Black Cab has long cast its chronological and artistic gaze beyond the ubiquitous ’60s. The band’s last album, Call Signs, took as its governing inspiration the totalitarian aesthetic of East Germany, a cultural context as rigid and bereft of promise as the late ’60s of Black Cab’s earlier records, Altamont Diaries and Jesus East, is defined by its rhetoric of hope.
According to rumour, Black Cab’s next album is to be inspired by the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Nestled between the murderous Munich games, and the Cold War 1980 Moscow Olympics, Montreal was the nadir of the Olympic industry: boycotts, drug-induced triumphs, spectacular failures and a succeeding public debt that continues to hang over the host city like a scandalous moment in one’s youth. If anyone can find artistic inspiration in such a dramatic climate, it’s Black Cab.
The first cab on tonight’s rank was Humans, a two-piece collaboration between Chris Chappell and Sean Simmons. It’s an electronic pastiche of sound and noise that neither starts nor finishes, but just is.
Baptism Of Uzi is up next, with all the sense of expectation you’d expect from one of Melbourne’s most important bands. From its prog-psych origins, Baptism Of Uzi has taken a turn down the soul-funk route. Stray Current basks in the cocaine-fuelled hedonism of the mid-’70s; the entire set is a reminder of the goodness of the oft-critiqued ’70s if you can see past the tedious schlock of commercial radio.
Black Cab appears in a recalibrated four-piece guise, with Lowtide’s Lucy Buckeridge on bass and Sand Pebbles drummer Wes Holland on drums. The prevailing aesthetic is electronic, and Teutonic. There’s less fat on the body of the Call Signs material than a fully fit Filbert Bayi lining up to take on John Walker. Sexy Polizei takes an even more Krautrock turn, commensurate with an underlying pop sensibility reminiscent of the once-great Flowers before an unfortunate and a predilection for pretentious orchestration led Iva Davies to the door of disappointment.
The new material has the discipline of Nadia Comaneci on the upright bars, and the dexterity of Bruce Jenner. Andrew Coates adopts his characteristic pose, propped enigmatically against the microphone, his body moving ever-so-slightly in time with the music. James Lee fluctuates between keyboards and guitar; arguably, it’s the latter where the set peaks, with a succession of scalable electro-psych riffs that provide the bridge from San Francisco to Berlin.
There’s a pregnant pause at the end of the set, before the band succumbs to the baying of the crowd and returns to the stage for Hearts On Fire. The Montreal Olympics was an event of profound disappointment; tonight most certainly wasn’t.
BY PATRICK EMERY
LOVED: Baptism Of Uzi’s re-working of Stray Current.
HATED: Well, nothing really.
DRANK: Jugs of Fat Yak.