Friday, 28 June 2013

#16. Cashman - 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass.
Harry Fahey: drums.
Matt Hewson: sax.
Brendan Hoffmann: guitar/vocals.
Matt Neal: guitar.

Lyrics by Brendan Hoffmann.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written in 2002?
Recorded at The Barker Residence, Warrnambool, October 2-10, 2003.
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey and Matt Neal.

“21st Century Ox play this weird rock shit that doesn’t fit in anywhere.”
- the band booker at the Criterion Hotel

The above quote was overheard one night at one of our many gigs at the Cri and it remains my favourite back-handed compliment. It seems to sum up the band's entire modus operandi.

Cashman is probably one of the better examples of our “weird rock shit”. That intro riff sounds metal but is poppy enough to pull it back into grunge territory. But that backbeat is peculiar, and then there’s that epic rock outro and then there’s some saxophone and then things get vaguely psychedelic.

21st Century Ox, playing downstairs at the Cri in the Cellar.
(band booker not pictured)

Here’s drummer Harry Fahey (warning – some of this is in drummer-speak):

“(Cashman is) another foray into the wonderful world of feel-altering grooves. The rhythm section part is focused on avoiding the one, and landing heavy on the four. Successful foray, I reckon. I think it works. Actually in another genre that 'avoid the one but heavy on the four' mantra is a good ol' reggae philosophy. Not a reggae groove, but kinda similar beat philosophies. I’d call it a half-time faux-metal groove!”

Here’s guitarist Brendan Hoffmann, who was the principal songwriter:
“I don't know how you'd describe the groove - maybe psychedelic punk-rock grindcore?”

And back to Harry:
“Also the kick/bass on the + of 2 & 3 is kind of a samba rhythm, so psychedelic punk-rock grindcore samba faux-metal?”

Anyway, like that guy said: “weird rock shit that doesn’t fit in anywhere”.

Hoffa at work.

Here’s Hoffa again:
“(I was) inspired to write an anti-authoritarian song (about) my brother being an asshole on my birthday. But for 21st Century Ox, I tried to deflect the meaning and make it lighter, making the subject a cashman, ie. a banker. (There’s) not really (a reason I picked a banker), just anti-authoritarian crud, really.”

Hoffa might be a little dismissive of it, but I was liked the lyrics – very Cobain-esque. They were succinct but painted an intriguing picture of a character. I particularly loved the first couple of lines - "he doesn't make any sense/even on birthdays" - because it always implied to me that birthdays are supposed to be the one day of the year where you HAVE to make sense. That struck me as a wonderful idea/lyric that was both absurd and reasonable at the same time, like something out of a Lewis Carroll novel.

My only contribution to the songwriting (I think) was the outro chord progression, and I remember the whole band working hard on the arrangement, particularly the way it builds steam towards the finish line.

Here we are building up a full head of steam at some Wunta-type event (possibly Wunta).

As for this recording, it was one of the few fully completed songs to come out of the infamous session known as Dion’s Week Of Debauchery. I did some final mixing of it, building on Harry’s original mix. Even now, I’m still learning from Harry. He’s a freakin’ studio genius. We caught up recently and he gave from some pointers on mixing Cashman that have given me heaps to think about when it comes time to mixing down the future songs for this blog.

And finally, the film clip. This was made by the very talented John Turner and shot over two nights at a couple of parties we played in Melbourne back in ’02-’03. I only found out this clip existed about two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure hardly anyone’s ever seen it before (at the time of writing it had nine views on YouTube). The audio track is a live recording, so we were playing reasonably tight back then and rocking fast and hard. And damn we looked young!


He doesn’t make any sense even on birthdays
He tries to put up a fence so that you can’t understand him

Cash, Cashman

He doesn’t like to be happy, he’s always wearing a frown
He’s all so mellow and sappy, he should be wearing a crown

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