BOAT SHOW are my new favourite Perth band, or favourite new Perth band - either way - the two things get entangled when you’re in the throes of enthusiasm for something unfamiliar and cool as heck. I saw them the other week at Mojo's, playing as part of "Shartfest #7," and got totally walloped by their nonchalant stage energy, power-saw riffs and unhinged sense of humour. It's no surprise, of course, that when you combine members of Dream Rimmy, Gunns, Moistoyster/Spaceman, Bells Rapids and more you're gonna get a pretty spesh brew. But still... while for the five-piece it was all in a day's work, for me it was a mini-revelation, a joyous half hour that's glued vivid to my memory.
Singer Ali Flintoff describes Boat Show as "a garage band of four girls and a token boy, with lyrics about the scum of the earth." This is as good a ten-word overview as any. They're a band that will appeal to fans of classic punk acts (especially feminist-leaning ones) like X-Ray Spex, Bikini Kill, X or The Germs - but likewise, you needn't be immersed in that kinda world to appreciate them. It's self-explanatory rock-n-roll fury delivered with a winning balance of melody and snarl, all super-direct, no pomp or fanfare.
These qualities translate flawlessly from the live setting to their debut album, Groundbreaking Masterpiece (out on new local label Dry Ground) - a record which achieves the notable feat of capturing both the band's raw intensity, and the nuance and clarity these excellent songs deserve.
'Serious' serves as a perfect induction, headbutting you with a snotty one-chord verse, three-chord chorus, and sick guitar solo that sounds like it’s been put through a blender. The more politically pointed 'Cis White Boy' drives on with a mid tempo motown chug, delivering an unrustled polemic against the arrogance that so often accompanies privileged viewpoints.
The frustrations of a social system that doles out arbitrary advantages to often oblivious and unhelpful parties becomes an ongoing fuel to the songwriting fire. In 'Staying Alive,' a central lyric caries a double valence, both as a parody of the ignorant, and genuine grievance of the exhausted and ignored: “I don’t wanna talk about basic human rights / with anything I say I’ll get fucking crucified. Can’t have an opinion, even if it’s right.” Songs like this speak to the origins of punk music, in which the wielders of power are called out on their bullshit, while those less often granted a platform scream their piece from the rooftops. Perhaps that's why this album feels so right and inevitable; it's capturing a contemporary moment, a contemporary frustration, via a timeless and aptly immediate form.
'Suss' barks a distinctly Oz-vernacular promise ("I'm gonna suss you out!") ahead of 'Running Away' - the latter slowing down to something more aligned with traditional Perth rock, sporting a bluesy motorik reminiscent of turn-of-the-millenium shoegazey jangle stuff. It's a bit of a curveball in the context of this mile-a-minute record, but it works. 'I Can’t Win' cranks the pace back to an upbeat hurtle, its giddy momentum underpinning deceptively relatable lyrics (one gets the impression each song emerges from a fairly specific set of experiences). 'Stupid' is another melodic sprawler, more in the vein of singer Ali Flintoff’s other major project Dream Rimmy, but retains the straightforward drums-and-fuzz palette that allows this whole album to come at you as a single, spontaneous statement.
It all careens to a halt with the totally daft but fun 'I Hate Work,' the not-quite-defeated 'Can’t Deal' and shade-throwing denoument stomper 'Transparent,' rounding out an album that never strays from its simple, crucial principles of loudness and unapologetic real talk.
From the silly, self-deprecating title to the cunnilingus-focused cover illustration by Hannah Atcheson, Groundbreaking Masterpiece wants to be outrageous and irreverent. And it is. But it’s also smart, arresting and important. It's impassioned and wild enough to impress the most jaded punks, catchy enough to reel in the average punter, sociologically savvy yet good-humoured in a way that will win over skeptics of music with an "agenda." Not that it seems Boat Show care who they do or don't appease. They'll keep calling it like they see it, making banging tunes along the way, and it's up to you if you wanna pick up what they're putting down. I'd recommend you pick it up.