Record Reviews

Racism/Autonomy & Deliberation

The UV Race appeared in 2007 as an odd collection of backstory-less every-people from Warragul in rural Victoria, trading on a brand of roughshod punk that featured anything from burned-down orphanages to the proud wearing of a used condom. It was blissfully mindless and sordid, wrapped in a grinning charm that, no matter how close their societal swipes came to the chin, still allowed them to come across with a sense of warmth. Through a couple of EPs and records, not a whole lot has changed in that regard, except for a newfound significance for the band in their adopted home town of Melbourne, and across the capital cities where Australia’s garage-loving communities thrive.

Today, the band are more than a five-piece, but a sprawling family that has cross-pollinated across Melbourne via acts like Total Control, Straightjacket Nation, Dick Diver and School of Radiant Living. The names that inhabit the band – Al Montfort, Dan Stewart, Georgia Rose, Marcus Rechsteiner, Alex Glazov and Moses Williams – have become staples, as synonymous with the city’s music scene as their contemporaries. People like Steph Hughes, Brendan Huntley, Mikey Young and Tom Hardisty are all recalled when thinking of the UV Race, and all appear in one way or another in their debut film, Autonomy & Deliberation. With their continued infiltration of the Australian music scene, it’s fitting that the film should pay as much attention to the extended UV Race family as it does to the band itself. Aside from the tacked-on plot that sits at its centre, this is what the film is essentially about.

Featuring a laundry list of cameos and in-jokes, Autonomy & Deliberation was made with a very specific audience in mind. A loose thread of a plot – involving Rechsteiner’s quest to reform the band after he dropped all their cash at the dogs – drags him from country-bound loner to resurgent front-man. By any conventional assessment, it’s the most terrible film to ever be screened in an Australian cinema. Outsiders are given no time to figure out why Brendan Huntley cleaning Mikey Young’s windscreen is funny, or why Jarrod Quarrel walking off on Steph Hughes and Al Montfort’s cover of ?Lose the Baby? instigates a chuckle at the cinema – it’s made to be enjoyed only by the band, their mates, and their voyeurs. For that group of people, it stews with the enlightened feeling of being a part of the family it pays homage to – for the rest, it’s unlikely they’d last in a cinema seat for more than 20 minutes.

Autonomy & Deliberation* is 80 per cent visual gags, featuring lingering shots of Rechsteiner struggling up hills, stairs and across train-lines. Dancing shirtless on a low-hanging branch, staring off the sun-drenched steps of Flinders St Station and pointing blankly at a recurring pick-pocket, it’s Rechsteiner that the film relies on for laughs. The other 20 per cent finds its way to the soundtrack, focusing on the peripheral subtexts of loneliness, rejection, paranoia and fear. Beginning with the doubt of youth-induced limbo, the title track hits with the line: ?When you’re young and free / And don’t know how to be / It’s so easy to come undone.? It’s one of the only hints at a message underlying *Autonomy & Deliberation, that the inexorably connected feelings of freedom and loneliness are what bring you to create your clan – in this case, Marcus? attempt to reform the UV Race. Addressing the fear of visiting the city in ?Eddy St,? the soundtrack then weaves through songs of confusion and distress to ?Can’t Go Back,? a regret-tinged album closer that on film, has the band playing their triumphant return to an empty Gasometer band room. By the end, the band was so lost in their collective moment that they were left with no audience to address. For a film designed for the enjoyment of about a couple of hundred people, the irony isn’t lost.

Where Autonomy & Deliberation* is a rough and erratic mess of tracks brimming with the warmth of the extended family, *Racism* is seedier and more energetic – less a collection of good-hearted jokes and scenarios, and more an outline of their fucked-up manifesto. On *Racism, songwriters Marcus Rechsteiner, Al Montfort and Dan Stewart take the world to task, one minor gripe at a time. Attacking white middle-class families, the selfish and the wayward, they continue to outline a kind of loose bible for the common Australian. Over the top of the Australian landmass on its back cover sits a dozen blurred images – a footy next to a crucifix, a balaclava by Ned Kelly’s helmet, a Digger’s hat near the Crown – all symbols of The UV Race’s vision of the nation, a place of the pig-headed and the homogenous.

Racism* features life lessons wrapped up in unsettled displacement, parables that play out as self-help guides for a wayward society, along with rabid punk distractions that forego meaning in favour of simple good times. With handclaps backing an unsettlingly rearing guitar line on ?Be Your Self?, *Racism begins with the former. ?I don’t want to be a part of this / I don’t want to be a part of that?, Marcus spits, its message self-explanatory. Of course, in their own ragged, self-contradictory way, this is followed by ?I’m a Pig,? its subject mocked for his selfishness with spat rhymes and manic grunts, despite him doing as requested on ?Be Your Self.?

Just to turn it all on its head, ?Life Park? sees a family man desert his commitments to find solitude. Despite this unforgiveable desertion, it’s romanticised with softened guitar lines and swooning backing vocals. In a way, it revisits Autonomy & Deliberation’s* ?Technology?, which sees a youth isolated from the world via his obsession with a digital pseudo-life. ?Life Park? plays out as the logical end-point to the life that the kid eventually created when he shut himself off to find solace at a computer. If *Racism is held to its odd sense of religious significance, it’s a self-contradictory manuscript. But hey, name a spiritual document that isn’t.

?Racism is seedier and more energetic – less a collection of good-hearted jokes and scenarios, and more an outline of their fucked-up manifesto.?

As much as Racism* can feel like it has an over-arching lesson that ties in with the rest of the discography, it’s no stranger to mindlessly kicking holes in the walls. A track like ?Raw Balls? is an amphetamine-charged trip that, over-wanked and under-thought, is the album’s most blistering moment. It’s followed by ?Bad Egg,? a chugging swoon that could be ?Raw Balls’s epilogue. ?He got a job at a factory / She ran a drug dispensary / He would take her baggies of E’s / He could sniff her raggies with ease,? Rechsteiner stutters. A story about two wayward children, it reveals his ability to be a non-judgemental and endlessly understanding narrator. The dead love of ?Sophie Says? is viewed with forgiveness, while the theft of personal possessions throughout ?Gypsy King? is smiled at as a life experience. Even when taking his dick to the concept of the conventional Australian family (?I wanna blow my load on the nuclear family / I wanna wipe my choad on the nuclear family?), it doesn’t feel nearly as mean-spirited as it should. Once you’ve seen Marcus stare off into rolling Warragul hills with his shirt billowing over the outline of his stomach, it’s hard to believe there could possibly be a mean spirit hiding beneath it. Ultimately, the kind hearts presented in *Autonomy & Deliberation* are what soften *Racism’s meaner edges.

Finishing with a six-minute, all-in choral chant on ?Memenonome,? Racism* ends with appropriately spiritual zeal. How else would you mark the last moments of UV Race’s November output but by cramming the entire extended family into the one room? On *Racism* and *Autonomy & Deliberation*, The UV Race continue to outlay fables and life lessons without defaulting on their core promises by dropping the dick jokes or toning down the gnarling asides. They and their contemporaries that feature on film are now a collective highlight of the Australian music scene, a circle that inhabits fun-loving, good-natured irreverence, adored as much for that as they are their music. Too humble to address it on *Autonomy & Deliberation, The UV Race instead ends on the sour note of their audience moving on. For the community that feels an artificial sense of belonging to this surrogate family, that couldn’t be further from the truth.