smallpox confidential coverThe only problem with avant garde music is that you need to be in the mood to absorb it. Or on really strong prescription drugs.

Do you know anyone who’s listened to “Metal Machine Music” all the way through and hasn’t been scheduled under the NSW Mental Health Act, or who doesn’t think that much of John Cage’s output should be kept in one? 

Taste really is in the ear of the beer holder. So strap yourself in with a cold six pack or two nearby for the rough ride that is the debut of Smallpox Confidential, a mysterious noise combo from Adelaide fronted by Robert Brokenmouth.

Many of you will twig that Robert’s writings adorn the I-94 Bar, among other places. Can you imagine putting his musings into a musical context? The man is obsessed with The Fall! He wrote a book about Nick Cave!! He quotes philosophers and sells antique tomes for a living!!!

Let's put it this way: Anything he utters into a microphone is not going to be “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night”, although he might come out with an occasional "hold me close, Tony Danza." Cos, that's how he rolls.

“Smallpox Confidential” is an ugly CD. Not the packaging. The contents. The cover looks like a cop from Sydney band X (although I understand its other reference to the marking left on plague-infested households.) Its nine songs are things that its makers want you to hate - or at the very least, react to.

The nine-minute “No Time” is the “stand-out”. Is that too subjective? It bears no relation to the Saints song of the sam name. It bears fuck all relation to anything much on this earth, Jim, so be a good boy and ask Spock yo beam me up.

“No Time” starts with Brokenmouth declaring to engineer Nesta Mitchell that no rehearsal is needed. Shards of sustained guitar and/or synth feedback wash all over the place like an overflowing toilet while Brokenmouth rants.

What deceivingly pitches itself as a tortured love song becomes a tale of various life stages before devouring itself like a cannibalistic tapeworm. Brokenmouth can’t sing for shit (at least in the conventional sense) and his mid-song cackle sounds a little forced, to be honest. Just like constipation.

“The Ego Age” nails what it sets out to do - stick a dirty great pin into the blister of today’s self-obsessed, excessive age. Let the pus run free.

What’s to be said about “Pea and Shell Song” other than I Know Robert’s other half, Mandy, he’s batting well out of his league and he really has three-fifths of bugger-all to be upset about apart from liivng in Adelaide, so why’s he making all this infernal noise?

Here’s a confession: I played “Smallpox Confidential” to chase away a Saturday morning after the fog of the night before; I found myself singing along to it and marvelling at good the reverb was on my vocal. Then I realised I was crouched headfirst in the bathroom, having a conversation on the Big White Telephone.

Will you like “Smallpox Confidential”? Did you like the plot-line of “The Human Centipede”? Eat shit!

Still hungry? Don’t die wondering. Click this link. I dare ya, punk. - The Barman


When records are possessed of avant garde qualities, it is often difficult to assess them without addressing the political and social milieu from which they arise. Throbbing Gristle? Psychic TV? Half of the explanation comes out of the statement of intent.

Claim the key to the brown note. Wank your way to self realisation. Decisions. Decisions.

Because one man's meat is another's poison. Upside is down. Why is one man's white noise better than another? Judgeth not thy feedback lest thy feedback may be judged.

Smallpox Confidential is, at least in main part, the brainchild of one Robert Brokenmouth of this parish. It is less abstract than his previous release but that doesn't mean there's not enough feedback and rant poetry to go around.

If I had to choose a similar work, I'd have to point to "Lulu" by Lou Reed. Except that was based on Frank Wedekind’s late-19th-century play "Earth Spirit" and its sequel "Pandora’s Box" and this isn't based on anything beyond Robert's distemper.

"Lulu" also featured Metallica whereas the Confidentials take their cues from more post punk '80s roots. The Fall spring to mind.

So there's a plus and a minus there.

Smallpox Confidential? Where's your head at? Where's your head at? My solution? A review returned in kind. Adopt beat poet mode.

Steve Lucas from X...He gonna be mighty peeved at the cover. Much huffing and a puffing. Never mind Exene and John or the marvelous mutants of movie land. Dude owns copyright on them flaming crosses left on your lawn. Especially 'neath southern skies. He gonna get you boys. Gonna go deeper south past Mexico way' til he come out the other side. No one wants that.

Big fella gonna go cartel on yo Adelaide asses as only a Sydney dude can when he goes native south of the Victorian border.

Protesteth too much? Claim the sign of the plague. Meanwhile things get monkey crazy on the str,eet below. Arse holes go out walking stretching sphincter all the way past the courthouse and on to their lawyers. Mind the car wheel Eugene.

Hang a noose in your bedroom windows. Nova express the best offence. Safer call yourself Green Spiders. Buy lubricant. Blood is gonna boil.

Opening track. The Ego Age. Don't bother checking the back cover. Us cunts gotta dig deeper to know how to name one noise from another.

Robert growls. Concrete throat with a side of gravel. Dude is pissed. Viking Cave man, he. Dunno what the problem is. Primitive drum Heavy metal (file under) wild boys. A touch of the alfalfa. Send out for paregoroc.

Damn horse just copped a gullet full of Mark E Smith Jissom. Can the west be won? Pass the spitoon Big Daddy. Nothing to swallow here.

It's like some Millennial teenage heavy metal Gwarist shat all over your garage band's garage. No point wishing it could be 1965 again. Time waits for no one and it don't wait for Tom.

Is this Pop Group beyond?

The Pea and Shell song. So it ain't going to be all venom then? Things take the odd pastoral turn. Between feedback and throbs there's the odd pretty tune. You could sometimes whistle these tunes down the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.

Not often. But at least there's a hook to cook a goose or two. The Brokenmouth then lays on some vocals. I'm not sure if it's sweet nothings or serial killer angst. It sure ain't Barry Manilow. Strange bedfellows take fright.

Then there was a sea of dirty old men, trying to get at your humble narrator, with their feeble rookers and horny old claws.

Good or bad? Bad or good? Rate this transaction.


fishes and loaves   

You must chose. - Bob Short

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