The Dissociatives – Sydney Circa

In June 2004 Daniel Johns and Paul Mac did something that many punters could not believe, they toured The Dissociatives. This project saw both Johns and Mac leave behind the baggage of their other projects, to explore something new. The resulting collaboration is music that defies their pasts, whilst still drawing upon them. The music was hailed as some of the most original to come out of this country in a long while. Most of the time when a band gets hyped like that you listen to them six months later and don’t know what all the fuss was about, these guys really do live up to the hype.

Sydney Circa 2004slash08 is a record of The Dissociatives live performance. The DVD was recorded in conjunction with Triple J and Channel V at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre; it screened as part of the Live at the Wireless Archive collection.

The DVD begins with each of the five members of The Dissociatives entering stage one at a time and taking up their positions. Johns’ instrument of choice for the first song, We’re Much Preferred Customers is the cowbell, messing with it sounds using a set of reverb pedals. Paul Mac, his erstwhile partner in crime, is playing piano. The video is all in black and white, with the bright whites distorted so as to look over exposed.

For Somewhere Down the Barrel thankfully returns to full colour, and loses the over exposure. Showing some of their versatility this version includes a little more guitar and electronic noodling than the single version, reflecting their live show.

This DVD fits with the overall feel we have for The Dissociatives; it has a certain avant-garde quality, the camera angle used and lighting effects add to the ideas that we have built up around them as artists through the material they put into the public eye. Later in the show they thank James Hackett who was responsible for the band’s clips and their overall look.

Throughout this collection, Johns’ looks and sounds like he’s having fun. His crowd banter is simple but it conveys his feelings and his enjoyment on the night. He is the most humble and genuine I have ever heard him, he really appreciates what the crowd are bringing to the live show. There are times when he even reacts to the crowds contributions at the end of songs.

Paris circa 2007slash08 sees Johns’ put on the faux Cockney accent, punking it up John Lydon style behind a funky backing track, with the occasional distorted guitar solo, and whilst that sounds like a mess of a description, it is the most accurate one. At the end of the song Mac pulls out the mouth piano and does a solo.

The live version of Thinking in Reverse has been sped up significantly, changing it from a happy tune, to more of an angry plea for forgiveness. Mac stands behind his piano and assaults the keys with a vigour normally associated with lead guitarists. John’s towards the end of the track looks like a man possessed as he angrily sings.

Whenever the camera pans through the crowd you see looks of bliss on the faces of those assembled, for those there it must have been one of those live shows that sticks with you. On screen you can only get a portion of those feelings, and I would hope that this reminds those who were there on the night what a truly magical experience it was. If you were at the show and you don’t yet own this, you should buy it. For the rest of us  who weren’t there, it is one of the best live recordings I’ve ever seen.