Clowns – Endless (Fat Wreck Chords, 2023)

Ah, yes. The long awaited (by me at least) 5th album from one of Melbourne, Australia’s premier punk rock acts. While we’re here, why do we insist on qualifying Melbourne with “Australia”? Is there another Melbourne? BRB… off to check… Yes, there’s one in Derbyshire, “England”. Now, I’ve lived in England for some 46 long and grueling years at this point, and I’ve never heard of it. Every day is seemingly a school day.

Anyways, I was something of a late comer to Clowns, with Nature / Nurture, their 4th opus being my jumping on point back in April 2019. I’ve not looked back since, scoring myself the three previous LPs (released through Poison City Records / This Charming Man) and catching them live the last couple of times they’ve passed through Leeds. If you get a chance to go see them, you totally should, as they properly bring it, mate.

So, aye, Endless, the new LP, and the second on Fat Wreck is upon us after a wait of a mere 4 and half years, and a couple of teaser tracks in the form of Formaldehyde and Bisexual Awakening. The latter of which brings us on to the supposedly tolerant and accepting punk scene being rife with some right proper homophobic melons. Probably InCels, innit. Now, whilst we’re on the subject of tolerance, I’m aware that a bunch of people have dismissed this band out of hand based on either the name “Clowns” or the fashion choices of the band members – some organic amalgam of beachwear, Miami Vice, bogan culture and 80s hair metal. It’s a strong look, in all fairness, and I can only wish I had the confidence and swagger to carry such a thing off. If you have dismissed Clowns on such a basis as this, shame on you.

But yeah, we are here to talk about the new album, are we not? If the idea of a full-throttle Mad Max: Fury Road style ride down maximum piss n’ vinegar drenched highways, whilst being peppered by asterisk flecked gobbets of invective doesn’t appeal to you, then I think it’s best that you go back to listening to American Football with the other bed-wetters.

I’ve always found Clowns to be a difficult band to pigeonhole. When this is the case with a band, it means either the band is producing sprawling, unlistenable garbage, or that by design or pure chance they’ve created a fully functional melting pot of diverse influences. Clowns thankfully fall into that latter category. I totally get that different people will hear different things in this record to me, but most obvious to me would be some kind of unholy flesh-amalgam of Keith Morris era Black Flag, early Modern Life is War, RKL (around the time of Rock n’ Roll Nightmare and Riches to Rags), and Scandi melodic death metal heroes At The Gates. Whatever the components, the results are pulverizing whilst retaining melody and pop hooks. Genius, if you ask me. I mean, I assume you are here because you are interested in my opinion, right?

Main vocals, as usual, are provided by Stevie Williams (realistically my top front-person of the last few years, and collectively the best live band I’ve seen in literally years), alternating between more traditional melodic style vocals through deranged yelling to an out and out bellicose roar and back again with seemingly no trouble. As a counterpoint, we see bass player Hanny J also coming more to the foreground vocally, often sharing lead vocal duties or fronting it solo. Lyrical themes vary between the examination and dissection of personal psychoses, to the exploration of the politics of gender and sexuality, through to criticism of the digital era and its impact on everyday life and the interpersonal relationships it imposes itself over, right back around to raw exposure of broken relationships.

Shredding and noodling are provided by Jarrod Goon and Cameron Rust. It’s a solid pairing, and there’s more than enough crunch, chug and tech to satisfy any Slayer fan (check the mosh part on Death Wish if you don’t believe me). Rounded out by the rhythm section, which is comprised of the aforementioned Hanny J on bass and one Jake Laderman on drums (check his other outfit, C.O.F.F.I.N – a.k.a Children of Finland Fighting in Norway for more treats). As is always the case with great bands, the rhythm section not only provides the solid backbone for everything else, but shapes and punctuates the tunes in a similar way to Avail and classic No Idea era Hot Water Music.

Special shout out to closer, A Widow’s Son, which appears to be a collaborative effort between the band and a true crime podcast. This kind of takes the form of an instrumental overlaid with spoken word, which explores the story of Ned Kelly as a true working-class hero taking on the might of financial institutions (portrayed here as slavers and poor-man crushers). I feel like this is probably closer to the truth than the popular culture portrayals we get of this guy over here in the UK. Fascinating stuff.

I’ll be expecting to see this LP in the end of year top ten lists of the discerning listener. You can be sure it’ll be in mine. Take this as further proof that Australia is producing loads of innovative and exciting bands these days. Even though the internet is shit (this website of mine being a key example), thankfully it does allow us to check stuff out that’s going on tens of thousands of miles away at the far side of the world… Before I go, I should point out the cover art, which I assume is some kind of homage to Ed Repka’s classic metal album covers, and which I’m guessing is also lampooning Stranger Things or something… Love it.

Tony of Nurgle rating: 10/10

Pick up a copy on any of the usual formats from Damaged Records in Australia, or Fat Wreck in the rest of the world. Better still, go to a show and buy one there.

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