It’s like a hand clawing its way out of the crumbling casket of an unmarked grave. A “best of” album from the seminal 1980s punk outfit, Witches Wart, has been a long time coming. A Nice Haircut, at 171 minutes, contains all their mind-blinding favourites, and then some. Who could forget those amyl nitrate fuelled gigs at the Crystal Ballroom where the Wart, powered by the cement dust of those classic riffs, filled the air with the engine of their happy vitriol. That hair! Oh, the stuff of memories. Tracks such as Heavy Breathing, with its unforgettable sturm und drang axe work. Barry (Drop ‘em) Morrison plays that guitar like his plectrum is a raptor’s talon. Or the dance track, (that is St Vitus dance track), Suppository, which still has that old Walpurgisnacht  magic. Keith (Slappin’) Fitch’s sax solo is like the cry of a minke calf wailing for its mother and after all these years the sound still haunts the ocean. The anthemic Termite Sandwich which starts with that memorable triangle solo and evolves to a syntheseismic, or seismic synthesis of raw industrial noise that really gets the feet pogoing. Wow. Denzil (Paraquat) McKenzie’s vocals have become even more unrecognisable as anything remotely human. He sings the classic Bathroom Tiles like he’s ruptured his perineum and the listener (us) is with him every tortured note of the journey. Brilliant stuff. Banjo (Palsy) Patterson plays drums on Grave Dirt like the heartbeat of a hummingbird amplified by a hundred decibels. It’s like the sound of Neanderthals clubbing a mammoth. And listening to Mermaid Barbecue again after all these years is like being run through with a demon’s trident, only louder. Other classic tracks you’ll remember, if you’ve any memory left, are Plugger’s Groin, Brick Short of a Load, The Camel and the Dog Catcher, Bad Boy Gilligan, Decorticated, Picnic Lightning, and the new, hidden track Trump Autopsy, where the piano is like a gin glacier fracturing in moonlight. The inspired lyric about remembering to bring change for the parking metre (get it?) as metaphor for disenfranchised youth is pure genius. Only now the disenfranchised youth has grown up. It’s us. We are the alienated. Time to man the barricades. A Nice Haircut shows the Wart in true anarchic form. It’s nostalgia made manifest. It’s like… it’s like… I don’t know what it’s like…

Stereo Story #535

 

Mark O'Flynn's latest book is the short story collection Dental Tourism. His novels include The Last Days of Ava Langdon, shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award 2017.