In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It hasn’t just aged well, it’s remained absolutely timeless with nothing else like it in the years since.”
To paraphrase Sophia Petrillo, picture it, Brisbane, 1996. A 15 year old Pete Laurie is excited about going to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in support of the unfairly overlooked One Hot Minute. He’s less excited about their support act, plucky Brisbane locals, Regurgitator. I’d heard a few of their singles on alternative radio and thought they were a little too clever and a little too cool. The next day, after that Chili Pepper show, the first thing I did after school was go and buy my new favourite band’s debut LP, Tu-Plang.
Opening track I Sucked A Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am was one of those “too clever and too cool” things that made me sceptical of the ‘Gurge back in the day. But that scepticism was admittedly formed without ever hearing the actual song, just the title. Once I actually gave it a chance and it became a gateway into the (singer/guitarist) Quan Yeoman’s take on the world and sense of humour, it became, and has remained, one of the best instances of anti-pop, rock I have ever heard.
Aussies who I saw as sarcasm delivery devices, taking on hip hop, while rapping about fortune cookies… That’s a recipe for disaster. Yet I think Kong-Fu Sing might be one of the defining songs of alternative Australian music from that time. It’s definitely a defining track of Brisbane alt music from the time, which was punching way above its weight thanks to bands like Regurgitator, Custard, Screamfeeder, the Resin Dogs and (pre mum-rock years) Powderfinger.
20 years after that first live experience, the Chili Peppers are a band who I haven’t actively listened to a single song they’ve recorded since the mid 90s. Whereas Regurgitator are still one of my favourite and most listened to bands to this day. And Tu-Plang might be in my top five favourite albums of all time.
Putting the guitars down, Yeomans fully indulges in his electronic, sampling, trance, hip hop side on G7 Dick Electric Boogie. I condemnation of the treatment of the third world, “Thanks for the aid, the traders enslave” gives a pretty good idea of the song’s tone.
While Tu-Plang may have been their first long player, Regurgitrator had already built a fervent following and gained solid radio airplay via two great Eps. The first single to ever get out there was (bass player) Ben Ely’s Couldn’t Do It. Originally a guitar rock take on hip hop, I always loved that the band recorded a crazily different interpretation for Tu-Plang. In the “Happy Shopper Mix” the buzz-saw, wahed guitars of the original are replaced by flamenco like, acoustic plucks. While Ely trades his gangster swagger for a lazy, almost asleep vocal delivery.
(I assume) Written about his then girlfriend, and Spiderbait bass player, Janet English, Yeomans makes a love song like no other on Miffy’s Simplicity. The guitars go beyond distorted to be so blown out, it sounds like every note could have destroyed the studio gear when they recorded it. And his vocals are at their snarky best, even as he sings about how into the song’s subject he is.
In 1996, the whole world was still a few years away from Limp Bizkit and Linklin Park ruining the idea of rock mashed up with hip hop. In those pre-Bizkit times, it was still a cool, interesting novelty. A cool, interesting novelty exploited perfectly in the guitar lead, but totally hip hop at heart, Social Disaster. But the guitars are nowhere to be heard in the hip hop sleaze of Music is Sport. One record in, and Regurgitator had already seen enough to be kind of disgusted by the industry that they were doing so well in.
With its sludge and darkness, Manana is a return to a Ben Ely lead track, and a return to the sleepy vocals of Couldn’t Do It. It’s funny, in the last couple of decades since discovering my love of this band, I’ve always thought of Quan as the experimental, mad genius, and Ely as the straight forward, stripped back, punk rocker. So to be reminded of his eclectic, not so in your face contributions to Tu-Plang has been one of the greatest joys of this record revisit.
Speaking of stripped back, punk rock, F.S.O is further proof of how inaccurate my broad categorisations of these two dudes are, with Yeomans delivering some blistering, in your face, no messing around aggression as he tackles domestic violence. Another favourite from a previous EP, Blubber Boy is then given its own update. Nowhere near as drastic a facelift as Couldn’t Do It, Blubber Boy’s reboot settles for an upped tempo and slightly punkier vibe, showing how big a difference these small tweaks can make, resulting in a song that I listen too way more often than the original.
I’d say I still hear almost all of these songs at least once a month, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to Tu-Plang in one sitting, top to bottom. Taking it in again, as a whole, I don’t think it has lost any of the initial impact that made me love Regurgitator so much 20 years ago. Yeomans, Ely and original drummer Martin Lee made something so unique and original in 1996, it hasn’t just aged well, it’s remained absolutely timeless with nothing else like it in the years since.