In 2017, Queensland punk trio The Chats released their viral single Smoko. The song’s music video – primarily depicting the band performing and acting at a building site – is hilariously low budget, evoking an ‘in on the joke’, punky deprecation that pumps through carrier EP Get This in Ya, and 2020 debut album High Risk Behaviour, like blood one could never pass off as a special effect.
That’s the work ethic of The Chats in a nutshell – as in, there is very little work ethic. Living up to anecdotal fables of smoke breaks, the band recorded sophomore album Get Fucked in short daily shifts that’ll even put online music journalists to shame, broken up by lunch breaks chiefly consisting of trips to the pub. You may judge, but when old school, blue collar punk rallying cries like I’ve Been Drunk in Every Pub in Brisbane emerge from this beery approach to existence, you’re surely more likely to become a fan than scoff.
Regardless, it’d be wrong to depreciate The Chats – they aren’t lazy or contrivedly blasé; they’re unfiltered, corporate-shy, and they happily channel the DIY mentality of Fugazi or the ‘90s Olympia scene, even releasing material on their own label Bargain Bin. This is punk overtness; Get Fucked is far more upfront than High Risk Behaviour; grittier, shoutier, Aussie-r.
Replacing former guitarist Josh Price, Josh Hardy’s riffs are itchy and frantic, matching the pisshead confrontations of singer/bassist Eamon Sandwith’s performances. Hardy combines speedy but stuttering hardcore riffs with a solo almost virtuoso-like on Boggo Breakout, as rampant and arm-wailing as those busting out of prison, depicted in its lyrics. Sandwith’s bass-playing follows suit, combining with Hardy and drummer Matt Boggis on Panic Attack to produce a rhythm that emulates the fast, heavy heartbeat that comes with a panic attack.
Combine all of the above with Cody McWaters’ garage-y style of production, and you’ve got yourself a throwback sound as anti-authority as songs like Ticket Inspector, nasally screaming in the face of those whose power has gone to their heads, with beautifully messy guitar lines. But nothing irks Eamon Sandwith quite like the thought of his lifestyle being compromised; he repeats the words “the price of smokes are going up again” like a sign-wielding, protest mantra on The Price of Smokes, harkening back to power trips with call-and-response finale “those bastards in parliament oughta be hung by their necks – by their necks, by their necks, BY THEIR NECKS”.
Gladly will The Chats accumulate their socio-political stance with humour, cultivating hardcore witticism not too unlike Jello Biafra; Paid Late dines out on the phrase “mind your own fucking business, mate”, like the call-to-arms crescendo of a Dead Kennedys song. The slicing, hazardous Dead on Site concerns workplace death, containing the line “safety officer said it’ll be fine / as long as no one says it happened on company time”, though if it is comparable to any classic punk song, that’d be the six-note staccato riff of The Clash’s Career Opportunities.
Hell, the rock n roll backbone of Struck by Lightning actually resembles Dead Kennedys’ Stealing People’s Mail, taking old-fashioned inclinations further with “doo wop doo wop” backing vocals, like an insanely entertaining fusion of youth and tradition. One may scream “parody”, but the band’s chops come from somewhere, and that somewhere seems to be the influence of not only older punk bands – there are also hints of Buzzcocks, Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned and others – but proto-punk and the rawer British Invasion groups; see Emperor of the Beach, which channels either The Sonics, The Kinks, or The Troggs – take your pick – to recreate ‘60s garage-y aesthetics, but with a greater emphasis on naughty words beginning with “C”.
But they’ll just as happily go full circle and evoke punk melodists like Toy Dolls on the cheeky, chirpy, surprisingly optimistic closing track Getting Better. The album’s aura matches its lyrics no matter the intention, from the “steal your car, smash your face” notation of the car-stealing, face-smashing Southport Superman, to the motoring riffs of 6L GTR, straightforward, with greater horsepower than the gas guzzler fawned over in its lyrics – “don’t need a big, flash fancy car, just need a 6 litre GTR”.
There is an unexpected agreeability to The Chats’ Get Fucked, amidst the antagonisms sure to come with an album with that title. The album’s stories are as overt and animated as its style of performance, much better than a record eager to get lost in its own poetry, even if one may shrug The Chats’ intentions off as comedy. But it also needs to be said, Get Fucked simply works even if it just reminds you of the best of punk’s past. There are so many bands hellbent on keeping punk ageless, and The Chats have made their snappy, jagged contribution; songs under two minutes, four chords, piss and vinegar; punk lives and it’s crazier than ever.