Sunday, September 22, 2013


The Gasometer

Bleeding from a sound check into an experimental noise-fest, three-piece Exhaustion waste no time in confounding expectations about what constitutes a ‘song’. Moving from empty percussion thwacks to full throttle jet engine distortion, the band play hard and loud, bullying their songs with unexpected twists and turns. Almost better suited to a party at a dysfunctional share house than a gig, Exhaustion channel a Germs-like snotty dissatisfaction and rage, expressed via feedback squalls, busy tom-heavy drums, simple basslines and drowned vocal yells. Their short, acerbic set is a powerful blast that keeps their rising profile on course.

Similarly fuelled with bratty discord Bitch Prefect follow and the cut and thrust of rapidly strummed clean guitars fills the room. Dissonant vocals stab and drone as the songs rise and hang. The trio channel the Vaselines and Flying Nun while adding a galvanising neurotic buzz. Dense, dynamically even, their set mostly comprises of songs from 2012’s Big Time album though earlier single and set-closer Holiday in America stands out for it’s brilliant simplicity.

Playing the second date on their national tour, The Native Cats take to the stage to a now-packed room. Bassist Julian Teakle sets the starkly muscular mood, as vocalist, circuit-bent-Nintendo tweaker and melodica blower Peter Escott begins his doleful intelligent intimations. Wearing a long red dress, he cuts a fascinating figure as the duo move track by track through new album Dallas. Escott’s expressive voice and strident lyrics gain strength from their menacing, casual dispatching. Highlights I Remember Everyone, brilliant new single Cavalier and mournful C of O demonstrate their peerless songwriting and disorienting construction; ‘They tell you strangers come and go and if you want you can pretend / Now I’m running out of people I thought I’d never see again / I’m seeing them again” Escott sings archly.

Sometimes danceable, sometimes suited to headphones and a walk through dark streets, their music maintains a delicate balance between knowing irony and galling sincerity. Dallas and this gig make a strong case for the Native Cats being one of the most interesting and strikingly original bands in the country, though it’s highly unlikely they’d give a shit about any sort of assessment like that.

As their dazzling encore of Shovel on Shovel finishes (introduced as "a song about a recurring dream where I smoke a cigarette and regret it") and the noise from the rowdy crowd fades the duo share a glance and nod before leaving the stage. "Thank you Melbourne," Escott wryly confesses. "I'm slowly coming around to you".

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