I’m growing older too…
October 26, 2018

‘Here with the kids too?’

An woman had started talking to me at the bar whilst I waited for my drink to be mixed. I asked her what she meant.

‘I brought my daughter and her friend,’ she told me. ‘You know, this band aren’t so bad! Sort of like that other band, with the boys in it? Are you here with your children?’

I told her I wasn’t, and thanked the bartender, and the Heavens, for my drink being ready. I refuse to believe I’m too old to attend a Hellions show of my own volition, despite it being suggested at each one I’ve been to.

Hellions,
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, October 24, 2018…

A touring selection of DJs playing Goo Anthems was an odd substitute for support act, and made the night seem to open slowly, despite the venue filling early. It was a shame, but may have helped keep the ticket prices fairly low, and gave a chance to check out the merchandise stand where, thankfully, the album being launched was available on CD (as opposed to Hellion’s previous album launch where I found it only on tape.)

Hellions at the Northcote Social Club, October 24, 2018

Luckily, the lack of support bands didn’t mean an audience that needed time to warm up. As soon as the band emerged on stage, the crowd erupted, even as the band started with a string of new material that only those who had pre-ordered the album would be likely to be familiar with. It was suitable to open with new songs – typical chorus-verse-chorus structure made their own with rips of duelling guitar and building harmonies – and satisfying to see the early enthusiastic reaction, which only built further as the radio-favourite X (Muah) from nine months earlier was brought alive. Later, another new song, Get Up! would hit with a surprise burst of funk-rock bass slaps reminiscent of nothing so much as a Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

Whilst the launch of songs from Rue saw Hellions exhibit a carefully rehearsed craft, the older songs played tonight took on a new life. Songs from Opera Oblivia, in particular, were played with a casual ease, allowing them to be heard in a new light, free of the heavy production of their previous touring incarnations. Oddly, though, weird gimmicks were employed, namely a confetti cannon to accompany the closing Thresher, which would have been as crowd-pleasing had it been played in the same raw style as other songs of the era, without any theatrics.

Nevertheless, the show had an energy and variety one doesn’t normally find at heavy rock nights, and, though launching the new record, it was nice to be taken back to early records, and to be a part of a heavy music audience who know how to dance without being brutal to the point of causing distress.

Hellions – Rue

Hellions Rue Album CoverDaniel Johns remarked at Silverchair’s career being spent in darkness until the release of Diorama, when he said the band relished the chance to finally paint in colours. Similarly, Rue feels like Hellions experiencing some relief and enjoying the simple pleasures life has to offer after the outrage that ran beneath the surface of Opera Oblivia.

Immediately lighter and more melodic than anything we have heard from Hellions in the past, Rue opens impressively with Panic! At The Disco vibes during Odyssey, setting a playful tone that will follow through the album. Even the initial mediocre leading single X (Muah) somehow finds new life when played within the context of the album, and the more impressive follow-up single Smile fits equally as well.

Lyrical leitmotifs, including referencing influences, have been continued from previous albums (to the point of reworking the last album’s Lotus Eater‘s chorus exactly for The Lotus) suggesting a stream-of-consciousness writing style, or perhaps that a concept album-esque story is running through all of Hellions’ work. References to aging in the album’s highlight Furrow and 26 seem to confirm an Adele-style naming convention to the band’s numbered song titles.

Rue is an album that sees Hellions continue the trademarks we’ve known from them since the days of Die Young like thumping builds to dramatic crescendos and frantic raps breaking into duelling guitar choruses, along with the thoughtful production added during Opera Oblivia. The result is a much different, but distinctly Hellions record that is just as worthy of the praise that was offered to their previous work. And just like previous works, it doesn’t wear out upon repeated listens.

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‘This next song is my favourite…’
January 6, 2018

I hadn’t seen the Mavis’s since their excellent show at the John Curtain Hotel in 2014, so I was excited to see them again, but as showtime drew closer and the stage remained bare, I started to get nervous.

The Mavis’s, with Ben Ely and The Bambi Kills,
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, January 5, 2018…

Although even after his set, some in attendance were still unsure of who Ben Ely was, there was enough vocal reminiscing about shows of the past being shared amongst the dense audience at the front of the stage that they surely cottoned on soon enough. Meanwhile, lights were being tested, and there was still nothing on stage. No instruments beyond a couple of microphones and a keyboard. A couple of years ago I had tickets to a budget show, billed as ‘The Mavis’s Matt and Beki,’ which had unfortunately been cancelled on the evening of the show. Would this be the make-up show for that? I’d come out looking forward to a full band show!

BekiMavissJan2018Lights flashed onto the previously blank screen before, and my concerns were addressed: Beki and Matt entered the stage alone to a surprising youthful applause from the middle aged audience, Matt carrying an acoustic guitar and Beki heading straight for the keyboard. Someone at the side of stage passed up a couple of electric guitars up to Matt who arranged them on a stand whilst Beki greeted the audience enthusiastically, though somehow, despite years of performance, seeming a little like a self conscious schoolgirl.

Despite the lack of the full band, the duo managed to create a vibrant show, before projections of geniune video content, not unlike those they danced before in some of their video clips. Beki was charming, introducing almost every song as ‘her favourite,’ leaving Matt struggling for comment after reminding her she’d already named her favourite. Playing over a combination of backing tracks, loops created live, and an electronic drums that Matt somehow managed to play with sticks he made materialise between guitar chords, the sound was a full one that had more than a few of the old attendees dancing like they were at a full band’s rock show.

BekiMattMavissJan2018

I’d been quick to judge the duo. Whilst it was less exciting to watch than previous full-band Mavis’s show, the songs were played well and with enough enthusiasm to pass into the audience and leave me heading to the open after-party a sweaty mess (though perhaps not as much as Matt himself:)

DannMattMavissJan2018

One of those planes that lands on water… Yeah! You know what I’m talking about…
October 15, 2017

After an absence of around fifteen years, Custard arrived for an album launch gig in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and I wondered aloud, at the launch show for their new album last night, whether this might become a bi-yearly tradition.

‘That’s not a bad idea!’ said Glenn Thompson, overhearing me, and continuing, like a boy, asking his parents’ permission, ‘I’ll ask Dave if we can!’

Custard, with The Stress Of Leisure,
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, October 14, 2017…

The Stress Of Leisure (who coincidentally supported ##Shonen Knife## a few weeks ago) had also come from Brisbane for the show. I generally like bands who wear uniforms, and found myself being drawn to the foot of the stage to watch The Streets Of Leisure play in their red scarves and t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘product.’ Their songs made me think of how a Joy Division concept album about the internet would sound if they featured guest spots from the B-52s and Spod. The support slot was serving as an album lanch for this band too, though the lack of a merchandise table meant that I didn’t get to pick up their record. I would have based on the strength of the set.

It was right on 11pm when members of Custard carried their instruments onto the stage. David McCormack grabbed the microphone in what is now clearly his faux-awkward manner, and announced that it is very late to be starting a show. The predominantly older audience seem to laugh in agreement.

CustardNorthcoteThe last Custard show in Melbourne was heavy in new material, which, while I appreciated the preview of the new album, didn’t seem to excite a lot of the audience. This show proved to be much more of a ‘greatest hits’ set, opening with Hit Song, to an excited full house. But the highlights were hearing some of the songs from 2015’s Come Back, All Is Forgiven now that we’ve had a chance to get to know the songs. We Are The Parents and especially 1990’s were fun to revisit and hear again, though it would have been cool to have slotted in a quick If You Would Like To.

New songs like In The Grand Scheme Of Things and You Always Knew take cues from the alt-country flavour of Dave McCormack’s solo albums, though without the creepiness of The Truth About Love. Those people who used the new song 2000 Woman as their break to visit the bar might have regretted it, as they missed one of the rockier and catchier new songs of the set.

It was initially disappointing when Dave and Glenn swapped places for the Glenn Thompson-led section of the evening to hear him announce to the band ‘We won’t play Warren Road. No one will want to hear that.’ The substitute song, Contemporary Art, made up for the disappointment, with Glenn playful as he exhibited one of the highlights from the previous album. Pascal, from Stress Of Leisure was reintroduced to the stage to provide the retro-pop key backing to have us shaking it up to the catchy ‘I want my Communism back!’ chant of the new Police Cars.

DannDaveMcCormackAfter leaving the stage a few times – apparently to fix guitar issues – Matthew Strong was explained as ‘quitting the band… again…’ whilst Dave experimented with ‘all the vocal effects.’ A crowd-pleasing final part of the set covered hits, with an encore ending with Ringo, a surprisingly effective closer which had the floor moving.

Hopefully after the impressive set, the hint to the band will become a fact, and we’ll continue to get a new album and tour every couple of years.