Electrelane in Australia
My Three Favourite Things About Electrelane’s Recent (ish) Visit
By Victoria Birch
1. They Came
Because the odds are stacked against us. Stationed out in the nether regions, an arse of a long way for just about everyone on the planet. Isolation that engenders an odd tension between partisanship and self-loathing – suspicion and cynicism dished out in equal measure to artists home and abroad.
The big guns get a pay off. There are enough of us to justify pop and rock sensations creaming a month’s salary per ticket for two hours in a sterilized vacuum on the edge the city. Lord knows how anyone else can do it. Jet-lagged to buggery, staring down a handful of fans and double-pass-winners in a box room. Knowing you’re bleeding cash when you could be a thousand miles closer to home in a venue stuffed to the gills with paying people.
(NB. Yes it is a fine country but the weather is far more inclement than Bonza! Holidays will have you believe and the beaches aren’t sandy miracles, just perfectly nice places where, as Bill Hicks once said, “Dirt meets water”.) [Speak for your own part of Australia! - Queensland-based Ed]
Australia’s close proximity to nowhere makes the odds of most musicians visiting about 30-1. A band with no new material to promote? 75 -1. A band with no new material to promote, whose members live in separate continents: 150 -1. A band with no new material, with members dispersed around the globe and who are on an indefinite hiatus – fuck, I’d stake the lives of my loved ones on the remote prospect of Electrelane coming to a venue near me.
(Breathe easy family. Bookies wouldn’t take the bet.)
2. They Rock As Hard As The Boys
Of course they don’t, because that’s wearisome bullshit. Well meant in most cases, but bullshit all the same. Aside from the misogynistic subtext, that lazy backhander misses the point. Not shying away from making a din is not the same as using the reverb pedal to batter your audience into submission. It’s not the same as a raft of fucked-off chords screaming abuse at you nose to nose. It’s not an appropriation of masculine angst. Electrelane are 100% feminine.
The fact they’re an all-girl band has nothing to do with it. I think these boys, for all their balled-up guts and spleen, have innate femininity:
As do these three:
Gender is irrelevant, nowt to do with what it means to be male or female. It’s about power as a unifying force. Something that wants to engage, not impose its misery on you. Rage has its place, but I feel disconnected to unspecified anger writ large in a tattered voice box. I can’t identify with the solipsism of someone else’s internalised pain. Sure I’ve been there, had my insides chewed up by remorse but standing on the outside of an implosion doesn’t make me feel tethered to humanity, just lonely.
Being with Electrelane is the antithesis of loneliness. ‘Bells’ and ‘Two For Joy’ lose their shit. Verity Susman powers through her keys with masochistic force. The guitars are gnawing and flailing, pushing against form and structure like an overstuffed suitcase. At no point does the noise isolate. It jumps off stage and gets among us. Moves limbs and feet, twirls people around. Slams us into one another, forcing bodily contact between misanthropic arm folders.
Four young men knock me around. They look like the kind of blow-ins only interested in booze and pissing about. They are drunk and they are pissing about, but they know ‘Birds’ word for word. One of them tips beer down my jeans as he reels backwards. I don’t care. The pulled notes in the middle of ‘Birds’ are sexy as. Stretched long like a tease, those guitar strings are bound to make knees buckle. I get it. Normally I’d shove back in spite. It’s fine though, good even. Jeans will wash, it’s just beer for godsake not the blood of my firstborn.
So much good will to beery louts. That’s how fantastic it is to have Electrelane here.
It’s been a while since I‘ve been diverted from my watch and distracted thoughts of babysitting costs. I can’t remember the last time a finish arrived so inappropriately. Abrupt and rude. We were having such a good time. A swift encore accompanied by the fretful, anxiety ridden dancing of an audience who know their time is nearly up. Hanging heads and a knot of fans loitering by the merch stand, reluctant to leave.
I can’t remember the last time the music from the night before left me feeling hollow. Gutted. Sad it had to finish.
Nobody said as much, but that was probably goodbye.