14 Track, LP (2011, Valve)
Down to a trio following the departure of keyboardist/singer Seja Vogel, Regurgitator are a mere duo on seventh album SuperHappyFunTimesFriends: guitarist Quan Yeomans and bassist Ben Ely share singing and songwriting duties as usual, play nearly all the instruments and self-produced the album in their respective home studios. (Ely even did the comic-inspired cover art.) That’s because drummer Peter Kostic was off touring Europe with his other band, The Hard-Ons. Still, it’s a reminder that wherever they’re located – first Brisbane, later overseas, now Melbourne – or whoever’s flanking them, the band will always hinge on a gleeful mind-meld between its two co-founders.
So what do they come up with this time? The usual mix of the plucky and the subversive, including standout one-liners and dead-on genre appropriations. The songs remain cartoonishly catchy no matter who’s behind them – Yeomans wrote six, Ely eight – and tend towards fizzing pop-punk. Bo Diddley beat aside, Yeomans’ ‘Punk Mom’ is every bit as Ramones-y as Ely’s ‘Uncontactable’. ‘No Show’ is a hooky ode to disappointment, from the second coming to an absentee crush, while the clarity-seeking ‘Be Still My Noisy Mind’ winds up one of the straightest tracks.
Also fairly one-note are the crunchy rocker ‘Born Dumb’ (duh) and Billy Idol-ish ‘Outer Space’, an empowering anthem about jettisoning one’s fears. Lasting just 21 seconds, Ely’s hardcore quickie ‘Game Over Dude’ doesn’t approach the contrast of its predecessor, album opener ‘One Day’. That tune pairs a breezy power-pop thrust with Yeoman’s blackly comic musings about the inevitability of death (“Soon we’ll be feeding the trees”) and the importance of seizing life while we still can. Punctuating those more direct tunes, meanwhile, are the erratic detours we expect from Regurgitator: the junkyard beats of the Beck-like interlude ‘Devil Spell’, the ’80s synth-pop valentine ‘Into The Night’, the drug-inspired noise-drone oddity ‘D.M.T. 4 2’ and the precious, dreamscape-detailing lullaby ‘Super Happy Funtime’.
Most notably, Yeomans’ show-stopping ‘All Fake Everything’ begins as a strings-licked ballad about how hard it is to be a famous rapper hiding all your hurt inside. Soon enough, though, it screeches to a halt and Yeomans launches into a rapped rock tirade questioning the endless questioning and self-doubt of any artist. “Welcome to the grand facade,” he spits. “Am I really me or just an artist impression?”. His passing barbs about iPhones and computers are up-to-the-minute, but even more important is that they’re accurate, funny, effective and well-placed.
Of course, Regurgitator needn’t make jokes to be subversive. With just acoustic guitar and a thin organ line, Ely’s closing ‘8 pm’ is about aging ungracefully: talking shit, getting drunk too early and “committing a slow suicide”. He sings: “The effects of the drugs/You had when you were young/Are doing you in.” It’s the exact inverse of AC/DC’s any-age party anthems, and yet we’re not sure how seriously to take it.
Same with this album: it’s a touch more Weezer than Ween, opting for punk-y bubblegum as often as shape-shifting whimsicality. Some of it feels dashed off and much of it feels more lasting, but it doesn’t attempt the shock value or anarchy that once made Regurgitator famous overnight. It’s simply idiosyncratic pop: fidgety, enthusiastic and content just to live up to that bright and shiny album title.
by Doug Wallen