Most reviews you’ll read about The Chats debut LP High Risk Behaviour will name-drop ‘Smoko’. Chances are you’ve heard of it, whether you’re one of the nine-and-a-half-million YouTube viewers, or an eavesdropper hearing tanked-up punters chanting “I’m on Smoko!” in dingy smoking areas of pubs and clubs. The shed rock trio are synonymous with it.
Sticking doggedly to their DIY guns and releasing their debut album through their own label, Bargain Bin Records, the self-proclaimed ‘dropkick drongos from the sunshine coast of Australia’ are sprinting to out-run their viral sensation.
The bogan trio have never been a group to screw around and pull punches. Rest assured ‘High Risk Behaviour’ is no exception. Sticking to their high-octane, in-your-face formula, the searing LP fires off fourteen tracks in just twenty-eight minutes, half of which fail to break the two-minute mark. But don’t be fooled, this shorter-is-sweeter policy is neither vapid, nor idle.
The trio spin banal everyday experiences into stylishly announced, wry, tongue-in-cheek squibs that fill an earbud as effortlessly as they will a sweaty, beer-soaked room.
‘Keep The Grubs Out’ is a flippant account of the night frontman Eamon Sandwith was refused entry to a club because of his mullet. Percussive handclaps crack through ‘The Clap’ – an ode to the venereal disease caught by an unknown band member.
The Aussie trio have clearly been practising. This becomes abundantly clear as bullish opener ‘Stinker’ venomously enters the eardrums. Whilst not totally glistening, The Chats are playing faster, harder and more contagious hooks that cling like ivy, lingering in the ears on an incessant loop long after the LP finishes. Not only are the hooks more captivating, Sandwith’s spit-spoken vocal chants are just as infectious. ‘Relaxation, mood alteration, boredom leads to intoxication’ is too catching not to recite.
Queensland born and bred, ‘High Risk Behaviour’, like previous releases, is rife with local slang. ‘4573’, for the uninitiated, is reference to a local Queensland postcode, while ‘Ross River’ was written to cheer up a mate suffering from an Australian disease.
The bands three-chords-is-too-many approach perhaps highlights some derivative songwriting. ‘Billy’s Backwash Day’ siphons elements of ‘Guns’, whilst ‘Don’t Tell Me What to Do’ seems to take a fair few components of its solo straight from ‘Identity Theft’.
But this is totally irrelevant. As modern punk moves in a more visceral direction, ‘High Risk Behaviour’ harks back to the anarchic energy, excess and attack of 70s punk. The full-on lunacy is totally engrossing. The Chats aren’t trying to be conceptual or ground-breaking. They make tunes to get off your face too.
It’s a masterful debut, with an abundance of memorable highs. More than enough to knock ‘Smoko’ off its perch. It delivers everything you would expect it too. Powerful and rambunctious punk numbers for raucous sessions. It’s so alive. It’s scintillating.