RUSH TO RELAX - Eddy Current Suppression Ring (Shock)
What's with the obsession with how long it took Eddy Current Suppression Ring to record their latest album? You'd think the speed of nailing a record is directly commensurate with the quality of the final release, judging by how many times critics and fans alike are mentioning this. Spontaneity is, more often than not a good thing, but can't we move on and obsess about the music?
In celebration of short attention spans, let's cut to the cash. "Rush To Relax" doesn't sound like that much of a leap in any particular direction from the first two ECSR albums. And that's OK. The sonic palette is a little broader, thanks to Brendan Suppression's quirky keyboard stylings, but the essential characteristics (lyrics about ordinariness, high-tensile guitar lines, skittish drumming and dry vocal delivery) are intact.
Drilling down, there are a few differences. The down-home directness of "Tuning Out" contains an extended jam that pushes the tune out past the six-minute mark and "Second Guessing" tops seven minutes, but there's not a wasted note on either. The latter's dominated by cheesy synthesiser and piano (maybe a legacy of Suppression moonlighting with the Oogaboogas - where almost anything goes) but ECSR aren't about to turn pro rock.
The sing-song "I Can Be a Jerk", charmingly silly yet sincere "Gentleman" and surging "Burn Out" are proof (if it was needed) that ECSR can fan the flames of intensity without fast tempos. There are plenty of those elsewhere ("Isn't It Nice", "Anxiety", "Walked Into a Corner") for fans of the moshpit.
The reality is that for all the stage-prowling hoop-la and crowd-surfing at their shows, ECSR is a dance band, pure and simple. There's no mistaking that quality in their songs, even if no-one dances any more.
Final cut "Rush To Relax" might have you convinced it's a 24-minute opus when it pops up in your iTunes window but you'll find most of that time is filled out by ambient ocean noise. The song itself is a sharp spiral of guitar and atonal feedback that turns in on itself, underlining what a unique proposition ECSR is.
ECSR are quite the new thing in Australia with this album threatening to make them "cross over" to whatever resembles the mainstream, these days. I still don't if anyone will "get" them overseas - or if the band themselves care. There's no quantum leap or emperor's new clothes apparent, but "Rush To Relax" is as unaffected and great as anything they've done. - The Barman
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PRIMARY COLOURS - Eddy Current Suppression Ring (Aarght!/Shock)
EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING - Eddy Current Suppression Ring (Dropkick/Shock)
How many reviews have you read that actually explain what Melbourne's Eddy Current Suppression Ring sound like? They're "groundbreaking but not pretentious", "derivative of the Saints and Radio Birdman" (sic), "your new favourite band" and every other lazy dumb cliche that makes the reviewer think he or she's Lester Bangs incarnate, without the cough mixture. But how much the wiser are you for reading any of that? The same might apply at the end of this swill, but it's going to at least be a worthy attempt at cutting through the bullshit. Read on.
To my horror when "Primary Colours" lobbed, I noticed that we didn't have a review of the first self-titled ECSR album. It's been 18 months since Dropkick Records flung us a copy - I'm sure there was a review but it was gobbled up by some errant software, just like some binary-numbers raised dog devouring homework - so this write-up will kill two birds with one double-barelled shotgun blast. Most of the general comments will be referenced against songs from the new album and then I'll tackle its predecessor.
Maybe it's easiest to start by stating what ECSR aren't. They're not standard two-chord thrasharama punk, wheezy Farfisa-and-Vox-amp-assisted acid punk wet dream or mildly disdainful English post-punk toss-off. They contain faint elements of all of the above and for all the alluring simplicity of their songs, there's a lot more underneath the hood than meets the ear.
Rob Solid's bass is dry and vaguely metallic-sounding. It's not as all-encompassing and enveloping as the sound of X or maybe feedtime where bass became a lead instrument, but it's every bit as essential to the feel and sound of the band. It puts a hard, shiny floor underneath the songs - over which the band's guitarist inconsiderately goes around scraping furniture - but ECSR would be something entirely different without it.
Eddy Current's (his name - not to be confused with that of the band) guitar is also highly distinctive. There's minimal if any reliance on effects, just economic riffing and edgy chording fired straight from the shoulder. Eddy's busy but not flashy and wouldn't know Steve Vai if the fucker kicked in the front door, took over the lounge and decided to make himself at home for a month. Current sets up a few of the songs ("Wrapped Up"), turns them inside out ("Sunday's Coming") or creeps along with the rhythmic flow (the post-punkish "Colour Television") and most importantly knows when not to play ("I Admit My Faults", "Let Me Be Honest With You".)
Danny Current's drumming goes beyond simple timekeeping (although that's important) and while it is grounded in the Keep It Simple Stupid school, has a skittish quality that bounces off the guitar. And here's the nub:
Peek inside the songs and you'll see a thick, tightly-wound rubber band. Tension is the hard to describe, sometimes imperceptible essence that makes ECSR special. It's not that the bass is pulling away from the drums and guitar; all the instruments are playing the same songs but they sound in mild conflict. ECSR come across like English band Wire without being as (excuse the pun) tightly wound.
The other band they reference, probably unwittingly, is The Missing Links, the Sydney '60s outfit that in turn provided inspiration for the Saints, in roundabout and direct ways. There was a lot of space in Missing Links music and I can hear the same in ECSR.
Singer Brendan Suppression hasn't rated a mention yet and that's deliberate. He's the glue, a glove-wearing, whining (although not in an annoying way), occasionally haranguing and sometimes low-key presence telling it how it is about weekends ("Sunday's Coming"), mindless electronica ("Colour Television"), indecision ("Which Way To Go") and mistakes ("I Admit My MIstakes"). He sounds like Stiv Bators in his solo band days when he didn't have to scream to be heard, although there's more fragility to his delivery. And that makes some reviewers call the music "naive".
To some degree that's true but I'm betting that's also because this band collectively declines to give a rat's rectum about getting rich quick or being bandied around as stars.
Visually, they look like a bunch of panel beaters using the back room of their smash repair workshop for a lunchtime practice.
I stumbled through a major chain store today because I was looking for cut-price $10 specials that the gormless kids responsible for pricing hadn't conceived as valuable when I saw a rack with half-a-dozen copies of "Primary Colours" crammed in it. That's a big quantity these days considering the CDs weren't in a floor display unit ike Andre Rieu and no-one had dressed the front window to promote the release. This was in Sydney so the buzz had permeated from the band's hometown into other Australian cities (and overseas.) I hope the band survive the hype. They have since the first alkbum.
"If it ain't broke..." was certainly the production ethos carried across from the self-titled debut. Recording time for both was measured in hours rather than days. "ECSR" sounds a little more lo-fi than "Primary Colours", the songs slightly simpler, but there's a split match between them on both counts.
It really is an album where the appeal is in the songs as much as the playing. "Get Up Morning", "Insufficient Funds" and "Cool Ice Cream" are stand-outs, "It's All Square" a discordant sleeper. Even hearing one of them on the soundtrack of a patchy, too protracted TV serialisation of Melbourne's gangland wars doesn't fuck them up for me.
I've played "ECSR" off-and-on for a long time, sporadically if not incessantly. Each play sounds fresh. Someone might bankroll them massively for Album Number Three, fly in Rick Rubin, Steve Albini or The Matrix to produce and radically change the sound. But I doubt it.
Get 'em and cherish 'em. Just don't ask them to design you a record cover. For once, the bottom line from even the clueless critics doesn't lie. - The Barman
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