it even has the wave noises.” She isn’t trying to be sarcastic.
In the silence between the cries, this music is something special indeed: reflective, harmonising, full of subtle intricacies and gentle, lapping sounds. (Blam! That’s Isaac running over, sticking his tongue full out and screeching full-on.) When the softened female voice appears, it seems to be in a competition with the distant brass and washes of (“I’m going to wipe the other alien off! I’m going to wipe the other alien out! I wiped it out!”) synthesiser and flute to be as gentle, caressing as possible. You kinda don’t want to be exposed to the outside world at all while listening to this beautifully expressive, poignantly frail Japanese outfit: everything quiet is amplified to such a degree it feels like being stuck in a finely tuned acid loop, the sensations are so heightened. (“Where’s D? Where’s D? I just found D. Let me look for Y.”) The slightest chord change becomes momentous—and sometimes— the soundscape merges into the everyday, refracting and reflecting off the hubbub to create kaleidoscopic new textures. And when—as on the closer “To Do First”— Tenniscoats burst into effortless song, the feeling becomes euphoric, the listener is near-overwhelmed by the beauty of life’s minor moments. The vocals tremble, whisper to infinity, the mood lifts, lowers, remains. Drums brush, experimentally. Bassoon (or something) blows cool (“I DON’T WANT MY SHOES ON!”)…
…but sometimes silence can be preferable.
The Return of Hugs And Kisses Top 5
1. Tenniscoats, “Cacoy” (from the Room 40 album Totemo Aimasho). Meanders and cradles soft emotion: feedback doesn’t need to be a tool of aggression.
2. Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, “Freud In Flop” (from the forthcoming Cherry Red album Shut Up And Bleed). The track that invented Sonic Youth.
3. The Young Liberals, untitled (from the CD-r Dick Wolf).
Brisbane scuzz rockers match Detroit punk (Dirtbombs, specifically) to British bloody-mindedness (Billy Childish, especially). Recorded in a ditch in under a day. Or something.
4. Tenniscoats, “Donna Donna” (from the Room 40 album Totemo Aimasho). A garage anthem played with unfamiliar-to-rock instruments, to match Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s “Unknown Happiness,” Clive Pig’s sojourn in Brighton and The Pastels’ “Firebell Ringing”. Don’t get the impression this is anything less than magical.
5. Zuzu’s Petals, “Dork Magnet” (from the Rhino album Kicking Our Own Asses). Let’s give my Minneapolis ladies another shout, to celebrate the release of singer Laurie Lindeen’s moving rock biog Petal Pusher in paperback.