vaporized tapeSometimes I want to avoid the fact that I'm becoming an old fart. Sadly, talking up the "good old days" is a sign of this. Even so, it seems relevant when talking about today's Sydney, the bands and the live scene. It's how I view the world. 

I remember when I was seeing bands most nights of the week. It was somewhat of an outlaw existence and hard to comprehend it all at just 19-years-old. Back then, anyone over 24 was “old”. The veteran bands were the Sex Pistols and Radio Birdman. Then there was Iggy, who was ancient.

It was the early ‘80s and I was living in Surry Hills in Central Sydney when could you get a room in a shared house hold for $25 a week. There were quality, cutting-edge bands playing within a few minutes’ walk, five nights a week. The Triffids, The End, The Moffs, Salamander Jim, Scientist, The Laughing Clowns, and all that Black Eye art-noise band stuff.  There were venues everywhere - Trade Union Club, Evil Star, French’s, The Strawberry Hills, The Lansdowne and The Hopetoun. Then there were the squat gigs or house parties where everyone put bands on in their lounge rooms. And mostly always, those were free. It’s now all just a faded blur. 

Thirty years later and I am always on look-out for kids playing rock ‘n’ that is NOT inspired by Metallica, insipid Industrial Gothic metal, Stoner rock  or all that Blink 182 pop-punk shit. It’s all so common, all so insipid. A cynical and fussy bugger, I have become.

No,  I want to hear kids who know who the Stooges or the Velvet Underground were, and that is like panning for gold at Sofala now. You are lucky to get specks. Sadly, it appears, the gold rush was over many years ago. In more than one respect.

It is almost a year ago that I wandered into the Record Crate in Glebe in inner-western Sydney on a Saturday night. There was one stand-out band. They were called Vaporized!

A bunch of kids barely out of their teens. The set started with intense feedback and from thereon it hit between the eyes and belted me around head over 40 minutes of sonic assault. The references points were Black Sabbath, Stooges, early Dinosaur Jr, the Scientists and early Mudhoney. But even nastier. It was the attack, the attitude and the energy that came from Fender Deluxes (with a Big Muff pedal thrown in.)

It was bratty, anarchic and completely full of attitude. And more importantly, it had an urgency.  The singer, who I was to find out was the principal songwriter Alan Gojak, rolled around the floor, destroying his Stratocaster by smashing it against his mic stand and immersing himself in unpredictable chaos.  I connected on Facebook with these lads and was keen to see them again.

It is now six months since the release of their debut cassette and although it took a while before I finally sat down and listened to it, I was not disappointed. In fact the writing, is darker and more sinister then I was exposed to live. It’s classic nihilistic rock. Songs of death, destruction and damaged characters.

“Ectasy” opens this self-titledsix-track mini album on cassette with harsh, brutal feedback. A wandering bass-line kicks in with drums that have heaps of swing and groove.  It is the distorted vocals – they sound like the bastard son of Captain Beefheart and Kim Salmon - from Alan Goak that arrest you right away, with screams and a harsh blues holler: “If you fuck me, you’re going to burn”. The guitars slice like brutal rusted razor blades, almost harsh and at times brittle. The song is pushed along and descends into an almost metallic crash before it returns to its groove.

“Damaged” opens with endless feedback and sonic attack, and as the bass creeps and rolling drums kick in we are pushed into darkness with classic heroin music. “Crippled for you….and I might need a fix” is certainly nihilistic.  And it has the same echoes of darkness that pervade ”Heroin” by the Velvets. It also sounds like Black Sabbath covering "Blood Red River" by the Scientists as it builds and builds. Brilliant. 

“Get Above It” is classic late ‘80s grunge, sitting right alongside with Mudhoney’s fuzztone early records. Again, the guitars wash and slice. I actually like Gojak’s vocals more than Mark Arm’s. He actually is a better vocalist. The song again speeds up and develops in a frenzy of high octave guitars.

“An Unfortunate Tale of Love and Murder”:  This song is by far has depth and, lyrically, is their finest: 

Urgency is quite petite
As I drag with me my troubled feet
High heeled boots and old lather hat
Madder than a hatter with a bunny in the back

There is huge song-writing potential in this band as the simple guitar riffs, clever lyrics and sense of drama as the guitars kick in and assault you. They have a built-in sense of sonic anarchy. Maybe it’s not always needed but when things do move into brutal attack mode, the music is still effective on the basis of its intense heaviness and power. It didn’t need to be so heavy handed with this song, but sometimes and it is cool just attacking someone music on a simplistic level. Subtlety will come with time.

“Hate Me/ Kill Me” is another sonic attack but with groove, and the mini album finishes with a dose of sharp 90-second punk in “Nervous Oxide”.

Here we are in Sydney in 2016 and a band like Vaporized! is playing but largely ignored apart from community radio, their mates and a bit of word of mouth. I am not if the kids generally are into this sort of band anymore; I know there was massive audience for it 30 years ago. Back then Vaporized! would be pulling 300-400 people and packing venues out within 12 months all over the inner city. 

Their only real “career option” is to record and get more stuff out, get to Melbourne and then overseas. Where they would seen as heroes.

Vaporized! Is a young band still finding their voice, yet they are urgent, powerful and intense. They should not be ignored.


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