Before Sunday night, everything had been so obvious. The plot my immediate future would follow felt certain: Triple J would announce their Hottest 100 poll, and I would make a shortlist of my favourite songs of the year. As always, it would be an extensive list that I’d whittle down to the regulation ten for my vote, and, for once, I had already decided upon which song I would highlight as my particular favourite, should the need arise for a tie-breaker. I have had a place allocated for that honour for A$AP Rocky’s Holy Ghost almost since the first time I heard it.
Then Custard released a new album, and they launched it for Melbourne on Sunday. And they changed everything.
Custard, with The Zebras,
The Toff In Town, Melbourne, December 6, 2015…
Powerful, rock drumming is all good and well, and certainly has its place and appeal, but from early on, this was going to be a night for the smooth, chilled out drummer. Hitting with such power, as Darren Hanlon once said, that it makes other drummers cower is not the order of this evening. This is a night for the humble rhythm-keeper making it look easy at the back of the stage.
The Zebras’ drummer set the scene, making keeping the beat look easy for the band’s sway-along pop. It was an enjoyable collection of songs, well suited to a Sunday evening, but perhaps better suited to a Sunday evening on a roof-top bar in the summer air than as warm up for another band.
Some of the high-profile fans moved to the back of the Toff as the front of the stage filled. Before long, Dave McCormack appeared on the same stage where years before he had played one of the best $10 gigs, clad in a cowboy’s fanciest shirt, and introduced the band in which he became famous. The show started slowly, with Orchids In Water, from the band’s new album. It may have been a surprising choice for the band’s first club gig in over a decade, but this was to very much be a set that showcased new songs, rather than reminiscing on old. This may be something which proved a disappointment for many in the room hoping to relive highlights from album past, but for at least myself – and, apparently, the bald man frantically moshing at the front of stage from before the band even arrived – the new songs would prove inspiration enough to rush to the merch table to snap up a copy the second the encore finished.
This impulse was cemented when the band went a little more upbeat and really started their show for the second song, We Are The Parents. Despite having heard the song only a couple of times before during its feature stint on Double J, live it was one I could enjoy, and at least hum along to by the end.
Subsequent classics like Pack Yr Suitcases and Pinball Lez were crowd pleasers, but it was further new tracks that really impressed me. The aforementioned super-fan went into crazy mode the second Dave’s brief lecture on the risks of utilising Melbourne’s parking garages for late-night purposes evolved into what I would later recognise as the spoken-word introduction to If You Would Like To. It was the perfect song to very briefly tear up the floor to, and the fan certainly did just that.
The highlight of the gig was a three-song stint where Dave and Glenn Thompson traded places, with Glenn showcasing his new song Contemporary Art, and ending with Music Is Crap, which, while never a particular favourite of mine, wound up being fantastic live in the intimate setting. Girls Like That, while eagerly anticipated, played a little too close to the recorded version for my liking, but was great to dance to again. The sing-along Anatomically Correct made up for it, with Apartment leaving the packed house suitably reeling for more in the encore. Upon returning to Pluto, Dave made clear to the appreciative floor that they would be closing on Caboolture Speed Lab. Rather than retreating back-stage, the band stepped forward to spend some time mingling with the room. As mentioned previously, I headed straight over to buy my copy of the new album.
Custard – Come Back, All Is Forgiven
Rather than picking up exactly where Custard left off all those years ago with Loverama, <i>Come Back, All Is Forgiven</i> seems to meet at the half-way point between old Custard records and the country flavours of some of the solo work undertaken by David McCormack during the 16 years between the two Custard records. Just like a good Custard album, though, this one charts various different styles and themes during its course.
That country flavour melts into the bold and rhapsodic single We Are The Parents (Our Parents Warned Us About), and really sets the tone of the album. It is when the band try to tackle almost arena-style heights that this album is at its finest. The trend continues into album highlight and basis for the record’s title 1990’s. Opening like a chilled out Blondie collaborating with Duran Duran, the road-trip sing-along feels like, rather than fading out after 4 and a half minutes, it could have comfortably continued for at least a few more verses.
The guitar tracks are out to prove Custard can still do straight-forward guitar rock with the finest, with clever songs like Contemporary Art and Queensland University. It balances the creepy ballads and pop tracks well, and makes us hope we won’t be waiting so long to see another Custard record make its way to our shelves.
And now, after that late entry, I need to reconsider my Hottest 100 voting…