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A Night with The Queers

“Fuck the world! We’re hanging out with The Queers tonight.”

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The Rock Against Work Show
08.11.05 @ The Tote, Collingwood, Melbourne

Much of the buzz around the Melbourne tour circuit has been about several big productions set to rake in the cash and fill the stadiums in the coming months. Green Day, Jimmy Eat World, Coldplay, U2- just some of the big names set to take the stage. It has been about mammoth shows where tickets sell out in mere hours, where buildings are converted to accommodate lavish artist demands, and where the glitz and glam of the rock star world takes center stage. All is well, unless of course, you’re aging punk rockers from New Hampshire. So goes the story of the Queers– who for the first time in their 20+ years of making Beach Boys influenced Ramonesy punk, are making a trek down to Australia for a salvo of shows. And it’s about damn time.

There was no high-end advertising campaign, no radio promotion, and no big bus welcoming committee. Instead, The Queers arrive in Australia thanks in large part to local punk rockers Mach Pelican– and settle in to the decrepit looking, but more than capable Tote to a slew of apathetic bar patrons, dirty bathrooms, and more than two decades worth of tunes ready for their first Australian go-around.

“What kind of punk rock show starts at 6pm?”

My thoughts exactly. Nonetheless, the Rock Against Work show kicked off its 4-band bill at a very early hour with The Gingers and the Sons of Lee Marvin. We missed both of them because empty stomachs needed to be filled. However, we did arrive at the venue early enough to catch Joe Queer milling about the Tote with a few new friends. The boys of Mach Pelican played late, with drummer Toshi chatting away with two of his lady friends in front of me before he realized the rest of the band were on stage waiting for him. Originally from Japan, this trio plays no-frills Ramones type punk sounding very similar to the headliners they brought over. They were fast, furious, and well, I didn’t understand a single word they said, save “…with the Beach Boys on my radio.” Subtitles would’ve helped but Mach Pelican, in all their Engrish glory, were more than capable of holding their own.

Much like the tour itself, with absolutely no glamour to speak of, the Queers spent their pre-set time on-stage doing all the jobs roadies and tech assistants are supposed to. The crowd lingered forward and soon enough, the Queers had the capacity crowd (a hundred or so) in a pogo-frenzy. With an extensive catalogue, they relentlessly ripped through great numbers like “No Tit,” “Ursula Finally Has Tits,” “I Only Drink Bud,” “Ben Weasel,” and “Fuck This World,” only occasionally engaging the crowd with the mandatory ‘thanks’ and middle-finger salutations. They closed out their “set” with the Ben Weasel/Joey Ramone co-penned “I Wanna Be Happy” before opening the floor to requests (most of which were met with “We can’t play that” and “Fuck no!”).

With over 25+ songs (best estimates) and over an hour and a half on stage, all the years of waiting were undoubtedly worth the wait. Post show shenanigans? Nope- just back to milling around, drinking beer, and packing up for the next one. It goes without saying; but the show was, as they say, “grouse” (look it up). Rock stars can have their pomp and glory, because at least for one night, we all cheered, “Fuck the world! We’re hanging out with The Queers tonight.”

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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