Cinema Prague @ Railway Hotel 30/01/09

The Railway Hotel clearly expected a big crowd for the launch of Snakes Alive. Their couches and coffee tables were gone, moved to free up more space. It was just as well; by night’s end the sweaty, smiling punters would’ve just been using them as dance platforms.

First support act Rooster Police was a mult-italented, portly, t-shirted crew-cut, dishing out buoyant beats and melodies ranging from full-on electro to slow-dance soul grooves and pseudo-reggae. Surrounded by music tech and organic instruments, he played bass lines over pre-recorded beats, sang, strummed his acoustic guitar, fiddled with a laptop, blew & fingered a sousaphone and hammered staccato chords on his keyboard. It was an impressive set to watch for the couple of dozen punters inside, and fine drinking music for others sitting alfresco in the Fremantle dusk.

Burgers of Beef looked like a whole lot of indie fun before they’d even started. Their male melodic section and female rhythm section promised balance, goofiness and cool interplay, hinted at by a Hello Kitty guitar strap, a shiny trombone and a Fender Jazzmaster.

“Hello everyone, we’re Burgers of Beef and here’s 30 minutes of action-packed hit songs. Cop this.”

After two minutes of neo-surf-rock came this pearl: “That was our first song, thank you, this next song is our next song.” It was poppy and quirky stuff, occasionally dramatic, but almost always tongue-in-cheek.

Despite the silliness, it sometimes felt like they were phoning it in, although maybe that’s misreading their level of ironic detachment. It was certainly good enough for the two groovers pulling wild kitschy shapes up front for most of the Burgers’ set.

Looking rough and ready, The Automasters launched straight into their rockabilly-tinged blues and instantly doubled the number of punters on the dance floor, including one guy with amazing moves who never once took his hands out of his pockets as he bounced around. Maybe he was holding up his beige shorts, or didn’t want to lose his change. But even he paled next to The Automasters vocalist Brendan Hutchins for entertainment value. He strutted and testified like a drugged-up preacher, complete with slips into southern accent, blissfully lost in the Gibson guitar attack coming at him from both sides. Slide, chicken-pickin’, slinky blues lines; they had it nailed. The speed-walking bass was even better. The Railway Hotel was getting hotter and more crowded every minute.

With little room in the venue to spare, Cinema Prague started swiftly with Lego Man and the energetic love-in began. “Cheers, thanks guys,” said guitarist/vocalist George Kailis before the second song. “Well, this is our CD launch,” he continued over the cheers, “It’s taken fucking twelve years to do this. We’re gonna have a good time tonight, hopefully you will too.”

And they did. Punters moved madly in countless personal ways, at least 10-deep. You could tell the long time Prague fans from their moves; only repeated listening could explain their jolting and twisting in perfect time with every complex, rapid-fire time change. Most of them could do it with their eyes closed, at least until the stage-diving started in earnest, sometime around Jump for Joy. This version of the trio – Kailis, drummer Tim Lowe and bassist Roy Martinez – is as joyful as ever, and their live vocals are still as dodgy as their playing is tight and gorgeously riff-noodly. Luckily the crowd could and did sing along, even rapturously shouting the melody to Theme, as Kailis and co. kept coming with all the unique, intricate, mad CP classics: Hangman, Say it’s The Day, Paranoid Lloyd. During Dumped Again, the punters on stage outnumbered the band. Crowd-surfers were passed along and got back up for more.

After a last plug for the new/old disc Snakes Alive (and a quick “we love you”), the Prague played their closing tune, capped with a reprisal of Theme. They said their goodbyes and left the stage; it was closing time and the house lights over the bar were switched on. As people headed home, those that stayed started up a clap/chant that miraculously saw CP hit the stage some two minutes later with We Are The Moo-Moo.

It was a gift merrily received by fans and those too young to catch these wacky geniuses first time around.