Violent Soho’s ‘WACO’ is basically ‘Hungry Ghost 2: Hungrier Ghost’

JODY MACGREGOR lived in Brisbane when Violent Soho were first coming up, saw them gig around the Valley a few times, and is old enough to remember Sonic Youth T-shirts the first time they were cool. But he’s not sure if he’s the right audience for WACO.

Violent Soho and their more strident fans represent a stand for rock n’ roll authenticity, a nose turned up at anything electronic or fake or phony. So listening to WACO in between a bunch of hip-hop and pop records by people who are happily experimenting with their identities and sample collections without worrying if someone thinks they come off pretentious, WACO feels abrasive – like that Durutti Column album in the sandpaper sleeve that scratched whatever you filed it between every time you took it out of your record collection.

“WACO is loud, angry, and churning … it’s a Violent Soho album and a real good one”

Maybe this album should feel abrasive. Waco the place is infamous as the location of a siege that took place in 1993, and among the techniques the FBI used to force members of the Branch Davidians sect out of their compound was loud music, blasted all night to prevent them from sleeping.

WACO the album would certainly work in that situation: there are maybe 13 seconds of pleasant guitar twunking before ‘How To Taste’ kicks into gear with one of Luke Boerdam’s YEEEAAAAHHHH screams and only a couple of songs that go quiet after that. Violent Soho may have been influenced by the Pixies but where that band explored the quiet/loud dynamic Violent Soho are more comfortable with the loud/even louder dynamic.

Boerdam has called this album a companion to their previous Hungry Ghost, and there are definitely similarities. The title track of ‘Waco’ takes aim at “fuckin’ liars” like ‘Gold Coast’ or indeed ‘Liars’ from Hungry Ghost did. There’s the song that will be an anthem for their younger fans to sing along to in their bedrooms (‘Blanket’), and the one that references historical concepts learnt from Wikipedia (‘Viceroy’). Actually ‘Viceroy’ feels like a perfect encapsulation of what they do – powerful grunge riffs and snotty pop-punk sneering, although Boerdam turns that weapon back on himself immediately after he points it at others, singing “Dear god, you’re a monologue repeater/A computer is a better friend than I’ll ever be.”

So yeah, it’s basically Hungry Ghost 2: Hungrier Ghost but there’s nothing wrong with that. With a band as indebted to a specific era as Violent Soho – ‘Holy Cave’ goes all Smashing Pumpkins in its rare quiet moments while the title track channels Dinosaur Jr. – expecting them to do something wildly experimental would be missing the point. WACO is loud, angry, and churning, there are lots of screams, and some lines you can sing along to. It’s a Violent Soho album and a real good one.

7/10 stars

WACO will be released on Friday, March 18 via I OH YOU