In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The thing I liked most was how well it holds up when totally detached from the gimmick of its production.”
Regurgitator released their first four albums in just five years. And while the musical styles and inspirations may have swung wildly all over the place, the results were always unmistakably Regurgitator. Almost like what Quentin Tarantino is to movies, Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely are expert appropriators who know who to steal from and how to use those thefts to create something undeniably their own.
By 2004, it was by far the longest gap the band had ever had between records. But they didn’t waste that time off. Instead, they came up with an idea as brilliant as it was gimmicky. When Regurgitator decided it was time to go back into the studio, they didn’t go back into the studio at all. Instead, they become The Band in a Bubble. A studio was set up in Melbourne’s Federation Square where the band would live and record for several weeks under the scrutiny of thousands of passers by everyday, and Australian music TV channel, Channel V. The result was Mish Mash.
Extreme writing and recording situation aside, the opening pair of songs is pure Regurgitator. The Drop is Yeomans’ signature angular, cranked guitar backing up Yeomans’ signature dissatisfied hip hop angst. While My Friend Robot is pure Ely, punk rock simplicity.
With a snippet of a conversation with someone interviewing the band as the record was made, the outro to Shopping Mall Soul is the first evidence of the bizarre way in which Mish Mash was made. And it comes on the tail of a song that is such classic Ely, guitar driven punk, it makes the reminder of the record’s writing and recording process seem kind of inconsequential all these years later.
But when it leads in into the faux-Shaft funk that becomes the heavily snipped production and big sampled sound of The Game, I couldn’t help but think of these songs in terms of that writing and recording process. Did a decade or so of ups and downs with the industry mean Quan already had this indictment of the music industry in him? Or was his life in a literal fish bowl needed to make this song a reality?
Punk and ironic thrash metal shredding collide for the awesome assault of My Computer Crashed. The next big genre smasher is the dirty, sleaze of Sonnet of a Media Mogul. The sarcasm drips of every note of the sludge smeared guitars and the distain is nothing less than glorious. But it sounds like crowd pleasing pop compared to the creepy smile and sinister bounce of My Ego.
I’m Sensible is Ely working to all of his strengths, from the quirky, jarring verses, to the punked choruses, to the soaringly metal coda. All before If This is the Blues Then Why Do I Feel So Green does its title perfect justice. A lo fi, picked and sliding acoustic guitar, the fireside feel, until the fi is tuned up and the rumbling bass and modern production polish is slathered over the dirt for something darkly threatening and almost overwhelming in its awesome heft.
Listening to Mish Mash for the first time in a long time, the thing I liked most was how well it holds up when totally detached from the gimmick of its production. Don’t get me wrong, as a fan in 2004, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that a band I loved so much was going to give me so much access to their process. But now, more than a decade later, I love that Mish Mash stands strong in this band’s catalogue, even without that Band in a Bubble context. Take out the two or three samples of talking to people in the street, and I think it would be impossible for anyone new to the Regurgitator discography to tell which was the Band on a Bubble album.