All Is Forgiven…
December 10, 2015

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 mused, 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, Come Back, All Is Forgiven 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.

custard-come-back-all-is-forgiven

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…

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The best $10 gig so far…
February 28, 2011

There was a festival in Mornington Peninsula on Saturday, and it made me muse on the fact that if Buzz Magazine was still around, I probably would have been sent on assignment, and would have seen Dave McCormack play something billed in an interview in Beat as a ‘family friendly’ set.  I may even have been offered an interview, although if the stories the editor told me are true, David might still hold a grudge against the paper for printing the headline ‘Custard Thickens.’

David McCormack and the Polaroids,
The Toff In Town, Melbourne, February 27, 2011

Luckily, I wasn’t made to face my fear of driving distances to the festival, since I’d noticed a slip of an advertisment at the bottom of a page in the paper for a show at the Toff on Sunday.  Although I was dubious of the venue’s usual cabaret-style seating for a gig, for a ten dollar entry fee for the front-man of my all-time favourite Australian band seemed like a no-brainer.

I arrived part way into the second support band, Trevor Ludlow and the Hellraisers, but I hadn’t been watching them from the bar for long when my attention was drawn away from the band by someone shouting remarks about their playing and music at the stage.  I quickly found the source of the comments sitting at a table near the mixing deck.  Mr David McCormack himself, sharing private jokes across the room with the band on stage, trying to keep straight faces.

They seemed like a pretty good band, playing a laid back kind of rock and roll, finishing on an instrumental number that they aptly compared to The Munsters theme, if they had made a surf film.

Once they’d finished, I grabbed a couple of drinks and took a place at a table at the front of the stage, joined by someone I would later learn to be a part of some kind of concert bootlegging ring.  It wasn’t long until, without fanfare, Dave and his band started setting up on stage.  It was while they were still setting up, in fact, that David introduced himself, and started playing Under Your Thumb from the current album.  It was this early on that Dave and his band started to get their first laughs.  I’ve never really found the comedy in musical comedy, but I got a few laughs out of the gig, without wishing they’d just hurry up and play more songs like I usually do.

As well as some old Custard classics, it was good to finally hear the songs from the Polaroids albums live.  A highlight was an extended version of Living Under The Flight Path… played, at Mr McCormack’s request, with all the stage lights off, no houselights, and, after stepping off the stage and into the audience, without even the light of the candles on the tables, which he systematically blew out, before sitting with me at the table to play a verse.

The new pianist, some guy called Brian, seems a welcome addition to the band, and David pointed out Brian’s obvious talent – along with the fact the pair had only met hours earlier – several times throughout the set.  He proved his skill during an extended piano solo during If I Put An AVO Out On You… which turned into a protracted jam session, twisting the song in unexpected ways.

It has been over ten years since I saw my last Custard gig – their final in Melbourne at St Kilda Festival – and it was good to hear those songs live again.  I hope it won’t be so long between drinks next time.