Record Reviews

Heavy Breathing

It’s hard to believe this is the same band I saw drunkenly churning out basic chords back in the day, in Perth, to a near-empty lounge room. But evidently the original Melbourne two-piece whose fan appreciation and lineup has grown somewhat since 2010 have come some way since the Wuss Tapes [cassette split](’v=apPJ0wlW7PE) with masters of mess Taco Leg, which played just the same through a crappy car stereo as the blown-out speakers and un-tuned guitars of that particular live set.

Sure, this is a band named after an eternal boner, performing as a quartet with Amy Hill and, of course, Andrew Murray of said lo-fi brother band often considered one of the worst in Australia (definitely not by me). But, in advancing up the global shit heap of reckless and exciting bands more concerned with ideas than technique and joining the US Siltbreeze stable with their second LP – in the wake of other eminent obscurities like Fabulous Diamonds, Naked on the Vague and Circle Pit – they’ve also grown a head for advanced compositions, dynamics and sheer energy.

The eight-track LP reads like a history of post-punk – across flickers of PiL, Gang of Four and Black Flag – altered and condensed into an easy 20 minutes, digestible for the impatient internet attention span. Unfairly short, perhaps, but not unusual for a punk band on R.I.P. Society, Constant Mongrel echo the half-arsed aesthetic tradition of failing to list other contributors, except ?Lucifer Dolphina? on synth for album closer ?Inflicted? when pressed, a track which also includes surprisingly good vocals from Taco Leg’s Murray.

The sonic assault of the album at large rarely lets up, from the insistent grunge guitar drone of ?Complete?, a battered bass and guitar wave taken apart by sloppily applied cymbal crashes and loose kicks. The snappy refrain of ?I don’t want to hoard when I hang around/I don’t want to hoard when I go to church? (and so on) on aptly titled standout ?Hoarding? is channeled through a vocal filter that becomes all the more pronounced on ?In the Courts? to follow. Its wacky ?aaaaaaAAAAAH IN THE COURTS!? gives its boundless punk drive a faint ska touch that could have easily have been pulled from NME*?s *C81. Persistent, clumsy duels between guitarist Tom Ridgewell and drummer Hugh Young (his vocals a slightly less queer-sounding PiL-era John Lydon) maintaining momentum while stabbing its wall of sound with his characteristically inelegant bass drums and snare combos.

Every now and again, amusing words break the surface swell of guitars and clunky cymbals to reveal deadpan lyrics like ?Hey little boy, come back to my lair/You be my twinkie and I’ll be your bear? in ?Under Collar?. The image of getting high and having religious epiphanies in the backyard in ?Perks and Thrills? is just one example of an album haunted by an awareness of its own brute sense of suburban malaise.