Polish Club with horns was everything we wanted and more

Facing threats from heinous streaming business models, irrelevance and crippling self-referentialism, bands like Polish Club manage rock’n’roll like a precisely engineered art. 

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Zachary Snowdon Smith

Though their latest tour has been slyly self-branded as a gimmick – Polish Club With Horns (Cos Why The Fuck Not) –it’s actually a milestone of the duo’s stylistic ambition and musicianship.
Brisbane trio Sweater Curse opened the night with a set of deceptively intricate indie-rock. The band quickly charmed the venue with a tight musical interplay between all three members. Their sound flirted around the post-punk reverb soak of Interpol with a group ethos far brighter and lyrically grounded. The propulsive intensity of drummer Rei brought tracks like ‘Fell Asleep’ a frantic energy.
Next, All Our Exes Live in Texas’ old timey arrangement of accordion, mandolin, ukulele, guitar and doo-wop vocals gelled immaculately, surprising many rockified members of the audience. The sheer fidelity of the group’s harmonies was astonishing, allowing the vividly lovelorn songwriting to breathe. ‘World War 3’ was the piercing highlight, a rebuke of gendered violence punctuated by stunningly harmonised yelps.
When Polish Club finally spun on stage with Polka Club, the room was overflowing. Polka Club’s lineup comprised a baritone sax, trumpet, dual trombone and tuba, giving their companion duo’s soul-thrash a hugely entertaining bravado and robust lower end. From the opening cover of ‘Give It Up’ by K.C and the Sunshine Band, it was evident the modus operandi was delirious rock’n’roll, with brass to amplify the fun.
“If you were too young for that one, you might know this one. You’d better, since you’re at a fuckin’ Polish Club show,” Novak announced before launching into the hits of last year’s Alright Already at a manic pace.
Many Polish Club tracks are oxymorons of attitude and lyrical content – playing with masochistic rock brunt while singing with naked soul. When the duo lashed through ‘Come Party’ with pitch perfect brass staccato, the beautiful contradiction was further heightened. Novak skulked around the stage to ‘Gimme Money’ with an earnest bluster before delegating to a raucous trombone solo. When the brass was used on thrashier tracks like ‘Beat Up’ however, its effect was greatly diminished, filling out existing arrangements like muted foghorns.
Novak and drummer John Henry Pajak had plenty of fun at the expense of the horn players, adding to the irresistible back and forth between the pair that nearly threatened to overshadow the playing. “These blokes did five years of uni just to play with us two no-hopers,” Pajak laughed after fumbling a drum fill.
Most surprising was ‘Don’t Fuck Me Over’’s brass rework; a delightful Sinatran slow-jam, changing the fabric of the song in a beguiling way that still held the audience’s singalong. It hinted at a nuance perhaps missing from the undeniable immediacy of the other tracks.
Closing the set was a hilariously rousing rendition of ‘Stop’ by the Spice Girls, driving the room into a giddy frenzy. The audience sang along as if it were their biggest hit, celebrating the sheer performative joy with which the band had just unleashed.
Seeing Polish Club without horns might seem a little sparse now, regardless of the white-hot soul pairing of Novak and Pajak. This show proved their posturing as sloppy rock’n’rollers is a facade and there’s certainly no reason the fleshed out arrangements of their party tunes can’t stay around.
Highlight: ‘Don’t Fuck Me Over’s sweet brass rework and the glorious mess of ‘Stop’.
Lowlight: Missed an opportunity for more fleshed out arrangements.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Come Party’.