Posts Tagged ‘Mannequin Death Squad’

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a very long while since scuzz-punk rock duo Mannequin Death Squad came to our shores, and even longer since they last set foot in York – but hailing from Melbourne, Australia, it’s been quite a while since they’ve set foot anywhere outside their province, with now fewer than six lockdowns and more than 260 days under restrictions during the pandemic, which led to Victoria’s state capital to be dubbed the “world’s most locked down city”, according to the BBC. Hardly conducive conditions for a band who thrive on playing live.

MDS seems to have harnessed all of that pent-up energy for this month-long UK tour, scheduled at relatively short notice, but before they’re on, they’ve got a solid bill of local talent in support, too (let’s face it, four bands for £7, you can’t go wrong), and first on, up-and-coming KissKissKill (styled as XXK so as to avoid any iffy connotations, and who’ve been around a while but seem to be finally kicking things up a notch) prove to be a solid opener giving an assured performance. Their sound may bet kinda standard rock with some big guitar solos, but they’ve got a good level of energy and enthusiasm. Singer Gemma-Louise performs with her eyes as well as with powerful lungs, and she’s backed by some solid riffs and she bounces around a lot: they all do, apart from the bassist who hides at the back behind his straightened hair. They’re a lot of fun, and clearly have potential for great things.



Ketamine Kow bring mouth frothing energy and aggression. They’ve had their songs shared on Twitter by Sleaford Mods. The front-cunt’s proper mental and the songs are almost secondary to the spasmodic energy as he charges around maniacally, getting in people’s faces and generally creating a disruptive energy. I mean, there seems to be something not quite right about the guy, but this is the spectacle of a performer who lives every second of the performance for real. Like a young Iggy Pop, it’s all for the moment. There are some squalling riffs and pounding percussion going on behind the manic screaming and shouting. Ketamine Kow could well be the new Baby Godzilla: with the exception of the drummer, who also provides strong second vocals, the band spend as much time in the crowd than on stage, the singer everywhere all at once, hollering from the back of the room, leering in and looming over the crowd, or writhing on the floor. Skinny white boys with gangly limbs, you can’t imagine that being in a band is likely to help any of the members of Ketamine Kow to pull: they’re sweary, sweaty, raw, authentic punk, and so, so angry – and fucking brilliant.


Ketamine Kow

The Bricks Draw the Line at the start of the set, and they seem to get sharper, more solid, more meaty with every outing, and singer Gemma is more confident and more commanding than ever. The sound is a perfect amalgamation of juggernaut bass with choppy stuttering riffs that splinter onto shards, with heavy hints of Gang of Four and Wire with martial beats. In terms of performance, Gemma doesn’t ‘do’ much – no bouncing about, no, posing: she doesn’t have to. The voice is immense, and is all the presence, allowing the three middle-aged blokes (no criticism, especially as they’re clearly having a blast playing the songs and have the sound absolutely nailed) to fade into the noisy background.

Bricks 2Bricks1

It’s gone 10:45 when Mannequin Death Squad start, but when they do it’s incendiary: the set is back to back killers, heavily raiding their 2016 debut mini-album ‘Eat Hate Regurgitate’ alongside songs released on-line since and brand new material, too. They’re loud and they’re tight with a full sound, the dual vocals really defining the sound over the big, grungy riffs. They play hard and fierce. ‘Sick’ lands third before a new track off the forthcoming debut album. Elly’s eyes lol up into her head as she kicks out the riffs. The mid-set instrument switch seems to take it up a notch, and Dan steps out from behind the drums to take over the guitar and lead vocals, and stomps the stage fiercely. Meanwhile, the hi hat’s fucked and zip on her trousers is bust, but still Elly doesn’t miss a beat. They’re committed, alright. Live shows don’t come better than this.


Mannequin Death Squad

Things are running late and curfews are a kicker for most venues these days, especially those in residential areas, so they’re forced to truncate the set a little – and so what it lacks in duration, they compensate in energy, turning the small venue into a total sweatbox as they deliver the title track from their forthcoming debut album, ‘Super Mental Psycho’ as the penultimate song, and it’s blistering. We’re all wiped and melting by the end, and while there’s no chance of an encore, the rush to the merch and to chat to the band after showed the level of appreciation. And rightly so – they’re one of those bands who never disappoint.

Yuss! It’s been a while since Australian duo Mannequin Death Squad gave us new music, but on the brink of an extensive UK tour, they’ve slammed down another slice of grungy, adrenaline-fuelled pink rock in the shape of ‘Super Mental Psycho.

It’s a corker – but don’t just take our word for it: check it here:



Banging grungy Aussie duo Mannequin Death Squad – longstanding faves here at Aural Aggravation have announced that they’re returning to the UK for the firs time in five years.

Packing in 15 shows the length and breadth of England as far south a Exeter and venturing north of the border for a brace off Scottish dates in Glasgow and Inverness, while also straying off the beaten track, it’s a major undertaking, and with supports from local acts, these should be some exciting nights.

We’ll see you down the front for at least one….



Christopher Nosnibor

Here in Britain, sophomore is such a music journo word: because of the structure of our education system, it simply doesn’t occur in any other context. The fact the same is true in Australia perhaps makes it an odd choice of name for an Australian band, but one suspects there’s a degree of knowingness around this, paired with the fact that the band is essentially a second project for noisy alt-rock duo Mannequin Death Squad, which sees Elly and Dan joined by Vanessa and Shelly in a quest to pursue a slightly more indie / pop direction.

‘Social Distancing’ is, as you might expect, another in a blizzard of recordings inspired by current events – or, indeed, non-events, as the days melt into one another – but does stand out as being particularly good. Maybe I’m biased; maybe it just resonates: it’s not the virus that’s putting me in a psychological spin, but news and social media, through which the landscape changes by the hour.

‘I can’t breathe / with all this information thrown at me’, are the opening lines, and it pretty much encapsulates the experience a connected digital society in which everyone has an opinion and data overload is more of a syndrome than something theoretical. I feel that communication with even me closest friends is becoming increasingly difficult as we all become zombified by bewilderment.

From a quiet, picked guitar intro, in classic grunge style, it breaks into a big, guitar-driven chorus, but the guitars chime rather than drive, and the vocal harmonies are so sweet as they advise ‘don’t listen to the radio /don’t listen to those TV shows’. I’ve been feeling the pain of government disinformation a lot lately, and much as keeping informed is useful, I’m beginning to question the validity of the exercise. But the real crux comes near the midpoint on the refrain ‘and the lonely get lonelier’ and it lands hard. Because it’s true. We all feel isolated to varying degrees, because we are, literally, in isolation – but some are more isolated than others.

Stuck indoors with your family may be tense and torturous, and only having text or Skype or similar may be a woefully weak substitute for human contact, but what about those without any of these things? The sentiment is touching, and it’s also a belting tune, that ultimately lands like The Pixies doing anthemic.



Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.


Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.


Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.


Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.

"Blue" is a brand new track from Melbourne’s Mannequin Death Squad, online for 3 weeks only during their 2017 UK tour:

Thur 14th Sept – Brighton Sticky Mikes
Sat 16th Sept – London DIY Thursdays
Wed 20th Sept – Hull Adelphi
Thur 21st Sept – York Fulford Arms
Fri 22nd Sept – Manchester The Peer Hat
Tue 26th Sept – Glasgow Bloc
Thur 28th Sept – Edinburgh Opium
Sat 30th Sept – Doncaster Vintage Rock Bar
Fri 6th Oct – London Monarch
Sat 7th Oct – Stafford Redrum
Sun 8th Oct – Leeds Hyde Park Book Club

Get your lugs round it here, ‘cause it’s a belter:

Christopher Nosnibor

Doing what I do, I get to hear a lot of music. I’m talking 30 or so CDs in the mail each week, and at least twice that in terms of emails offering downloads and streams. It might sound glamourous, but actually, with time, it gets increasingly dull. So many dull, derivative bands, all being hailed by their PR and labels or themselves as the next big thing, the most exciting band to emerge in a decade or whatever. On first hearing ‘Sick’ by Mannequin Death Squad, I found myself getting properly excited for the first time in a while.

On meeting the Australian duo, consisting of Daniel Cohn and Elena Velinsky – who surely have one of the best band names around – just before their gig at Santiago in Leeds, as main support to Hora Douse, I was immediately struck not only by how down to earth and thoroughly pleasant the duo are, but by their insuppressible enthusiasm and the fact they’re so genuine. We meet in the downstairs bar of the little venue and sit around a table. The idea is that I’ll do a five to ten-minute quick-fire Q&A, but we end up chatting and talking around stuff instead. El is the ultimate rock chick, sporting a faded Led Zep T-shirt, shades perched on top of her head, and immediately I get a sense that these people were born to do this. They may be about to play to room with a capacity of 100 or so, which looks and feels like someone’s living room, but they’re rock stars irrespective of sales or fanbase. That said, on the strength of tonight’s outing and their Eat Hate Regurgitate mini-album, they won’t be playing venues of this size for long.

I ask them how their first trip to the UK as a touring band has gone so far.

‘Good,’ they both reply without hesitation. ‘I think the Adelphi’s probably been our favourite show so far,’ El expands. ‘It’s a cool, real, dirty venue…’

‘…and a big community,’ Dan adds.

I’ll admit I’m slightly surprised, but then, Hull is a surprising place. It’s not the first place that springs to mind when you’re listing cities with buzzing music scenes, but as the City of Culture for 2017, there does seem to be a lot going on there these days.

‘It’s amazing. It’s a lot like the scene back home in Newcastle,’ Dan says. ‘It’s got a strong community, and big bands…’

‘Everyone takes care of each other, and likes each other’s music and supports each other, it’s cool’ El adds.

They’re archetypal Australians, in many ways: they’re paid back, and say ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ a lot. They also finish one another’s sentences in a way which shows a real synchronisation and intuition, and I feel that I’m witnessing the key to their music-making in action.

Mannequin Death Squad 1

They’ve been equally impressed by the reception of their shows in London, and in Brighton, at the Hope and Ruin. Their tour has certainly taken them to some of the country’s less obvious cities and venues: not only Hull, but also Scunthorpe… Still, that gig (along with a second Hull date) was supporting Slaves, which a big deal and remarkable exposure for a band with only two singles to their credit. I’m eager to find out about how they scored that slot on their very first trip.

‘We had a gig booked in Scunthorpe, at the Café independent, which clashed with theirs,’ Dan begins

‘…so they wanted to book it,’ chops in El.

‘They listened to our music and they liked it, so they asked us…’ and being rather a music-starved backwater, the show went down particularly well, ‘They really appreciate musos coming up that way. I think it’s like an ego thing for those big cities that are really highly rated with music, that people take it for granted, and then at the other end of the spectrum, you go to small towns and everyone makes the most of it.’

How have you found UK audiences have differed from audiences at home?

‘They’re pretty similar,’ El observes.

‘We were getting a good response in Melbourne just before we left,’ adds Dan. ‘We’re a relatively new band, kinda like a year of playing gigs, but we’re getting really good responses here, probably even a bit better.’

‘We’ve got a lot of our friends back home, so it’ always going to be a good response,’ El says with a laugh.

It’s a fair observation: the test of any band is how they go down when playing to strangers and non-fans. The reactions of audiences on this tour indicates it’s a test they have nothing to worry about. El talks about the number of people going up them to compliment them on their sets – particularly the diversity of their style – afterwards, which is gratifying.

‘We’ve got a good mix of songs in there, there’s only two of us, and people seem to like them all differently, evenly.

They certainly do have a good mix: the band pitch themselves as existing in the space between The Melvins and Taylor Swift, which I suppose is a fair summary of their balancing sludgy riffs and magnificent pop melodies. Are their individual tastes conflicting or simply diverse?

El laughs. ‘Well, actually, I listen… he’s like the heavier guy, but I do heavy too, but he actually loves ‘Shake it Off’, and I like Melvins, but we both like Melvins, and we both like I all sorts. We listen to things that are heavy and poppy.’

‘We listen to absolutely everything,’ Dan confirms. ‘It helps to break the monotony of one genre.’

‘Slaves are awesome, because they’re so heavy, but when you look, they’ve got really catchy, poppy choruses,’ says El.

Dan feels compelled to explain the Taylor Swift thing in more detail: ‘The Taylor Swift thing came from when we were backpacking in Thailand and we went and did karaoke, and I absolutely smashed that ‘Shake it Off’ song…. Terribly’, he adds at El’s prompt.

They throw an eclectic and quite unexpected mix of acts into the ring when listing other artists they listen to: (Led) Zeppelin, (Pink) Floyd, Breeders, Hole, Marilyn Manson… ‘Going back to my roots, I used to be a thrash metalhead,’ Dan adds, and we love grunge. But we love pop as well. I’ll like something completely left of centre and not be embarrassed to say it.’

England has a strange perception of Australia, filtered through Neighbours and Home and Away, and internationally, Australia has been represented by the likes of Kylie and Savage Garden. How do you reconcile that with the actuality of bands like yourselves and, say, DZ Deathrays? I imagine they, and you, are more representative of what’s actually going on…

‘For sure!’ Dan says.

El gives some cultural context: ‘Neighbours and stuff is for, like, stay at home mums, I mean, you can watch it, it’s a good show and all, but…’

Dan: ‘The whole country’s obsessed with AC/DC still, but…’

El: ‘…we’ve got this whole buzzing music scene in Melbourne, we just keep going to gigs and there are so many awesome bands…’

Dan: ‘It’s an amazingly diverse scene in Melbourne. You can find anything in there: there’s an underground punk scene where everyone’s playing in squat houses that no-one knows about, you have to know somebody, there’s this rock scene that’s happening in all the bars, and little grunge scenes…’

Do you think, in your experience, that music scenes have fragmented and that there’s more underground than there ever was but you really have to seek it out?

‘Yeah’, they reply in unison.

Dan: ‘There are so many venues in Melbourne, that you’re spoiled for choice. There’s this avant-garde thing happening…’

El: ‘There’s a good gig guide, and if you go on the gig guide in Melbourne, you can just see all these bands, and you can just choose one and go and I’ll always be pretty cool.’

Dan: ‘There’s always something on. We’ve been all around Europe and we’ve tried to catch gigs, and haven’t really taped into the underground bands, but we came here and playing in Hull, and there are all these good bands. We went back to the same venue the next night and have drinks at the Adelphi, and all the bands are great. It reminds us of back home in Melbourne, there’s talent everywhere.’

I suggest that in terms of getting bands to an audience outside their local catchment, the Internet, far from killing the music industry, has simply made it different, particularly where small bands are concerned.

El concurs. ‘I think it’s made the game more creative,’ she says. ‘And we certainly have more access to bands.’

Do you consider yourselves primarily a live band? How do you enjoy the studio work?

‘’Cause we’re really new,’ El says, her voice going up at ‘new’, ‘we’ve only done one studio session, for the EP, so we’ve played live more. But we love both. I think you have to play live if you’re recording an album, that’s the fun part.’

‘We love all aspects,’ Dan adds. ‘Our favourite thing is to record a song, listen to it back, and change it, and experiment, but then, there’s nothing like playing a show, either. But even promoting can be fun, putting so many different mediums of art into it.’


They’ve certainly been creative with their own promotion. ‘Sick’ was a hell of a debut, and the video is fucking brilliant. How did the ‘zombie’ video come about?

El: ‘Well, we had a different idea, and it kind of failed… and then we came up with this idea really quickly, ‘cause the lyrics are “cigarettes and soda pop” and we wanted to pretend that it’s really easy to sell something like that…’

Dan: ‘It’s a bit of stab at consumerism in a way, and how everyone’s pretty easily manipulated by branding. It goes for everything, where you like stuff because you’re told to like something: don’t be a sheep and figure it out for yourself.’

El: ‘And then we came up with the branding thing, like a stamp…’

Dan: ‘It wasn’t supposed to be zombies, but kinda just escalated really quickly, and it worked.’

El: ‘It was fun, a lot of fun. My brother directed that one.’

So you’ve got elements of social commentary and criticism in there, and there’s a certain venom and angst in your songs. Are you angry? Or is the music just a release?

El takes a moment to consider this. ‘I think it’s more… it’s fun. It is fun, yeah!’

‘From my side, it’s pretty much all expression,’ Dan says. ‘We like just getting in a rehearsal space and just jamming songs, and it’s good fun: you’ve got good vibes going round…’

El again: ‘We’ve got older songs that I wrote where I was upset about something, as well, and then you put them in, and it’s sort of attitude behind it…’

Dan: ‘Lyrically, usually there’s a lot to be said…’

‘Yeah, it’s definitely a release,’ El concludes.

That release is clearly apparent in the medium of the live show. They explain how they like to layer things up, with bass tracks and additional guitars to create a full band sound, something which isn’t possible on stage, however much instrument-swapping they engage in. Still, this gives the live sound an immediacy and when cranked up loud, it works a treat. And, of course, such multi-instrumental capabilities afford them a lot more flexibility than the average two-piece. How do you decide who plays what on which track?

‘It’s kinda like who writes the guitar part does guitar and sings’ El explains. ‘And then if I have an old song, I’ll bring it in and if he has one, he’ll bring it in, and I’m like “right then, I’m drumming for this song”. We work together to make the song, though. We try to make it equal, but at the moment, I’m doing more guitar than him, so he’s going to get at some writing.’

‘That’s our opposite instruments, too’, says Dan.

‘I’m originally a drummer,’ El confirms.

‘I’ve only been drumming for about a year,’ Dan admits. ‘El smashes it on drums. It’s good to mix it up.’

So, finally, the burning question: when can we expect an album proper?

Dan hesitates. Can they say?

El steps in: ‘We’re going back to Australia – ‘cause we have to, and we’ve got gigs set up after this tour – and the we’re going to start writing. We’ve actually already got about half the album done…’

‘…about six tracks,’ Dan confirms.

El: ‘…yeah, about six tracks, so we only need a few more. So once we get back, we’re going to save up money to actually do the album. We might even try to do a Kickstarter.’

Dan: ‘Yeah, maybe.’

El: ‘Yeah, I think an album by the end of the year.’

Dan: ‘Hopefully, next time we come here we’ll be promoting it.’

Here’s very much hoping. Meanwhile, the mini-album Eat Hate Regurgitate is a blistering five tracker, and it’s out on October 7th through Integrity Records.


Integrity Records – 21st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This instrument-swapping Australian duo don’t piss about, blasting into their debut EP at a hundred miles an hour with the spitting guitar frenzy of ‘KYMS’ – that’s (should) ‘keep your mouth shut’, as the refrain goes.

They’re pitched as being ‘lost somewhere between The Melvins and Taylor Swift, and Dan’s aggressive holler is contrasted by El’s nonchalant pop tone. Previous single, ‘Sick’ doesn’t only sustain the initial momentum, but ratchets things up a notch. ‘Sky’ brings a mammoth bottom-heavy sludge riff to underpin the duelling vocals, the end result being somewhere between the no-wave noise of Sonic Youth and school of ’94 grunge.

The well-timed breakdowns and softer moments only accentuate the force of their straight-ahead, driving, hell-for leather blasts of bratty, sharp-tongued punky noise. Of course, as much as it’s always about the songs – and these are killer songs, without exception, with an unquestionable pop tint – it’s about the attitude. And yeah, MDS have got plenty of that. This is the sound of a band who have that perfect blend of being pissed off and not giving a fuck, the sound of a band who play hard for the release, who crank it up to the max because, well, it feels good and because they can. It’s a short, sharp, shock of a release, and one equates to awesomeness turned all the way to eleven.



With their Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP schedules for release on October 21st, and a UK tour commencing on Mondaym 12th September, Australian sczz/grunge duo fillow up the beltting ‘Sick’ wth a video release fr ‘KYMS’. Watch the video here.


Tour dates are as follows:

Monday 12th September – London, Old Blue Last
Tuesday 13th September – Brighton, Hope & Ruin
Thursday 15th September – Hull, The Adelphi
Saturday 17th September – Scunthorpe, Café Indiependent
Tuesday 20th September – Leeds, Santiago’s
Thursday 22nd September – Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s