Political punks blast racist rednecks

Local Resident Failure with Dal, second from right.

A Breath Of Stale Air
Local Resident Failure
Pee Records
Released June, 2012

Newcastle punks Local Resident Failure are heavier than Clive Palmer, tighter than Gina Rinehart and have just dropped a motherlode of a debut album.

But the analogies with Australia's mining fat cats end there. A Breath Of Stale Air spits gobfuls of bile at right-wingers, from the mainstream media to racist rednecks - not least on "Every Day's A Holiday On Christmas Island", the band's scathing condemnation of xenophobia.

"I think it's hilarious that we, as a nation, have some weird notion that if we let all these refugees in, then they will take all the jobs and take over the country," frontman Michael Dallinger, better known as Dal, tells Green Left Weekly.

"And these are the people who are eating Thai food every night, while watching their LG televisions. Hello dickheads, this is multiculturalism.

"It is hypocritical that Australians are against the immigrant policy when the history of this country was brought here on a boat."

Dal sees both sides of Australia's history, having been born to a mother of English descent and father of Aboriginal descent - and much of the album tackles racism.

"I figure when you're surrounded by negativity, you yourself tend to become negative," he says.

But he has taken prejudice by the balls and given it a creative twist in ditties such as the doomed inter-racial love song "The Opener". The song is so personal and vivid that listeners could be forgiven for thinking it is Dal's own tale.

"It was just a story that I made up," he says. "I got great marks for my fictional stories in school, so I have a natural talent for being a bullshit artist.

"It's probably one of the darkest songs I've ever written - and it fucken pumps too."

The song also throws up parallels with same-sex marriage. "Who is anyone to say who can get married and who can't," says Dal.

"The laws in this world are fucked up. What's wrong with two people who are in love spending the rest of their lives together?

“It all stems from religion, and it's the governments trying to stay safe so the children are brought up with so-called 'perfect' morals.

"Parents tell their kids about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to give them hope about life, but they don't mention that they can still find love and happiness with a person of the same gender or different-coloured skin."

But Local Resident Failure are not all doom and gloom. Their label, Pee Records, refuses to sign anyone with an overblown ego and the band are humorously self-deprecating. There are laugh-out-loud moments on the album, including an ode to the Coogee Bay Hotel and the media shitstorm it whipped up when it served up a faeces ice cream.

Dal even manages to poke fun at the racist stereotypes directed at Aboriginal Australians, in "Playing The Race Card".

"I get up at 6am and go to work, then finish at 2.30pm, Monday to Friday," he tells GLW.

"I get people all the time telling me I should use my ethnic background to score some sweet shit from the government, so that song is pretty much taking the piss outta myself.

"The line ‘I conform to society, another shitty employee’ refers to the stereotype that a large population of male Indigenous Australia would generally sit around and gather their dole cheques every fortnight, whereas I'm out there living the dream of 'normal society' having a full-time job, but being really bad at it.”

However, when Dal sings about "the big nose on my half-caste face" the humour dies an abrupt, hollow death.

Equally brutal is "Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya?", a piss-take of shallow Australian culture that could leave sports-and-barbecue-loving Aussies choking on their beer.

"When we first started to play it live, it was the song that got the biggest applause, even though people hadn't heard it before," says Dal.

"It was the song on the album that I changed the lyrics to the most. I guess if they don't choke on their beer, I'll be shoving down their throats from now on in."

It’s yet another reason to see Local Resident Failure live. The speeding riffs and razor-sharp guitars of the formidable foursome are pumped along with the metronome precision of Kye Smith, a drummer who uses his instrument in a far more tonal way than most.

"I'm not sure about tonal exactly," Smith tells GLW. "But for me I think that the drums can provide more of an impression if they go beyond just keeping the beat. With Local Resident Failure, Dal has always written all the songs and recorded the demos using basic MIDI drums and then given it to us to learn and add our parts to.

“Most drummers including myself don't usually have a huge voice when it comes to writing songs, so I guess by trying to push yourself to be more creative and write different drum parts is more of a way to having your own voice on the recording."

Backing a frontman with such a strong political voice, Smith has his work cut out. But Dal shies away from the political tag. "I wouldn't really call it political, it's more social commentary," he says.

However, the levity of the world weighs heavily on his shoulders, and Dal clearly feels his time to change things is short. He has written album closer "The Funeral" to be played at his funeral and in the past has sung: "The words on my death bed will be 'Pass me a beer'." So what's the fixation with mortality?

"I have no idea where it comes from," he says. "When you put it like that, it sounds like all I'm doing is waiting around for the grim reaper to come take me away.

"I'd like to think that by the time all these things are upon me, I would have done something special for people to remember me by. I really want to do something massive for the world, I don't know when and where and I don't know if it will even happen, it might be my brain telling me to hurry the fuck up and do something special before it's too late."

It's as urgent a call as any to go out and buy their album.

Green Left has bought a copy of A Breath Of Stale Air to give away, complete with fridge magnets, postcards and stickers featuring the album's artwork by legendary Australian surf artist Ben Brown. Just email your name and address to criticalfilms@gmail.com before the next issue comes out on July 18. All of Local Resident Failure's past EPs can be downloaded for free by "liking" their Facebook page.