New Music

Naked Tour Diary (Part 1)

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Hobart three-piece Naked turn grim irony about the general hopelessness of everything into short, strangled shouts of songs, dredging up all the bad feelings with jagged driving guitar and smartly pointed lyrics.

They’re also extremely funny. There’s something about the crisp air/high unemployment in Tasmania that makes that kind of acidic self-depreciation come as second nature maybe, cuz Hobart tends to bat way above average in likeable ratbag population. So you know a tour diary by the band’s good mate Alex Romano is gonna be worth reading. Alex tagged along for most of the shows on their album tour earlier in the year (following the release of the scathingly wonderful Pink Quartz), to sample the rockdog lifestyle and small-town vegan food.

Naked’s recently released video for the catchy but uncomfortable ‘Blepharitis’, showcases some of the beauty of Australia’s landscape – deep brown earth and rocky bushland, soft winter sun hitting dew-sprinkled leaves. This tour diary does the same – Juicy vans, Grinspoon on the radio, crystal shops, vita wheats.

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Alex reckons Naked deserve a Pitchfork review. I’m sorry this isn’t that site, but here goes!

[Long opening paragraph of mostly irrelevant biographical details] [speculation about the band member’s mental state while writing the song/record] [made up genre] [word no one knows, possibly accurate possibly not, who cares?] [backhanded compliment] [7.7 stars].

Naked is a band from Hobart and they deserve a review on Pitchfork

By Alex Romano

On 12 February 2016, Kanye West released his 7th studio album, the Life of Pablo. This will be just a minor footnote in history compared to the fact that the Hobart band, Naked landed in Brisbane to begin a series of dates that rocked the east coast of Australia. Naked is Kieran, Rob and Jordy and I was lucky enough to see most of their shows on tour so I prepared a record of what is probably the greatest Aussie victory since Shane ‘Warnie’ Warne won took a world record breaking 709 Test wickets.

I will be rating each important tour event according to the Rockdog-o-meter. 5 Rockdogs is roughly the equivalent of snorting cocaine off Phil Jamieson’s tummy while Mick Jagger claps gently underneath a blue light, 0 rockdogs is giving a 6 second handshake to Andrew Bolt at a Polo match.

Day 1 – Feb 13 – Brisbane – we met a Go-Between (almost)!!!

4ZZZ Car Park Show

Wandering down the street on an overcast Brisbane day, the whirring of a PA pushed to the limits in the 4ZZZ carpark brings visions of a humid and beer soaked Brisbane that more people should be familiar with. It’s my home and I’m fully stoked there’s a real top notch brizzy welcome for the Naked boys on arrival. When I rock in to the carpark the kings of the Hobart experimental punk scene are already here having a great time, throwing a few fists in the air and crushing some XXXX (beersies) like they were reared up on the banks of the mighty Brisbane River. I hi-five Rob and give a solid embrace to Jordy and Kieran. The band on before them is expressly punk, and called Clever. They live up to their name by starting one of their songs to the tune of the Black Eyed Peas ‘Don’t Funk with My Heart’ but they replaced funk with fuck and heart with shard. Very clever boys. I think what they were saying is that when smoking meth it’s not great to fuck with one’s crystal so it was pretty funny coz also it’s like the crystal is my heart and don’t funk with my heart. They exhibit a force like Cadel Evans on his maiden Tour de France victory and whirlwind their way through a set that basically sends everyone’s jaws to the concrete carpark floor.

Kieran’s pretty visibly shaken. I’m trying to calm him down and soothe his worries that Naked will not be appreciated.

“You’ll be right champion!”

The other guys get in on the act and pretty soon we are all pumping his tyres up. Jordy takes a quick break from pumping Kieran’s tyres to be a self-appointed sound engineer and starts inspecting some wires and shifting the location of the monitors. Kieran’s still a bundle of nerves but before I can blink he’s burned down an interview (at 4:20pm!) and then come out and obliterated the eardrums of all before him. The set was relatively light on jokes, but the crowd was still treated to a stirring rendition of Violent Soho’s Bernard Fanning Stole my Girlfriend. It was a real highlight and almost certainly better than the Violent Soho’s original, everyone around me seems to enjoy it, maybe these Hobart kids have got a future in the alternative mainstream of Australian music!

At the end of the set, someone lets it out of the bag that Robert Forster’s son has been milling about with a goon sack and it sends the band frantically searching for the DNA of a Go-Between. The boys begin to ask around, gradually descending into uncontainable rage when it looks as though Forster disappeared into the spring rain of the streets of our town. Please stay safe young Forster, do not lose yourself in a Darlinghurst night. Steal a few bachelor kisses with Lee Remick and Karen but just make sure you don’t end up on your arse in the cattle and the cane but I guess love goes on anyway. [ML: guys I see Louis Forster on the bus every day you gotta relax]

The promise of people and alcohol at 116 (pretty trendy little house in the Brizness) drew The Nakeds away for a quick bevy before the night show. At the 116 the boys took the best photo of the tour, unfortunately for Kieran he didn’t actually feature in the photo. Rob and Jordy are now secretly plotting to have Kieran removed from the band and replaced with Matt Kennedy of Kitchen’s Floor. I will try not to tell Kieran, it will be my cross to bear for the rest of the tour.

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[Best photo of the tour – Naked on the Kitchen Floor – not Metallica]

4ZZZ carpark gig rating: 4 out of 5 Rockdogs (the only thing stopping it from 5 rockdogs was the PA not quite coping with the iphone beats and the sound not quite being the best. Maybe the band should think about employing a drummer like the guy writing their tour diary – Kieran’s banter was also limited.)

While the guys were having a few more long island ice teas, I had a delicious burger and made my way to the scene of the next Naked gig, Trainspotters. It was mc’d by renowned food and life critic, Aaron Gocs! He made a really good joke about his daughter not loving him and generally hosted a really bonza night, the only thing it was missing was some vegan sangas and it really would have been the best night of our lives.

Also, Aaron (or Mr Gocs) if you are reading this could you please send me the text of the joke that you told on tour about your daughter, I laughed really hard and I’d like to retell it to mates as if it were my own. My favourite Aaron moment was when he leaned over and whispered in my ear that Kieran was reading out Grinspoon lyrics during Run At Me, it sent us both giddy and I had to steady myself on the bar. Phil Jamieson is a serious idol of all Australians and was robbed on season three of the X Factor even though he had serious X Factor as he is basically the face of Generation X.

I got a hi-five and a photo with Aaron after we’d calmed down and I’m really glad that he was who I thought he was and that he also liked Grinspoon, he must really have a (Chemical) heart after all.

I should probably also mention the other bands that played tonight. Pillow Pro played early on in the night but I missed them, I heard they sounded really in tune for most of the set [ML: Is this a diss? Pillow Pro are great [Confirmed: Not a diss. Alex also thinks Pillow Pro are great]]. Cannon played before Naked and I reckon they are gonna be a hard act to follow.

Woah! Hang on! Naked lost control! The show was a really big thrill! Rob banged the cymbal with enthusiasm, Kieran also sung in tune and Jordy rocked out with a beaming smile. Jordy always looks pretty happy during the sets so far which is awesome to see, good onya Jordy. Everyone had an absolute blast and I even got a compliment from a real big chiller with taking photos of the gig who was very impressed by the fact that I knew the band. His exact words were, “that’s sick!”

It sure was sick mate!

Trainspotters ratings: 5 out of 5 rockdogs – the only way this one could have been better is if Robert Forster’s son had turned up. Or if Bernard Fanning and Kieran’s ex-girlfriend had turned up.

Day 2 – Feb 14 – Leaving Home by Grinspoon (Fuck Jebediah) – personal joke fyi

I lost track of times in Brisbane sorry Mum but I’ve kept them from now on. Sorry, just be aware that now each event will have a little time stamp but it doesn’t mean that Brisbane was in some kind of time vacuum.

9:00 am [sorry I was too rocked out in Brisbane to keep track of the time and I didn’t wanna just lie and make up times for my thoughts]

The boys pick me up in a Juicy van. I am begging for the abyss to take me, what is there worth living for anymore? A little voice kicks me in the back of the head and says the Naked tour so I’m back on top. There is some significant discussion about an ABN and whether it is worthwhile for the band to acquire one. I could not want to listen to this any fucking less and neither could Kez. We politely begin to nod off as Rob insists that he is –

“not having a go Jordy”

-he just wants to get to the bottom of it. Fair enough but the bottom of what exactly Rob?

“The pros and cons, that sort of stuff of course!”

I don’t know much about business so I don’t interject, I’m also technically not in the band. Jordy raises his voice slightly, not to a level of anger, but there is clearly something I would maybe classify as “irk.” He basically stares through Rob’s soul and tells him,

“No you are wrong Robert, I am right.”

Kieran is asleep solidifying his role as the most important member of the band but also the most useless. We’re all a little bit tired I think but this glam rock lifestyle will do it to you.

11:30 am

Someone has now whacked on Grinspoon. I have a feeling this tour is going to be full of grinners…Even though I’m really hungry, I hope we stop at Dreamworld and take a photo because I haven’t been there in a long while.

11:45 am

We did not stop at Dreamworld. Or Hollywood on the Gold Coast. Instead we are now driving around looking for a carpark in Tweed Heads.

12:10pm

We’ve found a park. We all just got to piss and swim and eat a bit of a single mushroom panini with some very rustic potatoes. If you didn’t know we were on tour you do now.

2:30 pm

Lismore is pretty much how I remember it! Absolutely chocka block of Grinspoon tribute signs, tempeh burgers and people selling crystals. There were also a lot of funny looking people giving funny looks and sideways glances to Rob. I think they were surprised that a man can still wear a dress and look “sexy.” For the tour record, Rob’s floral number is very cute and I think he has definitely left an imprint on Lismore and definitely left an imprint on the bottle shop attendant who couldn’t stop having a look.

The space where the band is playing is a bit smelly and relatively empty, we all nod in approval at the suggestion that we crash anywhere else but in this room tonight. The exterior of the building reminds me of a youth detention centre cell block like the one sung about in Sprinters of the World Unite, or also a school building (woah!). There are some good vibes and a lot of brick, a real sense that not everything is lost, despite the rugged exterior. I’m sure the guys want to just play the show and move on but they will give a good one for the fans.

5:00 pm

They gave a good one. An angry guy in a Bunnings hat and T-shirt has other ideas though so I asked him for his thoughts.

An interview with “name withheld” regarding the band Naked at See Space in Lismore

Q: What do you think of See space?

I’m pretty much a regular down at See Space, it’s one of the few joints in Lismore that you can really let your hair down.

Q: Cool! What brought you to the gig?

I was a bit sweaty after having gone to Bunnings earlier in the day [points to shirt and hat with toothy grin]. I just think they have a very well curated selection of useful equipment, much more so than Masters, it’s probably why Masters went broke. Fuck Woolworths! Or Coles. I mean fuck em both but yeah especially fuck whichever one of them does Masters.

Q: What did you think about the song Massive Cock?

Yeah sure they have a song called Massive Cock but that sure as hell isn’t about a dick. It’s about some kind of male guilt. I wasn’t particularly interested.

Q: Was there any part of the gig you enjoyed?

Yeah, when I went outside about halfway through the set to finish my glass of Pinot Grigio.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

I think the last song they played was called Critical Arseholes. That one was ok. And so was one at the start that had a pretty punchy rhythm. It had some stupid long jokey kind of title that those guys think must be funny or ironic probably. The youth of today are lost, that’s what just kept going round in my head over and over and it was driving me mental so I had to step outside. The vocals were too out of key as well and I think the singer was trying on some kind of Smith Street Band type of thing. I don’t really know how I feel about them.

5:30 pm

As we drive out of the town there are endless signs essentially saying the same thing “coal seam gas, 96% of people in X town don’t want you.” A wave of disappointment floods over me, why didn’t Kieran make a joke about the previous Naked ep being titled Coal Seam Jazz? Should I have mentioned this connection earlier? Maybe then old mate would have liked the band more. You can’t pander to everyone though. Sorry.

Thanks for having us Lismore. We are going to Bunnings now because Jordy wants coffee in the morning. Apprently Bunnings sells gas for coffee but not sleeping bags? Go figure. I am excited for the coffee though.

6:05 pm

We need a wind down after Bunnings so it’s off to a little slice of heaven known as “Minion Falls.” The only Minions we saw were stuck to the back of a Toyota Tarago though which was a bit of a bum out! The water in the falls was very chill and we got some great piccies courtesy of a couple of lovers who were getting ready to make their own little army of minion loving monsters heh. Anyway, cheers for the photos guys, here is one of them. Strong recommend. Happy Valentines Day.

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8:30 pm

We’re on the road to Lennox Heads now to camp under the stars. One Love.

Lismore: 2 out of 5 rockdogs – smelly, not enough Grinspoon and too much Bunnings not enough Masters.

Alex Romano graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts/Law. He lives in Sydney and works as a solicitor. He never wears a suit to work.

Part 2 Tomorrow

Pink Quartz is available now through Tenth Court

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LABEL PROFILE: Provenance Records

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Stu Buchanan has been a staple of the Australian music community since emigrating from Scotland in 2003. He wasted no time in immersing himself in the local Sydney scene, launching the lauded Fat Planet program on FBi Radio later that year. According to Stu, his time at FBi gave him ‘a quick education in terms of what was going on’ and allowed him to become heavily invested in the scene.

The award-winning and far-reaching New Weird Australia project followed in 2009. A multi-faceted endeavour, it produced compilations, live shows and a long-running radio program on FBi. NWA highlighted Stu’s ear for interesting and unconventional music across all genres, as he scoured the country for emerging talent and provided a platform for their music to be heard. The project also birthed the netlabel Wood & Wire, which focussed on releases from individual artists. It clocked up some 37 releases in total, from the likes of Kučka, Pollen Trio, Setec and Fatti Frances, to name just a few.

After such a successful and prolific period, Stu made the decision to retire the NWA and Wood & Wire projects – firstly due to the energy and focus required to maintain such high levels of output. And secondly, he felt there were more ‘great writers, radio shows, websites and gig series, all promoting similar artists,’ which gave him the peace of mind to bring these platforms to a close.

Never one to rest on his laurels, though, Stu recently launched brand new label Provenance Records. When asked about the origin of the label, Stu notes that first signing, Medicine Voice (aka Sar Friedman), was in some ways responsible for him setting up the label. ‘Sar sent me the album I And Thou a couple of years ago and asked if I wanted to release it. I adored it, to me it sounded like Bat For Lashes backed by Sunn O))) – a beautiful combination. But I had already wound down NWA and didn’t have a record label, so I declined. Another year went by, and Sar asked me again. I thought, “If no one else is going to release this, I’ll just need to start a label and release it myself.” And here we are.’

Although Stu cites the huge output of his previous projects as a reason for their ultimate conclusion, Provenance has certainly picked up the mantle, already responsible for 8 releases in 2016 alone. Working with both new and familiar artists, the Provenance catalogue is forging its own eclectic and challenging path – from the lo-fi psych-folk of outsider artist Paneye and the dark pop balladry of Lovely head, to the electronic abstractions of Canberra’s Spartak.

Due to the idiosyncratic world which Provenance inhabits, Stu admits that ‘sometimes you can feel like you’re pushing shit uphill and getting nowhere, but then sometimes people surprise you. Some places that I thought would be into it have been unresponsive, but the converse is also true. Which is frustrating and validating in equal measure. So it’s been a process of recalibrating my own expectations. It’s a weird fucking time to be releasing music. People don’t “buy” music the same way they did even a year or two ago, so every release involves some kind of adjustment.’

In addition to new albums from Aphir, Kris Keogh, KAIA, and Sensaround due in 2017, Stu is also considering hosting live shows again. This time around he wants to go beyond the conventional ‘gig’, instead looking to combine multiple artistic mediums in interesting and unpredictable ways. Reminiscing about the first event he ever staged, Stu says, ‘I miss those kind of unexpected happenings – where the audience doesn’t necessarily know what’s going to occur next, where no one feels safe. That’s the kind of shit I want to do next.’

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LISTEN: Sweet Whirl – O.K. Permanent Wave LP

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The first time I listened to this tape my friend played it to me and I had to resist the urge to tell him to shut the fuck up multiple times over the next 40-odd minutes. O.K. Permanent Wave is one of the most solitary records I’ve ever listened to. It’s not lonely, the alone-ness is just a fact to be explored and examined, not judged. But that does make it weird to listen to with anyone else around. Hearing these songs is a deeply private experience.

Sweet Whirl is the solo work of Esther Edquist, vocalist and keyboardist of Superstar, but you won’t find much of the sunniness of that band’s floaty long-afternoon guitar music here. Edquist uses just her voice, an evocative electric bass sound that takes root deep down in your body, and occasional atmospheric recordings and room sound to create quiet, moving intimacy.

Gently clouded in echo, Edquist’s voice has a smoky impenetrability that’s kind of like Cat Power, and a bit of the understated sensuality of some of the more low-key parts of PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City… This might not be music for fucking but it could be music for thinking about making love. It’s obviously a total cop out to compare any female artist to such obvious touchstones but there’s something so serious and immediately classic about this record, and Edquist’s confident position in the centre of it, that it feels fitting to me anyway.

Individually the songs are hard to get a hold of, structures are suggestions to be considered, verses slip and slide past each other with rare repetition. The kind of thing that encourages total immersion rather than deconstruction or any kind of critical thinking. But I grab snatches of detached lyrics that hit home like the spectoral advice given in Girl, U or Magic Realness. These are stories told with the benefit of hindsight – she knows what can go wrong because she’s lived it. But we’re really the ones who benefit, from this beautiful bummer of a record.

O.K Permanent Wave came out as part of a series of 6 tapes from Melbourne label Nice Music (still working my way through them but I can tell you Various Asses’ tape is just as mad and cool as I thought it would be).

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LISTEN: Heart Beach – Kiss Your Face LP

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When people say things reflect ‘romance in modern times’ this is usually code for ‘depressing and heartless as fuck’. Hobart three-piece Heart Beach’s Kiss Your Face is, if not the antidote to all that (cause there’s a lot of it), at least a convincing counterpoint.

In relationships or friendships or whatever there’s always points where you have to decide if you’re gonna be openhearted about your feelings, or stay detached and guarded to possibly save yourself some humiliation. Kiss Your Face sounds like the best version of the former. It’s all here: thin walls of share houses, the giddy breathless feeling when you feel like you’ve lucked onto someone special, the woozy guilty feeling of getting blackout drunk a bit too much to deal with whatever, the small moments of doubt when you start to see how it might all fall away.

Heart Beach themselves have adopted the ‘scuzzy’ descriptor with enthusiasm, I assume cause it’s funny to say, and there’s definitely the right amount of cheekiness behind this record and their vibe in general. But to me that word also implies a bit of slackness, or half-heartedness maybe, that you’d struggle to find anywhere on Kiss Your Face. The guitar is fuzzy, distorted, but also tight and pointed. The angsty ‘Record’ shows they can write a big simple riff just like all the good pop punk bands, but then the intricate guitar of ‘Milk’ or jangly-country closer ‘Summer’ are as smartly pretty as anything you’re likely to hear from more overtly sophisticated Australian bands. ‘Summer’ is the euphoric ’80s Aus alt rock anthem we need for these times – I’m shouting along even before I’ve learned the words.

Kiss Your Face is warm and sweet record that stays grounded in its indie rock roots, with sneaky moments of heartache like slow burn epic ‘Sleeping’. That song’s maybe my favourite, huge in emotional weight, a spacing echoing gaze held for just the right amount of time. Having Jonathon and Claire McCarthy sing together across every song is a lovely move – clinging together against the often starkly open production of a lot of the record. This is a sweet record with no sugar high, just the sustained, unexaggerated niceness of love – and all the trouble that comes with it.

I just read that both McCarthys are moving to Canada next year – you gotta make this record huge so they come back.

Kiss Your Face is available through Spunk now.

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LISTEN: Bilby – Botanicals LP

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Bilby is the musical alias of Sydney artist and self-proclaimed emo-rap prince Harry Moxham, whose latest album, Botanicals, has just been released via Yes Rave.

Botanicals is a refreshing take on Australian hip hop, combining the lazy guitar of early Real Estate or Canberra’s Fossil Rabbit with sleek vocal hooks, trap beats, and infectious raps delivered with an adolescent exuberance not dissimilar from Yes Rave label founder Simo Soo.

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The understated execution and casual local references give it an authenticity absent from a lot of modern hip hop. Lyrically Moxham glides from poignant social commentary (“He wouldn’t shake my hand because I’m wearing pink, but you wish he could think as good as he can drink”) to jokey, endearing couplets (“Catch me Sideshow Bobbing with a rake. Catch me Apple bobbing with your date”). He tackles misogyny, bigotry, and the everyday pressures faced by young people today. All with a playful nonchalance that feels nothing if not honest.

The perfect soundtrack to be bumping this summer. Grab Botanicals as a ‘name your price’ download from the Yes Rave bandcamp store here.

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LISTEN: Various Asses – ‘Hood Team’

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Photo By Lauren Bamford

I don’t write much about dance music cuz I don’t know the right terms and I’m too vain to risk looking stupid. But this track, by Melbourne artist Various Asses, Aka Raquel Solier (who used to do excellent RnB stuff under the name Fatti Frances), is too good not to share. This is exactly what you wanna hear when a party’s really taking off – but it’s also the kind of thing that could really freak you the fuck out if you heard it a bit too far into the early hours. It’s a good time that’s just edging into darkness.

There’s drama here that’s missing from a lot of electronic music we’re hearing at the moment – the operatic, haunted house movie samples, snatches of vocals that remind me of ‘Toxic’ era Britney, the moments of silence that keep you on your toes but are short enough to keep dancing though, all backed by house music beats that your arse will move to seemingly on its own accord. This track has all the best parts of dance music – it’s dark, hot, unpredictable and fun as hell. Wrote all this to say you gotta listen to it.

‘Hood Team’ is coming out a seven-song tape called Loción’ that’s part of a run of six different cassettes Nice Music is putting out on November 20 – including one by Sweet Whirl (Superstar’s Esther Edquist) that I am, low key, incredibly psyched for. You can preorder Loción’  HERE.

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LISTEN: Hi-Tec Emotions – Hard to Handle LP

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I’m kinda jealous of the teenage girls who get to see bands like Hi-Tec Emotions in their first gig experiences. To hear a woman be unapologetic about their fears and desires and doubts is powerful. You know, instead of a bunch of dudes singing about how they’re too fucked up to feel love or whatever.

I wish I’d got to hear something like the desperate power of ‘Tears of Love’, or the raucously demanding ‘Look Around’, the first track and early single from their new record Hard to Handle, that kicks you straight into the deep end. That song, in tandem with ‘Beyond the Depths’s radical declaration ’I feel desire / and I want the power’, makes as commanding a statement of intent as you’ll hear. To admit want, or worse, need, as a woman is still something that makes people uncomfortable – but Hi-Tec Emotions do it with such stark clarity and power that you feel like it doesn’t have to be like that.

The music is all about maximum impact – the drums stripped back and frantic, bass nipping at the heels of the rhythm urging you to keep up, new-wave keys careen under Ema Dunstan’s ever-soaring vocals.

I wanna say it gets slightly heavy-handed with lines like ‘And I dream of a world where I can say / all the things I ever felt without debate’ and a couple of the more misty-eyed later tracks. But do I just feel that way cuz I’ve become allergic to sincerity? Because hearing this kind of bald-faced acknowledgment of inequality is still rare in the music I regularly listen to, so it makes me feel weird? Probably.

With Hard to Handle, Hi-Tec Emotions have made something that is utterly convincing in its outrage – the kind of thing I could see people fighting to the front row at shows to belt out those powerfully empathetic choruses as close to the band they can get. And, on top of all of that, a very fun record.

Hard to Handle is out on Listen Records this Friday November 4, when they’ll be launching it at The Tote with Spike Fuck (!!!!), Cable Ties and Suss Cunts. Go have a big shout.

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