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Machine Gun Fellatio - OnIce

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In her review of the single Troublemaker, FasterLouder’s very own Lizza wrote ‘If you don’t like this song straight away, my recommendation is to listen to it continuously on repeat – it’ll grow on you.’ Her words were prescient, describing the album that Troublemaker comes off perfectly. On their third album, On Ice, Machine Gun Fellatio have served up an album that demands repeat listens.

MGF are an oddly under-appreciated act. On a commercial, perhaps populist level, they’ve seemingly had no troubles scoring themselves adoring fans and selling albums. Their first two albums, Bring It On and Paging Mr. Strike, went gold. The latter also served up two massive singles, Pussytown and Rollercoaster, both of which managed to score themselves top 10 placements in the 2002 Triple J Hottest 100. MGF have also played with Duran Duran, Robbie Williams and Kiss. Indeed, they’ve had no problems entertaining the punters.

Critically however, they’re often written off as genuine joke band, so lacking in depth that they deserve no serious contemplation. Indeed, songs like Butter My Ass With A Pigeon and (Let Me By Your) Dirty Fucking Whore haven’t exactly helped the cause. But to base one’s opinion of MGF as a ‘serious’ band on a couple of novelty tracks is to disregard the impressive amount of seriously brilliant tracks they’ve written.

All Of Them Ladies, 100 Fresh Disciples, Not Afraid Of Romance, Unsent Letter, Just B’Coz, Take It Slow, etc. etc. There is no shortage of awesome songs in MGF’s repertoire. They’ve written intense emotional songs, intensely fun songs and intensely beautiful songs. So to write them off as a joke band without a punchline is to miss the point completely.

On Ice seems to represent a band coming to terms with their musical and ideological schizophrenia. There aren’t any outright serious songs – a la Unsent Letter and Just B’Coz – and there aren’t any outright joke songs – a la Butter My Ass and Dirty Fucking Whore. In coming to terms with their flitting styles, they’re clearly a more cohesive band, confident in where they’re going, and willing to take chances.

What the album suffers from is a lack of restraint. Start Running is an apocalyptic masterpiece with a throbbing beat and distorted guitar stabs, but the beginning of the track is marred by twenty seconds of completely unnecessary, awkward, self-conscious spoken word. Hollywood is a sleazy, wonderful, surging number, but has disturbingly unnecessary vocal sample at the beginning. A lot of the album suffers from fairly subtle, but nonetheless disconcerting additions, samples and weird sounds.

But these additions are only a problem on the first listen, where they stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Sometimes the snare drum is a little too high in the mix, sometimes lead singer Pinky Beecroft’s vocals are a little too low as well, and the afore-mentioned samples are incredibly grating. However, after a couple of listens at high volumes, this album is extraordinary.

What the album certainly doesn’t suffer from is a lack of song-writing talent. On a song-by-song basis, this is the best MGF album yet. The good songs are fucking incredible, and there isn’t a single genuinely bad song (unlike Bring It On and Paging Mr. Strike, which both suffered from unfortunate novelty tracks).

Hearing live favourite Best Friend is extraordinary, with The Widow Jones’ vocals confirming her as one of the most secretly talented performers in any Australian band today (a fact already realised by those who’ve listened to her little-heard EP Be My Lover). Her stunning backing vocals and lead cameo on Hollywood also deserve mention. These Days is a soothing, chilled-out, heart-wrenching number, with Pinky’s swoon-worthy vocals laid down on a base of steady, slow-motion beats and keyboards soaked in reverb. Came Home opens with Pinky saying ‘occasionally I just put whiskey in my hair, that’s what I do.’ It’s ludicrously charming, and the song continues in that vein. It’s a beautiful number, with Pinky tinkling the ivories and delivering his now-trademarked casually emotional observations, last seen in My Ex-Boyfriend’s Girlfriend Got A Band from Paging Mr. Strike. Little Cutie is pure pop, boasting a profoundly catchy chorus that demands to be sung along to.

Singles Troublemaker and You’ve Ruined All My Favourite Songs don’t stand out as previous MGF singles have. They slot in nicely, taking no attention away from the other 16 tracks. The entire album is impressively cohesive, and the cohesiveness seems based on deliberate efforts to focus on the song-writing, not the jokes. It’s simultaneously a party album, a late night album and a morning album. It’s a stunning example of the manifest potential of MGF. This is one of the most essential albums of the year; it rewards repeat listens, and delivers the kind of depth that MGF’s critics shouldn’t be able to deny. At its best, it represents a high water mark in Australian music, showing off a band at the peak of their game.


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Comment Added

Anton said on the 23rd Oct, 2004

This review was based on a pre-release copy, and as such some minor differences may be evident on the retail version.