Review of The Crystal Axis Album by Midnight Juggernauts

Music is one of the few things we still hold over Australia. The Aussies may have the climate, the beaches and the sporting pedigree to leave England shivering in driving rain, but musically they haven't got much to brag about. INXS, MAW and AC/DC (love an initial do the Aussies) were the mainstays, Jet were good for a bit, so were The Vines and now The Temper Trap and Empire of The Sun fly the flag. Of course, Kylie, Dannii and Holly make/made music too but promoting soap stars to the music business always had its shelf life. In truth, that's not much of a musical history for a population of 20m+.

Midnight Juggernauts The Crystal Axis Album

Things might be about to change, though. Step forward Vincent Vendetta (great name), Andrew Szekeres and Daniel Stricker, or, as they are collectively known, Midnight Juggernauts. Formed in Melbourne in 2004, this 3-piece are set to release album number two, 'The Crystal Axis,' on their own label Siberia. Having spent years putting out numerous 7", 12" vinyls and EPs, they released their debut 'Dystopia' internationally at the beginning of 2008 to marginal indifference. Those who saw them on tour with the likes of Justice, Holy Fuck, Crystal Castles and Klaxons told an altogether different story. A live band that needed to adapt their sound for record.

The Juggernaut sound is a mass of rolling waves of synths, drumbeats and echoed vocals, which evoke prog rock soundscapes and faraway Sci-fi lands of which Bucky O'Hare could only dream. Indeed, most songs have expansive beginnings, so it works well that opener 'Induco' is Latin for introduction.

Single 'Vital Signs' combines feel-good wisdom with a cosmic backdrop of atmospheric beauty, but it is 'The Great Beyond' that really underlines the Juggernauts sound. A leisurely 2-minute build up rolls into a 'wall of sound', meandering with purpose but without commotion. 'Intangible/ We're hungry so we hunt/ Just like we're animals/ Selecting and collecting/ Like were cannibals.'

What holds Axis apart from its contemporary's efforts is the lack of anything remotely catchy. There is no attempt here for radio-friendly hooks; instead the daytime wireless brigade has been shunned for a cinematic collection of indie-rock/pop that at times is seriously wonky. The result is the ultimate slow burner which will ensure those with a Chris Moyles attention span will miss out. Having already put Coachella, Glastonbury and The Big Day Out on the musical CV, Juggernauts are building their empire for the long term rather than a quick fix.

The lyrics to 'Lara Versus The Savage Pack' come from a band in complete control of what they are doing and where they are going. The drum beat pulsates before Vendetta's vocal swaggers over the simplest of looped synths, leading into the biggest chorus on the album; 'Keep on building/Chasing that feeling/If we make it out of here alive/We'll make it through anything.' Sure the lyrics smell a bit of Pokolbin, but accept that and this could be the summer soundtrack you'd have never considered.

There is a long long way to go, but if Australia continue to produce bands of this ilk, then our Aussie friends may be able to start a conversation about music without blushing. Still, they can't touch us on fish and chips.


Alastair Thompson

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