Everything Goes Wrong
9 Track, LP (2012, R.I.P. Society)
Related: Woollen Kits, Constant Mongrel.
Listening to their debut record Everything Goes Wrong, it’s hard to believe that Constant Mongrel ever existed as a two-piece. Once proclaiming a simplicity in sound as their guiding ethos, it doesn’t take long to see they’re now trying a little harder than what they initially let on. The half-figured punk jams debuted on their split tape with Perth’s Taco Leg are still present in some form, but now there are added elements to the spine of Tom Ridgewell’s guitar and Hugh Young’s drum kit. Now obscuring themselves under layers of synths, electronics and the occasional distant saxophone, Everything Goes Wrong makes the assertion that, despite the root of their name, Constant Mongrel are more than just a dick joke.
Despite these developments towards something fleshier, all it takes to get the album rolling is a couple of chords, a straight-laced drum beat and a vague piece of wordplay. ‘Reflex’ is this opener, shot through the middle with the accusatory pun of, “It reflex on you.” Despite its highly strung dynamic, the track goes nowhere; its vocals blurred under an outer-rim of noise before fading away to the sounds of forced laughter. As the mock laughs, guitar and drums drop off, ‘Reflex’ reveals an effects-laden synth that was playing underneath the whole time, as if to hint at the subtle changes to come. But it’s only a hint. Tracks like ‘Late at Night’ feature the same simplified thrash the band is known for, fuelled by drunken paranoia and detailing a vague two-character escapade. “Late at night/I called your name/You looked at me/You looked and laughed/Why don’t you shut up,” Ridgewell moans. It’s vague enough to be interpreted as that misguided, last ditch attempt at getting laid on a Saturday night, the depths of an acid binge, or something as carefree as two mates having a giggle over a bowl.
If you came into this record expecting the kind of seedy underground suggested by the filthy basin on the album cover, you’ve been led a little astray. ‘B. Crystal’ might seem like a track about meth on first glance, but it’s actually a schoolyard ode to Billy Crystal’s credentials as an Oscar host: “Because everybody knows Billy Crystal is the king.” Similarly juvenile is ‘Four Legs,’ opening with a mess of aimless clamour before quickly slipping into the record’s most infectious riff. It’s a track that bleeds with its own spontaneity. Ridgewell’s lyrics begin with the offhanded confession of, “I’m in love with your dog/When she sits on my log”, before devolving into painfully cliched confessions of love. It’s absurd that a crack about resting a dog on your penis is somehow funny and acceptable, while the line, “I’m in love with a girl/She rules my world”, comes across as repulsive.
These tracks seem to have been finished up indistinct from the off-handed jams they might have started out as; unquestioningly taking what initially came to mind without painstakingly editing out the shit that didn’t quite stick to the wallpaper. It lends the record the kind of honesty and purity that punk fanatics harp on about, but sees the occasional casualty in the form of the odd shoddy lyric.
Thrashing blurs about cocks and comedians aren’t the exclusive domain of the record, however. On tracks like ‘Felony Fights’ there’s an unexpected eeriness that rears its head; Ridgewell’s vocal is completely concealed by a blurred arrangement haunted by a panicked saxophone. When it then jumps to ‘No Nonsense', a cover of an X-X song, Constant Mongrel are starting to measure themselves with a little less vigour, trading their schoolboy grins for seedy scowls.
There’s a kind of constant tug-of-war going on in Everything Goes Wrong; the unseemly exteriors are broken with wisecracks half of the time, while they revel in the sordid for the remainder. It’s not often you’d find a record that retains a sense of continuity after matching off a romp like ‘Cyclone Yasi’ with the languid ‘Felony Fights,’ but this is one of them.
Everything Goes Wrong is as much about the light-hearted kicks of acts like UV Race or Woollen Kits (Ridgewell’s “other band”) as it is about the scummy underbelly of Total Control. In finding the middle ground between these kinds of influences, Constant Mongrel have achieved a surprising sense of completeness where a mess of overeager distractions was the risk. It’s a record that’s ably placed among its more celebrated contemporaries.
by Max Easton