The Bad Luck Charms
Live At The Brisbane Hotel
15 Track, LP (2010, Rough Skies Records)
Related: Bad Luck Charms.
Live albums can be a notoriously hit and miss affair. Generally, they tend to be of value mainly to hardcore fans, as they present rougher versions of songs people already love. Other than that, it’s difficult to convey the energy and atmosphere of a live show to the listener. There are rare exceptions though, in which a band actually manages to improve on their material, or succeeds in giving a concise overview of their achievements.
An example that springs to mind is Melbourne slow-core band Sandro’s magnificent Threaded Into The Night, which actually felt like a best-of compilation of their scattered, sprawling output. It also benefited from an exceptionally crisp sound and a certain emotional urgency in the band’s delivery, heightened by the fact that it was their farewell performance.
The Bad Luck Charms’ Live At The Brisbane Hotel in many ways duplicates this scenario. Recorded in September 2007, it was ostensibly their last hurrah before members scattered to pursue other dreams. Then again, The Bad Luck Charms were always renowned for their intense live shows.
Where their studio output consists of carefully crafted pop gems, on stage they unleash a rough post-punk minimalism that harks back to guitarist Julian Teakle’s earlier outfit The Frustrations. His gruff vocals contrast well with bassist Lisa Rimes’ more mellifluous singing. The same applies to their respective playing styles.
Playing in front of a hometown crowd in Hobart, songs like the up-tempo ‘Rut’ snarl with Teakle’s trademark repressed fury at life in a cultural backwater. His songs never rang more true than when he sings them to the people they were written about.
A song like ‘Chigwell Is Burning’ could be seen as parochial, yet in recollecting the childhood experience of a bushfire, Teakle creates a sense of place not so much tinged with nostalgia in the style of The Go-Betweens, as it is with the sense that even as a child he felt an ambiguous longing to see his suburb razed to the ground.
Songs like ‘I Need To Get Out’ describe the love/hate relationship Teakle has with his native town and his contemporaries. Ironically, it is the very conflictedness he experiences that makes him such a great songwriter. It’s hard to think of another Australian musician dealing with similar themes.
‘Match Made In Heaven’, sung by Rimes, is the song Love Of Diagrams tried to write for several years before discovering shoegaze. It’s angular, short and perfect. ‘You’re A Long Way From Home With Nowhere To Run’ rails against sea-changers who move to Tasmania expecting a romantic idyll.
The grinding groove and vocal repetition of ‘Fever’ leads into ‘War Against Mediocrity’, a clear summation of Teakle’s agenda and a fitting finale from a fine band that accomplished a lot during its brief two-year existence, but had the potential to go a lot further. At least this document exists to remind everybody of their brilliance.
by René Schaefer