Live Review: Thee Oh Sees, Blank Realm, Kitchen's Floor

11 January 2016 | 4:20 pm | Steve Bell

"Rock'n'roll is meant to be primal, but tonight's fearsome display verges on primordial."

More Oh Sees More Oh Sees

The Crowbar's dark, scuzzy interior seems perfect for the doomy, discordant rock of local trio Kitchen's Floor, the ever-morphing line-up of whom revolves around acerbic frontman Matt Kennedy. They open with the brief dirge of Orbit and the template is quickly set — shouty, venomous, repetitive outsider refrains atop deranged, swirling rock beds — although plenty of melody lurks below the scuzz and vitriol, especially on tracks such as Sundowner and Strength from recent (excellent) third album Battle Of Brisbane. The whole thing continually teeters on the edge of oblivion but they always manage to pull it back from the brink, making for compelling viewing.

Fellow Brisbanites Blank Realm are another band who enthral just by being themselves, the amorphous four-piece kicking off with a take on Reach You On The Phone, which feels more urgent and propulsive than usual. Indeed the band as an entity seems more fluid and in unison than ever tonight — and this is a crew who rarely stray far from the same page — and even newer songs like Palace Of Love (from recent long-player Illegals In Heaven) boast a fresh vitality. Vocalist Daniel Spencer emerges from behind the drum kit for an elongated rendition of Go Easy that seems thinner and more malleable but with no resultant diminishment in charm, before they finish with the ever-anthemic Falling Down The Stairs, a perfectly harried and insistent take that arrives replete with spacey, jammy crescendo.

The room is full and the crowd bristling and pushing together for vantage spots as San Franciscan garage exponents Thee Oh Sees take the stage. They've been here numerous times in the past but never in this incarnation — frontman and sonic architect John Dwyer putting together a whole new line-up for last year's Mutilator Defeated At Last set — and the first thing you notice, besides the frantic tempo and energy levels, is that there's now two drummers (Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon) who together provide an incredible impetus. The singlet-toting, mop-topped Dwyer wears his guitar high (as is his wont) and convulses like electricity is pulsing through him as he spits his heavily affected vocals and barks like a dog at regular junctures, the songs short and punchy but rife with hooks and that unquenchable energy. It's noticeable that the absence of Brigid Dawson on keyboards/backing vocals gives the band a more 'boys club' feel but the vibe is still completely communal and inclusive, the crowdsurfers doing their thing and the ferocious music punctuated liberally with hooping and hollering as the throng up the front show their appreciation by converting en masse into a liquid sea of flesh and grins and sweat. There's next to nothing in the way of banter or interaction, just an endless stream of garage gold, one continuous maelstrom of energy and riffage and messy bonhomie: rock'n'roll is meant to be primal, but tonight's fearsome display verges on primordial. Awesome stuff.