The Lowdown: High Risk Behaviour is the third album from Australian punks The Chats. The record is being released on their own label, Bargain Bin Records, proving that they’re committed to both loving DIY and resenting any type of authority. In the press release, vocalist and bassist Eamon Sandwith denies any misconception that they’re perfectionists, saying: “Some of the songs were first-take, and we were like, ‘That’s good, whatever.’” All of the songs are under three minutes, and most are even less than two.
If “Smoko” — the catchy 2017 hit that accumulated over eight million streams on Spotify — has been the previous peak for The Chats, they are about to climb even higher. The rebellious group have mastered the art of telling simple tales from the everyday life of a punk, and each song title sets us up for the next antic. “Drunk N Disorderly” buoyantly shares the alcohol agenda: “Four swigs of gin at the bus stop/ Three pints of Guinness at the bowls club/ Two 750s in a double brown bag/ One shot of fireball at the pub.” The catchy “Dine N Dash” divulges on the plan for food: “Any restaurant/ Any time/ We can commit the perfect crime/ You just gotta run/ When ya done/ Dine n dash/ It’s only fun!”
The Good: The Chats “don’t make songs for people to look at in a fucking emotional or intellectual way,” explained Sandwith. “We just make songs for people to jump around and have fun to.” In that case, High Risk Behaviour does its job. You can totally throw a party and let this record spin. I’m also sure that when they play this material live, the crowd will be in for loads of fun. The surf rock is at full throttle, with an abundance of catchy riffs and fast rhythms to head bang to. “Pub Feed” bounces with excitement throughout its two and a half minutes, and a killer guitar solo takes it to the next level. The pinnacle of fun is undoubtedly “4573”, with opening riffs that catapult the turbulent song into never-ending surf-punk madness. The relentless guitars, the brisk pace, the raspy chanting … It would work great as the final track instead of the second-to-last.
The Bad: If your first thought when you hear the first three seconds of “Stinker” isn’t “This is a rip-off of the Sex Pistols,” you are lying to yourself. You’re allowed to have influences, but his Johnny Rotten imitation is unmistakable. That being said, as a fan of the Sex Pistols, I still love it, and it’s probably the most idiosyncratic track on the record.
However, it can be difficult to not tread corny territory when all you’re doing is showing off how rebellious and edgy you are. What worked for the Sex Pistols is that they didn’t try too hard. Their lyricism was eccentric and, at times, even weirdly poetic. The Chats are like … if Sid Vicious were alive today but used the Internet instead of drugs. All they’re doing is listing off edgy activities (“Dine N Dash”, “Guns”) as if they’re bragging to their finsta. Unfortunately, a lyric on “Billy Backwash’s Day” is: “You can’t call me a racist/ Because I discriminate them all the same.” It’s hard to tell whether the song is sarcastic or serious; it’s really hard for The Chats to fit in any sarcasm anywhere when every song is inherently frivolous. Either way, I hope that lyric is a joke.
The Verdict: It’s hard to critique punk music. You’re judging exactly how much someone doesn’t give a fuck and how well they are at expressing that. High Risk Behaviour is an album you can blast on the highway while going 90 or one that you can watch live and get drunk and crowd-surf to. That’s all I’ll say, and I’ll leave them be, because, like “Do What I Want” angstily exclaims: “Don’t tell me what to do!”
Essential Tracks: “Stinker”, “4573”, and “Pub Feed”