JODY MACGREGOR digs deep and ranks every single Violent Soho song officially released.
The pleasures of listening to Violent Soho are so obvious it’s barely necessary to explain them. It’s all about big choruses built for half-cut voices, a fusion of balls-to-the-wall grunge and pop-punk that’s guaranteed to turn the mosh pit into a frothing mess of limbs and flying beer. Also, they are real loud.
Though there’s been change from We Don’t Belong Here to WACO it’s never been drastic, and lining up all of their discography side by side it’s the little differences that stand out.
45. ‘Paper Plane’
It’s a slow, sad song with strings that’s way outside Violent Soho’s regular area of expertise. But let’s put this in context: ‘Paper Plane’ is a bonus track from the Australian edition of their self-titled album. It’s the definition of throwaway.
44. ‘Eat Your Parents’
Here’s the second bonus track from the self-titled album. It’s not too bad, but it does feels a bit unfinished.
43. ‘Narrow Ways’
Words like “mid-tempo” and “1980s” don’t describe Violent Soho very often, or at their best.
40. ‘My Pal’
It’s a faithful rendition of the classic God song, but that’s really all it is. Stick with the original.
37. ‘Here Be Dragons’
Violent Soho have a bunch of Vines-y songs, especially on their early albums, and ‘Here Be Dragons’ is the most Vines-y of the lot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – they share the obvious influences, of course the Venn Diagram has some overlap – but ‘Here Be Dragons’ makes its unstoppable teenage riot sound like a bad thing, which doesn’t entirely work with that vibe.
36. ‘Love Is A Heavy Word’
Singer Luke Boerdam once said, “This is about shallow people that suck”, and that’s a good summary of a lot of Violent Soho songs.
35. ‘One On’
34. ‘OK Cathedral’
33. ‘Slippery Tongue’
32. ‘Slow Wave’
31. ‘Birth Of The Teen-Age’
It’s half a Dandy Warhols song and half a Pixies song, with a nicely shuffling drumbeat. Drags on a bit, though.
30. ‘Scrape It’
29. ‘Black City’
This track from the Pigs And TV EP is an atypical Violent Soho song. More garage than we’re used to, a bit more hi-hat in the drums and a bit more drawl in the chorus. An alternate Violent Soho leaking through from a nearby dimension.
28. ‘Dumb Machine’
27. ‘In The Aisle’
26. ‘Neighbour Neighbour’
When Boerdam started yelling less and singing more it reduced the Kurt Cobain in his vocals and brought out the Tom DeLonge instead. The rest of the band played along, and ‘Neighbour Neighbour’ turned out one of their most pop-punk songs. It even has a tiny Weezer guitar bit in it.
24. ‘Fur Eyes’
Violent Soho have a few songs that are saved by their knack for a killer chorus and ‘Fur Eyes’ is one of them.
22. ‘Gold Coast’
20. ‘Holy Cave’
For a band who eschew a lot of frills and fanciness Violent Soho do like to throw the occasional vocal effect in and ‘Holy Cave’ has one of the best uses of those. It also feels a bit like it’s harking back to those 1990s Oz rock bands like Ammonia who used to fill triple j with our local flavour of “alt rock” back when people still called it that.
19. ‘Muscle Junkie’
“Fuck you, fuck you/I hate your face” is the ultimate Violent Soho lyric, placing them somewhere far beyond parody.
18. ‘Hungry Ghost’
The final track on the album it’s named for, ‘Hungry Ghost’ uses its spot to do something a bit different. It’s not the only time Violent Soho have gone slower and a bit more downbeat, but ‘Hungry Ghost’ is a kind of floaty nihilism that sounds like a Bends-era Radiohead song, and that is something it’s worth hearing Violent Soho do.
Basically everything I just said about ‘Hungry Ghost’ only with WACO, and more so.
That bit about driving down Cleveland Road is a preview of the nature of ‘Liars’, which is a perfect driving song – especially when it hits the moment, two-and-a-half minutes in, where every instruments syncs together in a perfect moment of propulsion.
15. ‘No Shade’
‘No Shade’ has the best bassline in a Violent Soho song. It’s almost Kim Deal.
The guitar intro to ‘Revolutionary’ is one of the most Nirvana things Violent Soho have ever written. Then it goes full-bore snotbrat, and that turns it into one of the Pigs & TV EP’s highlights.
13. ‘So Sentimental’
Yeah, it is sentimental – especially by Violent Soho standards – but it’s sentimental in the best possible way, with a great build across its four minutes that’s pregnant with yearning.
12. ‘Son Of Sam’
Setting a new world record for layered guitars.
I’ve joked that Violent Soho don’t really do the quiet/loud grunge thing but instead tend to specialise in loud/louder. But with ‘WACO’ they absolutely pull it off with a kick-drum in the quiet bits that’s there to hint at the loudness that’s about to return like approaching thunder.
“They’re gonna stop our music because they say it’s too loud” is a timeless sentiment, especially in Brisbane, and Razar’s 1978 rant is perfect for Violent Soho to cover. That straightforward punk blast from Queensland’s Joh Bjelke-Petersen-era gives it a different energy to their usual songs, and its breathless “oinkoinkoinkoink” and a shout Boerdam drawls as “TASFOR! TASFOR!” is one of the greatest things they’ve ever given us to sing along to that isn’t “hell fuck yeah”.
9. ‘Saramona Said’
Probably the best of Violent Soho’s quiet songs, maybe because it actually gets pretty loud towards the end. “I wanna bastardise this entire state” is another attitude any Queenslander will empathise with.
8. ‘Dope Calypso’
I have no idea what a ‘Dope Calypso’ is and will be happy never knowing because it’s like totally about the journey and not the destination anyway, dude, and this journey is one where a song that’s brutal, diffident, and self-hating comes together into something beautiful. And maybe it’s not about the destination, but that cannon finale is pretty great anyway.
7. ‘Bombs Over Broadway’
‘Bombs Over Broadway’ is honest about what it is with machine-gun guitar and aggression. It’s a “fuck the system” song that straight-up has the lyric “Run away, fuck the system” in it. It’s probably the best “fuck the system” song that doesn’t have the line “happy birthday to the ground” in it.
6. ‘My Generation’
‘Like Soda’ is a song Violent Soho needed to grow up a bit to write, ‘My Generation’ is a song they could only have written while they were young and indifferent, with a “yeah, right” so bitterly ironic it could write an episode of Daria. The “brand new honey, honey” is what Boerdam will need for his throat after all this howling is done.
5. ‘How To Taste’
This is such a good way to start an album. A few moments of intricate, pretty guitar work and then YEAH and a full-on grind. By the time it finally winds back down at the finale it’s been another one of those full fucking journeys, man.
4. ‘Covered In Chrome’
If you have fond memories of shouting “Hell fuck yeah!” at a festival you can probably bump this one up two spots. If you think the line “a pussy is a piece of skin wrapped in a pocket” is genius you should probably bump up two more. I go back and forth on that every time I listen to ‘Covered In Chrome’ but I do keep listening to it and I sing along anyway, so there’s proof of its power even for someone who would rather stay in bed than go to another Big Day Out ever again.
3. ‘Like Soda’
“Like soda it will pop” is one of the most American things ever in a Violent Soho song, and this is a band named after a neighbourhood in Manhattan (probably). But even though the title and central metaphor are American, it’s filtered through everyday Australian experience. The vision of suburban old age in ‘Like Soda’, soundtracked by “the rattles from the pubs and pokies room,” is so Australian it eats Winnie Blues and shits Vegemite.
2. ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’
Violent Soho have a lot of songs about religion and some of them are better than others, but even the good ones sound kind of like the complaints of a smart kid atheist who thinks believers are all sheep. ‘Jesus Is My Girlfriend’ is something different, and the anger that catches in Boerdam’s throat is much more personal. This is rage with a reason and a target, and that Jesus wanker better watch out if he comes round here again.
People who actually listen to Interpol tell me that this sounds like an Interpol song, which is both wrong and insulting. ‘Viceroy’ pisses all over any Interpol song you care to name with the glee of that Calvin kid on a Holden’s mudflap. ‘Viceroy’ has the distinction of having the second-best bassline in any Violent Soho song and also being the first-best song about feeling like a temporary regal official ever written, no offence to Mac DeMarco who is actually singing about the cigarette brand.
‘Viceroy’s opening is harsh, lightened only by the bouncy, drunk guitar, but Boerdam turns the gun back on himself soon enough with the criticism of some dude’s tacky pickup lines and monologues replaced by an attack on what a shit friend the singer is.
Plenty of Violent Soho songs change into something else as they go, but ‘Viceroy’ feels like it changes into all of their songs at some point, becoming ‘Saramona Said’ at one stage and ‘Covered In Chrome’ at another. By the time it reaches that blast of 1990s feedback at its ending ‘Viceroy’ feels like it’s been all of Violent Soho’s best songs and bettered all of them.