Sunday, 22 December 2013

NEOTOKYO - "NEON" Single Launch @ Spectrum

DATE: 20/12/13

“Thud! Thud! Thud!” came the sound of the footsteps ascending the aged and wooden stairs leading into Testosterone Manor. I was forced to release The Kraken as she was behaving like an ecstatic puppy whose owner had just come home from an exhausting day of working for the man. The nautical nightmare wrapped her galleon destroying tentacles around the ever smiling Jolly Tomjer whilst I took refuge from the heat amidst the path of the gyrating plastic blades of my twelve dollar K-Mart fan. I extended a lazy handshake to the Western Australian Minister for Water Conservation who came bearing gifts of ice cold apple ciders. We sculled the tart refreshments and with the speed of an alpha males maiden sexual encounter, we found ourselves marinating in the scorching sun we had so desperately tried to avoid all day. It was the type of weather that would have inspired the melting clocks of Salvador Dali’s masterpiece “The Persistence Of Memory”. The (Bon) jovial one espied a pauper’s limo, flagged it down with a skyward facing appendage and signalled us to enter the artic climate of the charcoal rent-a-car. The seductively cool temperature of the cab was negated by the awful top forty sounds of generic artist featuring generic artist but our chauffer Gagandeep ensured we made it to the burrito emporium with good haste. With our stomachs occupied by a splendid amount of salsa and guacamole, we entered Oxford Street’s Happy Meal sized venue, Spectrum.

Sydney’s fuzz heavy, stoner/punk two piece WITCH FIGHT open the show to a handful of early birds who opted to hang by the bar at the back of the room. I was immediately blown away by the biblically huge sound pummelling my senses which constantly caused Neotokyo’s shirts to fall off the walls behind the merch desk. The two members known only as “Boskie” and “Matty” instantly reminded me of the on screen bromance between Bill S Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan. Matty’s guitar sound is huge as it has to play the secondary role of a bass on top of his own instrument. He accomplishes this by utilizing three cabs in his rig and by employing more fuzz than the combined British police forces. The only time he took his eyes off his axe was to exchange occasional loving smiles between himself and his percussionist offsider. Boskie resembled Jay (from Jay and Silent Bob) in his Ninja Turtles cap and had the difficult dual tasks of both drummer and vocalist. He assaults his kit with an intensity akin to a heroine junkie taking his first hit in over a month while his vocals are raspy and full of angst much like Zach de le Rocha of Rage Against The Machine. This combined with a solid throng of vocal echoes only added to their monumental sound. The songs had me tapping my feet while taking notes as I am reminded of tracks such as Queens Of The Stone Age’s “Millionaire”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock And Roll” and Beastie Boys “Sabotage”. The set was laden with glorious amounts of sarcasm as Boskie’s stage persona is a cynical fuck who constantly and humourlessly mocks the stagnant audience between songs. Whilst performing he was a child who had gotten a drum kit for Christmas. Every clash of stick versus skin sent a surge of adrenaline through his body which caused him to make more faces than a game of Guess Who? In summary; it was short, it was brash and it was splendid.

The room had started to fill out like a post pubescent girl by the time Sydney’s neo punk/rock quartet RED REMEDY hit the stage. The show opened with a tom intro similar to the one used in The Offspring’s “Gone Away” which led into the instantly memorable anthem “Love This Machine”. From the opening note there were some serious issues with the mix. The guitars were superfluously loud and the vocals were buried beneath them. Sadly it took Mr Sound Man until their second last song to rectify this situation. This was a massive shame as Red Remedy have shown me before that they know how to steal the show from the overcards (case in point, Like Thieves at the Annandale a few weeks ago). This might have explained why the crowd seemed so reluctant to occupy the front of the room during the performance and why they were so unreceptive to vocalist Zach Evans' usual charm. The sound the boys produce is heavily inspired by the like of Grinspoon, Shihad and Deftones with a teaspoon of Sevendust and System Of A Down thrown in. The result is catchy and ballsy and would satiate the appetites of even the most prudish of alternative music fans. Guitarist Leigh Czerwonka is a statue on stage; his eyes navigating the ocean of pedals sprawled out at his feet. Bassist Adrian Booth oscillated back and forth over the same patch of stage like a kelpie wearing a dirt path into a backyard lawn. Jess Rossiter has a percussion style very similar to Sevendust’s Morgan Rose; constantly throwing his whole body into every collision he had with the drums. Evans, who resembles a young Billy Corgan, was as cocky and charismatic as ever. He seemed to have a hand gesture for every word and was still better at sign language than the interpreter from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. His vocals are a blend of Grinspoon’s Phil Jameson and Shihad’s Jon Toogood with some screamo thrown into the mix to keep it fresh. As if they weren’t already plagued with enough technical difficulties that were completely out of their control, the second last song saw the failure of the on stage lights which forced the band to play in total darkness for the duration of the tune. Final track “The Butcher” was easily the strongest of the set and saw some nice syncopation between the bass and toms. Its proven formula of fast paced heavy verses and soft choruses was a solid way to end the set.

The floor had become a fly trap due to the amount of spilt drinks it had lapped up throughout the course of the night and Sydney’s ethereal/alternative foursome MINUS HOUSE came out of the gates sounding crisper than a chocolate wafer. They opened their set with a vocal sample and counted in the music on the rim of the snare. The room came alive with a menagerie of reverbs and vocalist Rowan Cane’s signature airy falsetto. Stand out track “Animals” had the room ebbing and flowing like a winter ocean tide. My gaze was constantly drawn to guitarist Liam Clark who was dressed as the love child of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee and a Ming vase. He’s lost in his own little world when he plays and sings along to himself with his eyes closed. Peter Calvert’s effectless bass laid the foundation for the reverb heavy twin Stratocasters on stage, playing the role of BFF with the kick and often meandering off on its own which reminded me of the riff from “Seven Nation Army” (The White Stripes). It’s impossible not to picture Coldplay, Oceansize and Cog nodding their heads with approval for the raw talent they’ve inspired as I watch on in wonderment. Barney Hudswell continued the trend of show stealing drummers tonight up the back of the dais. He grit his teeth together every time without fail whenever he performed a drum roll and constantly licked his lips throughout the set.  He also provided some surprisingly angelic backup vocals from behind the skins which intertwined perfectly with Cane's wispy and warble tones. Cane's vocals seemed a bit strained and a tad weaker than a week ago when I saw them open for Melbourne’s rock heavyweights Sleep Parade but other than that I can’t find a single way to fault them. Minus House are as consistent as the sunrise and I expect massive things of them in the future.

I took the opportunity between bands to drain Bear Grills’ tangy, hydrating elixir from my body and stumbled into the wrong part of a conversation between the visibly excited and/or nervous members of NEOTOKYO doing the same thing. The Sydney prog/rock quartet were the men of the hour and were here to celebrate the release of their delicious single “Neon”. I wasn’t familiar with the song they chose to open their set with but fuck me it packed Tyson powered punch. The mix was perfect from the start with all the instruments in their arsenal getting their turn to shine in the spotlight. Chris Tantchev’s Silverchair-esque vocals exploded out of the previously dormant volcano as he eyed off the individual members of the hungry horde that had gathered before him. The band as a whole were visibly looser and more comfortable on stage than I had ever seen them before. Bassist Michael Bargache bounced around on stage like Happy Gilmore after his first win. The bass lines created by his floundering fingers were beefier than a muscle bound cow with a grudge eating a t-bone. Adam Furness was grooving whilst singing along to the music and feeding off the incredible vibe I could sense coming from the stage. The onslaught of his clean reverb and crunchy Cog-like guitars providing a solid canopy of atmospheric sounds. Both guitarists turned to serenade the drummer at a point early on in the set which unbelievably got the excitement levels of the percussionist even higher than what they were already at. Jason Ludwig is always an absolute pleasure to watch. He is the entirety of Disneyland encapsulated within a six year old kid that has been placed behind a drum kit. He was obviously feeling the energy on stage as he kept trying to goad Furness and Bargache to turn around so they could jam together. Even his eyebrows were in on the action, moving up and down with the swinging of his appendages. Tantchev really stepped up tonight and put on the performance of his life. He still comes across as awkward when he has nothing in his hands as they come up in front of his chest like the arms of a t-rex but the look of pure passion displayed on his face when holding a guitar or microphone truly is a spectacular thing to behold. Debut EP “Pillars” opening track “Speak” had the throng of punters bobbing like buoys in the water and when the chorus was upon us, Tantchev confidently ordered us to sing. And sing we did. The drum and bass syncopation at the origin of the Hoobastank flavoured “Red” was mightier than Mr T’s Mohawk during his glory days. The only real downside to the set was that every time Tantchev’s megaphone effect pedal was used it wailed in pain, letting out a piercing aural stab to the eardrums. It was quickly remedied but it always managed to snap me out of my trance which had the same effect as waking up from a dream where you ruled the seven seas on your stalwart pirate ship, The Rusty Cutlass. Ludwig sprayed out a fine mist of water from his gob in a display of Triple H fandom before the boys kicked into the closing track of the night “Neon”. The solid single ditches Neotokyo’s prog roots and pursues a more direct and straight up rock approach. Its sound is a unification of Rage Against The Machine’s “Wake Up” and The Butterfly Effect’s “In A Memory”. It’s solid, catchy, full of vocal and musical hooks and will be sure to turn a few unsuspecting heads in the months to come. It was a brilliant tune to end the night which left me more gratified than Mick Jagger finally getting some satisfaction.

There is no better way of getting back at your critics then by proving them wrong. Neotokyo invited me tonight to do just that. They listened to the criticisms Imade about their performance at The Locies and ironed the majority of the kinks from their live show. They went above and beyond what I’ve ever seen them do before and proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have the right mental aptitude and raw talent it takes to conquer Australia’s perilous alternative music scene.

Don’t be a dick, Sydney! Support the live music scene.

Joshua Towney

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