Ivy League Records (label)
22 September 2020 (released)
22 September 2020
Time was when the Northern Hemisphere would crack gags about the cultural lag that the Down Unders (Oz/NZ) barely existed under let alone create within. What supposedly happened in Barnsley, England one week would later rather than sooner hit the ear and eye waves of those folk. Now though, that wise-cracking barely concealed colonial elitism is no more. The global village with its fibre-optic time-plateauing has enabled former inferior subjects of mockery to become superior objects of punk-rockery. The bovver-boots are on the other feet now, this new Empire is striking back.
Tasmania, itself an island state of Australia has previously really only been notable on these shores for debonair actor Errol Flynn and the cricketing duo of handlebar moustached aletank David Boon and George ‘Dumbya’ Bush-lookalike Ricky Ponting. So goes the script anyway.
On ‘Paid Salvation’ Tasmanian bedevilled A. Swayze and the Ghosts have produced a superlative album that redresses these arcane attitudes, the clapped-out clichés and patronising platitudes.
Fronted by Andrew Swayze - whose declamatory diction evokes ‘Year Zero began with me, d’ya hear?!’ New York punk Richard Hell’s rasping spat invective (especially on the doo-wop ‘n’ roll ‘Mess of me’).
Pin-sharp lyrics cover heavy themes: abortion rights on ‘It’s not alright’, online lynch mobs and the hived mind on ‘Consume to connect’; ‘Suddenly’ a song that deals with the harassment of women was co-written with Swayze’s wife with the vocals gutturally wrenched out with enraged conviction.
Sonically the group (Hendrik Wipprecht (guitar), Zackary Blain (drums) and Ben Simms (bass) draw (in no particular order) from the dram-glam proto-punk of The Sweet (‘Suddenly’), Killing Joke’s esoteric cabaret war cries and revelatory soothsaying (‘Paid Salvation’, the environmentally exhorting ‘Beaches’, ‘Cancer’) and at times in the misunderstood and unfairly reviled Oi! second wave streetpunk movement in its football-chant hectoring rhetorics (‘News’). Fast, furious, frenetic and above all splenetic.
Yet at all times it sounds NEW and NOW.
Taking aim at familiar targets requires fresh angles and contemporary critiques: if you think the inequities and iniquities of social media have been covered enough … already, think again. On ‘Consume to Connect’ the litany of life-sapping ego-tunnels and horror-mirrors (‘Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat’ etc.) are reeled off with disgust and disdain. It’s only now that the after-effects of ‘social’ media can be seen for what they are raising the age-old question ‘Who and/or what is actually consumed though apathetic scrolling and screen voyeurism?’.
As good a debut as you’ll ever hear.