Alexander Moskos (AIDS Wolf, Drainolith, Dan’l Boone) Talks 5 Seconds of Summer’s 5 Seconds of Summer

Don’t let 5 Seconds of Summer give you the wrong idea, Australia has given the world plenty of great art. Just not this album.

I gave 5 Seconds of Summer a chance. Like I do everything. It is not getting another. Won’t even give the thing room to earhole me, so it shall remain forever locked in the Chest of Immutable Horror and I’ll throw away the key, thanks. In fact, my brain has started compensating for me, and every time I open the zip file of their new album that the Talkhouse editor sent me, I see nothing, just an empty folder with a weight of 60 megabytes.

When the idea came up for me to write this piece, Drag City’s PR chief Kathryn Wilson offered some suggestions from a list of upcoming reissues: Can’s Ege Bamyasi (“Who needs a drum maahcheen ven you hev Jaki?” — Michael Karoli), Metallica’s Master of Puppets (“During the making of Master there were no rock stars in the studio, only soldiers.” — Flemming Rasmussen) and Bill Evans’ New Jazz Conceptions (“Crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall” — Miles Davis). Sounds like the CD pile on the passenger seat in my Corolla circa last fall. Kathryn obviously knows me well.

But alas, no, reissues are not allowed. I was sent a list of upcoming albums to pick from, but nothing jumped out at me. I was at a loss, so after some back and forth it was suggested that I write about the Australian pop-punk band 5 Seconds of Summer. I was encouraged to try and approach the album on its own terms.

But 5 Seconds of Summer I cannot abide. I’m supposed to come at this thing on its own terms, but I won’t even admit to its terms. The question is not “have these puds even been to a basement gig?” It’s “have these puds even been in a basement, EVER?” I admit that I share the world with war criminals, but I won’t submit to their terms either. Same goes for aesthetic matters: I admit I share the world with these dudes, but I refuse to acknowledge the terms under which this album was “created.” Fifty-five million motherfuckers watched their latest video — 55 million.

The bassist is an adjectival spitting image of the bass-playing punk dude from Green Day. To paraphrase Sylvester Stallone advising Wayne Gretzky: if Green Day dude hit 5 Seconds of Slumber dude as hard as he could, 5 Slumber Summers dude’s head would turn to dust.

That funky Platonist who surely lives on your block would say, “There is no word in Ancient Greek for a state of being that is so completely fucking annoying.” Not that the existence of these four Aussies should turn you off Aussies in general. That great land has produced more than enough fire to keep Planet Earth supplied with aesthetic pleasure for a good solid while. Coloured Balls? Best name for a great band. Their “Working Man’s Boogie”  is the most blown-out, breaking-point boogie I’ve ever heard. Looks like they stole a whole verse from Drainolith, too. Fine. “You gotta work!” says singer Lobby Loyde during the chorus, repeatedly. They can have it. They got there first (by a few decades). This gaggle of work-blunted drawboys is griping about working like motherfuckers to slake the boss’s thirst for a masturbatory sense of control, not to mention the owner’s inevitable greed. Very Marxist for a stone-cold, bake-eyed pummel-boogie jam. Makes 3 Seconds to Sunday sound like an alligator-fart in the backlands swamp mist. Which makes Silverchair, the progenitors of the style, sound like the Bill Evans Trio.

Next on the list of notable Aussies is Jade Ryan, the most creative skateboarder in the sport today. Yes, creativity and sports. You probably care not one whit about skateboarding. Most people today associate the sport with Bilbo Douchebaggins gliding down the street in a canoe on wheels. At its best, though, skateboarding is the situationist détournement par excellence — pardon my French. The phenomenology of skateboarding goes thus: Observe built-city form, size it up against your stock of tricks and your ability-level (as well as your confidence-level, knee-soreness threshold and other bodily limits, etc.) and then go at it like brushstroke to canvas. She moves through the bizarre, blown-out Australian urban jungle with grace and ease and joy. It is beauty-motion, a brushstroke, a stroke of genius.

How is it that there are chords, harmony and rhythm in The Summery Second Five and yet it somehow all sounds completely a-musical? Yet a Jade Ryan boneless is gorgeous music. Even with the sound turned off. What about Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang?  Read that? A masterpiece of historical fiction, written in antiquated Australian horse-thief slang. After a friend gave me a copy, I blasted right through it. Spent the next two months saying, “adjectival this” and “eff” that, and referring to cops as “Traps” and Protestants as “Proddies.” All you have to do is read the first sentence of the book aloud, and just the turns of phrase and the lilt of the words tumbling out over your lips will be a more musical experience than anything mustered by Secondary Fiver Summers.

Anyway, on to the album at hand. So 5 Seconds of Summer’s self-titled debut starts off with the sound of a million screaming babies, an obvious nod to Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction, Funkadelic’s “Wars of Armageddon” and Bohannon’s “My Son.” Either way, soon enough we’re graced with Green-Day wannabe-dude’s plodding bass, some unfunky drums and spiritless guitar-playing. In to save the day comes lead vocalist Luke Hemmings with some prosaic lines about teenage girls whose natural ecosystem is the sunbaked shopping-mall parking lot. Skip ahead a few cuts and we find arpeggiating violins, babbling-brook cellos and al dente percussion on the power-ballad “Amnesia,” all wrapped in a fine gauze of digitally amp-modeled Axe Body Spray. All lovely, until the reappearance of that pudmuffin bass and a beat that mimes the rhythms of an eggbeater in kitty litter. It’s not long before lead vocals come gallivanting across the audio scene once more, this time with some brave insights into the vast and fascinating world of Aussie millennial-hood; a magical plane of existence where acne is eradicated and text messages are forever free to pretty girls. Not exactly Nick Drake levels of pathos, but close.

Mathew Shipp made it through some recent, beige-toned Chick Corea album. I can suffer through this swill. But don’t let this unholy thing’s popularity (55 million views, remember) turn you off Australia and its many creative spirits.

Alexander Moskos is a musician from Canada. He has performed in groups such as AIDS Wolf and under the solo moniker Drainolith. He currently is joined by Neil Hagerty, Charles Ballas and Nate Young in Danl Boone. You can check out their self titled debut album, due in late September from Drag City. You can follow him on Twitter here.