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So often it’s all in the “angle”, that point of interest that makes music worth writing about – or at least gives you a jumping off point. And while there is a lot that I can say about Perth’s Pat Chow, I’ve realised that there is one simple point that I want to make. This time it’s not about leading a revival, or even spearheading a new wave. It’s not about dangerous politics or ever dangerous characters. The thing about Pat Chow is this: they make really fucking good music.
They say laughter is the best medicine, but in Pat Chow’s case the answer is to rock out. With solid riffs and fuzzed out punk, Are You Okay? is dynamite.
And their debut album Are You Okay? does a good job of illustrating that point. Out this month on Gun Fever Records, the band launched a Pozible campaign to help with the release. And the overwhelming response they received shows that it can’t just be me who reckons that Pat Chow are worth hearing. Clearly genuinely grateful for the support, that band say it also means that they “have a lot of love letters to write”. Including one to Dave Parkin at Blackbird Studios, where the album was recorded.
On first listen it’s a cohesive track listing of ten punked up, popped out garage songs. Toe tapping riffs and solid beats, equally solid writing and infectious vocals. But go a bit deeper and you start to notice the pretty impressive diversity across the album. Citing influences from Pixies and Nirvana, to local bands like Shit Narnia, Pat Chow are keen to spread the love around, saying that “Perth is killing it right now, it makes it pretty hard to have a quiet weekend.”
Their songs nail the ear worm melodies that will really get inside your head, couched in perfectly judged production that resists the temptation for those recording studio bells and whistles. Are You Okay? feels like a really tight live show; energetic and so rich in texture that their set list could have topographical markers. Nicely distorted but without losing any of the articulation, it sits just [on] the right side of messy.
Having teased the full album with the single Bad Thoughts, a video game feel synth intro launches into the same riff through brightly fuzzed guitar. The catchy vocal line is a good prelude to how Pat Chow’s songs can really stick in your head. The riffs are just as contagious, calling up the same simple but effective feels of early 2000’s rock. Often keeping to a slow, straight beat, tracks like Outta Words almost have a Foo Fighters influence. Hefty electric guitars against that steady beat, and Ben Protasiewicz’s gritty vocals that verge on a shout.
And like the Foo Fighters, Pat Chow know how to write a solid rock song. But theirs are tinged with both sides of history, from early punk to alternative sounds. Don’t Talk carries the punk influence well in it’s crunchy bass line and slightly psychotic guitar riff. Also in the anti-social lyric theme that hammers home the point “Don’t talk, don’t talk, don’t talk to me!”.
If the first half of Are You Okay? climbs through some rock solid ground, the summit of this is definitely Go Ahead. Playing on the kind of melancholic punk sound of bands like Pixies, with the lilting melody of a rock ballad, listening to the dual vocal at the beginning you half expect them to drop in that backing vocal from Here Comes Your Man. Launching into the full body of the track, it’s just a gorgeously written song, resting on a really ballsy riff and the kind of energy that nags at your aggression. Vocals verge nicely on a scream and balance in some excellent harmonies, Go Ahead ticks all the boxes including the imperative guitar solo and sing along finale.
Descending back down, the geography of the second half of Are You Okay? moves into the more surreal. Flower Power is a slower, tripped out track with an off the wall feel like The Flaming Lips, of even The Eels. Claiming that the production “Got a bit out of hand” on this one, it seems that the tuba was the tipping point. That punk spirit definitely stays with them, particularly on Neapolitan Beach. Screeching guitars come in over the looming bass intro, but it’s the ice cream romance narrative that really loops you in to this one. It’s hard to resist the kind of bizarre charm that graciously accepts a lick of that ice cream and says “Thanks babe”.
Pat Chow also allow themselves a little more license to cut loose in the second half of the album. Neapolitan Beach descends into a fuzzed out jam session, and final track FML milks it for nearly quarter of an hour. It cuts off just short of the point where the title seems applicable. It is however an excellent ending from Pat Chow. Trudging through at a tired pace, it signs off as a grungy anthem. The walking bass line almost has the feel of Grant Lee Buffalo’s cover of In My Room. It’s a heavy track to mark the finish of the journey that is Are You Okay?
So there you have it – no tricks, no gimmicks. Pat Chow’s Are You Okay? delivers on all fronts, but what they have really nailed is one of the hardest and one of the most crucial points for a band. Making really good music. And in answer to their question, after listening to that, I am most definitely okay. In fact, I’m bloody fantastic.
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