I don’t hear too well out of my right ear. It’s a consequence of a gig I went to in 1992 at the Bridgeway Hotel in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The Cosmic Psychos were supporting L7 on the latter’s Australian tour. It was loud. Fucking loud. I slept through two alarms the next morning, and didn’t make it to university until the afternoon, my ears still ringing. It’s annoying (as much for others as it is for me), but, fuck, it was the Cosmic Psychos, so who cares.
Blokes You Can Trust, Matt Weston’s documentary on the life and times of the Cosmic Psychos, is the type of music documentary to which all music documentaries aspire. It’s a narrative of the band’s evolution, located in a sociological, musicological and personal context. The Cosmic Psychos are the antithesis of pretension. Songs about dead marsupials, David Lee Roth’s tabloid sexuality, going to the pub, arriving back after spending time away, doing your best to achieve (what the Chinese would call ‘doing your utmost’, the Cosmic Psychos describe as ‘go the hack’). Loved by fans, revered by contemporaries and feared by drinking partners, the Cosmic Psychos are the rock’n’roll manifestation of a country footy team.
But Blokes You Can Trust is far more than a linear history of the band. It’s about the members in the band, from Ross Knight, the irreverent farm boy who toured the world, to Bill Walsh, the business-savvy drummer whose estrangement from Knight gives a perverse irony to the film’s title, to the late Robbie Watts, a fiendishly guitarist whose life-long battles with heroin addiction flew under the radar until one fateful night in Bendigo in 2006.
While the testimonies from Mudhoney, The Melvins, Eddie Vedder and Donita Sparks from L7 place the Cosmic Psychos amongst exalted international company, Weston stops well short of hagiography. There’s nothing sanitised in the documentary – Walsh even chortles at the abuse directed at him in Kill Bill, the opening song from 2005’s Off Ya Cruet. Knight’s own relationship break-up bookends the film, providing an almost counter-intuitive emotional backdrop to the story of a band whose history is constructed by images of beer, bare buttocks and larrikin behaviour.
As an artistic concept, the Cosmic Psychos makes no sense: who the fuck would pay money to listen to a bunch of rough blokes with dumb-arse rock’n’roll songs? And in that paradox lies the infinite, indefinable, undeniable rugged beauty of the Cosmic Psychos. Blokes you can trust.
BY PATRICK EMERY
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