Totally Numb by Backyard Surgeons (Australia)


Songs on the CD:

  • 1. Amigo Let Me Go
  • 2. Don’t Expect a Change
  • 3. Totally Numb
  • 4. Bad Intent
  • 5. Good Luck

What’s best about an EP is that it forces concision on a band- they’ve the space of a mere few songs to represent themselves, at that juncture, as completely as possible. In the better cases, all of the fat is trimmed, and you get a small body of work that’s explorative yet highly purposed, embodying just what is distinctive about a band, and gives you a sense of not just the band’s sound, but their philosophy too. That’s exactly what this EP does.

With many stalwarts of the many kinds of punk standing behind them, these guys are clearly under good aegis. The songs are slick-sounding, yet unsanded, and incisively arranged so that while remaining in a fairly specific sonic dominion, they don’t get tedious. Since punk (and a sizeable chunk of hardcore) was appropriated by the mainstream, there’s been a graveyard spiral in the quality of vocals, with many adopting (what I like to call) the “nasal-retard-caterwauling” technique, in the misguided belief that they sound good just because their idols did. It’s a relief to actually hear singing, and done competently at that. They’re highly reminiscent of lostprophets’ Ian Watkins (before they wussed out on everyone), as is the lyrical style; disenchanted, cynical monologues with a judicious smattering of swearing, mostly aimed at an (evidently) loathed listener. The drums are hammer-and-tongs throughout, very much in the Chuck Biscuits/Bill Stevenson vein, although in portions they’re more classic-rock, which when combined with the bass, inexplicably reminds me of Tad’s Salt Lick.

The guitars alternate (as is to be expected with two guitarists) somewhere between Greg Ginn’s relentless hurtling assault, RKL (Reactivate and later) and Tom Niemeyer’s elastic yet leaden riffs. My two cents here are that the combined effect is not really “punk”, because punk’s signature is blues-rock chord patterns played faster, and radically more brazen in attitude. It’s more in hardcore and crossover-thrash territory, more akin to the Accüsed. But there are punky overtones – Don’t Expect a Change is a disparaging vent, like the ones Bad Religion is so good at. It wouldn’t surprise me if they came up with their own California Über Alles at some point (without Jello Biafra’s overacting, of course). Amigo Let Me Go starts with a deep riff, but suddenly falls off a sonic cliff in the opposite direction, and doesn’t slow down. Bad Intent has an awesome, winding guitar line behind the vocals, and even some oozin’ aahs in the chorus. Good Luck is shredful, with an anthemic chorus, and zipping, ascending guitar lines.

In totality, the songs really illustrate the core of their sound, and make it a solid, highly listenable CD. It’ll be interesting to see if this holds up, though, against a full-length album – their next challenge, perhaps?…

— Shashwati Kala

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