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Melbourne scuzz-punk champions Clowns are known for raising all kinds of hell and blowing the minds of punters with their riotous live show. Their second full-length, Bad Blood, captures that intensity in all of its sweat-drenched, beer-soaked glory and the result is nothing short of awesome.
Human Error‘s slow-building, discordant intro sets an ominous tone somewhat reminiscent of John Williams Jaws soundtrack, before vocalist Stevie’s gravel-throated wail takes hold, leaving your ears defenceless to Clowns unrelenting hardcore assault.
The balls-out hardcore of It Stops With You, Is This A Test and Derailed clock in under a minute yet somehow feel essential. There’s musicality amidst the madness; these helter-skelter offerings are sequenced so Bad Blood maintains an omnipresent sense of danger.
Despite the album’s brevity, Clowns manage to cover a surprising amount of stylistic ground, interjecting several new elements into their sound. Never Enough sees the band embrace their ’90s skate-punk upbringing with spiky guitars and a straight-ahead beat blended into their usual hardcore punk template. It’s a belter that sounds like the love child of NOFX and The Bronx.
Euthanise Me is built upon a rollicking hard-rock riff and clever vocal hook that will have you toe-tapping and screaming along the moment it drops. The instrumental title track channels ’80s rock, with guitarist Joe and bassist James contributing escalating riffs that build into a seamless segue towards the superb These Veins.
An underground hit in waiting, These Veins is a quick punch in the face, followed by a reassuring hug, then an unexpected haymaker. A showcase of songmanship, it takes the band’s established formula and turns everything up to 11 before relenting, leaving every element perfectly in its place. Stevie’s vocals are impressive; punk snarls deployed in the chaotic verses become screams which dominate an infectious chorus, before turning positively unhinged in a shouted-word bridge. It’s everything good punk-rock should be.
11-minute closer Human Terror is as prog as Clowns allow themselves to be. Its first five minutes are dedicated to an instrumental section, and when Stevie joins in, it’s with a grungy drawl rather than his usual hardcore howl. Everything explodes at the eight minute mark, before dissipating to expose the track’s tender closing moments.
Bad Blood shines a light on the best kept secret in Melbourne: amidst all the rafter-climbing, stage-diving, and nihilistic chaos, Clowns have sneakily developed into a top-shelf punk-rock band. Get infected.
‘Bad Blood’ is out this Friday, 20th February via Poison City Records. Clowns’ Australian tour with American Sharks kicks off on the same day.
Listen: Clowns – Euthanise Me