To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.
Today. Again, today I am breaking my own rules. I do not believe this was a nomination but certainly a) I have been aware of this for some time now, and b) these are some of my old homeboys from Brisbane and as such take precedence. It has only been in recent months that I no longer miss Brisbane and its sun and isolation and massive lawns every day – this, more than five years since I moved back to the UK. Haywards Heath is similar: but as yet, I have not discovered the space or underground music scene that made Brisbane so bearable and indeed desirable. And the grunge! Sometimes, it feels like Brisbane’s Gravel Samwidge – and the much-missed, sadly departed Bek Moore – are the only people left this side of the Arm himself to understand what was meant by “the grunge”.
Today, we have Gravel Samwidge – ‘Wrong Way’ (Swashbuckling Hobo Records).
Mess. Noise. Freedom. Beer. Sprawling comatose under share houses. Loudness. Camaraderie. Loving the loud rock and most all that goes with it. Loving the weird little scuttling creatures that lurk beneath the abandoned car in the garage under your share house.
Or, as Robert Brokenmouth says about their newest vinyl Complaints:
It’s quite unpleasant, and I may never listen to it again. But if I do, it will be very loud, and I will end up in jail. I like Gravel Samwidge. They’re out of kilter with everything else around right now. The songs put the listener right in the singer’s place, their intense, irritated narrative. The Gravels write songs as natural to Australia as the King Brown Snake, and just about as cuddly.
Agreed. He goes on to mention a fair bit about The Birthday Party and The Scientists – but bearing in mind I have been cited on numerous occasions as saying Kim Salmon invented grunge in Australia years ahead of schedule, I think we can safely say me and the Brokenmouth are spewing forth syllables from the same dusty semen-impregnated hymn book here. He also adds this most excellent disclaimer:
Don’t get “Complaints” if you want to dance (get the Revillos’ Cherry Red box, “Stratoplay” instead). Don’t get “Complaints” if you think that Nirvana were stoner rock, nor if you think Mudhoney stole Nirvana’s glory. This ain’t Seattle-nostalgia. This is something very nasty out of Brisbane. Get “Complaints” if you’re a grumpy old git like me who wants the world to pay a bit more attention to itself, and you fancy a turn inside yourself. Down a wrong way street, naturally.
So true. Ain’t Seattle nostalgia at all: this is specifically Aussie RULES and more specifically Brisbane and also nasty and cuddly and twisted (though, much as I love the new Revillos box, gotta say that it’s mostly irrelevant after the first disc). So that’s that. Gravel Samwidge: two MASSIVE fucking thumbs up from ME! This is like Fontaines DC or Idles or someone, but really fucking good. (NOTE: I like Fontaines DC and Idles and someone.) THEY KICK SOME FUCKEN ASS.
I really appreciate any music that sounds this sludgy and acerbic and sarcastic. Music that captures a moment in time, and doesn’t move forwards, only sideways. I really appreciate any music that makes me feel a little less alone. I really appreciate any music that can remind me of music that’s actually near-impossible to duplicate but tries anyway and gloriously, deliriously fails. Music that makes me shuffle backwards and forwards, rooted on the spot, waving my non-hair in abandon. In my head, I’m dancing. Always dancing. In my head, I’m surrounded by music like this and I’m leaning out of a third-flight window throwing whiskey bottles at the dullards below. In my head, this is the sound to aim for: drawn-out and lingering and not a little woozy. Everything is a failed climax. Everything is anchovies.
If there were from Birmingham UK, they’d be called The Nightingales, and Stewart Lee would be making gloriously brilliant documentaries about their sadly never-realised glory years.