The Cannanes + Summer Flake + The Monies
The Metropolitan Hotel, Adelaide, September 22, 2013
There is a likelihood I will offend during this review. If I do, I apologise in advance, to the bands and to I94bar, and to The Dark Lord Barman. Particularly as I am going to delve into that dreadful area of 'journo advising a band how to improve'.
Just so's you know. Also, just so's you know, I enjoyed all three bands tonight. The crowd is very ... downdressed, kinda transplanted from the civilized joint next door to the Ettamoogah pub. I only realised the Cannanes were going to be in town on the Tuesday because I was walking past the pub in question, the revitalised Metro on Grote Street, a few hundred yards down from The Muddy Puddle (formerly known as Victoria Square) when I saw the bands on the chalk-board. I didn't see any posters, I don't read papers of any sort so it was a bit of a miracle I saw the sign, really, so the chalk board took me completely by surprise. The Cannanes? Here? Must be a different band who don't know the name's taken.
Worse, I've never heard of either of the first two Adelaide bands, which shows, I suppose, how out of touch I am. The Monies are easily confused with pecuniary and lawyerly terms on Google, and indeed you'll be hard pressed to find this band on, Facebook, MySpace et al and if that's not irony...They tell me they are currently "too DIY to DI-do. We have some songs on Soundcloud; the page for the song "Persistence" links to a nice clip of us playing live to tape. ."
Beautifully, everyone uses the Monies' kit, decorated with an old 6ts joke which translates far too easily into the twenteens; on a toilet cistern; 'It is time for the sit down generation to stand up and be counted'.
If they could be bothered, of course. True to Adelaide's laid-back sense of occasion, The Monies took the stage with more band members watching them than audience (shades of the first Cosmic Psychos tour here). And I didn't like the first two songs. But I thought the rest was very good.
They are Richard Moriarty (guitar) Sandy Cenin (drums) Susie Hill (bass). Their style is, like Summer Flake and the Cannanes, the type of thing which doesn't shove itself in your face like David Lee Roth. You either notice what they're doing or you don't (and plenty in the nearby courtyard were happy to have these bands as background noise while they chatted). Strong, competent songs and you'd want to see more of the band if only you could find the buggers. I particularly liked their last song.
Bands like the Monies need to play more, push themselves a bit. The world of indie, where downplaying yourself is cool, I always found kinda tiresome. The Monies, like Summer Flake, have bags of talent and, when you consider that the likes of curse-words like Jon English are still out there like monstrous carbuncles disfiguring the face of Australian entertainment, I really do feel that it is time bands like this got out from under their rock and threatened certain popular but unworthy individuals with cattleprods. More, please!
There are a few more people by the time Summer Flake, a different proposition, start up. Another three piece: drums, bass and a singer guitarist called Stephanie. Stephanie has a very good voice which I hope she develops: it's lovely but it could stand some amp, some whoof. The bass and drums seem to be holding back, as if they're scared they'll run her over. Yet, 'cause Stephanie is such an interesting guitarist, full of pep, action and force, they don't need to.
It wasn't until the last song that we got clear confirmation: the two blokes are definitely holding back. In fact, I was reminded, of all things, of Can. So, again, I enjoyed this band but found myself wishing that the two boys would go off and get smashed on tequila and mushies, then turn up at the next rehearsal so pie-eyed that they just didn't care. That way they'd make a big ugly row and force Steph to out-do them - which I reckon she could. Summer Flake are a potentially damn big proposition. More, please!
To the Cannanes, who I discovered I had not seen since a busy gig at the Richmond Hotel some 20 years ago when I associated with a dubious band of cut-throats, sheep-stealers and card-sharps from Leongatha. Haven't spoken to them in years, they've probably all been given indefinite sentences.
Needless to say, the Cannanes have altered somewhat. What hasn't altered is the way they force the audience to meet the band on their own terms. Which means that sometimes a huge crowd will turn up, but on this occasion, their first gig in Adelaide in a similar time-frame with the attendant b-all publicity, that perhaps 40 folk have by now tumbled in.
I love their sound, the horns in particular (one of four at various times), the band's air of having been beamed in from Oodnadatta via Leichhardt, the simplicity of Fran's lyrics and the general realistic, approachable air of the band itself. In a world where 'indie' means 'not good enough for a real record label', the Cannanes remain indie but, like the Fall, popular enough for a real record label to take a sensible punt on, the way labels like Island or, before them, Virgin (yes, really; Faust were once signed to Virgin) used to.
The Cannanes are a band which makes indie work: you're drawn in, interested and curious. Steve pulled out the most ridiculous plastic-looking guitarish sort of thing; a DG-20 plasticky creation. They apparently found it last time they were here in Adelaide. It's beautiful, but obviously takes a bit of getting used to as I believe the strings are a lot more sensitive than real he-man guitar strings which hurt and make your fingers bleed. There's a lot more to it than that but have a look. Secondhand copies are about $200US.
On the last song, Fran left the stage and went to watch Steve and the lads give in to their Neanderthal urges and continue with something which also reminded me of Can, and the Fall, or at least that surging motivational force that those german bands had at one time. Motorik, that's it. Made me wonder if, like Summer Flake, there's not another band hiding inside the Cannanes.
The real trouble with this gig is, like the MDC gig I saw recently, the lack of audience outside those in the know, outside the band's orbit. It's frustrating. I remember playing a mate a Moodists tape in 1986 and he was amazed. They're Australian, I said. He didn't know, he'd never heard of them, which isn't surprising as the radio playing in the factory simply banged through the usual traumatic tripe day after day, only occasionally stuffing in a stones or btles song, and only then more or less as a joke.
Radio doesn't seem to have changed much in 20 years. I don't really know what can be done about this state of affairs except burning down the offensive radio stations and ensure that intelligent, mainstream radio stations (that is, those that want to keep their antennas) play a wider variety of music. Oh, and that tv show about Australia having talent and then pushing out these... slugs... enough, enough.
No! I mean, hands up all those who know the words to songs by the Eagles, Elton John, Boz Skaggs and all the rest of those odious ghastlies - without ever owning, or even wanting to own, a single dl, cd, lp or whatever by these offensive bumbags? Okay, I'm an old fart. But how many people under the age of thirty can say the same about equally offensive colostomy appendages like One Direction Only or Justin Bibble (I mean, ok, fill in the blank)...
If punk weren't such a bloody dead end these days, modern music would need punk to come and wipe the slate clean.
Alright, I seem to have digressed a tad here. Each of the above bands are worth seeing, if not inviting into your home for a Sunday roast, and I believe the Cannanes have a new LP out. Their 14th, I believe, "Howling at All Hours", available on Chapter Music here http://chaptermusic.com.au/cats/releases/.
The audience were too laid-back to demand an encore from any of the bands, and there were no stage divers to annoy me this time. We sat at a table very similar to the one which sprayed other people's booze all over us at The Mark of Cain last week and the most amazing thing was that one man placed his beer on the table before thinking better of it and skulling the thing.
Where the hell everyone else in Adelaide was, I couldn't tell you. Home brewing, I spose. Either that or, since it was Nick Cave's birthday ...