A punk band quickly on the rise.
There are few better punk venues in Melbourne than the John Curtin. It has a lived-in feel that strips away pretentiousness, and a smoking area that’s always teeming with bands and mates having chats, blocking the footpath and generally keeping the bouncer busy.
It was this sense of community spirit that met openers Vampire to kick off Ubik‘s album launch show on Saturday night. The trio played a brace of lean punk songs that showcased the potent contrast between their two vocalists. Their drummer too, with his luscious green locks, played ferociously despite it being his first outing with the band. These guys are worth a look, for sure.
Bitumen played next, but delivered the night’s first sound incongruencies. Their debut record, Discipline Reaction, is a slick, ’80s industrial affair with a fine balance of erogenous crooning and crashing accompaniment. Unfortunately, there was no such balance on stage. While Simon Maisch’s grinding bass sounded epic, it was at the expense of the guitars. The drum samples too, so atmospheric on record, sounded thin and alien in the live space. Still, with a set full of great tunes and a look like they just stepped off the set of the 1995 film Hackers, there was more than enough to go on with.
‘More than enough’ might as well be The Uglies manifesto, as they sonically and verbally attempted to confounded the crowd. “We are the Uglies and this is a song called ‘We Are the Uglies’”, declared the self-proclaimed bogan punks.
The Adelaide band, who had been on a two-year hiatus until recently, quickly made up for lost time by thrashing through their old bangers at breakneck speed. The audience reacted, and the cycle of pushing over, helping up, and pushing over again began in earnest, and it felt like nothing had changed for the quintet as they wailed on ‘(I Got No) Self Control’. They even cheekily ingratiated themselves with the local crowd by declaring Sydney “the worst city in the world” before qualifying that statement with finisher ‘World of Crud’.
Ubik weren’t going to be drawn into any Sydney bashing, however. “If you think Sydney’s the worst city in the world … you’ve never been to Adelaide,” drawled vocalist Ash Wyatt. Her band were standout performers at this year’s Live Music Safari for Melbourne Music Week. Their set at Max Watt’s displayed a dynamism that elevated them above the inherent self-parody of the punk paradigm. It was no surprise then when the local quartet started quickly moving bodies with their brash, bratty sound – Wyatt matching a natural stage charisma with a delivery that manages to be both anarchic and approachable at the same time.
The band cruised through tracks from their mini-LP, Next Phase, with the one-two punch of ‘You Make Me Sick’ and ‘Brain Pan’ shifting feet and (presumably) numbers at the merch desk. It was around this time that the sound issues that had troubled Bitumen started to trouble Ubik as well. The reverberation of the bass around the venue began to drown out the guitar and vocals, not to mention the timbre of the bass itself. The problem persisted right through to closer ‘John Wayne (Is A Cowboy) And Is On Twitter))’. Luckily, the killer guitar hook and urgent vocal slam managed to cut through the mud, highlighting just how ace the track is, and why Ubik are such a great night out.
Highlight: ‘John Wayne (Is A Cowboy) And Is On Twitter))’.
Lowlight: Flabby bass marring a significant portion of Ubik’s set.
Crowd favourite: Bitumen’s Kate Binning accidentally burping into her heavily-delayed mic between tracks.