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Live Review: Chemical Restraint present fierce feminist dance-punk with their 'Kiss Off' EP

29 March 2019 | 10:56 am | Max Lewis

Sydney duo Chemical Restraint present 6 tracks of fierce, catchy and intersectional dance punk on their debut 6 track EP, 'Kiss Off'.

Brand new Sydney two-piece CHEMICAL RESTRAINT have just shared their debut EP KISS OFF, available via Terrible Tapes digitally and on cassette. It's a 6 track tidal-wave of pulsing dance-punk harking back to the edgy naughties where bands like Yeah Yeah YeahsBloc Party and Gossip flourished. Add to that concoction a layer of the 90s Riot Grrrl movement with notes of Bratmobile and Huggy BearChemical Restraint's debut oozes energy and passion out of every pore.

A duo made up of Naif-Jamie Martin (Sports Bra, New Mutant) and Courtney RoseChemical Restraint has a two-fold goal in taking back room for marginalised communities, and amplifying lesser-heard voices within these communities. To this end it's an EP that delves deeply into the fear and anger felt by queer and trans women, an aspect most present on the leading single 'Stop Killing Women', which addresses the epidemic of gendered violence and a culture of misogyny.

'Stop Killing Women' kicks off the EP with a pounding mechanical beat, distorted bass, and a stereo-screamed mantra no doubt felt by countless women; "Will I or won't I / Get street harassed today? / Will I or won't I / Get home safely?" The track leans firmly in punk territory, leaving aside the pop-hooks and more melodic progressions of dance-punk aside so you hear what Chemical Restraint have to say as loud as possible: "I'll stop yelling when / you stop killing women."

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The next track, 'The Bare Minimum' swings the pendulum way back into dance-punk central, with an extremely poppy bassline mixing with chorusy guitar wails to create the sound of a long-lost Yeah Yeah Yeahs demo. With more restrained and melodic vocals, the duo recognise that changing yourself and your attitudes is hard, yet pointing a firm finger at the boys "doing the bare minimum / messing around with performative feminism."

'Chemical Restraint' is a short-but-sweet micro-pop song all about queer love, presented through glittery guitar chords and the rare appearance of synths. Boosted by the rapidly strummed guitar, the vocals have a pop-punk edge to them as they sing about feeling "paralysed" by someone special: "You stopped me in my tracks / when I looked at your face."

'Can't Slow Down' sits firmly in the middle of the "dance punk + punk punk" continuum, with a distorted yet catchy bass riff lead by a tom-heavy drum loop driving shouted vocals that present the confidence of Chemical Restraint front and centre. "Never giving up / never giving in / I'm always going down / I'm always gonna win." It's the best example of what's engrossing about the EP; whether focusing on the fear faced by women every day, preformative politics done by nice guys, or a queer love story, the duo are fiercely confident in every aspect.

'To Hell With Good Intentions" pairs a very early Bloc Party sounding beat with blaring synth bass and Courtney Rose on solo vocals urging the listener to repeat the mantra "My love is bigger than your love." All the while a rapidly picked guitar melody from Naif-Jamie lends the track a melancholy edge that morphs into a noisy soundscape and back as the track progresses.

Rounding off the EP, 'Character Breaking, Character Building' feels like a thesis statement for the duo as a whole.  Over a familiar driving bassline and heavily chorused guitar sweeps, Courtney Rose sings; "All we want to do is stay alive / And try help some people / All we want to do is not die / And try to fight back the evil!"

Chemical Restraint is further proof that the future of Sydney punk is intersectional. The future of Sydney punk is the least heard people stepping up to have their say, while the rest of us step back and listen. It also helps that this message is coated in banging dance-punk slash punk punk goodness; a vibe you can mosh and dance to at the same time.

Catch Chemical Restraint at their very first show on Friday the 29th of March, supporting Spike Fuck at Slyfox.

Photo via Facebook

Words by MAX LEWIS