Posted December 22, 2007

I was born out of time, what's your excuse?

Last week, I was on my way to an early start to the work day, when, just a few hundred yards from the office, that Pacific Hwy turnoff just presented itself as such an inevitable option…  

Lean to the right and a few seconds later I was heading north with not a thought for the sort of responsibility that I hear is supposed to be engendered in one at a certain age.

It was another of those drizzly mornings we’ve been having too many of lately.  Southbound traffic was bumper to bumper and northbound was crowded but moving.  That’s okay, means to an end and I knew there wouldn’t be too much traffic where I was heading.  New Christs’ ‘Burning of Rome’ kept slinging through my head, I stayed patient and soon enough, I was past Hornsby, the commuter traffic of a Wedmorn was away on the freeway and the Old Road opened up before me.  I gassed up at Mt Colah and might’ve txted my boss, only there was no signal.  

Fang past the abandoned weigh station and the road shrinks right down, to two narrow twisting lanes, you start to work a bit, flicking from side to side…

To face a new god - Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a new god, or necessarily much of a god at all.  I credit the hills to erosion and the rest to human efforts, I know this road but if felt new.  My alltime favourite thing to do is to ride through roads like this, but to have just fucked off from responsibility like I had, with not a single soul knowing where I was or what I was doing, gave the experience a special edge, that pure sense of beautiful aloneness.

I was born out of time, what’s your excuse?

I’ve been listening to New Christs a bit lately, having acquired a CD from a mate – and, having bought every one of those great singles and seen them more than most local bands, I don’t reckon I’ve ripped anyone off, hell, would’ve made the CD myself only my turntable is temporarily disabled (and, if so, I would’ve put ‘Circus of Sour’ on it, how can you ignore THAT riff?) – and, by fuck, what an intense collection of songs.  As a callow teenager, I dug the music and was fascinated by this sense of inner-city ennui, disillusionment, “She can keep her habit, she can shove her fucking pills.”  To come back to it several years later – to have an ex-wife of whom I can genuinely say that line – it carries a majestic anger.  Rob Younger sounds really fucking angry on these tracks, and that anger gives them a rare power, cos hardly anyone ever comes across just so damned pissed off.  Well, the Afghan Whigs’ ‘Gentlemen’ springs to mind, but not a lot else, certainly nothing that’s matched to such a fine high of rock and roll.

I told you once, I told you a thousand times.

I stopped at Brooklyn for a coffee and a cigarette, sat at a caff on the water looking over Broken Bay.  There’s a special quality to the light in places like this on an early morn with heavy clouds hanging in the sky.  Details get blurred, surf’s down, a weight lays across the landscape and the scenery takes on the aspect of an impressionist painting, colours and textures blurring into each other.  Clouds and drizzle serve another purpose, that of keeping the road more or less clear of annoying traffic.

Past the Calga interchange, a spot I have a near strange affection for, on account of its apocalyptic sense of deterioration, the old highway is blocked for roadworks, since a chunk of it fell away and took a car and occupants with it. So I had to swing left, which takes you up to freeway, unless you do a u-turn over the median strip that’s sunk so far that ripples in city roads offer more humps, and head back up towards Peats Ridge.  There’s not much on this road.  It’s not a highway, it doesn’t go anywhere special, it just winds up through hilly country, beside a river.  A little while after the turnoff, you get to a crossroads and you can hang left and go down to Wiseman’s Ferry – in itself a wonderful road, twisting along the river, though a royal pain in the arse on Sundays when it gets full of weekend cowboys in their Valentino Rossi helmets (“You just screw up, I don’t wanna know”) – or you just keep going, up toward Wollombi.  It’s narrow, dangerously so, and I wouldn’t want to meet one of those moronic Landcruisers coming the other way.  But it’s just about as remote from anything as you can get this close to Sydney, the countryside is beautiful and the road wonderful.  It jags and turns, the camber falls in the wrong direction, the shoulders crumble into invasive grasses.  Pushing through it on a bike in the wet, you can’t afford to take your attention away from it for too long other than those sorta straights of two or three hundred yards.  Yeah, I could be wrong, but I saw god…

Well, it aint the kinda road that you’d really wanna pace yourself to that song, not unless you’re a far better rider than me.  And I ain’t bad, but my nerve runs out long before my skills or tyres do, which is, I guess, better than the other way around.  Allasame, it is one of the greater types of fun to slide around corners on a wet road, when the lean and the throttle are jusssst right, you feel the rear wheel drop traction while you hang over the side, one of those yellow signs slips by, it might’ve said “35kmh”, but I’m moving way too quick to bother looking at the speedo.  I’d rather die, fuck you, I’m not that wrong.

I doubt Rob Younger was thinking of powerslides, though.  A ride like this doesn’t really have anything in common with the overall intent of the attitudes inherent in New Christs songs.  I didn’t even own a motorcycle when I was deep in the bitterness that might have found reflection in these tracks, but I wasn’t listening to the New Christs either.  Funnily enough, I was listening almost exclusively to soul in those days, perhaps as an escape.  And now a motorcycle gives me another kind of escape, but I’m running from different shit.

Past Wollombi and toward Broke, the hills flatten out, the road widens, trucks appear and on your left is a massive black scar in the earth, coal pits being (thus far) a necessary byproduct of the civilisation that gifted us with rock and roll and motorbikes.  Hit the Golden Highway and swing left.  I thought of heading out to Wellington but I had an appointment with a physiotherapist the next morn, a consequence of a morning when my foot saved my bike from damage, so I took the Putty Road exit and pulled over in a pindot on the map for more gasoline.

I was glad I still had my shades on when I walked in to pay, cause I wouldn’t have wanted to embarrass the pretty teenager behind the counter by staring at her gorgeous cleavage.  Now, I don’t think you’ll find any reference to that in a New Christs song.  “Come on now, I’ll show you to your tomb” – I wonder what she’d have thought of that?  Outside, I had my first conversation of the day, when the guy delivering the juice asked me how the bike went.  Wonderfully.  For those of you of a technically curious bent, it’s a K2 SV650S with a Staintune can.  Light, torquey, flickable, perfect for commuting and twisty country roads.

The Putty is a legenday road, best experienced midweek.  I pulled my sole overtaking manouvere of the day on the open road about halfway down its 150km length, this dickhead was doing 60 in a 100 zone (by god, how I hate that!), I sat on his right taillight with the revs just right for sharp acceleration, flicked across the double lines on a curve swinging right and didn’t see him again until he wandered past while I was eating lunch at a roadhouse at Colo Heights.  Damn good ham and salad sandwich, that was.

Far too soon, I was at Windsor and had 60km of shithead city drivers to negotiate on my way back to Redfern. “I see you, honey, I get scared, I don’t wanna end up dead.” I rode over 400km, got home tired and absolutely fucking exhilarated.  Crashed on the beanbag in my attic with a Coopers Pale and a Stuyvo, listened to the New Christs.

A lot of bands define themselve with their first single and never get past it. ‘Waiting World’, with the music, that deeply reverbed guitar and the devastating ennui of the lyrics, puts forward a sense of definition, but as the band moved through lineup changes, that definition was expanded.  The Masuak/Robertson/Kingsmill/Steedman/Jakimyszyn New Christs were a hardcore crunch of a band (no surprise, given that most of them had played 8 nights a week in the Hitmen, goddamn, if ever there was a solid band looking for a creative direction…)

There was hardly a better song released in the 80s than ‘I Swear’, Louis Burdett’s manic drumming, Charlie Owens’ twisted, rocking guitar, Rob’s desperate vocals and Jim Dickson’s marvelous bass guitar holding it all together and driving it ever onward, hard, relentless.  And when Nick Fisher came on board, they had a swing that complemented a new take on the bitterness – ‘Love’s Underground’ is a long fucking way from ‘Born Out Of Time’ – “Finally I’m learning, what I lost when I left you behind.”

At the time, I thought the Pete Kelly/Chris Houllemare/various gtrists New Christs lacked something compared to what had gone before.  As a live band, they probably did.  And yet, listening to a string of songs from all these lineups, they don’t lack, they’re just different and they complement this 20 year evolutionary record of stuff that pisses Rob off.

I get a blast out of riding twisty country roads that most always exceeds the blast I got from playing in bands and catching awesome gigs.  But when it comes to the likes of the New Christs, it’s a close call.  I’ve never caught a better Australian band, and could count on my fingers the few others who might come close.  So it’s wonderfully perfect that a day of great riding should be complemented by such great music.  Inside my mind, there’s things too sick to name. But sometimes you can blow that sick shit out, and, by the gods, don’t it feel good!

Shit and death are everywhere.  So fuck it all, do whatever makes your life worth living.  Just don’t fuck anyone else over while you’re doing it.