Gig Review: The Scientists

Who: The Scientists

Where: Howler, Melbourne

When: 29th March 2014

The Scientists’ show managed to draw in quite a large number of Melbourne’s original punk-rock loving community, as Brunswick’s Howler was crammed with punters a good 20 minutes before the headliners hit the stage.

The reformed Perth rockers have only just hit the road in celebration of the 35th anniversary of their original line-up, so to have such a huge following in attendance was an evident indicator of their influence on the east coast.

As soon as the lights dimmed, the attendees responded with gusto as the surprisingly spritely looking four-piece strolled casually on stage. Led by the national musical institution that is Kim Salmon on vocals/guitar, the remaining Scientists members – James Baker on drums, Roddy Radalj on guitar, and Boris Sujdovic on bass – kicked straight into the 60s garage-rock inspired ‘Girl’.

From the off, the crowd sensed that these pioneers of the Australian punk scene meant business. Indeed, they weren’t just here to blast out their back catalogue in an unprepared and ramshackle manor.

With The Rolling Stones having postponed their tour to this part of the world, the Scientists followed ‘Girl’ with a blistering rendition of ’Sympathy For The Devil’. Salmon took charge of all necessary squealing guitar duties with Baker battering his kit throughout, and while no Jagger-esque moves were on show from the frontman, he managed to holler like a man possessed.

‘Looking For You’ not only highlighted just how tight Baker and Sujdovic are as a rhythm section, but also proved that Salmon knew well how to write catchy and hook-laden songs back in the day.

The sound of a driving bass – at times trance-like – heralded the intro to ‘Teenage Dreamer’, and as Baker’s bullet-like beats collided with Salmon and Radalj’s dual proto-punk guitar reverberations, it clearly exhibited that these guys had lost none of their musical mastery over the years. The singer’s ode to the New York punk scene was plainly evident as he blared out: “Had no fun before 21 / I didn’t understand / All I did was think about the New York Dolls / For me they could do no wrong”.  

The band didn’t shy away from conversing with the crowd throughout the night, with Salmon cracking jokes and the bassist doing his casual best to flog his book on the history of the Scientists and Beasts Of Bourbon. After ploughing through ‘Sorry, Sorry, Sorry’, the second song they’d ever written, the crowd kicked into an impromptu ‘happy birthday’ for Sujdovic.

The first real sing along of the evening commenced during ‘Frantic Romantic’. The song, which was their debut single release, sounded in no way outdated but rather fresh and relevant. If you closed your eyes you could easily have imagined you were listening to the latest whipper snappers of the Australian punk movement.

The intensity, fluidity, and good times kept on a rollin’ with ‘Last Night’ and ‘Drop Out’, while their love of mid 60s fuzzy rock n’ roll continued with a cover of the Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Slow Death’. The latter allowed both Salmon and the suave Radalj to stretch their guitar-slinging muscles to the fore.

The main set finished up with the Salmon wailing and gallivanting about the stage during the expeditious yet bluesy and distorted sounding ‘Shake (Together Tonight)’, while a screeching instrumental during final number ’Baby You’re Not For Sale’ led the members to stand shoulder to shoulder centre stage.

After a few minutes, the four returned to plough through an extended ‘Swampland’, which had a few people heading for the door, but for those who stayed, all was forgiven during their final tune of the night, a take on Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers’ ‘Chinese Rocks’, which oozed with as much dirt-fuelled attitude as the original.

Set List – ‘Girl’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Rolling Stones cover), ‘Looking For You’, ‘Teenage Dreamer’, ‘Sorry, Sorry, Sorry’, ‘Frantic Romantic’, ‘Last Night’, ‘Drop Out’, ‘Slow Death’ (Flamin’ Groovies cover), ‘She Said She Loves Me’, ‘Walk The Plank’, ‘Shake (Together Tonight)’, ‘Baby You’re Not For Sale’

Encore – ‘Swampland’, ‘Chinese Rocks’ (Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers cover)

This review was written for Tonedeaf (An Australian music site)


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