The twisted, ordered sounds of feedtime
Belated reviews are the best reviews. You know, better late than never.
Eleven days have elapsed since feedtime played Marrickville Bowling Club. The excuse for the late review is that the tinnitus needed time to subside. No, there are never excuses, only reasons. After experiencing two - Two sets! Count ‘em! - sets by feedftime in one night, you need time to get over it.
Not time to analyse it. Music like theirs should never be picked over like an insect that ends up pinned to a back-board in a display case at the Australian Museum. As if you didn’t know, feedtime plays music from the guts, not the head.
Allow me a brief Robert Brokenmouth-style digression.
Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney
December 23, 2017
A couple of days ago, Facebook threw Lou Reed’s last interview my way over the Xmas-NY break. Besides a telling point about his defining life relationship ("My Dad didn't give me shit") - yes, I've just finished the infamous Howard Souness biography - he made some telling points about music. In Lou’s estimation, music is ordered sounds. To his dying day, he remained fascinated with the manner and means of its ordering. Lyrics were always thought to be what "made" Reed's songs. Truth be told, the sound was always equally integral.
It seems that (without straying too far into dreaded analysis), the music that feectime makes has a strong correlation to what Mr Happy was talking about. It’s all just blues that black men gave us, and when you break down feedtime to its base components, it’s all pretty simple:
Fraught vocals, powerful and rubbery bass-lines and white noise-drenched guitars. Distortion and volume. Notes that slip and slide. Tuned down and never toned down. Intensity is a by-word, but pretence and gimmickry are absent. But it's uniquely ordered.
So how does a seminal Sydney band like feedime come to be playing two sets for free, just a couple of days out from Xmas? And how do they draw a sizeable crowd in the face of strong opposition like Even at the Lansdowne?
Playing shows every couple of months is feedtime’s preferred modus operandi. Rust never sleeps so it needs to be cleaned out. They have a new-ish album out (“Gas”) but apart from a handful of shows in the USA, they haven’t “toured it” widely in the conventional sense. Not that many bands do that these days, anyway. Rick has nerve issues with his chord-shaping arm so playing frequently wouldn’t make sense.
There’s three-fifths of fuck-all people in the Bowling Club an hour before the show. Well, not strictly correct. It’s the usual early Saturday evening crowd- but it thins out considerably when feedtime cranks up for sound-check. People just don’t understand volume as an instrument any more.
Fifteen minutes before the appointed starting time, there’s an influx of maybe 120 people, half of whom form a dutiful line at the merch table to by “Gas” on vinyl.
feedtime saunters on stage and sends the audience into awe.
Don’t ask me what songs they played. If there was a set list (and there looked like there may have been only one), I didn’t grab it. I have the whole back catalogue in multiple formats, but tend not to do names very well when it comes to feedtime’s music. The economic song titles are more a convenience than an essential. Most of “Gas” was played and a shitload of older things from “Shovel” et al pop up. Maybe somethign from "Billy".
Tom’s precise and often frenzied rhythms - free of splashy accents or even much high-hat as he doesn’t play cymbals - pegs out boundaries that command each song into shape.
feedtime are famously several parts X, several parts Rose Tattoo. To the best of my knowledge, neither of those bands employed slide bass and slide guitar in the same song. feedtime might have been inspired by both but they chart their own course.
Rick and bassist Al share the vocals with female alumnus Carmel taking the mic from time to time. The lyrics are not as much secondary to the sounds but buried deep inside.
How many ways can you say “brutal” without resorting to a thesaurus? That and a perceptible sense of instrumental tension are what’s going on here.
It’s been so long since I was up close and personal at a feedtime show (literally, years) that I’d forgotten what an eclectic fan-base they have. Like X, only with fewer outwardly damaged people. They crowd in, they surge to the music and they have a distinctly younger element that co-exists with the old stagers. Most are immersed in the music - the “ordered sounds” of Lou Reed’s final interview.
A few have even brought toddlers with them to the child-friendly surroundings of Marrickville Bowlo - wisely fitting them with protective hearing gear.
Second set. As intense as the first.
There will be no encores. feedtime don’t believe in such contrived rituals. Then they’re gone.
The last thing I see on the way out the door is a band member contentedly sitting at a table at the back of the room, having a schooner and a chinwag with a mate. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Americans would be incredulous.