THE HARD ACHES
+ Antonia and the Lazy Susans
+ Sincerely, Grizzly
+ Nothing Rhymes With David
@ Oxford Art Factory
Reviewer: Aaron Christensen
Adelaide punk rock duo The Hard Aches brought their Mess album launch tour to Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory on Friday April 20th. They brought with them an entourage of highly talented acts; Wollongong’s Nothing Rhymes with David, Adelaide rockers Sincerely, Grizzly, and Blue Mountains based band Antonia and the Lazy Susans. Nothing Rhymes with David kicked off proceedings with an indie/roots performance, setting a tone for the atmosphere evening – heart wrenching lyrics, an air of despair and coming out the other side a little bit bruised and battered but okay.
After that came Sincerely, Grizzly and their searing, soaring riffs with jagged yet controlled screamed vocals and a zesty prog vibe (with singer Joshua Calligeros repping an Oslow shirt – gotta love the Australian music scenes eagerness to promote other acts!) After their set came Antonia and the Lazy Susans, and I’ll be damned if I’ve seen a better opening act – in terms of raw vocal talent, instrumental proficiency and a penchant for heart ache (yes, that was intentional). The interplay between lead vocalist Antonia Susan Vial’s incandescent, soaring range and Kieren Turnbull’s interspersed low-pitch, post-punk style vocals was a joy to experience, particularly on their cuttingly devastating track Grandfather.
After the amazing slew of opening acts came The Hard Aches with their signature brand of explosively short, yet poignantly relatable punk. Opening with a stuttering start to title track Mess, and giving up once the plug fell out of the guitar, guitarist and vocalist Ben David gave a wry, ‘fuck-it-all’ grin and launched into the song again, with the crowd’s meeting the volume of the speakers. After that came Get Outta My House, the second track from the new album, with its punk lyrics and pop sensibilities washing over the crowd. A small lull between songs was met with Ben’s assertion of “that was a pretty fucking red hot start hey,” and that was to say the least. Following this was 2015 single Loser, keeping the theme of punk-fuelled aggression with a tinge of self-loathing.
The set was very flowing with few breaks in between songs, with Brain Drain following. Many of The Hard Aches’ songs deal with anxiety, depression, substance issues and mental illness in general, but as those who experience its incredibly difficult not to ‘freak out,’ detailed in the next song; I Freak Out. It seemed as though the set list and song order was chosen to thematically flow on from each other (as all good acts should do), but with The Hard Aches, it’s all the more poignant given the context and subtext of each song. Leading into Breakdown, from 2016’s I Freak Out EP, the flow of the night became even more apparent. Juxtaposing the incredibly heavy and negatively charged lyrical subject matter is the duo’s intoxicating and exhilarating stage presence, with both showing the energy and enthusiasm of a band that writes the happiest of pop songs.
Warm Blooded (from the new album) and Alcohol and Cigarettes followed this before launching into Terrible Things. After this came a beautiful tempo change with Happy, recorded with Camp Cope vocalist Georgia Maq for the new album. The live version was performed with Antonia from Antonia and the Lazy Susans filling in for the female vocals, and I can say with absolute conviction that it was infinitely better performed live, with Antonia’s impeccable range and Ben’s intense vocal desperation propelling the song into a different emotional plane. After this came St. Helens, from 2015 debut record Pheromones, before ringing in I Get Like This, the debaucherous and depressing smash-hit that pushed their music firmly into the Australian public’s ear. They closed the set with the acutely Australian Gutful before thrashing out the final song Glad That You’re Gone.