Album Review: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound

Perhaps more than in any other country – although there is fierce competition – Australia’s music culture is linked to the outdoors and festivals. A place of vast expanses and desirable weather will do that. Considering the enormity of the country too, a national tour can feel like a world tour, certainly in the sense of exhaustive travelling. Bands from the country – Spacey Jane, Ocean Alley, Skeggs, or DMA’s for example – thrive in the live setting, their years defined by festival slots and incessant gigs. Australian music is also indelibly linked to psychedelic rock, from psych revival bands in inner Melbourne to the idyllic revivalists from the coastal towns. Tame Impala and King Gizzard may have taken it to the world, but Australia’s psych-rock tradition thrives supremely on its own.

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets adhere to both of these things: they are ferocious performers and festival favourites, and they also bang out psych-rock hits at an alarming rate. It’s fortunate, then, that their country’s superior handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the Crumpets’ hazy tunes can be enjoyed outside as touring slowly but surely returns to Australia, for their songs are designed to be heard from within a messy moshpit or under the sun.

New album SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound opens with “Big Dijon”, a soothing swirl of contemplative rhythm, its lyrics inane psychedelic nonsense about a curious aardvark. Once that’s out of the way, the unceasing energy begins. The Perth band can appear ridiculous to an outsider – just consider their band name – but behind the whimsy and the folly is genuine technical ability. Harbouring their love of The Beatles and Black Sabbath, they spin it into relentless turbo-charged guitar riffs and earnest melodies. That love of the Fab Four shines during the shimmer melody of “Mango Terrarium” or the Sgt. Pepper’s-lite “Glitter Bug” and “More Glitter”.

Before those, “Hats Off To The Green Bins” is a delightful ode to hastily cleaning a decrepit share house before a landlord arrives to inspect. The first half of SHYGA! contains most of the sharper hits, while the guitars on the second half are allowed to roam looser and longer. Apart from a few tracks like the interlude “Round The Corner”, the guitar riffs dominate. They thrash and fizz and never let up; it can have a bit of an enervating effect after so much – death by guitar.

It’s the lyrics that betray a band at a crossroad. “Tally-Ho” is a quintessential Crumpets track, featuring a wonderful metaphor for cocaine (“One more line of avalanche-winterland-handicap / Bleeding from the nostril”). Such a song is why they are, above all, a band for the fans. A review of their music can only go so far, for Psychedelic Porn Crumpets exist for the people like them: the festival-goers, the people that they used to be; as they now occupy the stage, they want to give back to their fans some anthems that they can relate to.

This is who they’ve always been. It’s emphasised by main songwriter Jack McEwan’s description of one of SHYGA!‘s tracks, “The Terrors” (a term for the anxiety and despondency of the days following a big weekend of partying): “I wanted to write a track that paid homage to where Porn Crumpets began, back in our drug-ridden cave of a share house at Hector Street. There was a solid group of us on Centrelink, either studying or pretending to work, waiting for our pay-check to arrive so we could pickle the membrane and substitute reality for a while, very much in the name of science. The classic Australian coming of age saga.”

The crossroad arrives when they show signs that they’re considering their lifestyle. The raw punk energy of “Sawtooth Monkfish” belies thoughtful reflection on the effects of their hedonism; after listing all the different types of alcohol that they’ve consumed on “Tripolasaur”, McEwan sighs “I guess I’ll never know the reason why I feel so vacant.” “Mr. Prism” is about McEwan being informed by a doctor that he should probably quit smoking (“No more lungs, doctor says I’m done”); it’ll inevitably be bellowed back at them by teenagers smoking rollies as at a Mac DeMarco when “Ode to Viceroy” comes on.

On the disgustingly-named “Pukebox”, McEwan says “One more day alive / I must be the luckiest boy around / Drinking moonshine my old man made,” before pondering if he’s truly lucky. “Mundungus” is the greatest reckoning with it on the album; “They said at my intervention / You should give drinking a rest,” McEwan begins, and after listing three days of truly awful effects of withdrawal he screams “I ain’t being sober no more.”

The Crumpets end the album with “The Tally of Gurney Gridman”, an illusion after all the noise from before. Beginning like a skidding and heaving rock song that recalls Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, it dissolves into a twinkling and meandering psychedelic closer. The song also sees a juxtaposition in its lyrics; “Life is dull without meaning / But drinking all day makes the future warm,” McEwan sings at the start, and as the contemplative tone arrives he ponders life and its meaning: “There’s no finish line, ticket sign or button to start it all again / Every old man tells me the same / Live while you’re young / Enjoy each day.”

This is Psychedelic Porn Crumpets of today: standing on the edge of two existences. Much of their music, their style, has often valorised excess and hedonism. Here, four albums in, McEwan and his fellow Crumpets acknowledge the less glamorous after-effects that are a considerably larger part of their lives now. Yet, for all of this, they still sound like a band content to party on. Ending the album with the lines “Live while you’re young / Enjoy each day” feels like a message of defiance as much as a moment of introspection.

65%