I’m not about to claim that Regurgitator were ever a force for innovation, per se, but once upon a time they sounded fresh, irreverent and—well—plain fun. The Regurgitator of Tu Plang (the 1996 debut) and, more notably, Unit seems long gone now. That band, back then, wasn’t what you’d call the most polished—early song titles “I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am” and “! (The Song Formerly Known As)” pretty much sum up the band’s version of wit—but underneath this larrikinism lurked some solid electropop chops. “Polyester Girl”, the group’s one excursion into saccharine (think Aqua-style) pop, and the later anti-Olympics anthem “Crush the Losers” were among the band’s most successful songs, and they managed to combine the group’s keen sense of humour with the right amount of radio sass and rock muscle.
But as time wore on, their hip-hop/electro/rock tunes came to feel sodden and repetitive. The inevitable singles collection, a sure sign of decline, followed 2001’s disappointing Eduardo and Rodriguez Wage War on T-Wrecks. And after that, in 2004, Regurgitator resorted to reality TV exhibitionism—they locked themselves in a plastic room in the centre of Federation Square in Melbourne for the length of the recording of what became Mish-Mash, and broadcast it on a 24 hour digital cable channel. Did the results move you to a Truman Show-esque appreciation of the value of freedom? It was more like watching the tedious inanities of late-night Big Brother.
Love and Paranoia, which was released in Australia last year, does not reach the highs of Unit or …art. Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely, the remaining members of the original group, have recruited a new drummer and now rounded out the band with a full-time keyboardist. But with Yeomans currently located in Hong Kong, the new album does feel somewhat mailed-in. Yeomans, with Spiderbait vocalist Janet English, had something better in Happyland—a similar ironic anti-celebrity stance, bolstered by straight, buzzy electro pop. Sadly, it seems that project disintegrated along with Yeomans and English’s relationship. And years later Regurgitator are back muscling out obvious jokes about suburban jocks and Phil Collins.
On Love and Paranoia, the group’s aggressive, jammy schtick hides pedestrian verse-chorus-verse structures without the choruses to lift them up. Opening single “Blood and Spunk” relies on shouts of “Go! Go!”, and buzzy approximation of guitar weight; the chorus, a simple 3-2-1 descent, doesn’t pop. The one highlight is “Romance of the Damned”, a driving, new wave-y wall of washed-out guitars that tells us about modern love—stalkers on Google, and in real life. “I was watching you sleep, from a car in the street / You were beautiful”.
Later, Yeomans sings, “We got personality, charm and personality / Drinking beer is awesome!”. And then, “The refugees / Are coming to get you”. We get the message: suburban Australia’s laughable. Wait, haven’t Kath & Kim been lambasting the same target for years? Haven’t the Herd made much more pointed political commentary over cleaner hip-hop beats and with a more complex humour? “77%”, “Burn Down the Parliament”, and a bunch of that group’s other songs casually slaughter Regurgitator’s heavy-handed irony. Like fellow-Briswegian Butterfingers, Regurgitator have become lowest-common-denominator, and that’s a great shame.