Regurgitator + Wampire + Seja + Mystery School @ The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, 11.10.13
By Jodi Biddle
“Huh. Regurgitator are still around? Cool.”
It’s a thing I hear a lot, mostly from people in their late 20s/early 30s who stopped going to gigs all the time when they “settled down” (let’s not even get started on what the fuck that’s supposed to mean). Yes. Fuck yes Regurgitator are still around. I know, I know. Unit was your favourite album. I know it came out in 1997. What’s that? You’re an overseas reader and don’t exist in the intensely insular Australian music bubble? OK. I’ll give you a minute. Here. This one’s my favourite, though it’s by no means indicative of the rest of their catalogue.
There have been six studio albums since then. Some of them weren’t awesome, but at least they all had their moments, and I can assure you, this latest one is top form. It’s stupid, and fun and there’s a lot of genre-raiding, so basically everything you could want from the Gurge. What I’m getting at is, “Yes they’re still around, and fuck you for abandoning them as soon as they stopped getting high rotation play on triple j, you fucking philistine”.
And have I mentioned how good they are live?
Regurgitator rate as my favourite Australian live act for a number of reasons. Firstly, consistency – I’ve seen Regurgitator probably in excess of a dozen times over the years, and every single time, it’s been awesome. Not just, “yeah that was pretty cool” and go home to bed. Head throbbing, limbs aching, ears ringing, grinning stupidly, repeatedly exclaiming “fuck yes!” – that kind of awesome. Plus, they usually bring along really interesting support acts – though I suppose when you’re a band that swings wildly between pub rock, hip hop, electro and pop, then you’ve got a lot of room to choose an “appropriate” support.
Mystery School is first up (billed as Jhonny Mystery – arrrrgh that H! It burns my eyes!), and Mystery School turns out to be just one dude in a handmade wizard robe, with a guitar and an effects board. He has a jarring style, hovering always on the edge of uncomfortable, with his flat vocal delivery and love of short, halting riffs and plenty of looping and electro-noise. He’s occupying a space forged by the likes of Regurgitator – that twilight zone between rock and electro, but definitely seeking the weird fringe rather than the juicy pop centre. He also apparently designed all the new album art, as well as the new film clip for ‘Sine Wave’ which is mind-achingly weird.
His set ends abruptly, with little fanfare, and all the early-comers clap politely. Let’s file this one in “niche enjoyment”. It’s not bad, but it is probably a little too weird for the casual listener.
Seja is next, doing solo stuff in addition to her duties as sometimes member of the Gurge. I will be upfront about this. I love Seja probably more than is healthy or appropriate. I loved Sekiden, her old band; but if possible, I love her solo stuff even more. It’s mostly her voice, the sugary bubblegum smoothness, the warmth and vulnerability. But then she’s such a maestro with synths that it makes me reconsider how I feel about synths in music everywhere else lately. (In case you’re wondering: a lazy way to attempt to lend indie cred to something by invoking ironic disco/nu wave vibes). I stand in awe of her musical abilities. I’m powerless against her charm. I’m actually sad when her set finishes, and just about trip over myself to go buy her new album, All Our Wires.
Regurgitator aren’t afraid of importing their support acts, and this time they have brought along “indie darlings” (not a compliment) Wampire. Now Wampire are probably not a terrible band. They’re just doing stuff that is popular at the present time, and, therefore, it’s exhausted its novelty for me. They embody brash West Coast obnoxiousness, though presumably it’s borrowed from their idols because they’re from Portland. If Mumford And Sons are White Boy Beard Music, then these guys are Pubescent Moustache Music.
It’s chugging, fuzzy surf rock/psychedelia, and it goes… OK. Damned with faint praise? I’m feeling generous, so I’ll say I can see the appeal in this sort of thing, but it’s just like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra and all those other dudes with very measured attempts to be messy. (For my money, if I’m gonna listen to radio-friendly revivalist surf fuzz, Best Coast are doing a way better job.)
Still, I hope that there are teenage boys listening to this music in their rooms, smoking weed for the first time, going on private musical journeys that might expand their horizons past what’s fed to them on the radio.
It’s fairly apparent that apart from that one guy wearing the ironic bandanna headband and aviators who’s clearly there for Wampire, everybody else is itching for the Gurge to start. Where before there was clapping and some cheers, now there’s rapturous cacophony at the prospect of the headliners finally coming on.
The boys don’t disappoint – they’re wearing ridiculous flouro pink jumpsuits with leopard print pockets and patches, and they start the set with recent but still pumping anthem ‘Blood And Spunk’. (I told you. Six albums. Not everything since Unit has been shit.) Ben Ely and Quan Yeomans still have the energy and excitement of cheeky schoolboys, and they still obviously love making music; they grin at each other knowingly, and Ben declares: “Let’s party like it’s the 90s!” Which considering the median age of the crowd tonight, makes everyone go fucking wild.
They rip through a quick succession of classics, and it’s a surreal moment when the crowd is beside itself with joy, shouting “I WILL LICK YOUR ASSHOLE” at Quan’s invitation. They play a more rock-focused set tonight, with Seja occasionally coming out to provide synths where necessary. There’s a lot of new album material and you know what? It rocks. It’s fuckin’ great. I love it. My boyfriend’s already picked up a stack of CDs from the merch desk (true love is finding someone as hopelessly obsessed with music as you are) and I’ve been subsequently cranking Dirty Pop Fantasy all week. Is it as good as Unit? I dunno. Give it ten years to grow on me. It certainly sounds ace live.
“I have a confession to make,” says Ely, still smiling. “I really like the band Asia. I know. But I do! I really do. So I wrote this song to sound just like an Asia song… the band. Not the country.” And it totally does, and it totally works, mostly because the chorus goes, “I don’t wanna be alone again tonight/I don’t wanna be at home getting stoned alone”, which is unbearably adorable and also way more honest and grounded than the silly grandiose lyrics of most 80s power ballads. The whole album is like that – an ode to the 80s and 90s pop tracks that are desperately uncool now, but with a nice layer of oddness and cheeky lyrics. (‘Fuck You Sweetness’ is another great one for that, full of references to Aussie lollies and not “American candy”.)
The thing I like the most about Regurgitator is their complete lack of irony (in the hipster sense anyway). They don’t invite anybody to nod knowingly while standing still and watching them morosely strum their guitars. They invite everybody to fucking dance, and actually you know… have a good time listening to music.