Golden Fang for the most part eschew traditional song structures. Not for them the old verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle eight break/chorus pattern: each of their tracks feel more like special moments in time as singer/guitarist Carl Redfern emotes feelings and melodies that are scattered over raw, unadorned, visceral guitar riffs that ebb and flow, recede and engulf in rhythmic patterns. The result is quite frankly hypnotic and mesmerising: ambient music with barbed wire edges and lyrical poetry filtered over the top like fine lacing. ‘The Man With Telltale Scars’ is thus a magnificent series of episodes, movements, feelings and emotions that confirm this band as something quite special.
Golden Fang are the epitome of the sound of the inner west of Sydney – what I call the Marrickville Sound – which has seen an exponential growth in guitar-based bands with members often in their second or third life in rock’n’roll with an impeccable pedigree and much creativity to burn. No worn out blues or covers bands for these folks. Not that there’s anything wrong with playing blues and covers, I hasten to add.
Golden Fang’s music is raw, visceral and teetering on the brink of collapse. Opening track ‘Sweet Dreams’ is like scattered gold – instrumentation as tight and taught bedrock with Redfern casting his poetic words across the field as he muses on changes in life and the need for hope and resilience – I still believe in sweet dreams – sweet dreams will get us through, I know that’s true. It’s epic and beautiful.
Second track ‘Breathe’ is full of scything razor sharp guitars, self-deprecatory humour and the guttural and yearning yelps of Redfern.
Lyrically, the song eloquently captures the feelings of a town deep in lockdown for most of the year. Redfern explains:
I wrote ‘Breathe’ last year during the first rounds of Covid lockdowns. Like everyone else I was catching up on some tele and had watched Nothing Can Hurt Me, the Big Star doco. It left me feeling inspired by their fragile edginess and crisp guitar crunch and this song came out of wanting to get into that feel. I don’t think it sounds like Big Star at all but it was perfect for me at the time and the band latched onto it as soon as they heard it.
The song is about missing your people, getting right with yourself and being a good friend when and how you can, all the while wondering what the fuck was gonna happen to us all.
Redfren’s vocals are urgent and visceral, the instrumentation raw and brutal, and yet there is an ethereal and stately beauty in the track: poignant, defiant and heartfelt. Redfern sings with intensity and deep warmth: please be kind to yourself, be quiet for someone else, let yourself breathe. This is a band that burns intensely with a passion that bleeds into every riff, every refrain and every insistent beat of the drums.
‘The Night’ has a pacy, restless energy that with the sort of widescreen horizon of something by Springsteen – taking you on a long journey into the darkness along endless highways with Redfern’s voice infused with a delicious sense of urgency and longing.
‘Don’t Be That Way’ is a muzzled Golden Fang to some extent: this is a glorious rambling seven minute journey that steers away from the barely restrained chaos of previous releases in favour of something far more cinematic and expansive – something even stately. However, the bite is just as powerful and the message just as visceral:
Move to the country
There’s this sense that
There’s no heartland anywhere
And who’s gonna tell you
Don’t be that way
Redfern tells of a long period of gestation for this track with its genesis twenty years ago:
From its very first inception it felt special but somehow it always managed to resist completion like an incredibly frustrating puzzle with some elusive clue or missing piece. As a result of its long slow burn I can’t even really remember why I started writing it, but the essence or mood of the song has always been clear and felt important to me – a riff on the emotional response to a simple expression.
It’s not the most helpful advice but I would imagine most people have either said or been told “Don’t Be That Way” and in response created their own context and/or response to it – which is essentially what the song is an attempt at doing.
Sobre and yearning with wide open horizons and an intelligent measured theme, this is a delicate side to Golden Fang that still somehow feel vitally raw and wild with a touch of psychedelia.
‘Teo’s Day’ brushes close against a conventional pop song structure in Golden Fang’s inimitable way with its subtle melodies and sense of yearning and innocence with slightly surreal lyrics – a glorious confabulation that sees shifts in focus and with ethereal backing vocals that hang in the air. Replete with a languorous guitar solo, this is a magnificent and heavenly slice of inner city blues.
This slice of pop explodes in the outstanding ‘Sooner Or Later’ with its chiming jingle jangle guitars and Redfern’s vocals wry and disconnected, louche and spitting out attitude. This is Iggy Pop dancing with Lou Reed in some underground dive bar – elements of unbridled euphoria and excess, poised, posed and with just a hint of theatricality and kohl around the eyes.
The pop excess gives way to a somewhat motorik beat in ‘Dreams Go Bad’ and the barbed wire guitar slashes and Redfern yelps are Fangs at their most visceral, calling in the ghosts of The Birthday Party to slam dance up the back of the room.
This breathtaking album gives no time for respite as it leaves you with the seven minute long exit note, the delightfully named ‘Polymers Are Forever’. This farewell burns like a forest fire – slow sparks building up to something unstoppable: yearning vocals that roam over fuzzy excoriating guitars until there’s nothing left. The ascension towards the end is simply transcendent.
‘The Man With Telltale Scars’ is a brilliant magnum opus – an immersive journey with a series of eviscerating movements carried on intertwined guitars and pounding rhythms with impossibly beautiful poetry, words filled with anger, frustration, humanity and compassion. It really is a special album. get it though the link below or the usual download/streaming sites.
Carl Redfern – vocals, guitar, vibraslap
Teo Treloar – lead guitar
Justin Tauber – bass, baritone guitar, synth strings + horns
Joe Parkin – drums, percussion
Donna Amini – backing vocals on 4, 5, 8
Jay Whalley – add’l percussion