We Will Riot – Mr Flabio (Conquest Of Noise)
This record is so smart it should have lifetime membership of Mensa, but its a cleverness that's never snobbish or intellectual. Mr Flabio sits back, tongue in cheek and pen at the ready, and takes aim at the directionless, the Interwebs generation and yes, you and me, with withering accuracy. This is melodic fuzz guitars played at stun volume and Mr Flabio’s sardonic barbs are meted out with sugar hits embedded in their pop hooks.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: “We Will Riot” is a grunge record. It’s just gone 2015 and someone is actually making a grunge record? What the fuck’s grunge anyway? You expected Silverchair with short hair? Nirvana wearing nursing home pyjamas?
Mudhoney says Kim Salmon invented it and who are we to argue? When you got down to it, grunge was really just a bunch of tuned-down metallised guitars and anguished punk rock vocals with shithouse dress sense. It got the major labels a little too excited and wiped the musical landscape clean for any other form of rock and roll – and not necessarily in a good way.
In these musically fragmented days, grunge is a convenient label and not much more. In Mr Flabio’s hands, it’s a handy musical platform from which to sally forth and shoot down all sorts of sitting targets.
Mr Flabio is the nom de plume for Tim Oxley, one of the siblings from that talented family and a performing and touring artist in his own right. He’s been in The Verys, the Sunnyboys (a stand-in for Richard at the 1998 Mushroom concert and a sideman on their most recent tour.) He’s worked as a tour manager and collaborated with significant other Jodi Phillis (The Clouds) in The Dearhunters. He played and sang everything on “We Will Riot”.
There’s no doubt that “We Will Riot” will hit the bullseye for the demographic for whom grunge and college radio were the soundtrack of growing up. On face value, this album has come out 25 years too late. If it was 1995, Mr Flabio’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Girlfriend” would be the perfect Lemonheads single with its keening harmonies and rusty wrought-iron gate guitar. The bruising “Rock On” would be rubbing alternative radio chart shoulders with Green River and Soundgarden. “We Are Robots” would be a fixture in Ween sets (even though it’ slagging a Facebook fixation that didn’t yet exist.)
You know what else? Major labels would be knocking at Tim Oxley’s door and threatening to lock him a studio with Jack Endino and a boatload of US dollar bills. Plaid shirts and jeans would be de rigeur in the northern Wollongong suburbs in which Tim lives. Hang on…that last part’s actually still true.
You should never judge a musical book solely by its cover. You’d do well to do more than scratch the surface with “We Will Riot” and listen to the lyrics. I know that’s not a fashionable thing to do these days but you might just find it rewarding.
Themes like religion (“Fuck the Buddhists”), Facebook isolationism and the prospects of a tundra-led economic revival (“Icelandic Revolution”) are skilfully laid out (although on the latter score, why anyone wants to live in a welfare state where it’s dark for three-quarters of the year and people in fulltime employment spend 70 hours at work is beyond me.)
If there’s a bottom line here (and we try to make sure there usually is) it’s that “We Will Riot” is a wryly funny and entertaining ride. So much so, that I gave it half a dozen spins without realising it was stuck in the CD player. It passes The Car Test as well - it’s good driving music that Smells Like Spleen Spirit.