Everything Is A-OK
There’s bound to be lots of music made before, but released during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will lead some of it to feel eerily prescient or fortuitously comforting. For some, the timing will be more unlucky: There’s a morbid irony in the fact that as countries have scrambled to slow the spread of the coronavirus, watched their economies go down the shitter and coped with mounting unemployment, illness and death, Violent Soho announced an album called Everything Is A-OK. Let’s be clear: Everything is not fucking A-OK. It would be funny if the situation wasn’t so dire and scary. (It is also a little bit funny, actually.)
But back to that earlier point about music as comfort. This band of rambunctious Aussies are always a ton of fun, and let’s be clear about another thing: It’s always nice to have fun. “Sleep Year” kicks off with thumping power chords that rise in your chest and packing the rest with big, dirty riffs and gritty, catchy ’90s alt-rock melodies. You could have once called it Siamese Dream worship, but it’s been long enough that an entire generation of kids will simply call this the Violent Soho sound. “Vacation Forever” is a prime example of that — big, hooky guitar music that’s radio-friendly yet rough around the edges.
By now, Violent Soho are decently well-known among rockheads around the world, but it’s in their home of Australia that they’re simply massive, now with two ARIA Awards (their Junos) under their belts and even a #1 national chart debut for their last album, 2016’s Waco. But that hasn’t changed anything about their attitude or approach. Listening to them feels like a nice, sunny day having a cold one with your mates, only you also happen to be bombarded by a swarm of bees. Violent Soho are both the sunny day and the swarm of bees.
Despite its title, Everything Is A-OK contains a good deal of grousing. Singer Luke Boerdam sneers about resisting the pressure to accept responsibility (“I could never be just what you need / A friend, a better man / Someone to understand and comprehend”) and about embracing the lifestyle of a no-good dirtbag (“Lying on the floor is all I wanna do”). Wry, flippant and cynical, it’s a stereotypical rock’n’roll mindset that verges on stubbornness (and on parody), but still with a sense of self-awareness and social conscience more befitting modern times.
While many artists (and people in general) tend to become more patient and forgiving as they age, Violent Soho are determined to push back against any social forces that would dare to attempt to subdue their youthful obnoxiousness. For them, wisdom is in knowing who you really are and sticking with that no matter the circumstances. For an office colleague, that could be incredibly annoying. For a rock band, it works pretty well.
Eighteen years in, and Violent Soho still have the youthful vitality of a group of 14-year-olds listening to records together and jamming in the basement. They refuse to change, and that’s A-OK. (Pure Noise)