NEW TALK, Badlands 2 December 2023
With Yomi Ship, Klaude and Puke
Tonight the Batcave wobbled and time warped like it was 19207823 all right now over again. There were punks and goths and people who’d forgotten to take off their bike helmets, but looking like they’d just trucked in from outer space via their day job as a bank teller. There were up-and-coming country musos in the room and the queen of Perth psych rockmetalpop. There was this year’s Gold WAM award winner holding court with some nondescript types in the far reaches of the beer garden, probably the NEXT BIG THING. There was one of Perth’s funniest and most heartfelt alt pop musicians. There were more, but I forget who they were, or I never knew in the first place. Suffice to say, as with any NEW TALK gig, the crowd was a mix of punters and industry types and, interestingly enough, ranged from the about-to-be superannuated (like me) to kids who looked like they must have got past security on fake IDs.
That they’ve been able to be so consistently excellent while making such difficult choices is a big part of what makes NEW TALK one of the greatest bands ever, and tonight was no exception.
Diverse is the only word to describe it. Diversity is what NEW TALK have nurtured throughout their 12-year career and, if they were looking for any sort of vindication at this their farewell show, their audience fully reflects the band’s manifesto. And they were united by a single purpose, to give NEW TALK the send-off they deserved.
Puke were already playing when I arrived. I took a look around the room, had a little listen then turned to my pink haired companion and said, “It’s a good job we chose to go all black tonight. Shall we go back outside for a minute?”
She agreed and momentarily we were back in the beer garden eating chips.
Puke are aptly named, probably an acquired taste, so maybe not for everyone, but enough will want to lap them up if they keep heading in the direction they were taking tonight. I used to think I didn’t like those screamo style vocals, but a chat with Perth post-metalheads, Neomantra, changed my mind on that. However, Puke are going to have to make nice with me for a bit more than 57 seconds before there’s any possibility I could be convinced of their charms.
Klaude’s bio claims they play ‘silky, psychedelic-tinged alt pop that explores themes of attachment, identity and yearning through a queer lens’. Based on tonight’s outing, that’s a fair call. Their meshing of live music and vocals with backing tracks gave them the opportunity to make the best of their minimal instrumentation. As they slowdived their way through songs that were as rich and complex as they were simple and accessible, their set was a mini masterclass in the art of songwriting and performance — understated, but with arms wide open and plenty of space for their audience to wrap themselves up in the music.
For much of Klaude’s set I struggled to find the hook that could help me interpret what they were doing. Then the penny dropped. It was as if vocalist and guitarist, Codie Sundstrom, had been invited in another life to do guest vocals on a track or two for some triphop artist like Tricky or producers like Death In Vegas, and then, after the studio sessions, thought, “I can do better,” and with Klaude and her partner in music, Willow Fearns, she does.
Notably, tonight’s show was Klaude’s first with drummer, Isaiah. Having finally gotten to see them, it feels like, particularly with that inclusion, Klaude could do or be anything.
Some May, Xxx Xxxxxxxxxx Xxx Xx
There is no doubt that the individual members of Yomi Ship are virtuosos on their chosen instruments and, collectively they are tight as.
Xxx xxxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xx Xxx xxxxx, xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xx xxxxxxx xx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx Xxx Xxxxxxxx’s xxxxxx. Xxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xxxxxx, xxxx xxxxxx xxxx. Xxxxxx xxxx xxxx, xxx X xx xxx.
Anyway, hopefully that will be enough to stave off the unrelenting abuse this time.
Yes, Already Do
It’s difficult to know what to say about a farewell show. Bands shouldn’t do them, really, the weight of expectation often gets so great that it’s impossible for them to be anything but disappointing.
I came into the venue having primed myself by listening to Sonic Youth’s Dirty. Getting ready for tonight I’d read an article somewhere citing Sonic Youth as one of NEW TALK’s sounds like/influences. Turns out most music journalists are lazy, unreliable witnesses, but it’s a great album and one I hadn’t listened to for a while, so thanks for that. By the time I’d made it past security my mind had wandered elsewhere. I visualised what Rag’n’Bone Man might be doing tonight. Probably at home with his feet up in front of the fire counting all the dosh from his Spotify wrapped statement. Nine million monthly listeners would buy quite a bit of firewood. Whereas here was one of Perth’s, nay the world’s, greatest ever wrapping up their career with one last show at Badlands. Hardly seemed fair.
So, what did we get tonight from NEW TALK?
Before that, let’s go back to the beginning, see what we’re up against. Not the beginning, but my beginning. I won’t be accountable for any of the turgid nonsense other music journos may have written about NEW TALK (fka Rag n’ Bone).
In November 2016 I attended Jack Rabbit Slims for the highly anticipated launch of Southern River Band’s much vaunted debut album, Live At The Pleasuredome. I knew what I wanted — a killer set from Thornlie’s hottest ever oz boogie band — but that’s not at all what I ended up getting. Arriving on stage late and with front man Callum Kramer talking so much that I’d guess they had to curtail their set by three or four songs, Southern River Band played a potentially career killing show that night. Thankfully they survived both the stinker of a show as well as whatever enhancements may have led to their lateness and loquacity. But, like Black Sabbath touring with an unknown outfit called Van Halen in 1978, they were far from the best thing served up on the Jack Rabbit Slims’ stage that night.
That accolade went to an outfit I’d never heard of — Rag n’ Bone.
During their set up, as Rag n’ Bone singer, Kiera Owen, fiddled with her mic and checked sound levels. I thought she was one of the stage crew, she just looked so…ordinary, and I was so naïve. At this time, I wasn’t even writing about music. Having framed that scenario in my mind, Owen’s return to the stage to lead her band in what I can only describe as a pulverising and highly nuanced set, one for which I struggled to find any relevant points of reference, was a revelation. The transformation from ordinary to transcendent that had happened right before my eyes remains one of my greatest memories — of rock and roll and of the incredible range of what humans are capable of.
I was instantly hooked. A fan. A devotee.
Since 2016, I’ve met and interviewed the members of the band that became NEW TALK. Nervous does not describe it! I’ve been to their shows, and I’ve wondered at the moments in between their appearances which, for my liking were always too many.
And, tonight, me and 600 other people were at the Badlands Batcave to go around with them one last time. A big part of me had wanted to stay home, to never witness, much less write about, NEW TALK’s last time on stage.
When Owen, Carrington, McPherson and Gallacher walked onto the darkened Badlands stage and the crowd rose as one to simultaneously cheer NEW TALK’s coming and going, I was still nervous, but, thankfully, as they crashed into the opening of ‘Memory’s Cenotaph’, this wasn’t about me anymore. It never was. When did I become such a narcissist? Carrington immediately broke a string and called for tech support, taking up his second axe mid song while the show went on around him. It was a defining moment in what was a triumphant set, NEW TALK showing that they could overcome anything, rendering the weight of expectation I’d been carrying all day completely irrelevant.
You know how some things are just meant to be? Carrington’s second axe, as well as being held together by duct tape like his trusty Fender Jaguar, has a PiL sticker right between the pickups. I’d not seen it before, and it solved a seven-year mystery for me about the actual influences on his guitar sound. But NEW TALK don’t sound anything like Public Image, sticker or no, echoes of Keith Levene notwithstanding. That’s always been part of their allure, they sound like no one but themselves.
Tonight they paid homage to the hits, like ‘I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore’, not missing the irony that the song had for a few weeks been on high rotation on Triple J. They gave us ‘Red Tuesday’ and ‘Paul’ and they dipped deep into the back catalogue to bring us the likes of ‘Danielle’ from their 2016 debut EP, A Woman Under The Influence.
Second last before the encore was, ‘The Heart Is A Hunter’ yet one more track underpinned by NEW TALK’s literary excursions, the warp to the weft of their “erratic and confusing” stage presence. Those were guitarist Axel Carrington’s words, not mine, but they’re as fitting an analysis of the NEW TALK phenomenon as any. This is a band that has created music that wells from the members’ combined intellects. Lyrically, the band is tightly coiled and redolent with text and subtext. Fecund is a word I would choose if anyone ever asked me. They’ve then loaded their language into a musical cannon and, whether they’ve been in the studio or live on stage, been prepared to absorb the force of the blow and allow the chaos to take them where it will. That they’ve been able to be so consistently excellent while making such difficult choices is a big part of what makes NEW TALK one of the greatest bands ever, and tonight was no exception.
What was different tonight was that they carried it all off with the humour and bathos that is the only way for a band to approach a last outing. Carrington positively beamed as his restless legs carried him around in ever diminishing circles. Owen, usually lost entirely in her performance, let the audience see through to the other side of her. McPherson and Gallacher held things together perfectly, but it was clear to see that all four members of NEW TALK had decided that the only way to get through tonight was to add a human dimension to their performance, step back a tiny bit from their personae and be a tiny bit more of themselves.
It was a beautiful and fitting end to a glittering career that can only be defined as a massive success no matter what your analytical framework. When Carrington threw his guitar down at the end of ‘Frida’, washing the Batcave with feedback, it was the best possible way to punctuate the end of NEW TALK, with a crashing exclamation mark rather than an ellipsis.
NEW TALK will live on in memory, their fire forever giving comfort to their fans.