Let’s start with the title. The Chats don’t care what you think, and even less (I hope) what the Guardian thinks. This band did not give a continental about what Karl Stefanovic thought when they ran around the set of the Today Show. This is entirely as it should be for a reprobate punk band from Pig City, aka Brisbane (via the Sunshine Coast).
That said, there are some signs of growing pains on Get Fucked, the follow-up to 2020’s High Risk Behaviour. In some ways, this album is to the Chats what Leave Home was to Ramones: it’s tighter, with better playing and a tougher sound, but lacks some of the naive charm that made their debut so endearing. They have also lost guitarist Josh Price, and he takes a little of the Chats’ humour with him.
New Josh (Hardy) is a killer, though. His playing sets fire to Struck By Lightning and Panic Attack, songs that crackle with all the nervous energy of their titles. The singer and bass player, Eamon Sandwith, stretches out a bit more lyrically, too, reminding us that, at the height of the Black Summer bushfires, he gave us the Christmas in Hawaii song I Hope Scott’s House Burns Down. There has always been more to this band than met the eye.
And so Boggo Breakout references a historic escape from the infamous Brisbane jail, while Dead On Site is about workplace safety: “Tommy B wired down to a T / Had the highest IQ in his family / 2IC said what’s that smell / Tommy always liked his steak done well.” Emperor Of The Beach doesn’t directly reference the 2005 Cronulla Riots, but it’s clearly about the attitudes and prejudices that fed them, and features a mid-section that sounds every bit like a brawl.
The most persistent criticism of the Chats is that they are performing a kind of working-class cosplay. But since when was writing in character a problem for Ray Davies? Sandwith is only making observations about where he’s come from: a place of muscle cars (6L GTR) and complaints about the price of smokes. The Chats are treading a fine line between stupid and clever, but there’s no meanness of spirit here.
Occasionally, they repeat themselves, and I’ve Been Drunk In Every Pub In Brisbane is nowhere near as deadly as Drunk n Disorderly. But who cares? The Cosmic Psychos have contributed more drinking songs to the canon than Slim Dusty, and it still took them a quarter of a century to write the perfect one (their influence over punk looms ever larger, like an Antipodean Ramones). Sometimes, the joke is funnier on the 10th telling than the second.
At a bit under half an hour, Get Fucked hardly outstays its welcome. Rather than the great leap forward of Amyl & The Sniffers’ Comfort To Me, this is two steps forward and one step back from a band that may never recapture the novelty of their viral beginnings, but would happily trade it for the longevity of their heroes.
First published in the Guardian, 20 August 2022