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 Everett True

Song of the day – 112: The Native Cats

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Time to spread a little Tasmanian love.

I wrote about The Native Cats a while back in the NME, perhaps erroneously comparing singer Peter Escott to Scott Walker. On this new White Denim seven-inch he sounds like a frayed-nerve throwback to the late 70s, fronting one of those scary, dark, misanthropic bands like The Passage, say – with sarcasm and depression battling for supremacy. There’s little you can hide behind to avoid Escott’s malignant vocals; just a deep, rumbling, hypnotic bass line and sullen drum machine.

I should declare a prior interest here. Bassist Julian Teakle once recorded an album with myself, David Nichols and Charlotte Thackray in Melbourne – the entirety of which you can download here, if you so desire – and he also inspired me to write one of my more memorable pre-Brisbane Legend! songs, ‘The King Of Hobart’ after he briefly moved to Melbourne. (You can find that one at my MySpace.) And he also popped up in Brighton for a very memorable Legend! band night spent in support to The Dirtbombs at the Free Butt. I guess you can find photographic evidence of that someone on Facebook. (The set was also recorded, and shown, on MTV Europe.)

So. The Native Cats. I’m quite the fan, as you might imagine.

Here’s what I wrote about Hobart in the NME.
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Hobart, Tasmania isn’t exactly NYC. Mt Wellington towers over the city set in the verdant River Derwent valley: icebreaker ships nestle in its docks (Tasmania is the final port of call before Antarctica): wildlife is abundant (both the logging industry and green activists are very big here). Tourism is massive. It feels isolated – remind me to tell you my Tasmanian Blair Witch Project experience one day, it felt like falling off the edge of the world – but in actuality, Hobart (pop 200,000) is only an hour’s flight from Melbourne. This creates a constant cultural drain. And, despite Tasmania’s reputation for rain, Hobart is actually Australia’s second driest city.
There’s never been any permanency to the Hobart scene, but in the last couple of years venues like Brisbane Hotel and the bohemian Alley Cat Bar have provided outlets for the adventurous and determined. Metal is huge – ambient black metal-head Striborg is signed to Southern Lord – but indie is fast catching up, helped by both an excellent independent radio station (www.edgeradio.org.au) and record store (www.myspace.com/tommygunrecordshobart).
“Living in a small town, you generally band together with people who don’t fit in anywhere else,” explains bassist Julian Teakle from post-punk duo The Native Cats, who’ve been compared to everyone ranging from Soft Cell to Young Marble Giants to Cabaret Voltaire. Singer Peter Escott wails like an Aussie Scott Walker dressed in an exotic array of Fijian and Hawaiian shirts: Julian sports natty suits and a Will Oldham-standard beard. It’s unfortunate, then, that their MySpace picture looks like The Addams Family. Great stuff, though.
Anthony Rochester runs The Winter Palace recording studio, and croons like eccentric Scots raconteur Momus or The High Llamas over deliriously schmaltzy lounge music. He’s the sort of fellow who can turn an otherwise mundane tale of standing at a bus stop into a pop symphony, literate and sardonic and ever-so romantic. If this was still the 80s, he’d be signed to quintessential ‘awkward pop’ label Cherry Red, no worries. Check out his iTunes release, Music For In The Spaceship.
And if this was still the 90s, eccentric cut-up maestro Charles Du Cane – “I’m a nationalist, I’m a patriot, I’m a believer” – would be getting heralded as the new Beck or Eels, absolutely. A peacock of a performer, he recently spent a couple of months recording an album in India. His beat-heavy, Triple J-favoured, pop reminds me of turntable king Kid Koala, if only for its sense of mischief, sense of space and immaculate timing. Someone, somewhere, is going to be making a bunch of money from this music.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are Moe Grizzly, who play unapologetically fucked-up blues rock the way fucked-up blues should always be played – like Aus torch-bearers The Drones or The Soledad Brothers, but with a killer, laid-bare version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ thrown in. They’re just a bunch of loveable reprobates, really – live, they’ve been known to drag out their songs over 30 minutes, like Howlin’ Wolf on bad downers. Man, I can’t ever get enough of this shit.

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