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Zeahorse arrives from Australia's weird grab bag

Gleefully Teeming Noise

Meet four affable young men from Sydney Saturday on Sixth Avenue. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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It should be obvious that it's a dumb idea to stick an entire country with one label. As we know in the U.S., there are marked areas that have their own flavor and eccentricities. Still, as a young man engaging with music in an increasingly untenable valley of sonic experiences, the tendency does arise to stick countries in certain categories. In my mind, New Zealand will always equal the Flying Nun stable of jangle-pop, while Norway has become associated with burning churches and hard-as-fuck black metal. South Korea is a breeding ground for over-the-top pop bands, and South America is a haven for psychedelia.

Australia, meanwhile, has remained an intriguing hub for music bred outside of public scrutiny for decades. We only get little gasps of output - AC/DC, the Go-Betweens, Iggy Azalea (ugh), the god awful Jet, etc. - so it becomes difficult to know what is being generated in the vast desert of the weirdest continent. Great films like The Proposition, Wake in Fright, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Animal Kingdom only add to the mystery of what gets born out of that sun-baked plain. Violence and hazy sexuality seemingly hang like a pall over the totality of the country.

But, again, these are the impressions of a person who has seen neither hide nor hair of Australia, so it becomes easy to pigeonhole. Zeahorse, for example, is a band that does not stumble blood-crusted out of the outback. They're from Sydney which, one imagines, could not be without at least a couple air-conditioned fast food restaurants. The prospect of losing one's mind in the wasteland of the desert would likely be far from the minds of the members of Zeahorse.

Still, the legacy of groundbreaking Australian acts is a heavy load to carry. Zeahorse, being a band that trades in heavy psych-rock, must be particularly aware of how they enter into the conversation of heavy bands that come from down under.

"We draw our inspiration from Aussie legends like the Cosmic Psychos, the Saints, the Birthday Party and the Hard-Ons," say the members of Zeahorse via email. "To stand out in a group of acts like that is darn right impossible!"

Zeahorse's debut album, Pools, starts with an affront. "Career" opens the EP with ominous guitars that give way to a hard rock groove, before leading into a wailing chorus. But, as the next song proves, Zeahorse aren't committed to pummeling brain cells. They are more than willing to temper their massive guitars with reverb-soaked vocals that lend an almost dream-pop aesthetic to the otherwise crunchy sound of the record. These are songs that could punish in a bar and thrive in an arena. When the squall of peeling guitars finally comes around, it cements Zeahorse as a band that thrives on gleefully teeming noise.

Currently, Zeahorse is slashing and burning their way across North America.

"Besides the hangovers and LA it's safe to say we're having the best time ever," say Zeahorse.

Agreed. F--- Los Angeles. In their list of influences, they inexplicably list three disparate comedians: Doug Stanhope, Bill Hicks (RIP), and Mitch Hedberg (double RIP). For a band with as scathing a song as "Familiar Faeces," Hicks makes sense as a reference point, but the other two represent opposing ends of the comedy spectrum. Stanhope's brutal self-revelations and Hedberg's stoned one-liners don't quite add up.

Although, once you dig into Zeahorse's music, the comparisons begin to make a little more sense. The brutal, upfront nature of the music, combined with the glib affect of the lyrics combine to make something that comes closer to the brutal truth than comedians usually get.

Australia's a weird grab bag, and we've plucked something worthwhile this time.

ZEAHORSE, w/Ex-Gods and Magnetic Rose, 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 2, Northern, 414 1/2 Legion Way, Olympia, $5

ZEAHORSE, w/ Sok and the Faggots, Blanco Bronco, MILK, 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 4, Half Pint Pizza Pub, 2710 Sixth Ave., no cover, Tacoma, 253.272.2531

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