By Ben Green
Spring Hill, tropical Brisbane. The sound of car wheels on rain-slick streets, that glow with red lights after a sprinkle of respite from the endless heat. A police car crawls the block, windows down and elbows out in the confidence that it’s their time, their Premier, their State. Rounding the corner they gaze at the citizenry: a group of men lurch downhill to the strippers; immaculate transvestites meet outside the Sportsman’s; a gangle of youths chatter and smoke rollies on a footpath. Punks. The car pulls up to the kerb. It’s a Saturday night.
Upstairs, above the pokies, the beergarden and the gnarled old dudes with open-necked shirts clutching tiny beer glasses, the Primitive Room is anything but. For one thing it’s got lasers. They sparkle in the diamond-shaped mirrors and comb the coloured carpet. Spelt in red neon on the wall, “DJ”: spinning lover’s rock and the edgier end of the Aussie pub canon. The boys light up. Jugs are poured and spilt. Hawaiian shirts.
“Reminds me of a place in Glasgow where I played with The Pastels something-something years ago,” says Everett, standing in front of the bar. [1982, actually - my first ever gig in Scotland - Ed]. I check my iPhone. It’s 2013 in tropical Brisbane.
The crowd congeals to watch Red Red Krovvy evoke their native Far North Queensland. This they do mainly by having an inflatable palm tree on stage. By the end of the set their singer will ride it, swing it and hurl it to the ground, but it never bursts. Three-piece: a choppy distorted riff, a quick stiff beat, a Hanna-esque howl. Songs about drinking. Six pack in me. Second song in, she’s on the floor in the shy semi-circle, striding, shoving, keeping her beer upright. We get it: we’re boring. It’s early, it’s well lit, we’re sober. We nod along vigorously. She grabs the nearest guy by his neck beads and drags him around the room for a song; later he’s rubbing his neck. I buy the tape and jam it in my back pocket but days later I can’t find it.
(Greg Boring, appropriately, are time travellers. By this time they’re out the door, declaring “Liberation through noise” on their way to Waterloo.)
A few minutes later Neck Injury is onstage while his beads are still rolling around the floor. His band Cobwebbs, as the name suggests, sound like a band one of The Horrors’ younger brothers would be in. Chorus pedals: that’s that sound that sounds like the cover of Nevermind, wet and glowing and sickly. Yes every second young band in Australia now flogs it (not that long ago it was strictly verboten, you know) but this band makes it howl. They’re not simple, there might be a bit to them, you should probably check them out.
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, despite their name, do not do wet sounds. This we realise as the sound guy races to pull down the reverb that was left on the snare and for that matter the everything else, and their sound – guitars and drums – comes up from underwater into beer-goggle focus. A chord progression and a lead guitar, an intro just like they used to make ‘em. And then the singer sings – the opening words of ‘Devotion’, the opening cut of the album – and it shits on the album. Surely Westerberg wasn’t ever this hoarse?
>Which: yeah, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys sound like some things. What this really means is that in Australian underground music in 2013 they don’t sound like a Crystal Ballroom “little band” OR any particular Flying Nun band, they sound like OTHER stuff. Yes, they and some of their voices and chord progressions and riffs sound like bits of The Replacements, and sometimes even the bits of You Am I that sound like The Replacements, and the bits of The Replacements that sound like The Only Ones AND the Stones, and the bits of Guided By Voices that sound like the entire history of great music, and on the great ‘Sally’ like early, raunchy KISS (as honed on their insanely-limited edition KISS covers tape) (which sounds like KISS as fronted by Wreckless Eric doing a Paul Westerberg impression), and Thin Lizzy twin lead guitars and Dr Feelgood or whatever. Newsflash, music sounds like music. What matters – when you hear it, whether you’re turning to your friend grinning about the ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ bit or you’ve never heard of any of that shit and you just like how it buzzes and howls and stumbles and grabs and slumps and fist-pumps – is that it sounds like what music sounds like when it’s really good, like life, and love, and shit, and joy, and well, like music. In the shape of damn good songs. (To labour the point: people called Pavement record-collectors and played spot-the-reference on their first album, but you don’t hear The Fall and The Clean when you hear Pavement, do you? You hear the bit where your heart breaks, and the bit where you smile, and so on and so forth. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys unashamedly copy those bits.)
They play them ably. Like I say, the singing’s better live. It all sounds better loud. I can’t remember if or how they moved. Probably not a lot. I remember straining throats and closed eyes and wide open mouths, nodding heads, parallel guitar necks and shuffling feet. The crowd moved a lot, I remember that. Here is a crummy moving picture of that.
Afterword: Afterwards, the crowd’s ready to dance. They put the lights on and we don’t stop. They turn the music off and we’re moved on. But we hang around, stand in the door light, under the eaves.