The Murlocs, Nice Biscuit @ The Gov, Adelaide 19/5/2019

The Murlocs are another project for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard alumni and with that band elevated to playing an upcoming show at Thebarton Theatre, the Murlocs now have the numbers to headline The Gov.

The cold and wet weather outside is acknowledged by The Murlocs ‘ Ambrose Kenny-Smith upon their onstage arrival, “Thanks for coming down despite the shitty weather” (but really where else could we be on this particular Sunday evening?) but before then, Nice Biscuit’s inspiring performance wins over the expectant punters.

With a line up of four guys appearing dressed as painterly astronauts and fronted by two girls (one of who would occasionally place a tambourine around her neck like some kind of spacesuit-less neck piece), the outer worldly space motif was carried subconsciously and coincidentally by one guitarist with possibly an ankle fracture wearing a moonboot. They commenced with an unbroken extended psych-prog-surf concept piece.

After this echoing, pulsing outer spatial journey including choreographed percussion and complementing girl vocals, the second song, although mining the same musical cultural well as the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, was an indication of the musical diversity revealed gradually over their generously apportioned set. Hopefully this swayed any potential naysayers who may have prematurely judged their style as derivative during the extended workout of the first half of their set. The harmonica which was to feature prominently in the subsequent headline set made a first appearance and one song had an almost country feel before they finished with a return to the pulsing guitar-lead psych a la King Gizzard et al.

With Ambrose-Kenny Smith out front singing and playing guitar standing apart from the other members not dressed in the “uniform” of black T-shirts and garish blue slacks, The Murlocs commenced their set with the upbeat pop of Noble Soldier and then Compensation from earlier albums Old Locomotive and Young Blindness respectively before a set containing nearly all of their latest release Manic Candid Episode. Two songs in with the drums needing adjusting and described as “falling apart”, Ambrose comments, “The Adelaide curse is kicking in”.

Catch 22 is ballad-like with Ambrose at times reverting to an almost Pink Floyd vocal melody with another later song having a chorus vocal seemingly lifted from Elton John’s Rocket Man. The title track Manic Candid Episode is played reinforcing The Murlocs’ style as more garage and less psych. Before Young Blindness, Ambrose relinquishes his guitar and there is a slight cheer from a section of the audience noting the appearance of the ubiquitous harmonica. What follows contains a distorted vocal and amplified harmonica playing in a style possibly trademarked by Jon Spencer. The praise the band receive afterwards is mirrored in Ambrose’s comment, “This is the best Adelaide crowd I reckon”.

Free of his guitar Ambrose moves around a stage littered with VB cans like he is Elvis preaching manically, at one stage he removes his patent Candid Manic Episode jacket to reveal a branded “Uncle Murl” shirt to rousing cheers from the audience. I overhear the guy next to me, possibly a new convert ask, “Who’s Uncle Murl?” while Ambrose comments, “I didn’t know how sweaty and gross I was until I took my jacket off”. He spends the latter half of the set trying to avoid having to high five anticipating members of the audience upfront with outstretched arms but does give in a couple of times towards the end. 

Ambrose precedes the next song with, “Okay, here’s another slow burner” and then it’s like the band is channelling The Doors, Ambrose playing his version of Jim Morrison convincingly. A few songs later, there is a slight intermission when he takes up the guitar again and introduces Spun Gun as a song “directed at Heroin” citing the inspiration as being robbed. The final couple of songs are the raucous rocker Wolf Creep segueing into Rolling On with Ambrose leading the audience in a rendition of the chorus before it ends with no encore forthcoming. I don’t believe that anyone could have been disappointed by either the Murlocs or Nice Biscuit before them in the preceding two hours. Even though they are midway through this Australian tour and there is a tinge of jealously that it is over for Adelaide and there are some interstate shows are still yet to come, the good news is that it isn’t too long before King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard play Thebarton Theatre in July.

Live review by Jason Leigh