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Peabody

Back in the dark ages before Facebook and Twitter, when we all communicated via email, I used to look forward to the electronic missives from Peabody singer and funny man Bruno Brayovic almost more than any other junk in my inbox. But then I got a new ISP and had to ditch my old email address. I dropped of f the Peabody mailing list and promptly forgot all about it, and about Peabody.
 
“How sad,” Bruno says, down the phone from Sydney. “But you’re probably not the only one to forget all about us.”
 
Talk about sad! But it hasn’t been that long between albums for the Sydney band. In fact, Bruno admits that it’s been “the shortest turnaround” between albums for them, with their last full-length album, Prospero, being released in September 2008. Their current album, Loose Manifesto, was released earlier this month. It was, legend has it, recorded on the same eight-track tape machine that Nirvana used to record their debut album, Bleach, and was also, for a time, owned by Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie.
 
But was it really the same machine – as in the exact same machine – or was it simply the same model?
 
“It 100 per cent used to belong to Jim Moginie,” Bruno replies. Jim gave it to Loose Manifesto engineer Tim Kevin, and told him that it’s the same machine Nirvana recorded Bleach on. And while Bruno did ask Tim the same question I just asked, he took the question back before it could be answered. Plausible deniability, you see.
 
What is undeniable is that Loose Manifesto was recorded in a shack on an old coal-loading dock, within sight of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
 
“Yeah, I’m driving over the Bridge as we speak, and I can see the location if I look to my—”
‘Bruno? Hello? Helloooo?’ The phone’s gone dead.
 
Wait?! He was driving whilst talking on the phone? I panic, mildly. ‘OMG!’ I think, ‘he’s crashed the car or driven off the bridge or something. I’ve killed Bruno Brayovic!’
 
The phones rings: it’s Bruno. Phew. And Sydney traffic being what it is, he’s still in the same spot and probably not even moving anyway, so if any off-duty traffic cops are reading, let’s not get over-excited now. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, still in the same spot.
 
“So I can still see the location where we recorded the album,” Bruno continues. “The shack is on Balls Head. It’s a head, as the name suggests, and it’s really beautiful. It’s pretty industrial: there are all these old coal tunnels underneath where we recorded. But there’s also a whole bunch of possums and cicadas and things. If it wasn’t for the fact that the album’s fairly loud then we would have had a lot of cicada and possum action on the vocals.”
 
Well, that sounds delightfully pleasant, but when I hear the word ‘shack’ and automatically think of the US Army’s music torture program. You know, the one where detainees were locked in shacks in the desert and forced to listen to Metallica and Barney The Dinosaur (Imagine it! – ‘Two plus two is four. Two plus two is four’.) on endless repeat. Surely locking yourself in a shack with three other grown men for four days straight is at least equivalent to “acoustic bombardment”, as the torture technique is known.
 
“I can’t say there was much water boarding going on,” Bruno says, “but it can be akin to torture.” It could be worse, though; it could be four weeks, or four months. Four days is hardly anything, really, when it comes to recording an album. At least, you’d think so. Wouldn’t you?
“The longest we’ve taken to record an album is six days.”
 
Six days?! So this whole ‘four days is fast’ thing is not really then?
 
“Well, yeah, but to have that extra day really does make a difference. Also, there’s less instrumentation on this one; it’s our most meat-and-potatoes album,” Bruno notes. He adds that self-producing – as they did, for the first time, on Loose Manifesto – may have contributed to the recording speed “because we were paranoid about getting into the studio and not knowing what we were doing. And also that’s all we could afford, really.”
 
Official press guff notes that Loose Manifesto “espouses the punk rock aesthetics and themes of the ‘anti-art’ movement Dada”. Bruno notes that bassist/lyricist Ben Chamie is the person to talk to this, but “it’s one of those things where Ben gets an idea and he doesn’t always convey it to me, instead leaving me to make my own interpretation. And I kind of prefer it like that because it allows me to make it my own. If I’m singing them, to an extent it has to sound like I’ve written them. There’s nothing worse than somebody singing something and it sounds like they don’t know what they’re singing about.”
 
Dada was “effectively one of the first forms of punk,” Bruno explains. “Whatever was the trend, they would try to buck that. They would try to find the beauty in things generally considered to be ugly. So to that end, the album is kind of like an anti-concept album in that there is no concept, no structure. Admittedly, it’s been perceived as a bit ‘loose’ by many a reviewer, which – well, we’re the ones telling you that it’s loose; you’re not telling us: that’s why it’s called Loose Manifesto. Whether somebody likes it or dislikes it for that reason, each to their own, and I don’t know if it’s brave or stupid but that’s the concept: that there’s no concept. End of rant.”
 
Bruno admits that they’ve had some of the harshest reviews they’ve ever received for this release. There have also been a lot of ‘Unlistenable. Eight out of ten’ type reviews too. “I’m not sure any of the reviewers yet have cottoned onto the fact that it’s just bravado on our part, that we’re deliberately saying ‘here it is, and it’s meant to be confusing and all over the shop.’ So in a way we feel vindicated.”
 
Maybe that’s its actual concept?
 
“Well, yes, actually. [One reviewer] said ‘I get the feeling it’s just their way of undermining critics, but it couldn’t possibly be that.’ But that’s exactly what it is.”
 
So, regardless of whether or not the album really has a historical tie to Nirvana, Kurt Cobain surely would have approved. Have a listen and make up your own mind whether it’s unlistenable acoustic bombardment or eight out of ten.
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PEABODY’s new album Loose Manifesto is out now on Peabrain Recordings through MGM. Excellently, PEABODY will gladly launch it this week when they play at Yah Yah’s this Friday October 29.