What is it about the desert that spawns such great rock bands? Josh Homme and his contemporaries all used the isolation and desolation of their surroundings to influence their music and make some of the best rock, punk and metal of the 90’s, bringing in atmospheric sounds and, what I like to call the “creep” factor: a slightly dangerous tinge to the music that gently suggests that they may have entered into some or other type of transaction with a certain horned king of darkness.
In a similar fashion, Bat Hazzard, hailing from the endless horizons of Australia’s Northern Territory, are creating their own sound, distinct from the Desert Rock of the Nevada, but retaining that nagging feeling that there’s a cloven-hoofed influence to this music, and also bats. Probably a lot of them.
The two-piece outfit based in Alice Springs, almost exactly the middle of Australia, describe their music as Conglomerate Garage Rock. Conglomerate…rock. Getit? Ha.
…From The Cave
Their debut four track EP, Out Of The Cave is a blast of punk-inspired attitude mixed with surf and garage-reverb’d groove, a little jazzy horn madness and a lot of desert-influenced creepiness. All of this combines to create 4 tracks of groovy, angry, creepy, noisy garage rock.
Cold Shivers starts us off at break-neck speed, a dissonant guitar shrieking over a pulsing drum beat. For me this conjures up images of one of my favourite incarnations of the late, great Jay Reatard in Lost Sounds, a band who’s self-described style of “Black-wave” melded the melodic styles and modes of black metal with the attitude and pace of new wave punk. Hazzard, the lady behind the voice and the guitar, sings, screams and shrieks over the 100mph music, like a slightly possessed 50’s pop star. The sound is so reverb’d out that it feels almost like we’re IN a cave.
I Need Blood continues this mood of a satanic 50’s pop abomination. It’s groovy guitar riff mixed with Hazzard’s sweet/spooky vocals, conjures up images of a gang of happy-go-lucky beach bums taking part in some light ritual sacrifice. The chorus breaks down into a dissonant trumpet freak-out that would make Miles Davis pray for his salvation.
“Hazzard’s sweet/spooky vocals, conjures up images of a gang of happy-go-lucky beach bums taking part in some light ritual sacrifice.”
March Of The Bats, the only instrumental track on the EP, starts slow and quiet(ish)… and builds with the help of more brass into a wonderfully creepy little groove. This is what it must feel like being attacked by a horde of bats on a lonely desert highway. The build-up/drop-off pace of the music brings a great atmosphere to the track, culminating in Hazzard wailing a haunting melody over the thundering drums and noisy guitars.
And finally we come to Piggly’s, a lo-fi number that starts off threatening and ominous, and builds into a wailing chorus filled with atmosphere for days. The shortest track on the EP, it’s over almost before it begins, which could be said for the EP as a whole. Coming in at 12 minutes and 50 seconds in total, I was left wanting more as the last track abruptly cuts off. To be fair, I found I could quite easily just start it from the beginning again and enjoy it as much as the last time.
All in all I really enjoyed this album, it’s nothing entirely new, but Bat Hazzard handle their influences deftly and create something exciting and energising. The overall “creepiness” of this EP also adds alot of value for me, bringing a sense of danger to their brand of garage punk (or whatever the hell you want to call it).
Give this a listen for a quick and intense dose of desert-inspired noise, and revel in the creep!