Nearly twenty-five years after their formation, Australian underground rock legends feedtime (always with lowercase “f”) embarked on their first US tour last week. This past weekend, the tour brought feedtime to the NYC area for three shows; Thursday at Death By Audio, Saturday at Cake Shop, and Sunday at Maxwell’s. For longtime fans, and new converts, this was a rare glimpse into a corner of rock n’ roll that the die-hards out there consider to be as essential as Detroit ’69, Cleveland ’75, and London ‘77. Early-mid ‘80s Aussie postpunk is among the rawest, most brutal, and utterly physical rock n’ roll ever wrestled out of the classic bass/drums/guitar triumvirate. Feedtime epitomize this uncompromising stance as well as any combo before or since. Initially forming in 1979, finding their footing in the ‘80s via Aberrant Records, and achieving moderate international success via distribution deals with Rough Trade and Amphetamine Reptile; feedtime have come for their reckoning, thanks to a brand-new 4-LP box set on Sub Pop (collecting their Aberrant years) and a new LP/CD of previously unreleased material, Today is Friday (S-S Records).
Feedtime songs don’t have riffs per se; they are made up of sinew, gristle, and sweat. The bass sounds as if it has been constructed from steel girders, the guitar is usually attacked with whatever is handy, resulting in a slide-frenzy that sounds like what having razorwire dragged across your face must feel like; it recalls the most savage of blues. And the drums, the drums are beaten mercilessly, much like the sun beats down on the unshaded in the Outback. Rich man, poor man, the sun don’t care how much is in your bank account. Feedtime doesn’t care either, but they do care about what’s in the bank itself, as the debut album’s “Fastbuck” notes: “Got a Pontiac/gasoline/grab the cash/split the scene.” Why this wasn’t used in a chase scene in Chopper is beyond me. There is a cinematic flair to feedtime; a dirty, sandswept noir sparsely populated by violent and unpredictable outsiders, desperate loners lurking on the fringes of society.
Thursday at Death By Audio was a well-attended example of the possibilities of amplified rock-like noise. Perpetual local no wave faves Sightings lurched through their patented short-circuit compositions, walking a jagged edge of falling apart/building up, unleashing waves of discomfiting deep-bass stabs and roiling sheets of slicing guitar noise. It was a night of veterans, as former labelmates (in their previous incarnation as Hammerhead), Vaz brought a punishing set of their uniquely harrowing and pummeling take on hardcore.
Feedtime took the stage and fumbled through a few of their opening numbers. Did the old guys still have it? Suddenly, they found their groove and rode it like a freight train to Hell, all dense bass chug, perfectly on-point drumming, and that nasty slide guitar. As the set progressed it seemed feedtime actually became more unhinged and threatened to jump the tracks. There’s something thrilling about a band that can maintain that nearly-falling-apart tension while also remaining firmly in control.
Two nights later, at the Cake Shop, feedtime came out like gangbusters, on fire from the very start. Songs like “Dead Crazy” and the catchy, relatively straightforward punk of “Don’t Like” whipped the crowd up, but they balanced out the blunt instrument approach with cuts like the melancholic “Ever Again” and “Fractured.” Feedtime is also known for their excellent covers (their Cooper-S LP is all covers), and they didn’t disappoint with a brisk run-through of contemporaries and inspirations, (Aussie) X’s “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” and a deconstructed cover of the Stones’ “Paint It Black” that ended in a double-time hardcore blitz. Once again, drummer Tom nailed the band’s feet to the floor, giving the other fellas plenty of room to roll all over you with that metallic (as in the substance, not the genre) bass and savage slide. Never underestimate the power of a gnarly bass tone.
While the crowd was smaller than the DBA show, it was like a pow-wow of several generations of gritty rock n’ roll, as members of classic Oz/US bands like Lubricated Goat, Chrome Cranks, and Bird Blobs looked on with big smiles, and, just maybe, a napkin with a few notes scribbled on it. Good on ya, feedtime.
[originally appeared on the Brooklyn Vegan website; photos by Keith Marlowe]