Image Credit: Man Alive! Photos
Emerging from some dark corner of the internet with their breakout tune ‘Smoko’, The Chats quickly began to make a name for themselves with a stripped back and raging style of punk that combined high-velocity riffs and rampaging basslines with humorous lyrics and a distinct Aussie snarl. It was exactly what the punk scene needed, a band who didn’t take themselves too seriously, wrote good tunes and didn’t give a fuck. Having been addicted since I heard that first bass riff of ‘Smoko’, I awaited the release of their debut album High Risk Behaviour with baited breath. I hoped the band would manage to capture that same rage, humour and tongue-in-cheek brilliance that made their first few singles so unique.
In short, they did.
High Risk Behaviour is everything The Chats have been promising for the past few years, delivering a biting blend of bitter satire with raging riffs and tight drum grooves that kicks and screams just like a proper punk album should. All the songs are under three minutes, most are under two and, wrapping up after a blistering 14 songs and 28 minutes, it’s a tight and furious ride.
“Do you find yourself wishing there was a band encapsulating Australian juvenile delinquency and stupidity?” begins the album's infomercial style promo video. “You can dry it, you can smoke it, you can dust with it, you can wash it, you can fucken throw it round your back yard, you can even trade it for drugs.”
This is the best encapsulation of the mayhem that is to follow.
Kicking off with the rampaging, Sid Vicious-esque snarl of ‘Stinker’, the band immediately drop you into a hot and sweaty atmosphere for what they call “shed rock” but sounds more like proper, old-fashioned punk mixed with rock and roll riffs, laugh-out-loud lyrics and served over ice. The band wear their various influences on their sleeves but they never sound derivative or dull, always keeping their style fresh and unique. From ‘Stinker’ the group transition into ‘Drunk n Disorderly’, another marauding punk banger about drinking, fighting and general chaos, then before you know it, it’s finished. At a tight 1 minute 15 seconds, it’s a fleeting but furious tune that’s so sharp it feels like you’re being glassed.
Moving into true meme territory, ‘The Clap’ is a more straightforward garage rock tune about having sex in the back of a Ute and getting the clap. That’s it. And what more do you want? It’s hilarious, packing infectious hooks with fuzzy riffs and ridiculous lyrics - this is The Chats wheelhouse and it is fucking brilliant. ‘Identity Theft’ continues this momentum, one of the best singles dropped prior to release, carrying the same gritty bounce that made ‘Smoko’ an instant classic with a pounding bassline, blistering guitar solo and yet more ridiculous lyrics, this time detailing the dangers of buying your drugs online.
It’s utterly mad.
‘Dine N Dash’ and ‘Pub Feed’ follow this same blueprint of hilarious ideas combined with nasty punk instrumentals, songs detailing pub food and running out of restaurants without paying. They’re not clever, they’re not complex but they’re a lot of fun.
‘Keep The Grubs Out’ sees the band take a left turn, a tight riff and drum combo forming the bed for a distorted spoken-word-style story about the front man being turned away at a club for having a mullet. It’s a welcome variation in style that keeps High Risk Behaviour from being a one-trick pony but manages to retain that distinct Chats edge.
‘Do What I Want’ is perhaps the most straight down the barrel rock tune, with lyrics of rebellion and grainy guitar but it’s still a great tune, it just doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album and is a tonal outlier on the album but still manages to be a banger.
It might not push a lot of boundaries, do anything particularly clever or make a lot of sense but it’s just so much fun. It’s an album that never takes itself too seriously, isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve and is without a dull moment. It’s sharp and biting, full of furious energy and a lovable sense of humour that sets it apart from so many other punk and rock albums in 2020. While I can’t see High Risk Behaviour going on to receive the critical acclaim and success of more ‘high-concept’ punk albums, it will always have a special place in my heart. The album advertised delinquency and stupidity and that’s what you get, and I can’t help but wonder whether that’s why I love it so much.