Record Reviews

Tales

The Peep Tempel’s second LP is not only a near-perfect punk record, but a brutal look at contemporary suburban Australia, writes PATRICK EMERY.


Dorothea Mackellar’s poem [?My Country?](http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm) celebrates the beauty of the Australian geography: sweeping plains, jagged mountain ranges, far horizons, jewel seas and sapphire-misted mountains. It’s the picture-postcard version of Australia, devoid of the social, economic and political blemishes that make up the cultural landscape.

At the other end of the spectrum might exist [Sylvania Waters](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SylvaniaWaters(TV_series))*, the early-1990s ABC reality television series that followed the daily lives of a family living in the suburbs of Sydney. There was nothing beautiful about *Sylvania Waters: loud, brash and plastic, this was the Australian nouveau riche existence – warts, white shoes, double garages, wine coolers and all.

And into that dichotomy comes The Peep Tempel’s new album. According to the promotional blurb, Tales loiters at the ugly margins of Australian society: ?Morally disassociated, reality-TV-style politics. $7 chips at the footy. The great Australian dream, a 35-year mortgage on a home that will be in the advanced stages of dilapidation in just 25,? claims the press release.

Like all promotional material, the use of those evocative images probably involves an element of poetic licence. But within Tales exists not only a near-perfect punk rock record, but a brutal narrative of the reality of contemporary suburban Australia.

?This hurts, in a good way.?

The album is ushered in with a light wail of feedback, a distant ringing that reminds you that something could be wrong. A pummelling drumbeat kicks in, then a catchy melody and ?Getting On By? is off and away. It’s an anthem of hope in a world that wants to suck the spirit out of you and condemn you to a life of domestic banality and corporate repetition. There’s a snarl in the vocals, a subtle ?fuck you? – on the surface it’s all shit, but we’re getting on by.

Then comes ?Vicki the Butcher?: slow and jarring, The Birthday Party with art-school pretence replaced by blue-collar attitude. This hurts, in a good way. ?Big Fish? is, hyperbole aside, a song for the ages. There’s a lyrical and musical intensity happening here that grabs you by the throat and spits rhetorical venom in your measly face. Underbelly dressed idiotic gangster violence up in bravado and titillation; with ?Big Fish? you get the cold, hard reality of betrayal. It’s not pretty – but by fuck it’s good to hear.


?Edgar’s Lament? is tight and wiry – if this was a footy player, it’d be hanging around the half-forward line waiting at the drop of the ball, scrounging around at the base of the pack, doing everything the coach wanted and a bit more. There’s an untitled song that conjures up memories of [Hazel](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_(band)), a 1990s power-pop band from Portland who everyone should know more about, but probably never will.

?Waystone Kingston Men’s Home? is the Saturday night out on the town in some shitty country town when nothing’s really happening, so you’ve got to make your own fun. Drop into the instrumental ?Keef? and there’s none of Mr Richards to be seen, only some razor-sharp riffs that make your ears bleed with excitement.

?Carol? is arguably the album’s centrepiece. A three-way story of Trevor, his long-suffering partner Carol and the interloping narrator, this is a narrative that’s being played out every day, with dangerous and tragic consequences. The song builds to a crescendo of intensity: just when it seems it could all go horribly wrong, it finishes. Just like that.


?Don’t You Love Me Joan? is an extension on that theme. There’s a vague hint of Dead Kennedys? [?Holiday in Cambodia?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=-KTsXHXMkJA) in the melody, and that same spit and bile that Peep Tempel do so well. Is the narrator’s attraction reciprocated or unrequited? Maybe we’ll never really know, and that’s probably a good thing.

?Civic Defiance? is the flag-waving spirit of the late ?60s transplanted to Tony Abbott’s Australia. It’s littered with cheap rhetorical slogans stolen from a protest march. Will it make a difference, when the suburban reality is so barren? And then there’s ?The Opera of Lester Moore?: The Drones are in there somewhere just beneath the surface, and poor old Lester is probably doomed to a destiny he never chose but can never escape from.

[Earlier this week](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-12/reviews-finds-curriculum-overcrowded/5807456) the glowing embers of the history wars were stoked by the release of a review into the Australian school curriculum, and a recommendation to raise the currency of western civilisation in Australian schools. Tales might just be the counterbalance: this is the reality, without the patriotic bullshit.

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##?Tales? is out now on vinyl, CD and digital through [Wing Sing Records](http://www.wingsingrecords.com/records). Read singer-guitarist Blake Scott’s [Track by Track](/articles/4673640). Remaining tour dates below.

Fri, Oct 17 – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba, QLD [free]
Sat, Oct 18 – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane, QLD [w/The Dangermen + Eyes Ninety]
Fri, Oct 24 – The Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney, NSW [free]
Fri, Oct 31 – The Reverence Hotel, Melbourne, VIC [w/Kids of Zoo + Blue Stratos]