Review Summary: All play and no work makes Jack a trippy boy.
I don’t want to put all the blame or praise (depending on who you ask) into Tame Impala’s corner for causing this 2010s rapid rise of neo-psychedelic pop-oriented bands from Australia, but they’ve certainly helped the trend to reach global audiences. See, before ‘Lonerism’ made kids forget The Beatles also wrote songs at some point, Aussie fuzz hotshots were mostly centred around the rock’n’cock’n’balls Kiss fanboys like Jet. And for a while it seemed like that will remain the continent’s lasting impact on the modern mainstream music scene – it certainly dominated their noughts. But towards the end of that rowdy decade emerged a direction. Scorching heat and beachy attitude, mirages and summery visions, deep-rooted stylish underground scene all built to finally give Australia’s musical export a shape to boot. Say you live in a country that either wants to kill you with its nature and temperature or operates in climates most other earthlings deem perfect for relaxation and chilling the deserved *** out, what kind of music could possibly emanate the surrounding atmosphere? Tame Impala came around this time, Pond and King Gizzard did too, The Drones started to mould their sound in the similar direction as well, Wolfmother… ah who cares about Wolfmother. Then Tame Impala plucked a bunch of hits, King Gizzard Hazard Blizzard Wizard were saturating the underground until they were promptly evicted into the wider acknowledgement with “Here, rest of the world, you deal with this ***” and Bandcamp found its way to Oz too, making the more distant lo-fi mofos take up their stringed buzzers, light up a bunch of joints and spasm their way into our hearts.
In 2014, having observed the neo-psychedelic scene rapidly ascend, a foursome who were all united in their mutual acquaintance of a drug dealer friend in Perth (and people say drugs are evil. Puh!) psyched out on some psychy psychedelics and started cooking up some juicy psychedelic jams, boi. The general Iron butterfly approach of going on forever jamming crazier and crazier nonsense high out of your mind until something good comes out of it turned out a success and they quickly managed to gain recognition in the scene’s circles as a band that’d give Kairon IRSE! a run for their money.* And soon their rise began. ‘High Visceral Pt. 1’ couldn’t’ve’d a more apt title. Not only is it indeed a part one, it is also an electrifying record that strikes at the core of your nervous system, taking your body under its evil acidic control and making you rock every which way possible to the blistering sound of psychedelia. The surprising thing about the project was that despite often relying on purely instrumental passages, multi-sectioned song-writing and production style that is far from unique, their songs worked wonders melodically and were instantly memorable not just thanks to their hard-knocking riffs. Pornpets’ frontman Jack McEwan is cited as the brain of both the compositional and visual image of the band, crafting both their sound as well as the artwork. That is both impressive and understandable. A project this seemingly chaotic needs a steady creative hand to direct it, so it doesn’t fall apart like a rainbow-glitter house of LSD cards. And that hand does lead it steadily towards more and more creative heights.
Where Part 1 mostly relied on overwhelming frizzy noisy sound and catchy tunes, on ‘High Visceral Pt. 2’, the band takes things to a truly mesmerising extent. The work on melodies, hooks and the prog-like structures mostly stayed the same, apart from several tracks varying in their atmospheric concept; like “Coffee” in the second half churning a chilled out spacey breeze. The lyrics also stayed true to the funny/tragic/attitude mix like before. Where Pornpets go crazier is the arrangement. Boy, they went full Nelson on our ass. An abundance of guitar types always spiced up with copious amounts of either strings on “First Light in the Garden at Chipping” and “It’s Not Safe to Leave This House”, sexy sax on “Gurgle”, synths pretty much everywhere or drum effects; whatever their budget allowed them to hire at the time of recording a given song, presumably. Sounds cacophonous, but Jack McEwan’s sense of limit doesn’t let the amalgam of instruments to turn into indistinguishable noise. Everything is mixed carefully, with a sense of measure. Nothing fuzzes out so much it makes other sounds inaudible. But nothing is too clean to strip away the acid nature of the album. It’s a perfect balance, yippee-yay.
If I have to also point out some negatives as a formality, then perhaps only that the closer “November” does little to come close to album’s standard of both song-writing or energy. It sure sounds great and displays band’s musical talents perfectly, but neither is it one of album’s catchier song, nor does it hold much gravitas as a closer, despite its final moments spent in some lovely post-rock. But that’s it. Anything else? I dunno. The song titles aren’t particularly memorable, I guess. What else? That’s probably it for the complaints.
Pornpets’ frame of reference, sphere of influence and cultural context sort of propel them to the forefront of Australian psychedelic music scene in its rawest form and its purest purpose. Where Tame Impala left to explore pop balladry, King Eddie Izard Lizard Bizarred keep jumping into every direction at once to always abandon and reconnect with their psych-rock roots and the plethora of smaller bands mostly rehashing the influence of the 70s and shrooms, Pornpets actually deliver a highly visceral experience that can only really be served on a plate in their position, from their point of view, with their creative.
What more can I say? Chug a cocktail, devour a weed-chocolate bar, find a comfy dim spot, turn on a lava lamp and tune out to the cosmic sounds of a bunch of pornographically vulgar Oz madmen.
*footnote: did you know that Kairon IRSE! are not Australian? I didn’t, when writing this review. Gee, they sound more Australian than Tropical *** Storm. Then again they sound more Australian than Scott Morrison doing Jagerbombs and pronouncing vowels too softly.