The passing of The Basics essentially fell in line with the demise of my favourite Sydney venue, which was called The Hopetoun. Located on the brink of Surry Hills, The Hoey, as we affectionately called it, was an adorable crapheap that hosted some of the city’s finest acts before anybody really knew who they were. Jake from Bluejuice used to work behind the bar. Seabellies played some of their first shows there, as did Andy Bull. There were too many to mention, but something like six nights a week, you could head down to the place and know that for a few bucks, you’d see an act that would blow your mind in the way that only a sweaty, intimate pub could offer. And perhaps the best time to be in the vicinity of the Hoey was when The Basics were doing their weekly residencies.
An excellent, supremely over-talented trio from Melbourne which contained two redheads and a lanky guy on the drums who you might know better by his stage name of Gotye (he’s the naked one standing on the left), The Basics were arguably the hardest working band in the country in their prime. They would literally fly up to Brisbane and play a Wednesday, hit Sydney on Thursday and be back in Melbourne for Friday night, and they’d do that week-in, week-out, all while trying to hold down regular jobs and girlfriends. They were loud, and confident, full of ’60s swagger and sass, and they rocked. I think I saw them play four times in a row in April of 2007, because I just couldn’t get enough of their energy. Their big record, Stand Out/Fit In, which I bought one evening, is stacked full of tunes just like the one you’ll hear today; featuring three singers, expert harmonies and enough hip-shaking that your Dad will try and steal it. I still remember walking up to Wally after one of the gigs – and he was always such an amiable guy – and telling him that I thought he was one of the best drummers I’d ever seen. And he was, because the guy sang (and still does sing) like a dream all while pelting the living shit out of his kit. On ‘Rattle’, he sings lead, too, which he’d already started doing for Gotye, particularly the Like Drawing Blood record, but he’s a different beast here altogether. I was amazed that he was actually holding down both bands at once, particularly with the cult popularity of his own record, but the man was seemingly indefatigable. HE really just loved music, loved his mates, and wanted to play every night of the week in one arrangement or another.
‘Rattle My Chain’ is a stomper dedicated to love interests who mess you around. It’s straight to the point and it’s got that delightfully angular guitar riff which blossoms into a completely Beach Boys pre-chorus (“Look at you baby you’re so fine”, complete with ‘ooh’s in the BVs) before heading for the throat in the chorus with a chromatic riff that’s a cleaner version of some of the better cock-rock of years past. All of it is carried off with this sense of effortlessness that you can hear on record but you really needed to see live to believe. Sure, de Backer destroyed his vocal chords hollering like this night sfter night, but it would put him in good practice for those high notes he’d be hitting on the biggest song of 2011. But it was just fun music that was written well, a mix that’s surprisingly hard to achieve and you culd tell the band knew it, too. They never did get the recognition they deserved before going their separate ways, so in some small way, I hope this helps in reminding everyone of the brilliant work Messrs Schroeder, de Backer and Heath did back when it only cost $6 and a warm beer to have a great night out. Rock on.
The Basics – ‘Rattle My Chain’