The Brisbane Hotel is alive with the ceaseless chatter of locals and interstate Christmas ex-locals catching up, drinking heavily and all here to witness the first gig in seven years for one-time flagship of the celebrated Hobart mid-to-late-nineties ‘scene’ The Frustrations.
Unlike so many other bands seeking to reform, the songs written by singer and guitarist Julian Teakle and drummer Mike Harris were wise beyond their years when they were written, so revisiting them is no mere exercise in nostalgia and many pack a surprising punch. Always a fan of unfettered honesty, Teakle counters the expected heckling and banter with ease. ‘Hi we’re the Frustrations...from a million years ago,’ he says with a wry chuckle between opener My New Shirt and Volcano. Teakle finishes the gig with a humourless ‘Now fuck off and spend your gift vouchers’ over blazing squalls of feedback suggesting that some sort of catharsis has been earned.
Affection is always matched with frustration at living in your hometown, and few songwriters have explored this with such blunt precision as Julian Teakle. The fact that he writes about Hobart is going to limit their relevance, but their coruscating sincerity can’t be denied, and tonight was a blinding reminder.
Knowing exactly how to set these paeans to the streets outside the venue, Harris has one drum style that involves the need to hit every drum on every song and this vocal-cue-triggered clutter sets Teakle’s stark guitar hacks off perfectly and allows them to capture that elusive beast; a simple sound to call your own.
The sonically reductive quality of The Frustrations is the most notably dated aspect of their sound. Few bands would have the bravery to play a 90-minute set with just a drum kit, guitar and occasionally used distortion pedal; no reverb, no distractions.
One Trick Pony Show is a languid mid-set highlight, Ricochet is ferocious and local classic What Erica Told Me sparks a sing-along with its brief verses (I love you / You’re dropped), before Teakle drily intones: ‘That was a song I wrote when I was 18, here is a far more sophisticated song I wrote when I was 28’, and enters Wilderness.
Teakle seems to have nothing to prove, won’t be thrown by vicious heckling and doesn’t exude the submerged need to seek approval that was an essential contributor to the energy needed to keep a band alive. There are dud notes, missed beats, a ferociously unpredictable cameo from Andrew Harper on 21 and the realisation that there are a lot of songs they can choose from.
Sonic Advisor, unreleased song Hey Death and Girl in the Purple Dress all shine, inspire some gentle slamming and are devoured by the audience, many of whom were definitely too young to have seen them before. Thankfully, there was never a chance of this being too polished, and like all good reunions, new material was played. Possibly best of all though, talk of the forthcoming release of a ‘lost’ album and plans for mainland shows.