-By Ben Smith
Three years ago, Violent Soho, a Queensland band with a small following from, released their third album. Given their previous two albums had failed to chart, little was expected. Yet Hungry Ghost, an album with no expectations, rose to sixth on the ARIA charts. Even more astonishingly, the album only reached those heights a whopping 18 months after its release.
Backed by the irresistible Covered in Chrome, one of the biggest Australian rock songs in years, Violent Soho became the ‘it guys’ of the Australian music scene. In a scene dominated by folk lullabies and indie-influenced electronic anthems, Violent Soho’s no-holds-barred approach was a glorious throwback to the 90’s, complete with grungy guitars, hard-hitting drums and massive choruses.
Following up Hungry Ghost was never going to be easy, but WACO finds Violent Soho in fine form once again. Not content with a reputation as a one-hit wonder, WACO is the sound of a band looking to move on from their previous album, whilst simultaneously retaining much of the sound which made them so popular in the first place.
The opening one-two of How to Taste and Blanket pack a punch and show the quartet have lost none of their penchant for writing volatile choruses. How to Taste explodes to life with Luke Boerdom’s rasping voice roaring over the top of James Tidswell’s boisterous guitar work. It’s an instant call-to-arms, custom built for the sweaty embrace of the mosh pit. Blanket perfectly illustrate’s the band’s current modus operandi; Michael Richard’s up-tempo drumming pushes the song along rampantly, before Boerdom’s yells perfectly encapsulate the band’s current outlook. “Well I’m going to take my time, well I’m going to live my life, someone recognise this, someone cut me dry,” are the words of a band keen to go their own way.
Lead singles Like Soda and Viceroy have been garnering Triple J play over the last few months, and deservedly so. Like Soda starts slow and before picking up pace at the chorus, guided by Boerdam’s buzzing delivery. It’s by no means the biggest or loudest song on the album, but his vocals fit perfectly with Tidswell’s fiery guitar work. Luke Henerey’s rhythmic bass drives the melodic, stemmed verses of Viceroy which explodes to life in a chorus punctuated by Boerdam’s now signature yelps.
The love of 90’s grunge and alternative rock which was so evident on Hungry Ghost is back once again. The introductory guitars of Evergreen are similar to Foo Fighters’ Everlong, whilst Holy Cave plays like a love letter to the Smashing Pumpkins in their heyday. Boerdom delivers the verses almost spoken word over quiet guitars which wouldn’t feel out of place on Siamese Dream, and his wails in the vociferous chorus are eerily reminiscent of Billy Corgan.
The likes of Slow Wave and the title track further showcase the band’s more controlled side, marking a slight stylistic change from Hungry Ghost. All three veer away from the punk barrage which has become the band’s calling card, in favour of a more reserved approach. Make no mistake though, while these songs may sacrifice speed, Violent Soho have ensured they are loud and any questions over whether they are heading in a slightly softer direction are effectively put to bed.
No Shade and So Sentimental continue the measured approach, both offering melodic guitar riffs from Tidswell and Boerdam while Henery’s bass pushes the tracks along, allowing the mellower side of the band to shine through. While they don’t pack the punch some of their signature tunes do, it does allow the quartet to prove they’re not a one-trick pony. The only song which fails to catch the eye is the atmospheric, sleepy Low which hums along at a sluggish pace. Even the guitar flourishes late in the piece or unable to save the song from being filler.
Despite the album finishing on a slight down note, WACO shows Violent Soho are here to stay. At its best, it’s a call-to-arms to embrace loud, aggressive guitars and to throw yourself with gusto into the nearest mosh pit. If they were desperate to prove Hungry Ghost was no fluke, that they are no flash in the pan, then they have done just that. The Australian rock scene is no need of a saviour, but the way Violent Soho are going, they may be the torchbearers for the new era.
Violent Soho’s The WACO Tour is completely sold out.
Photo Credit: Violent Soho