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Looking back upon Melbourne’s cultural history, much has been made the north-south intersection the Yarra River provides. Yet colliding with the Maribyrnong, the Yarra also cleaves a less romanticised division to the west.
Outside of its idyllic coastal enclaves, the far western regions of Melbourne oscillate between descriptive terms like industrialised, barren, downtrodden and culturally removed.
A desolate sprawl of industry and suburbia dissects residents from the gleaming metropolis of the country’s cultural capital. Opportunity, possibility and self-expression wither beneath grey smothers of entrapment and urban decay.
The debut LP from Jackson Reid Briggs and The Heaters, When Are You Going To Give Up On Me So I Can Give Up On Myself explores the dark corners of this bleak suburbia.
Desolate and dissonant, Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters are the dilapidated mascots for raw, honest music born from chilling decay.
Beneath the chaotic dissonance of the Melbournian punk thrashers Briggs finds his muse. Drawing from his experiences within this urban morass Briggs relays lyrics of misery and depression with brutal honesty.
Exemplary of the sonic catharsis and barely directed rage which comprises the LP, 9th track The West articulates The Heaters’ bleak geography in sound.
“It hasn’t happened for me/It’s hasn’t happened for you/It’ll never happen for us” frontman Briggs concedes in a moment of anthemic hopelessness.
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Moving beyond the song’s probable intent, The West expresses a moment of universal dejection. Whatever your entanglement, Western Melbourne, West Sydney, out West, The Western World, “The West” is dreary a place, scorned and inescapable.
For the better part, The Heaters’ long player is littered with caustic punk; slabs of sound delivered with beer-spilling camaraderie. Unified with militant consistency, it’s less punkish verve and more sledgehammer noise. Key cuts If I Had Time and Near Me leak with pleading solipsism.
Following a doom-laden intro, Altona Beach provides the album’s standout moment. Moving away from machine gun delivery, the vocal narrative is given space to breathe. While bordering on indecipherable for the better part of the LP, here Briggs’s lyrics smoulder with clarity and resonance.
The track laments the narrator’s “western slump.” Lethargic with despair, a troubled mind explores possible avenues of respite, but fails to find solace in the prospect of “Driving to Altona beach/With nothing in my head.”
Extended instrumental passages provide rough-hewn hooks while building anticipation for the next lyrical reveal. Bookending the album’s narrative of monotony and destitution, Altona Beach conveys a seductive take on helplessness and seething rage.
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There’s little question that the rumbling sludge ballad of Altona Beach is JRB and his Heaters at their finest. This said, the remainder of the group’s homespun punk comes purpose-built for blasting at indiscriminately loud volumes.
As enticing as this is, the presence of some quieter moments push the idea that there’s an untapped depth to be found within the outfit’s all-enveloping disenchantment.
Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters are touring When Are You Going To Give Up On Me So I Can Give Up On Myself around Australia. Catch the dates below, and find the finer details here.