If Australian shoegaze-ish music is a spectrum, and on one end you’ve got, say, Lowtide, Hobart’s Bert Shirt are on the other end. The ol’ ‘wall of sound’ is like the walls in The Cube (1997). Covered in spikes and fast approaching.
They’re definitely noise-y, more so live than on this EP, where they seemed to have smoothed the edges a little bit. Like, they keep the vocals largely clean, rather than the joyfully discordant yelling that’ll greet you at a Bert Shirt gig. But it’s hard to capture that kind of chaos on record, and they’ve done a great job of making something loud, fun and inconspicuously beautiful.
The lyrics touch on the kind of suburban themes that the EP’s title suggests – shopping centres and bad friends and missing the good party – there’s a healthy bit of angst to match the razor-sharp guitar on ‘Décor’. ‘Ocean Junction’s ironic character study of a linen-suited Tom Selleck devotee reflects the band’s ‘80s influences, ‘got my sleeves rolled up for the yacht club luncheon, pants so tight some things won’t function’. Closer ‘Late Night Shopping’ is a six minute wander from fluorescent-lit dreamscape to droning synth jam, vocals becoming more stretched and frantic.
The thing that gives Bert Shirt their spark is how good a time they seem to be having. The riff on ‘It’s 6pm do you know where you are?’ made me laugh out loud, it’s so perfectly balls-to-the-wall, and the whole EP is built around wacky guitar and melodically-centring bass. It feels very Hobart, this mix of serious craft and a ‘will try anything’ attitude.
Pick up a Bert Shirt tape here (they’re pink!) and keep an eye out if they tour near you.