Exciting times for the band Violent Soho, supported by screaming hot popularity in Australia, their new disc, “Hungry Ghost”, will be released in early September. Produced by Moorhead, the Australian Steve Albini, and mixed by John Agnello. The disc was originally released in Australia in late 2013 on I Oh You records. The recording did well, and the single “Covered In Chrome” went to 14th on the hottest 100 in 2013. They also reached number 6 on the Australian record charts. With the group gaining in popularity, they were signed with Side One Dummy Records to release in the States. The playlist is the same as the original down under release with the addition of the song “Tinderbox”.
The band was formed in 2004 in the Brisbane suburb of Mansfield. Members Luke Boerham, guitar/vocals, James Tidswell guitar/vocals, Luke Henery bass, and Michael Richards, on drums, all grew up together and attended the same youth group. But they are not singing Kumbaya, theirs is a 21st century update of the best of grunge with a harder rock edge. For a time the band was pigeonholed as just another grunge, garage band doing reheats. After 10 years of cutting their teeth the band was ready to move beyond their comfort zone. Luke B. stated,” There’s no reason to lock the band down to the grunge label which we were constantly given, despite us never using that word. We realized that we didn’t care, as long as we were happy with the music we were making.” On the new album, Boerham states, “It was just about being willing to throw away things that didn’t make the cut. You have to be willing to do that. It took us two years to work out what was good.”
The title of the album, “Hungry Ghost” comes from a traditional Chinese Buddhism meaning, to have an unshakable addiction/desire and losing yourself to that desire, losing your own identity. The album also focuses on the concept of escaping masked identity. The lyrics take a look at outsider suburban characters, tapping into their reality and what they view as normal. There are some definite grunge influences, Nirvana and Pearl Jam lurk just below the surface, and Alternative 90’s gods Smashing Pumpkins make an appearance every so often, but they are all reflected thru the prism of Violent Soho’s special sonic skills.
The disc kicks off with “Dope Calypso” starts gently for second and then blasts the doors down. Reminding me of Smashing Pumpkins “1979”, there is a mature alternative grunge fusion taking place. “The world ain’t built that way….. Nothing is gonna save us.” Boerham channels his inner Kurt Cobain at the end of the song, which ends in a rondo like call and answer. The riffs of this song sound like they could destroy buildings.
The song ‘Lowbrow” is song about the middle class and authenticity or the lack there of, attacking all the things highbrow and fake. There is a great punk feeling in this song. “Dressed up like a funeral home” The Square pegs being shoved into the circle.
“Covered In Chrome” Boerham states this song comes out of a reaction he had to reading about the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. The song is about the power that can be wielded from ideas, rebellion leaking through the grey of conformity. “All the kings men fell down on their knees. Raising their arms to the leader outside. Praising the devil they said.” A very powerful song and no surprise it went places in Australia.
“In the Aisle” is a heavy punk tune that kicks butt and takes names. The song talks about hiding behind a façade of normality. “Saramona Said” continues the discussion by looking at ways people justify really selfish destructive behavior by saying the world is a pit, therefore I can do anything I want. There is a nice psychedelic feel to this song. Drum driven mid tempo tune that builds very nicely.
“Ok Cathedral” Utilizes a great echo feel. It comes off almost like a Cure tune. The lovely e-bow sonic elevates the song to a different level. My favorite song on the disc, soaring, but also has some very deep lyrics. “Waiting and waiting for God to carry me to shore, no I not going to take it.”
“Fur Eyes” Was inspired by the illustrations from the graphic novel Black Hole by Charles Burns. The song has an alternative country feel. It reminded me of the song “By Starlight” from Smashing Pumpkins. “Gold Coast” is a summery song, sounding like a clever twist on Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings”. All the joy of taking a convertible through the suburbs of Brisbane with the sun on your shoulders as you head to the beach.
“Liars” This song has layers of delay and raw guitar licks. There are also layers of meaning to the song, who one wonders are the liars, parents, Western Society? ” I remember afternoon drives on Cleveland Road. That smelt like fear. With the rich kids and their parents. That western world that kept me well and safe.” “Eightfold” has a relentless driving beat intro. This song got me with the lyric” I guess I will wait in line for the next line.” Unfortunately this lyric is so true in real life.
“Hungry Ghost” A trippy tune with a ghostly feels. Boerham’s plaintive voice matches the feeling of the song. This selection harkens back to the definition of a Hungry Ghost and that non shakable addiction or desire. “Let me rest now….. I felt the ghost now. Touch my hand while I lay in this water. We don’t last long anyway, oh God.”
‘Tinderbox” This is an additional track to the Australian release. The selection unleashes an up tempo full on guitar attack. A great ending to a great disc.
In the early 1990’s this band could have given the best grunge acts a run for their money. It is to be seen if they can fair as well in the 2010’s. After a listen you can understand why the band should get a chance at the golden ring with a run at the States. They fall somewhere between a hard rock and garage act. They would fit nicely into the DIY movement in the Seattle/West Coast area. Welcome to America boys! Gods speed! (Quick shout out to my good friend Mick J. for putting me on to this band)