Basil’s Kite – Shooting Tsars

Australian mathcore outfit, Basil’s Kite, decided to work on the many live instrumentals they developed over the last ten years as the basis for their new album. Their fanbase salivate about the complexity of these songs and how much they will boost the two opposing worlds of hardcore and indie rock with one sweep of the plectrum. There’s no doubt the musicians in this band can play, but they fetishise the process of unlearning everything that wise teachers distil in you when you study a musical instrument. Hoping that people will admire the technical aspects of your art when you have zero interest in the cerebral elements of musicianship is like asking for a pay rise and a decrease in working hours. You can’t have both.

Let’s be clear: Basil’s Kite are punks masquerading as virtuosos. This means they sound more like Black Flag than Black Crown Initiate. The witty instrumental intro of ‘Baroque Obama’ sets the scene with a horrible clang to the guitar tone that would not be out of place on a record from The White Stripes or The Strokes. At least the ironic metalcore experimentation of I Wrestled A Bear Once had the balls to be brutal and savage in its audio assault. When Basil’s Kite dig into their Dillinger Escape Plan discography, they do it like the good folks in The Callous Daoboys but without the metallic punch and purpose. ‘Sun is Smiling’ is by no means a disaster but adding guitar fills that resemble the childish melody of ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ spoil any good work they achieve in increasing your adrenaline levels to a heightened sense of invincibility. ‘Wiggle’ is much better and has the good – if not contrived – sense to name check world-renowned economist, Milton Friedman, in its anti-capitalist dogma. One assumes the band read Capitalism and Freedom before making him the object of their ire. Here, the guitar patterns are quite technical in their intricacy, but the high register rhythms sound silly rather than effective.

The main problem with Shooting Tsars is its sardonic post-grad humour. This is aggressive music for the Wet Leg fanbase. In other words, hipster mathcore pretending to be chaotic and edgy. ‘Bi-Curious George’ might have an amusing song title, but the nonsensical lyrics seem aimed at the lyrical trainspotters as a mocking gesture. “There’s a monkey/ Curious George/ So cute, so cute/ Monkey mania/ Monkey with guitar.” Okay, we get it. People can read too much into the lyrics, so why not present it as post-modernism so everyone’s interpretation is equally valid? (Yawn.)

There’s nothing wrong with the hardcore muscle of ‘Seagull’ if you judge it on the music alone and ignore the callow lyrics. Likewise, ‘Train Song’ thrives on a heavy start-stop sequence of violent staccato movements. But the crass punk rock frenzy of closing track, ‘Baby’, wants to insure itself against accusations of childishness by pre-empting your disdain with a title that puts the joke on you. Even so, the lyrics are atrocious and unworthy of serious examination: “I wanna be a baby/ I wanna shit my pants/ I wanna be a baby and do the shit my pants dance.”

Shooting Tsars takes the easy way out as a self-conscious joke when you’re ready to castigate it for being just another piece of shallow indie rock nonsense. Unfortunately, that’s what it is.



Release Date: 24/03/2023

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Wiggle, Seagull, Train Song

Suggested Further Listening: Abe – Abe EP (2019), The Callous Daoboys – Celebrity Therapist (2022), Eyes – Congratulations (2023)