The Men, Royal Headache, Raw Prawn @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (30/01/13)
Things kicked off with the fantastically named Raw Prawn. A band that sounded as uncooked and naive as their moniker suggests. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the band played a set that balanced precariously between authentic ‘70s UK punk and lo-fi primitive glam rock. It all sounded like it could fall apart at any point. Songs like ‘None Left’ hit the urgent pound and strum of The Velvet Underground if they’d grown up in the inner west of Sydney and never learnt to play outside a few chords and a backbeat. It was a set that was both amusing and refreshing, like a palate cleanser to remind you how good simple music can be.
Royal Headache looked to be up for it from the moment they stepped on the Goodgod stage. Jokes and barbs were bandied about before they kicked into what Shogun called “a jam” but sounded like a great fully formed new song. As players the band locked in like the best power pop trios and created that signature bristling surge of sound that allowed Shogun to cut loose. On a good night, and this was one of their best, Shogun doesn’t just prowl the stage, he bounces around, stares daggers into the front row and sings those suburban love songs with real passion and that throat shredding soul howl. They are bone fide hometown heroes which set a high standard for The Men to follow.
From the opening barrage of guitars and drums that is their new single ‘Electric’, The Men were ferocious in the manner in which they approached their songs. Bassist Ben Greenberg was a flailing, thrashing blur making it hard to believe he was actually nailing the notes on his bass as efficiently as he was. By the end of the second song drummer Rich Samis looked totally spent yet he seemed to play faster and with more energy the longer they played. His krautrock precision was essential to grounding the sonic malaise that was churning and exploding around him.
‘Turn It Around’ was aired early and sounded as anthemic as its recorded version while the addition of harmonica on a couple of tracks and the airing of ‘Candy’ with its Dylan playing with The Clean vibe, showed they are partial to some country rock that bizarrely didn’t sound at all out of place amid the frantic punk and psych rock sound of most of their set. The physicality and exuberance of The Men had that “leave nothing behind” feel and as a result felt like you were hearing and watching a band that believed in themselves and their music 100% and played right to their limits. It was visceral music and mid week in a humid concrete basement in Sydney felt like the perfect location to be pummeled by the sound of The Men.