Review: Clever Album Launch in Melbourne


It’s just occurred to me that I could have bought earplugs over the bar. Had I considered this earlier perhaps my ears wouldn’t be ringing the way they are now. I knew damn well the show was going to be loud. I guess that was the point though. Most of the acts, bar maybe EXEK, were out to actively inflict themselves on the punter.

Aside from rather adjective-heavy phrases there isn’t any way to faithfully represent what I heard in words. I could reel off useless descriptors like discordant or atonal or sickeningly repetitive or even scary but all I seem to be able to put down with confidence is that it was loud. That’s not to say they all the sounded the same either by the way, it’s just that the lineup was well formulated is all. A lineup with a kind of linear climb. Noise to… noisier?

One-man band, PENGUINS (Pete Bramley), was the first to coax people in from the beer garden. To get it out of the way, Pete looked great. No shirt and I think some kind of skin irritatingly cheap red face paint gave us all plenty to look at. Plus the way Pete seemed to writhe around as if his skin were too tight really worked with the delays for days vox and drum machine drive – like a caterpillar trapped in its cocoon. The point was that this was a noise set that was actually entertaining to watch. I mean I can’t be the only one that finds themselves counting bricks in the wall while some noise maestro sits or stands like a Rodin statue on stage – at least give me a comfy chair or a mattress on the floor or something – fuck.

I said before that EXEK were the odd act out but don’t get me wrong, it was a good thing. I’m not about seeing a show where it’s fuck you from woe to go – my death metal days are over. EXEK’s biggest draw is their subtlety. The bass rolls around like something you might hear on a Marry Me Tonight outtake or maybe even one of PIL’s more dub explorations. Guitar, synth, keys and sax fly in and out over the beat from odd angles building tension and cutting it away. In previous shows I believe they had another guy on synth that added some pretty twisted sounding leads but I guess he’s out or sick or whatever. It’s difficult to say whether they’d be better with the other synth, as cool as it was, because I get the feeling with EXEK – less is more. Whatever their mantra, it seemed to work on the night. I think the crowd actually managed to muster a shimmy.

It seems redundant to explain what a band called MUTTON sound like. I mean it’s all in the meat. Still confused? Well the band themselves are big fans of Touch N’ Go, if that helps clear it up. Anyway I’m going to skip the part where I try and lump them in with anything else. It doesn’t matter. The really interesting thing is that they would sound right at a hardcore show as well as this here CLEVER gig. Admittedly, the crowd seemed kind of confused by them but I think I spotted some very restrained head banging towards the back. I think they’d have played better with crowd surfers. They’re energy feeders. Watching MUTTON let me forget punk and metal got a divorce.

On first listen, CLEVER sound utterly shambolic. It’s like your ears have to work up to their level – their speed. If it wasn’t for the way mic stand swinger, Mitch Perkins’ vox sit back on the beat, you’d think you accidentally set the record to 45rpm. Listen closely to their debut (Kewdie Udi: in stores now!) and what you’ll quickly figure out is CLEVER have focussed their sound into a glasscutter. It’s worth seeing them just to witness how tight to the record they play, let alone the way they make it look easy. Explaining the way they sound really brings home the idea that redundant gig-review-type-adjectives (like shambolic) convey nothing bar how much the reviewer wants to show off their vocab. A more helpful descriptor might be that listening to them, especially seeing them in the flesh, can make you feel pissed off and even omnipotently evil in some kind of primordial way. It feels good too, like maybe you suddenly want to set something on fire.

sam varney


Words and pictures by Sam Varney