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The Belligerents have been doing Brisbane proud, going from one solid performance to another, each affording the band to display their technical evolution as well as their maturing song writing ability, while remaining kooky, care-free and inventive. As artists with a sizeable following and regular gigs, they have become a vital ingredient of the Aussie indie-pop-electronica scene. Tracks These Hands, Voices, She Calls the Shots and Wait are four of their very best and illustrate the band’s style and strengths.
Brisbane indie-dance kings The Belligerents are tearing it up at the moment, and it’s no wonder, their bristling mix of math-rock rhythms and electronic energy are intensely personal & irresistibly danceable.
Stylistically, The Belligerents are pioneers of the indie-pop dance craze with an additional nuance of heart-pluckin’ storytelling; a structure similar to that in some of Interpol’s more upbeat, yet yearning moments. Stirring lyrics that reach out from mesmerizing, good-natured, fun-loving dance painted with strokes of psych. There’s a flush of pride knowing these young blokes are homegrown.
While each release has seen the five-piece develop their style, and commendably so, at this point in reflection, their strength as an act to enjoy, to follow and be pulled in by, rests in the excellent use of well-written lyrics juxtaposed against really, really good indie dance music. The melodies, the vocals and the words all loan an intensely personal vibe to the band. There’s something about their music that you can get down to, but that strikes you emotionally at the same time.
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Maybe it’s the conflicting feelings of relating to the confusion, the love lost, the frustration in a relationship while dancing that is what makes it so damn good. It’s kind of this idea that singing along to these songs, bonding with them, feeling acknowledged, while shaking it all off, that proves the kind of brilliance a band like this possesses as well as the relevance of the genre. These Hands makes me want to cry and dance, and it’s a weird feeling to have, but I love it.
Singer Lewis Stephenson is a real character on stage, and that personality infuses the lyrics as well as the colourful feeling the band emits. Band mates Jimmy Griffin, Kon Kersting and Andy Balzat and Sam Sargent bring their own energy to the game, though with Stephenson, it all veers towards the explorative: adventurous textures and warbles, shudders and beats. The guitar is crucial and centre to the songs and beautifully made use of as a trajectory for which Stephenson’s words slide along or from. There’s a wildness in the songs, the idea that anything could happen, though each song does resolve and finds itself in the end.
That kind of talent, being able to articulate in the more out-there arrangements those powerful feelings and stories while bringing the music back to the ground, gives the listener the pleasure of a journey that is both vocal and melodic without leaving them stranded. You’re dancing, singing along the whole time. When teetering on the psychedelic, there’s never a sense that the songs are going to fall off the edge, the words are there to steer it back, and give satisfaction to the listener, while allowing the musicians to have taken something of a musical gallivant, but it’s one you dance along to.
Though citing Caribou and Metronomy as influences, one can perceive other influences or similarities, such as the infectious, up-tempo dissonance in the super-quirky/math-rock-esque signatures of Fly Pan AM or repetitive, angular, awkward awesomeness in Patrick Wolf’s early catalogue. It’s what takes this band beyond just another indie electronica band, and gives them credence and charm. These songs are cleverly conceived and executed and evidence a real love for what they are doing and singing about which is what shines through. When a band believes in what they are doing and having as good a time up on stage as the audience, you know you’re a part of something special.
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Their latest single, Voices, is truly an incorporative song, where each influence and direction touched on up until this point merge into the one whole, glorious whole. Here is the unmistakeable seventies retrospective, the psychedelic, the sinuous, the chilled-out, vocal harmonising with the fade in and out of lyrics while all the personalities in the band ooze through. The sunny opening immediately hooks in and the chorus will stay with you long after that first listen. It will make for a perfect place from which the band can grow from as it so perfectly articulates their feel, their prescience for the popularity of this kind of sound and their knack for pulling together dance, indie, retro and pop and making it all their own.
As an account of the world sitting up and taking notice, and an outright acknowledgement of their growing into a first class act, check this: they began with a spot at Parklife only a few years in 2012 courtesy of triple J Unearthed, and this week they are doing triple J’s Like A Version. That there is success, borne out of constant touring, a sincere love for their creation and a connection with the fans that support them, and their music is only going to reach more and more people and make more fans out of them after Like A Version next week.
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