Trust us: the Cosmic Psychos.
Blokes You Can Trust
The Metro, August 10
The documentary Victorian punk rockers Cosmic Psychos are supporting with this first tour in “yonks” is tag-lined “30 years and a million beers with Australia's most unlikely rock and roll heroes”.
It kicks off with producer Butch Vig and members of Mudhoney, The Melvins and Pearl Jam talking about Cosmic Psychos’ influence on grunge, with singer and bassist Ross Knight recalling of all the fuss: “At the backa moi head, I was thinkin’, well I’m a fuckin’ farma.”
Called Blokes You Can Trust, you could be forgiven for thinking said “blokes” were Vig, Vedder and company. If an American rock icon says it, it must be true right?
Turns out Vedder and company’s comments were no passing gesture: their admiration for Cosmic Psychos is genuine and enduring.
Filmmaker Matt Weston focuses on the band’s American ties not because he’s reflexively sourcing Australia’s cultural validity offshore but because the interplay between the bogan rockers, formed in ‘82, and the American bands who admired them is where this story’s poignancy and hilarity is found.
Poignant, because mainstream Australia still overlooks much of its local talent. Hilarious, because most Aussies love a good yarn about upstaging (or bewildering) the yanks: and this doco overflows with them.
The 6pm Paddington Chauvel session was not your ordinary audience however. The quarter-full room compensated with half-drunk rowdiness, with many jaunting to the bar and back like it was a seated gig, likely staying topped-up for the Metro show afterwards. On cue, as the film finished, a guy yelled out: “When’s the party bus loiving for the Metro?”
While uber-masculine yobbo-rock permissiveness seemed like something to celebrate in the film, that same mentality offscreen at the Metro was a tad less appealing, especially as a (sober) woman in the midst of legions of leery guys.
Cosmic Psychos’ roadie of 30 years, known as ‘Digger’ (pilloried in Blokes You Can Trust for being bereft of technical skills but a great bloke to drink with), wafted around a merchandise table selling stubby holders that read: DRINK SHOOT ROOT SMOKE.
Given shooting, rooting and smoking were out, the crowd enacted the fourth recommendation with gusto, thus ignoring Butch Vig’s advice in the film: “Never drink with the Psychos!”
Though it’s lucky the crowd was so well-oiled because the set began with 20 minutes of laboured guitar tuning. The virtues of digital tuners had been lost on Knight and his bass wouldn’t behave. As his technical problems escalated, drummer Dean Muller, bored, wisecracked from the safety of his stool: “ They’re starting to refund your money at the ticket office.”
The crowd didn’t mind. In fact, the band’s shambolic descent, before they’d even played, was received with same good humour as an end-of-year kindergarten concert.
And when Knight finally turned to his mic to say, “Well what a f---ing carry-on that was. The biggest tune-up for the biggest load of shit you’ll ever hear” and barreled into the first track, everyone cheered. Building your reputation around a philosophy of irreverence sure pays off when things go awry.
The band’s sound is the same as ever: Stooges-style punk and slower, fuzzed out grunge with squalling wah guitar solos, topped with choruses that glorify lowest-common denominator Aussie-isms. “Nice day to have a schnitzel, have a schnitzel, have a schnitzel!”
Back in Town saw the crowd – mainly guys upwards of 40 – dissolve again into a undisciplined circle pit. Knight, who tells us he’s 51 years old, and the beer-bellied guitarist John McKeering played the final song, David Lee Roth, with their shirts off and, when it was over, Muller joined them to moon the crowd farewell, proof that age, for some, only delivers maturity if you want it to.
As a woman, I can find unadulterated blokeyness pretty unappealing. But the Cosmic Psychos’ playfulness surpasses their maleness and, even in their middle age, they seem more like little boys than boisterous men. And, somewhere in the gap, everyone is welcome, young and old, male or female. Though definitely not the squeamish.