1800 | Big Supermarket Album Review
The second single from 1800, ‘Laura C.’, is unquestionably one of the most triumphant tracks to ever come from post-punk. Aussie band Big Supermarket’s debut is frustratingly good and it’s nerve-wracking to contemplate where they’re headed next.
The post-punk market is oversaturated. Fact. People probably said that in 1980 too but it’s just as applicable in 2019. That doesn’t mean there’s a lack of top quality bands tumbling out of the genre; Shame, Sports Team, Strange Bones, Heavy Lungs, hell, even The Chats are astoundingly good live and their dry, shed-rock-antics humour is hysterical. Speaking of Aussie bands though, Big Supermarket are perhaps a cryptic answer to the uninspired; a bridge over the gap between Gang Of Four and Parquet Courts.
To begin on a simple note, ‘Laura C.’ is one of the best post-punk tracks ever recorded. It’s usually difficult to say with any level of certainty that band A from 2010+ has written anything better than band B+ from 1979. However,’Laura C.’ alone outclasses say, pretty much the entirety of Bauhaus’ Burning From The Inside from 1983 and carries an air of mysticism with it that Gang Of Four could only have hoped to achieve on Entertainment! four years earlier. ‘Laura C.’ should, in a perfect world, top rock fans’ polls for best singles of 2019 and should be a contender among the greatest songs of the past decade. Not that it matters so much if it doesn’t; Big Supermarket will instead become a tiny cult band that not a soul in the world knows about except some self-assured and musically-obsessed critic and the lead guitarist’s mother, just as Lester Bangs discusses in his amusing How To Be A Rock Critic.
What’s worthy of note is how absolutely astonishing it is that a brand-spanking new Australian band, with practically zilch written about them, can conjure such an authentic reflection of overcast England. The keyboard timing is insultingly perfect, each note pinging across the guitar work and matched only by the amateur-sounding hi-hat crash that accompanies it. Thanks to its unorthodoxy, ‘Laura C.’ incinerates any doubt that authenticity stems from a time or a place. There is fuck all known about this band and yet there is no doubt whatsoever that they know exactly what they’re fucking talking about.
The other single, ‘Personal Pronouns’, is this kind of sunny, optimistic jangle rock track with a main riff that sounds eerily similar to something impossible to put a finger on. Once again, those damningly catchy keys turn the grounded gang vocals and punk structure stratospheric; it’s an urban dancing anthem as light as a feather with a swagger not seen since the debut of The Strokes. It flows straight into ‘SuperHwy’ and again those fucking keys! There’s something about 1800 that doesn’t necessarily rely on those sweeter-than-honey notes but one can’t help but feel it would struggle without them. They are masterfully placed, echoing for hours after the album has finished.
There’s some brilliant little snippets between tracks too; take ‘Feel the Warm Breeze’, a minute-long instrumental where Big Supermarket possibly take a leaf out of Parquet Courts’ book, sounding a tiny bit shoegaze-y and a whole lot jazzy. Of course, it incomprehensibly flows into ‘Laura C.’ - was it mentioned that it’s one of the best songs ever fucking made? It must’ve been so difficult to shake off the weight of that song in order to record the rest of the album and it’s not even like the rest of it teeters off. It’s just that the Nirvana/Sonic Youth-esque chaos that comes in around the 2:31 mark reeking of Nevermind’s ‘Endless Nameless’ throws a spanner in the works if only for a brief moment, before the twanging of a humble, divine guitar solo pops up in blissful fashion. And then a woman, taking the mysteriousness of Belinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine and the delicacy of Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, chants what can only be made out as “Helicopter, helicopter, helicopter…” or something. It’d be hilarious if that’s not even close to what she’s saying.
Maybe she’s the real Laura C.
Things get heavy around ‘Toll Free’, showing a likeness to some of R.E.M.’s muddier tracks, like ‘Driver 8’ and ‘Crush With Eyeliner’. There’s a lot to digest with 1800 but it never feels like a journey or some kind of magnum opus. It’s just a monumental debut, one that will likely go unnoticed until someone digs into the archives and finds ‘Laura C.’ or ‘Personal Pronouns’ or the sickly sweet closer, ‘Black Death’ and cries out for not being born in 2002 so they could enjoy 1800 in their prime. Either that, or Big Supermarket will become one of Australia’s biggest acts and tour Europe, heralded as the messiahs of contemporary post-punk. If that happens, just remember - you heard it here first.