Children Collide, Ben Ely’s Radio 5, Mona Lisa Overdrive @ Producers Bar, Adelaide (15/11/08)
Tonight’s ill advised escapade into the Adelaide music scene is brought to you by everyone’s favourite lead singer: Craig Nicholls from The Vines. What a freaking legend! No really, I have nothing but love for this dude! He’s the absolute flaming bag of shit with a smile and a raised thumb on your front doorstep, ringing the doorbell! He is a gift to gonzo rock photojournalists the world over! He’s living that dream, that crazy dream we all wish we could dream! Walking on water and swimming the land? Too weird to live, too rare to die? Showing us the way to TRUE artistic freedom!? Fuck yes! I cannot speak ill or end to the glowing admiration I have for both him and all three albums he helped produce with The Vines that are nothing short of modern masterpieces! (and yes I realise they actually wrote FOUR albums, but we’ll choose to ignore “Vision Valley” for the sake of argument shall we? cough). He’s the Pete Doherty of the Australian music scene, he’s ground control to Major Tom, he’s the Golden God on that rooftop with arms outstretched all stuffed into the ill fitting body of a child filled with endless wonder at a world where none of the pieces quite fit. Aaaaaah Craig Nicholls: baked not fried! For all those who always thought “they never quite make them how they used to” he’s the one that proves them wrong again and again! He’s from another age, quite possibly from another planet. He’s deftly dancing the divide between genius and insanity. He’s a child of the sun, illegitimate lover to the moon, listless spawn to the whistling leaves and a mind that floats above us all like a cloud of butterflies!
But then I hear the tragic news just like the rest of you: The Vines have since cancelled all of their upcoming tours due to their lead singer Craig Nicholls and his “deteriorating mental condition”!? Whoaaaa! say it isn’t so!? That means no more Homebake, no more Pyramid Rock Festival, no more The Big Day Out appearances or any of their blissfully illbient jams on late night talk shows that we’ve all come to know and love!? (ie: just like the pure comedy gold that was this their infamous meltdown on the Letterman Show back in 2002? FUCK YES!). Craig Nicholls, what the FUCK happened maaaan!? Even more disturbing, is that they also cancelled all of their subsequent shows, ever so mysteriously, AFTER they played a gig in Adelaide! Damn. not to say any of us are prone to wild conspiracy theories here, but I’d almost wager there’d be a connection in there somewhere: play Adelaide, lose your fucking mind. I’m linking the dots maaan! It happened to Courtney Love at the Adelaide Big Day Out back in 1999, it could happen to any of us. Shit, no wonder international touring acts keep skipping us by. They KNOW about all the shitcrazy mind altering fluoride we put into our drinking water, they KNOW the true potency of our farm fresh “wookie” green. Shit, it almost drove ME insane when I had a mad hit back in June at the Ed Castle (duuude just you try and make sense of anything I wrote for THAT blog!). I mean who’s to say what any of this shit DID to Craig Nicholls’ brain when he made that all too brief trip to the farside of the moon last week!? Adelaide, we all know it, you play this town at your peril!
So here’s to your speedy recovery from whatever combination of KFC and “secret herbs and spices” you’re currently consumed by, here’s to your prompt return to melting all our faces off on a live stage and many more incomprehensible sequels to Autumn Shade to be found on all your subsequent albums (ever noticed how there wasn’t one on “Vision Valley”? y’know.. cough I’m just saying!). Craig Nicholls. We secretly suspect we may’ve broken you last Friday night (you sure as shit loved to jump around all those chairs) but either way, come back soon y’hear!? It gets awfully dull around here without people just like you to brighten up our lives! sniff
Yup there’s no doubt about it, this music business is a deadly business, and it’s claimed its fair share of lives in the past from Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrisson, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Jeff Buckley, Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter, Keith Moon, Marvin Gaye, Bon Scott, Sid Vicious, Syd Barrett, Ian Curtis, Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Michael Hutchence (to name just but a few). It’s claimed Billy Corgan’s hair, Ozzy Osbourne’s brain, Brian Wilson’s sanity, Michael Jackson’s humanity and what was left of Daniel John’s testicles. It is verily a beast of mythical, biblical and hypnagogic proportions. Indeed it takes many near to otherworldly adaptations that would otherwise defy much of medical sciences collected upon it. It’s a reptilian quality as found in Keith Richards, David Bowie and Iggy Pop. It’s a freakish unkillability that knows no bounds, no weakness, no conventional weaponry nor fire. You’ll find it in neutral tones of blacks and greys that hide the blood and beer stains. You’ll find it in an aversion to sunlight, mirrors and vitamin C. You’ll find it in the dark growing like a fungus: halfway between a scream and a monophonic ringtone ringing through your ears days at a time. This will become your boot camp in kill or be killed survivalism and combat drinking. This will be your night of the living undead lived over and over. You will begin your tour of duty as a soft lump of clay, a mud monkey, a mind full of straw but one day you’ll be carved out of wood and many will be the littering corpses that will one day be scattered in your wake. This is not humanity. This is something else entirely. Maybe I’m one of them, maybe I’ll be dead by tomorrow, maybe I’ll outlive them all, but I sure DO love it here!
And as much as I understand it any and all supernatural powers you may hope to gain in this scene you gain not through chance luck of DNA, voodoo sacrifices, or blood rites, but through accumilating “frequent flyer points” like nicotine stains into teeth enamel. They become your unnatural ability tonight to blag your way past bouncers and lengthening lineups with nary but a sneeze. They become your ability in following to summon “psychic beers” from the bar, ones that arrive in front of you before you even knew you wanted one. They’re those weird looks you get when you realise you’ve forgotten entirely more people than the ones that now know YOU all too well. Beats me how the fuck I scored any of this shit, but just as soon as I can teleport through time and space, gain telepathy, mind control, and the ability to levitate shit with nothing but outstretched fingers and a raise eyebrow, I’ll be sure to start up my very own Jedi Academy to teach it. We’ll rule the world in secret. We’ll be benevolent freaks and space beings with laserbeams shooting out of our spleens. We’ll be like nothing the world has ever seen!
So as I go ever so slightly batshit insane at the tail end of beer three, as the house and stage lights in Producers Bar continue to dim below that which would otherwise escape the event horizon of a blackhole (or in other words, whoever behind the bar was reponsible for this shit under the mistaken belief it looks “arty” deserves to have a tribe of crazed colobus monkeys burst out of their pea shooter in plague proportions) and as the air around me fills with endless excitement and wonder (with a ripening decay not unlike that which tickles your nostrils when barbecued goat meets the wafting of an open manhole cover) I find nothing at all alarming or unusual in my surrounds. This is my home. This is where I belong. In my mind? duuude I’m already gone!
Mona Lisa Overdrive
Our opening act for the night knows all well what it takes to survive the dementia, the self destruction and self depreciating humour that comes with a life “on the road” (and one that is travelled in ever shrinking hamster wheels in the Adelaide music scene). They’ve been playing gigs every damn weekend for the last six months. They’ve been working the hard yards and accumilating the liver spots like true career professionals, running ever so precariously close to careening off that cliff all the while. So much so in fact that I sometimes wonder if they even go home anymore, or whether they simply roam these streets living off the land for days at a time. Hiding in the shadows, living by osmosis, absorbing nutrients, vitamins and hallucinogenics from the air; waiting for that fateful drop of a hat, the opening of a fridge door, or the chance gathering of five or more people so that they can play live gig to them. And it appears all this effort, all this investment, all this accumilative damage to their chromosomes is doing their live sound a world of good! Mona Lisa Overdrive. When I first saw them playing live earlier this year they were squeaky clean, store bought and straight out of that box. They had a sound and a stage presence rather akin to what you would imagine all the hallucinogenic grime of The Velvet Underground or The Doors would’ve sounded like on a live stage as performed second hand by string puppets from the 60’s Thunderbirds series. All those stilted sounds, starched collars, angular riffs, and careful clockwork movements that ever so surely demolished and destroyed everything they touched. The dizzying array of broken notes, loose drumming, gibberish and feedback. It was ever so amusing to watch it all unfold, and it’s been all the more fascinating to watch as they grow it, quite like a sea monkey, into something all the brilliant and blissfully bewildering tonight!
Mona Lisa Overdrive are a microcosm of the 60s, as seen through one of those timelapse films of something that was once ever so squeaky clean since left in your fridge for months at a time growing fur, mold and turning all the colours of the rainbow from inside and out. As they travel ever further up that river, ever deeper into that heart of darkness with Martin Sheen on that boat to oblivion, they’re not so much about the boundless youthful optimism of a Beatles “Twist And Shout”, or an Andy Warhol pop art print, they’ve now seen the many faces of the beast that dwells below these floorboards, they’ve experienced the full horrors of wars fought both imaginery and in actuality on live stages soaked in beer, sweat and despair. They’re now drifting towards the end point of the 60’s: the Altamont Speedway massacres, the Jim Morrison exposing himself to piss on a stage, the John Lennon with a full crazy man beard severing that chord with a Yoko Ono in tow. And the ever weirder they get, the darker their sound, the more blues they creep into their influences to the howl of feedback and a beat poet off his rails on yet another tangent, the more awesome they become. This is the howling beast of dystopia now realised in full. This is Dave on guitar working his shit like a theramin crossed with a turntable. This is Jess on the keys swaying like a spirit medium possessed by Charles Manson. Its Luke on rhythm guitar lurching like Nosferatu. Its Alex building his very own cult out there in the jungle, for the fateful day when Nixon drops the bombs on us all and the iron curtain falls on the capitalist dream. And it’s also THIS song that they chose to close the set with: that crazy one where they swapped instruments around. You caught a glint of it last week in a smoking amp: now you’ll get to understand just exactly why! This is Mona Lisa Overdrive proving themselves. This is their sound coming of age.
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Ben Ely’s Radio 5
Which brings us a curious contrast when it collides with our second act. Some choose to embrace the heart of darkness and they follow it upstream to the further unravelling of their minds. They’re the ones that reveal, rediscover, divinate, nay smoke deep the ashes of the past to find the one path that will lead them to the truth. Whilst others, quite like this wacky three piece from Brisbane, go for an entirely different approach. They go right back to the source when everything is shiny and new again and they start it from scratch. They’re the ones that make their shit up as they go along. They’re the ones that keep it simple. They’re the sounds of punk back when it was all about smashing up building blocks in the sandpit. They’re the sounds of Ben Ely’s Radio 5. By name alone, some of you may be more than familiar with at least ONE member of this band: Ben Ely, lankyarse goofball, ten feet tall with the scruffy lampchop sideburns bordering on a Lincoln beard. Founding member and bassplayer for Regurgitator (along with Quan Yoemans), living legend. He’s been a fixture of the Brisbane scene ever since the early 90’s. He’s also been known to travel under a littany of other wacky sideprojects when the mood strikes him. From Pangaea to Jump 2 Lightspeed and now Radio 5 he’s all about the mad party jam and he’s all about the fucking buzz! And with his band of trigger happy misfits in tow tonight (Steve Bourke on bass and Marihuzka Larenas-Esquivel on guitar), they’re cutting a direct line straight to our adrenal glands!
Ben Ely’s Radio 5. When I originally read about this band, I was told Ben Ely would be playing drums tonight. Somehow I just couldn’t fit how any of it could work into any kind of feasible reality that would involve this beanpole being crammed behind a drumkit, and instead started imagining a scene rather akin to that of a clown with oversized clown shoes being stuffed into a suitcase, zipped and closed (followed by me laughing hysterically at the mad spectacle of it all). However the minute I saw him out front setting up with an upright kit, I knew this band would be right on the money. In a nutshell, Ben Ely’s Radio 5 is straight up early 80’s punk pop at it’s infectious best. It’s the deceptively simply left hook and uppercut killer swing you find in “My Sharona” by The Knack. Or the spastic enthusiasm of the early 80’s cheerleader anthem “Mickey”. Or the madenning cocaine drill of Plastic Bertrand’s “ÃƒÆ’Ã¢€Â¡a Plane Pour Moi”. Or next to anything as performed by Devo, reduced to its primal fury and dancing on your smoking carcass. In an ever darkening atmosphere of sweat and piss we find ourselves in tonight their delivery also begins to share some stark similarity with the howling menace of Death From Above 1979, but such comparisons are shortlived, as Ben Ely continually shrieks and cheers on the crowd like an eight year old, this is hardly a malicious four on the four rinse out by any stretch of the imagination. Nope, Ben Ely just wants us to party like mad kids on a sugar rush, just like Patience from The Grates. So much so (and considering the pedigree of most if not every other band that ever comes out of Brisbane) you begin to consider this innocence to be indigenous. It’s infectious, infinitely likeable, a little bit lost in the swirling black fog before us (so much so I often lost the guitarist and bass player to it) and you COULD accuse them for pretty much playing the same song twelve different ways for only two minutes at a time; but there’s a wacky childlike appeal here. Simple, direct, fuck full of energy, duuude sometimes that’s all you need to make this shit rock!
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Yup, what we’re witnessing reaching critical mass here tonight, rapidly climbing up those walls and overwhelming any attempts to otherwise sedate or control it: is a freak phenomenon known simply as the “Triple J” effect. It’s an apocalyptic shitstorm you’ve seen play out countless times before in live venues throughout Australia. Quite by design, quite by coincidence, or quite like a freak convergence of electromagnetism that makes an ocean liner disappear without a trace somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle (only to make it reappear halfway up a mountainside somewhere in the Middle East covered in penguin shit) THIS is a phenomenon that Children Collide is experiencing right now thanks in no small part to their new album “The Long Now”, being the feature release on Triple J this week. Yup, never underestimate your national broadcaster and their insane ability to make just about ANYTHING “flavour of the month”. They own the hysterical masses. They brainwash us all on a whim. It doesn’t matter if your album consists of nothing but the sounds of dogs farting, duck whistles, an insane excess of cowbells, any given members of Architecture In Helsinki shitting into a jar of peanut butter (or pretty much any song released by Operator Please), they press that big red button and before you know it you’re upto your nips and sinking fast to a crowd quite like this one tonight. Still, as much as I can gather from previous experience (and an awesome set they thrashed out in Rocket Bar back in April 2007) it’s an attention that’s more than deserved. They have the name. They have the energy to follow through. They have the venue packed and primed with explosives. I can’t see two inches in front of my face. Right here and now is what being killed by the stampede of public opinion swaying drastically in your favour is aaaaall about! Pull that pin, pull back that catapult arm and let that freak fucker fly!
The sound of Children Collide isn’t the sound of one hand clapping, it isn’t the sound of someone stealing pebbles from a blind man and it sure as fuck ain’t the sound of a tree falling in a forest if there was no one around to witness it. To get this recipe right, simply add equal parts first album Nirvana with first album The Beatles, add equal parts frozen orange concentrate and gasoline, stir vigoriously and run the fuck out of there before the whole fat fucker explodes in your face and takes out most of the surrounding city block with you. You’ll know if you’ve got the recipe just right when you see the smoking craters you left behind (and the mile high smiley face spray painted yellow on the side of the building next to it) when it promptly makes its appearance on the evening news. That’s what it is like to get both barrels of Children Collide aimed at your face at point blank range. They’re the sounds of Fight Club making swift work on your frontal lobe. They’re the sounds of Project Mayhem demagnetising both hemispheres of your brain. They’re Jack’s venting spleen pissing all over all the ashes that remain. It’s full throttle early 80’s aussie bogan rock, very much in the spirit of Midnight Oil or Hunters & Collectors right back to their volatile post punk roots. It makes you want to smash a tinny of VB square into your forehead, it’s loud, it’s dumb as all fuck and it makes you want to kill every-damn-fucking-thing that moves.
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