Posts Tagged ‘Chook Race’

School Damage

Oftentimes when a debut hits a particular sound on the head so well, there’s a nervousness approaching the follow up to see if that solid connection can be repeated when the band comes around to taking the next swing. On their debut, Melbourne’s School Damage found the woozy, wobbly ground between art-punk’s nerve-damaged tempos and the spare class of post punk that counted Pylon, Young Marble Giants and The Units as alumni. Jumping into their sophomore LP, they pretty quickly dispel any lingering worries. “Assimilate” starts off strong, but by the time they hit the carnival careen of “Psychick Damage” they’re doing laps around any band that’s attempting to wrangle up and repeat the same strand of influences.

The band’s Jake Robertson and Carolyn Hawkins have a deep bench of wobbly pop favorites in their pockets, which speaks well to the Internet’s ability to let a couple of Aussie’s get their hands on US/UK rarities with relative ease these days. Though access isn’t synthesis by a long shot, and the pair’s ability to pull from the nervy nooks of the ‘70s and addled ends of the ‘80s and kick out consistently brilliant gems is laudable. The pair still tag team the vocals and each singer lends a different shade to the record, with Robertson bringing a slightly tempered version of his cracked glass approach in Ausmuteants and Hawkins channeling a more silken cool that works well with their less is more approach to space and sound.

If anything, the record bests their debut, fanning the spark they scratched last year into a flame. A to X, gleefully explores the post-punk road less traveled. Without the sinewy shades of angst that often infect the genre, the band has time to explore the unease, anxiety and aloof discomfort of the bands that handed them down the sound. That they do it with a creeping catchiness and seemingly rapid ease makes this a record that’s impossible to ignore. If you missed their opening volley last year then catch up quick because School Damage shows no signs of slowing their domination of the itchy underground.



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Jake and Carolyn of School Damage on Tommy Jay – Tall Tales of Trauma

Though I’ve been a fan of both Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, Alien Nosejob) and Carolyn Hawkins’ (Chook Race) individual projects, they’re often at their best when they come together as School Damage. The band embraces a raw, yet catchy form of post-punk that finds a through line from Young Marble Giants to Wire and Television Personalities. The two songwriters balance each other out in their reach for grit vs hook, so with that in mind Jake and Carolyn team up for a joint pick in Hidden Gems. The pair both harbor a love for Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Truama, aMidwest lo-fi treasure that’s sure to have eluded most.

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School Damage – “Scump Damage 1”

One of last year’s favorite albums around here came from Aussie upstarts School Damage. Featuring members of Ausmuteants and Chook Race, the band captured a kind of woozy, wobbly pop that drew comparisons to The Vaselines and Young Marble Giants. Their simple, yet potent brand of post-punk was full of charms that only get deeper on their new 7” for Upset The Rhythm. The new single works under the concept of four songs about one cat – which on paper sound like it could get real twee, real fast. However, the band maintains their usual off-kilter sensibility pinning Jake Robertson’s tale of Lumpy (aka Scump) to a headrush synth line and enough jangles to stuff your socks. They continue to be top shelf Aussie exports, and this little taste only makes me want more from the band. The single is out on UTR on May 25th.



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School Damage

Having started strong with the single “Tall Poppies,” Melbourne/Geelong foursome School Damage come even stronger with their first full length for Chapter Music. The album plays well into a type of post-punk that prized catchy swings over a full sound, often feeling ramshackle but giddy in the process. School Damage captures that giddiness bubbling in the pit of the stomach and fashions it into a kind of worming social anxiety come to life through woozy keys and sprinting drums. They find the sweet spot between The Vaselines, Kleenex and, as evidenced by their homage, Aussie footnote The Particles. They capture the austerity, sincerity and don’t give a fuck attitude of those groups and translate it into bubbling pop that’s ’80s in root but frothing with a lyrical sensibility that could only belong to present day. Somehow they make it all coalesce into sweaty charms in a mistmatched print.

There’s a delirious, but fun, edge to their eponymous LP and at its most dizzying it has the effect of riding the tilt-o-whirl on a stomach full of cotton candy. The songs are primarily helmed by Chook Race’s Carolyn Hawkins and as much as she adds to her other home in Chook, she’s clearly found her niche in School Damage. Other vocal duties are headed up by Austmuteants’ Jake Robertson, and I tend to have a hard time divorcing his voice from that group. Though, if Ausmuteants aren’t a heavy fixture in your life then the pair act as nice halves to the quiet cool/geek-rock freakout coin, alternating their turns as the wheel amiably.

Plenty since punk crumbled into even more primitive forms have found success in spare squirming, from Beat Happening and C.O.C.O. to the nervy lo-fi of Bitch Prefect, but there’s something that gives School Damage their own space in the sound. They’re perfectly pinning jangle-pop’s heartfelt bubblegum swing to the anxious bulge of early synth-punk, finding a freedom to explode in both directions at once in any given song. They even find time to slow things down from their Adderall rush to strum out a couple of Vaselines poet-souled ballads. Its a history lesson encapsulated and as a jittery post-punk primer, you couldn’t ask for much more.





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School Damage – “Tall Poppies”

This one brings together members of two RSTB faves, Carolyn Hawkins of Chook Race and Jake Robertson of Ausmuteants. The group is self-admittedly going for a Vaselines meets Young Marble Giants sound, which on paper is an excellent idea that could go very wrong in execution. Thankfully the pair has the chops to pull it off pretty much perfectly. “Tall Poppies” hews closer to the Young Marble Giants side of that axis and they capture the stark, edge of electronic/edge of post-punk feelings with a deadpanned swagger that’s studied and superb. The track bodes well for what’s to come on their upcoming full length. If they can extend the exorcism of indie’s rise out of post-punk’s bones then it promises to be an intriguing entry in not only the Australian underground but also a welcome return to a sound that’s been explored far too seldom.




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Chook Race – “Hard To Clean”

Melbourne’s Chook Race put out a scrappy but fun album last year that showed more than a few crinkles of promise and they’re making good on it this year with a follow up through Tenth Court on the home court and Trouble in Mind here in the States. They’ve never sounded cleaner or more at ease than on their new single “Hard To Clean.” The track is a crisp pop number that belies its hooky charms with a bittersweet bleat running under those jangled harmonies. The video seems like more of a lark, but hell some nice nostalgia for the heyday of the Thighmaster or Sit and Be Fit is always a worthwhile trip. A solid sender and laying a pretty good dose of anticipation for the rest of the album comin’ up down the way.

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