Words by Natalie Blacklock
It’s an exciting time when one of the best rock bands of the 2000s makes a comeback. First forming back in the mid-1990s, mclusky formally hit the scene in the early 2000s, roaring onto stereos the world over with a collection of raw, attention-grabbing punk-influenced tracks. Delivered with a perhaps partly tongue-in-cheek righteous indignation, their songs were a heavy attack on the psyche, a mix of sense and sensibility – razor-sharp and hilarious at the same time. Now after more than 15 years away from Australian shores, Welsh post-hardcore icons mclusky* (the asterisk is in reference to now missing members of the original lineup), are back and are midway through their first Australian tour since 2004 presented by Handsome Tours.
The venue for the evening, The Zoo, is a staple of the city and is as iconic as they come. Founded by Brisbane legends Joc Curran and C. Smith in 1992, The Zoo has long been a space filled with passion and a burning love of music, which has continued today under the leadership of new owner Pixie Weyand. Over the past 28 years, the venue has been the ‘nursery’ of the Brisbane music scene, giving a much-needed platform for local and international bands alike to shape their craft. Having played host to countless icons including; Lorde, The Pixies, Nick Cave, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Something For Kate, Regurgitator, Spiderbait, Powderfinger, as well as the likes of Violent Soho and Silverchair, the feeling of nostalgia that hits you as you saunter up the front stairs from the hustle of Ann Street is quite unlike any other. The excitement in the air was thick and the 500-capacity room had already started to pack out, ready for a night of post-hardcore goodness!
First up are long-serving stalwarts of the Brisbane scene, Tape/Off. Some bands make pleasantly innocuous music that requires nothing more than the time to listen. Whereas, others make music that demands more – a commitment, a reaction or a response and Tape/Off are most certainly in the latter camp – quickly earning them support slots alongside a swag of local and international acts including Royal Blood, Pity Sex, Future of The Left (tonight’s headliners other project), Violent Soho, DZ Deathrays, The Peep Tempel and Batpiss. The band’s sophomore record ‘Broadcast Park’ released in 2018, is a dynamic and poignant delivery of songs that question “existentialism, the male psyche, societal conventions and restrictions, familial bonds and the myth of life on the road” while bringing the quintessential ‘Brisbane’ sound to the forefront. The set starts with a sincere Acknowledgement of Country to the land’s traditional owners – which in the lead-up to Australia Day is more important than ever.
Tape/Off kicked off their set with the ever-raucous Pedestal Fan, before ripping through a bunch of tracks including the super-catchy Wake In Fright and older cut Something That We Know from their 2011 release ‘… And Sometimes Gladness’, which really showcased Branko Cosic’s huge drum sounds, encouraging the crowd to move ever closer. The band’s newest single, Work Xmas Party offers a hilarious commentary of the office shindigs we’re all too familiar with – flat beer, meat pies, sausage rolls and the only vegetarian option, spring rolls – but most importantly, knowing what point in the night to take yourself home. Tape/Off took it up a notch again, with Different Order, from 2014 album ‘Chipper’, which saw Guitarist Ben Green shred the hell out of his axe with the help of his beer bottle. To close out the set, Frontman Nathan Pickels put down his guitar for first single from ‘Broadcast Park’; Day In, Day Out – a narrative of social breakdown amidst a backdrop of class division and social apathy proving that simple empathy for one’s fellow man is firmly a relic of the past.
Tape/Off have struck the balance between the mundane, the agitated and the perpetual struggle of everyday life just right and their creative and surprising approach in their live delivery offers yet another layer to their sound – these guys are definitely ones to watch.
Next up were local upstarts Total Pace.If you haven’t heard of them before, don’t worry because Total Pace are likely to be your new favourite ‘supergroup’ before the end of their set. Comprising of I Heart Hiroshima‘s Matthew Somers (Vocals), Simon Ridley from DZ Deathrays and Velociraptor (Guitar), Violent Soho‘s Luke Henery (Bass), and Branko Cosic from Tape/Off and Gold Stars (Drums) – who is actually pulling double Drum duty tonight in both support acts – the 4-piece deliver honest and gritty punk rock in spades. With only a handful of shows under their belt, Total Pace are still relatively new to the scene, but have built a strong legion of fans right from the outset. Playing their first show in quite a while, the lads were a bit rusty with a false start – but Frontman Matthew Somers took it in his stride, using it as the perfect introduction for Don’t Know before ripping into the catchy-as-hell, high energy 73, which saw a stack of punters in the front row headbanging along with Bassist Luke Henery.
Other tracks taken from Total Pace’s debut EP ‘I’, released in 2018, including Changes and Nice Work, hit the spot with Guitarist Simon Ridley’s stunning shredding prowess on show. The addition of a cover of 1987’s Shopping by The Pet Shop Boys fitted seamlessly into their set and into Total Pace’s sound. Rounding out the set with as-yet-unreleased tracks, the high-intensity Train Wreck and the fuzzed out Stay In, offered a seamless ending to a stellar set. The powerhouse drum sound of Cosic provides the perfect backbone for grungy guitar tones, sleazy riffs, and just the right amount of feedback for the band. As with any ‘supergroup’, the attraction is that it’s rad to see a bunch of super talented musicians in their own right come together – laughing, bantering and laying down tunes as if they were jamming in their garage. Fingers crossed that 2020 brings new and exciting things from these fellas!
Cardiff-bred post-hardcore trio mclusky released their first full-length album ‘My Pain and Sadness is More Sad and Painful Than Yours’ in 2000, seeing the band rise to international notoriety, which they followed up with two more critically-acclaimed records in 2002 and 2004. Sadly, in 2005 mclusky disbanded, with Guitarist / Vocalist Andy Falkous and Drummer Jack Egglestone continuing to work together as Future Of The Left. Now, with the addition of Damien Sayell from St Pierre Snake Invasion on Bass & Guitar / Vocals, mclusky* have returned to a room where they played their Australian mclusky (no asterisk) show back in 2003 – and it’s safe to assume that many of the punters in the room were there that night too.
As the lights went down and mclusky* emerged, the crowd could not contain their excitement. Without too much fuss, the band quickly got stuck into a high-energy offering of Fuck This Band followed by the raucous Dethink To Survive from 2002’s ‘mclusky Do Dallas’, which saw Falkous shred so hard he broke a guitar string.
Without MSG I Am Nothing went to unexpectedly *sexy* places as Bassist / Guitarist / Vocalist; Damien Sayell, showed the Brisbane crowd that he indeed had “the moves”. The memorable Collagen Rock and What We’ve Learnt were absolutely huge, and quickly took the crowd back to the early 2000’s. Falkous paused to address the audience and to “thank so many of you daft cunts for coming out on a weeknight”, before playfully taking on the topic of irony in his introduction for “the ballad of the set”, Kkkitchens, What Were You Thinking? Ironically, the track was certainly not a ballad but it did see Sayell add a cowboy hat to his denim hotpants get-up, which was likened to the look of a Red Hot Chili Peppers roadie.
As mclusky* launched into Rice Is Nice, Sayell exclaimed, “that if he dies during this song, this is how he wants to go”. 1956 and All That was catchy-as-hell and Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues started with Falkous telling the audience that the song originally about former American President George W. Bush, but was now directed to Eric Clapton. That Man Will Not Hang, Alan Is A Cowboy Killer and Gareth Brown Says were all killer and no filler; equal parts thought-provoking lyricism and moshpit banger with Egglestone masterfully keeping time on the Drums. Forget About Him I’m Mint saw Sayell switch from Bass to Guitar, opening up the sound and proving that two is better than one! Falco vs The Young Canoeist taken from mclusky*’s third (and to this point final) record ‘The Difference Between Me and You Is That I’m Not on Fire’ was raw as hell and a definite highlight of the set. Falkous proclaimed You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus as the “best song of the set”, offering a tongue-in-cheek dedication to the person in the crowd who shouted out that his wife (Julia Ruzicka; Bassist of Future of The Left) was “shit” compared to Sayell.
Introduced as a song about reality, She Will Only Bring You Happiness, was served up to a stunning reception – even against the band’s best instincts – and even spurred on a slightly awkward crowdsurf towards the end of the song. Chasers was an absolute spectacle; Sayell took his microphone and Bass into the front of the crowd, and found a willing punter to perch themselves atop his shoulders while he rocked on – even dropping for a set of audience-counted squats at the end of the track – because you can’t miss ‘leg day’ on tour. The token ‘B Side’, No Covers, spoke of the struggle of managing expectations and whoyouknow opened the pit up as Falkous chiming in that “frankly even Megadeth would be embarrassed of this song”. With another round of thankyous under their belt, the crowd knew what was to come, so it was To Hell With Good Intentions as more and more sweaty bodies jumped, screamed and pumped their fists in the air. However, like all good things, it had to end.
As the steamy room that is The Zoo emptied out into the night, the outpouring of emotion was evident – smiles, setlists and hi-fives from the band were the top priority, as was drinking the beer Damien Sayell passed me before the end of the set. With no guarantee if they’ll return any time soon (if ever), this mclusky* set was definitely one for the bucket list!
Be sure to catch mclusky* on their remaining dates of their AU/NZ tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
15 January – Corner Hotel | Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
17 January – San Fran | Wellington (18+)
18 January – The Powerstation | Auckland (18+)