From its front-cover photo of four hooded hoodlums setting a street ablaze to the incendiary anthems contained inside, Bleeding Knees Club's new album "Fade The Hammer" is the sound of a band on fire. Restless and revolutionary, the record sees the Sydney-based foursome bringing the heat across eleven songs of pummelling garage-rock, nervy punk and candy-coated shoegaze.
Working with producer Lachlan Mitchell (The Vines, The Jezabels), frontman Alex Wall points out it's the first album he's ever made with a full band. "It's the most fun I've ever had in a group", he says. "And you know, we really are a gang of misfits - I was born in California and moved to Australia as an infant. Nick comes from the far NSW north coast, while Mikey and Gio grew up in Sydney's rough western suburbs. But when we play together it's like nothing else matters, and it's us against the world".
Making good on the promise of 2017's "comeback" EP "Chew The Gum", of which Rolling Stone enthused "The new line-up means new - welcome - depth, showing off not just a more well-rounded musical edge, but a captivating self-reflexivity", the album builds on BKC's trademark bratty punk with a bigger sound and bolder ideas.
There's musical muscle in "Fade The Hammer" previously-unheard on Bleeding Knees Club material, from the hair-raising guitars and gang vocals on chugger "Behind" to the feedback-drenched, wall-of-noise closer "Zoo". The album also pauses to bask in "Kitchen", a swoonsome, strummy duet with Sophie McComish from Sydney shredders Body Type, as well as dream-pop slow-burn "Cherry", a song as sugary as its title implies.
Lyrically the album's a perfect snapshot of where Alex finds himself nowadays, as a slightly less carefree man than his earlier songs suggested but still with a tearaway spirit. Grown-up concerns surface on last year's lead-off single "Case", a kiss-off to the drudgery of full-time work, while blitzkrieg nugget "No Strings" daydreams of a time and place where "I could stay in bed all day and waste my life away, or listen to Limp Bizkit in my car with no complaints". There's also a cautionary ode to non-stop partying in "Coming Down", and blast-furnace bop "Burning Crosses" questions the misguided search for spiritual answers through religion ("They once showed 'The Matrix' in my Sunday school", laughs Alex).
It's a far cry from the band's raw early sound and simpler scope. Growing up on the Gold Coast, Alex formed Bleeding Knees Club as a duo with childhood friend Jordan Malane when the pair were barely out of their teens. Their debut 2012 album "Nothing To Do" was produced by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) and featured the lo-fi, high-rotation triple j smashes "Teenage Girls" and "Nothing To Do". Taking some time out from BKC after the release of 2013’s “Feel”, Alex spent the intervening few years living between New York, California and Queensland, releasing three albums on LA’s Burger Records and touring worldwide as his sci-fi punk solo project Wax Witches.
Once he settled back in Australia in 2016, the Bleeding Knees Club itch returned and Alex co-opted the fresh band line-up of Michael Barker (guitar), Gio Alexander (bass) and Nick Leighton (drums). The quartet have carved out circle pits across the country and on three separate tours with American kindred spirits Bully, Together Pangea and Harlem. One rambunctious run included one broken jaw and one broken ankle, and The Brag declared "Bleeding Knees Club's chaotic Sydney show proved punk is not dead".
Stepping up with a storming album to match that live reputation, "Fade The Hammer" is a world-class record that the band can't wait for their fans to hear, and to take on the road across the globe. Alex says of the title, "It's about that urge to fade out all the things hammering you down". Mission accomplished, then.