Thursday 15 November 2012

A week in indiepop Melbourne


Elizabeth Morris of The Allo Darlin drops in to London's trendy Hangover Lounge to ask me if I would courier some money to Mark Monnone she owed him from their recent Australian tour. I agree.

I check the package for drugs. I don't want to spend the first day of my trip in Australian customs being filmed for the TV programme Nothing To Declare. There is just a wad of money and an intricate line drawing of a naked woman being mauled by a Bengal tiger.

Monday 5 November Mark Monnone meets me at Melbourne airport. I hand over the package. He doesn't mention the line drawing and I don't ask about it.

Tuesday 6 November Mark has a barbecue. The only indiepop news to report is that Mid-State Orange are plotting their comeback. The Orange's architect, Louis Richter, has drafted in Mark on bass. The Orange's second album was ditched after about 6 years of demos. I hope Louis gets his shit together this time!

Wednesday 7 November

The Zebras at the Workers Club
The Zebras were going to play as a duo tonight. Due to illness, the duo is reduced to Jeremy, who combines his considerable Byrdsian guitar skills with a laptop. This is sweet stuff.

Thursday 8 November

Monnone Alone, Glaciers, Bored Nothing, Big Tobacco at the John Curtin Bandroom

If there's a shoegaze scene in Melbourne, then it's Glaciers and Bored Nothing. Both bands are great (which means they're not shoegaze, so let's call them bands that 4AD should look out for, or if Mazzy Star are after a support band for their new lp, then they should look no further). Bored Nothing have an album out. It's only on CD - no vinyl issue is planned - but don't let that put you off because it's excellent.

Here's a photo of one of them. I don't know which. I didn't claim to be a professional. Or sober.

Big Tobacco are definitely not the Joe Pernice band of the same name. They've got raggedy tunes and ruggedy rhythms. They're still not the finished article, but on this display file them under 'very promising'.

Monnone Alone is actually Mark Monnone and two others. They're better now than a year ago, which means they're very good. They rhyme "sexier" with "dyslexia" and remind me of The Rubinoos.

Friday 9 November

Milk Teddy album launch at Polyester Record Shop

If Brian Eno had an indiepop band, I bet it'd sound like Milk Teddy. Their closest UK contemporaries are Dignan Porch. I can't fault them or their album, Zingers.

They number Alexis Hall of The Motifs - 5% the world's greatest songwriter, 95% goofball layabout - who I harangue about making another Motifs record. She declines because her computer's broken and since she left university she's got a job and is too busy.

After much cajoling, Alexis concedes that there might be another Motifs record in 3 years or so. There is a chance she's saying this just to stop me nagging her.

Friday 9 November

The Last Leaves, Cat Cat, Shopgirl at the Gasometer

Shopgirl play two-and-a-half-minute punk-pop songs. I know, a lot of bands do that. I can't think of many that do it well and I definitely can't think of any current band that does it better than Shopgirl.

Two of them are from Canberra and one from Adelaide, so getting together is problematic; the one woman in the band - the shopgirl, perhaps - has a brilliant voice. They don't have any songs online. You should have seen them, though! I won't forget this gig.

I know, you're thinking why didn't I record a song or at least take a photo? This is why: I was wrapped up in the gig. It's not my natural instinct to think 'this is great, I shall record it in some fashion for later'; my natural reaction is to surrender to the moment. I go to gigs in the hope that something this good will happen. Every photo or video in this blog post I had planned to take in advance.

Cat Cat have a song called Pavement, which I don't think is about the band, but you get the idea that they might like Pavement. Their very fine Uralba album suggests that they do, but that's just a small part of their magnificence.

Before The Last Leaves play, I ask Marty Donald what's the difference between them and The Lucksmiths: "we're noisier." They are, too, because there's a full drumkit and they sound like Marty's been listening to American indie rock instead of the Wedding Present and Housemartins records that inspired The Lucksmiths.

They have ten songs and they play them all. They rock it out (Marty told me that at previous gigs, people had called for them to 'jam it out'; something that for sure never happened with the Luckies) and the songs have an intriguing desolation that might come from living in the hills of Victoria.

What this footage (and I know it's really dark - my lighting crew didn't show up) doesn't reveal is that someone in the audience thought the song was called The Nazis Drove Me Home.

Saturday 10 November

Bitch Prefect at the John Curtin Bandroom
I've organised drinks with old friends before I find out that Bitch Prefect are playing. I have no choice and duck out of the drinks midway through. I'm so glad I did. Bitch Prefect have two guitars, drums and no bass: they're terrifically trebly and my ears are ringing with their clattering jangle. When I get back to the pub I'm grinning so much my friends all say that they wished they'd have gone to the gig as well.

Sunday 11 November

Anthony Atkinson & the Running Mates at the Union Hotel
The Union Hotel on a Sunday is like the Hangover Lounge, only with more kids. There's a moshpit of 5-year-olds. It's wonderful. Anthony Atkinson's two albums for Candle are among the most underrated on the label. Atcko has gone more country rock in the 6 years since his last record - one of the Running Mates is on pedal steel - and he's got Marty Donald and Louis Richter in his band now. It's a low-key, heartfelt and warm ending to a week of great gigs.


  1. I need that kind of vacation. How did you get the stars to align to see all these bands? Or is Melbourne so the sweet spot right now that this kind of thing happens all the time?

    The Bored Nothing record is getting a vinyl issue according to their label.

    1. I got a bit lucky - although I did miss the Sugargliders launch by a day - and Marky added The Last Leaves and Monnone Alone to existing bills for my trip (he's Melbourne's Mr Indiepop and a very useful pal to have!).

      There wasn't much the following week, although the day I left there was the Bored Nothing lp launch and a Boomgates gig, and then a couple of days later the Chapter records anniversary gig.

      I'm a bit annoyed about the Bored Nothing lp. I emailed the band to ask if they had copies (they didn't have any left); one shop told me that the label is owned by Polyester record shop, where the launch was happening, so I asked them if there was a vinyl launch planned. The guy made a phone call and told me there wasn't, so I bought the CD. I wonder if I can get a refund?

      I picked up a lot of new Australian records which I'll introduce to a wider audience (well, you and the other bloke who reads this blog) when I get back.