The New Season
The New Season
Examining a reissued EP from Jarrod Quarrel's precursor to St Helens and Lost Animal, MAX EASTON sees a larger picture of Australia's robust and lasting underground music scene.
When you look at Australia’s recent interconnecting scene of DIY punk and garage, it’s easy to think of it all being a relatively new phenomenon, one that crosses state and genre borders to trade on self-recorded anthems wrapped in the ideologies of the ’80s underground. But while we’re feverishly dipping into new records emblazoned with label stickers like Bedroom Suck, R.I.P. Society and Negative Guest List, we’ve managed to forget a number of bands of the early-to-mid 2000s that preempted the explosion and accessibility of Australia’s DIY resurgence.
That’s due in part to the overwhelming presence of the decade’s success stories like Eddy Current Suppression Ring, but also due to the fact that when you try to rationalise latter-day DIY with the present, the bands often seemed to operate independently of each other – after all, My Disco, The Drones and Circle Pit can hardly be thought of as a tight-knit family. Amongst these much-talked-about releases, many of their contemporaries – short-lived or otherwise – were left by the wayside. In the case of Melbourne three-piece The New Season, they were one of many left largely forgotten.
Originally released in 2003 to a limited lot of 150 CD-Rs, The New Season’s only release has just seen reissue on 12” vinyl by local label Vacant Valley. Fronted by Jarrod Quarrel (St Helens, Lost Animal), it unsurprisingly carries his stilted poetic delivery, but it features nothing of the coastal-infused beats he crafted on Lost Animal’s 2011 album Ex Tropical. Instead, the New Season EP is unhinged garage-rock torn from the pages of the ’80s underground, wincing with the just-restrained poetry of The Wipers before roaring like an early Dinosaur Jr. It marks stage one in Quarrel’s musical evolution, and even as rooted as he is in Australian music now as Lost Animal, this reissue would be just as relevant if it was released as new tomorrow.
Quarrel’s vocals may not be as firmly in the foreground as with Lost Animal, but they’re every part as inspired as the stream-of-consciousness vagueness he dropped on Ex Tropical. On opener ‘Make it Easy on Yourself’ Quarrel snarls, “You’re acting a lot like a child/with that cut running down your left side” with a conviction and unsympathetic frustration that he would mine almost a decade later in his solo project. The rest of the EP treads similar territory, with vocal anguish lost amongst fuzzed-out guitars. Quarrel spits out bitterly direct lines like “The sun is rising/When are you gonna get me off?” before heading on extended, muttering passages over distracted guitars. Even on tracks that have all the evidence of innocence, there’s often an unsettling sense of perversion. On ‘I Get My Kicks at Home’, Quarrel rambles about gifts and weekend trips before asserting, “We’re gonna get the love we’re all needing,” sounding not so much optimistic as demanding.
The band – Quarrel on guitar, Mark Stacey (later of Bored!) on drums and Ben Taylor (Pageants) on bass – take to these songs of vague bitterness with a zealous flooding of the mix. At its most energetic, Quarrel’s loose waver juts out at jagged edges from his own murky guitars and Taylor’s writhing bass lines, all while Stacey thrashes around with discriminate focus. When they slow down to a chug for a track like ‘The Pirate Loved Tara’, it’s not like there’s space discovered at the edges; instead, the turmoil of their thrasher is flattened only by pace. It’s an EP that would be a perfect fit amongst today’s half-figured rock and punk acts, safe in the company of bands like Dead Farmers or Deep Heat.
The New Season is, more than anything, a reminder that the unified DIY scene that has strengthened across the country isn’t necessarily a new and singular movement in time. The reissue acts as much as a point of reference as a historical artefact, but it’s of sufficient quality to not beg the cynical question of why a 10-year-old CD-R is being re-pressed on vinyl. It’s an essential listen for anyone charting the progress of Jarrod Quarrel, as well as anyone joining the dots of Australia’s truly independent music scenes.