We rock music fans like a bit of professionalism. Most of us love watching a set where the playing is spot-on, the songs flow on seamlessly and the crowd interaction can’t be faulted.
But for a lot of us – if we’re being honest – what we really want to see is a good old rock and roll tantrum. Who of us doesn’t wish they were there to see Kurt Cobain smash a guitar for the first time? Or to see Anton from Brian Jonestown Massacre kick his entire band off stage? What about when Jim Morrison was arrested onstage for berating the audience with obscenities and exposing himself?
Well my introduction to Perth band, Mile End, was a bit like that. As they played on the carpeted floor of the Hyde Park Hotel’s tiny front room lead singer Dean was obviously unhappy about something. As the set continued his actions became more and more unpredictable and his singing became sloppier and stranger. In the end he flung his guitar across part of the room almost injuring one poor girl who’d stood a bit too close.
It was brilliant.
Well not so much the girl being by the guitar. No one should have to worry about being concussed by flying heavy instruments when they’re out trying to have a good time – but everything leading up to that point was brilliant. The more ragged the front man’s performance became, the harder it was to take your eyes off him and the more determined the rest of the band were to hold everything together with their super tight, super powerful playing.
That was quite a few years ago now. I never saw them live again. I’m not really sure what happened to them and it now seems like they broke up.
Luckily they left us with one hell of a parting gift.
‘Downers’, Mile End’s first album (and perhaps only ever album), appeared on Soundcloud in its entirety three months ago and I’ve barely stopped listening to it since. To me it’s one of the best things a local act has released in years. It’s beautiful, epic, violent, messy, slick and fragile all at once.
I can barely make out the lyrics for most of the album, but it doesn’t matter because it’s the way the lyrics are crooned or spat out that makes all the difference. A good example is the crescendo of ‘The Fool’, which is actually one of the rare times the words can be made out clearly. Those words by themselves are less than impressive – it’s just the band telling us how much they hate everything and it gets pretty silly towards the end (e.g. “I hate your dick and I hate your c***”). But here’s the thing – it works. It works incredibly. It works so freaking well that it’s the highlight of the whole album. As the band builds up and Dean spits out the hatred with increasing vitriol it’s hard not to get a chill up your spine.
Another highlight is ‘Rumblefish’, which is a re-recording of an old favourite. Now I’m not usually a fan of re-recordings and I often end up favouring the original (I’m looking at you Sugar Army’s ‘Maybe the Boy Who Cried Wolf… ’) but in this case it was the right thing to do. Again it’s the slow-burning bridge of the song that lifts it into the realms of something really special, and once again the lyrics that could have seemed childish (“I’m gonna make them pay for what they’ve done”) end up as things of true beauty because of the way they’re delivered.
All in all this isn’t an album for everyone. There’s a definite Radiohead vibe, so if you hate that band it’s probably best avoided. Arguably Mile End even manage to be more depressing than Radiohead, which is quite an achievement (but with an album titled ‘Downers’ you probably shouldn’t expect anything different). Still, for people like me who love music with the drama turned up to 11, this is a little slice of heaven and I hope more people discover it so it can get the acclaim it deserves.