Full disclosure here, I am almost a “Claremont Boy”: I grew up just a few blocks shy of the titular suburb, that utopia of golden-triangle bourgeoise myopia, with its ugly eggshell-white boutiques, banks and weak lattés. Does this make me more, or less qualified to review this single? Not sure. In any case, I had formative experiences in Claremont: buying my first ever CD with my own money (“Hit Machine 26” fyi) in a now-bulldozed shopping centre; buying some sick World Industries skate shoes at Fosseys; nabbing my first taste of Hungry Jacks. As with any place, the suburb has its charms: the Lane Bookshop… Bunnings… but SHIT NARNIA vocalist Hugh Manning works behind the bar at the Claremont Hotel, and he knows all too well the grotesque underbelly that seethes beneath’s Claremont squeaky veneer.
And already I’ve given you more context than you really need for this single: “Claremont Boy” speaks for itself thematically – it’s beautifully direct, a brilliantly revealing vignette clocking in at UNDER two minutes. Yes, that’s how it’s done.
Over thrillingly gravelly guitar chords and archetypal punk bass/drum thumpalong, we get what seems to be a real-time observational portrait of the “Claremont Boy” himself, who was presumably a real person one night, but stands in as an avatar for the entirety of fucked-up Australian masculinity. The street-fashion savvy neo-jock is “well rehearsed in all the manly arts,” drinking beer and smoking ciggies almost as if through sheer muscle memory. He’s “telling you about all the girls he’s fucked” and “glaring at the flowers in [Hugh’s] ears.” But hell, don’t take my word for it, listen to the tune! It’ll be quicker, and more fun, than reading my recount. I won’t spoil the ending but it’s a remarkably potent bit of tragicomedy and, like the poet he is, Manning packs an enormous amount of cultural narrative and dark implication into a mere handful of lines.
To paraphrase Commissioner James Gordon, SHIT NARNIA may not be the punk band Perth deserves, but they’re the punk band Perth needs. They’re happy to ridicule those who clearly deserve it (as with this song) as well as taking on the more difficult task of applying the scalpel to themselves (see: “I Was A Teenage Atheist,” also on their Soundcloud, among plenty of others). Songs like “Claremont Boy” are the perfect antidote to innocuous, soft-edged Triple J pop and rock that refuses to alienate or offend anyone – heck, Claremont Boy might give us some Money or come to our Gig! Shit Narnia want to alienate Claremont Boy because fuck that guy and everything he represents: latent homophobia, machismo, mindless consumption and ego tripping. Of course, the more you listen to the band, the more you realise their worldview is not always antagonistic, and certainly not one-dimensional. But it’s nice to hear a tune with a bit of well-directed bile in the back of its throat.
And it sounds fucking great. The recording strikes up the perfect balance of lo-fi grit and good-quality reproduction, the latter meaning that it doesn’t come across an incidental live document or demo; it’ll never need to be re-recorded. This is the ideal iteration. It reminds me of the CD that has (fun fact) had the most plays in my iTunes: Perth band Burning Sensation’s Novemberchrist EP. Like Shit Narnia, BS were crusty and honest and articulate and had a brilliant ear for addictive rhythms and repeat-button-worthy (but never corny) melodic/lyrical hooks.
In other words, when Shit Narnia’s EP Welcome To New L.A. comes out early next year, I’m likely to give it the hammering of a lifetime. Godspeed, gentlemen.
(In case you missed it in the article, click here to hear “Claremont Boy” on Soundcloud).