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Drum Media, Sydney (AUS), November 2006

ED KUEPPER, JEFFREY WEGENER, PETER OXLEY, The Vanguard, Newtown 11 November 2006

Review by Jenny Valentish


The Vanguard’s becoming something of a saucy second home for Ed Kuepper and Jeffrey Wegener, fleshed out with Peter Oxley on bass.

Lit up against the tarty curtains like Twin Peaks dwarves, only lacking a girl on a swing above their heads, the trio hunker against the diners at the front, who must be wondering what would happen if they poked the entertainment with a fork. But coming from Kuepper, who’s carved a reputation as Australian music’s most treasured grouch, it’s an amiable atmosphere.

Physically, Kuepper defines “tense”. Hunched over his Strat, stabbing downwards, his hands whirl like dervishes, producing oscillating lead lines and rhythm, like a dexy-ed up didgeridoo. Wegener sounds like he’s playing three kits at once, while Oxley, by contrast, stands stock-still and refuses to be rushed, nailing those naughty little bass-lines down.

There’s the sort of indulgence going on here that only a select audience can (and does) enjoy: long, leisurely intros, furious, cycling outros and middle-eights that need to take numeracy lessons. Much of the set draws on Kuepper’s solo work and that of The Laughing Clowns: sensuous cascades of droning psychedelia (I won’t reference jazz-rock, since he hates it so). Electrical Storm spits out spangly leads over maudlin minor chords – “Twelve o’clock in the morning, I can’t even raise my head” – before gathering speed and galloping off at a pace Delta Blue would give his next nosebag for.

After an interlude – during which they possibly exchange gruff asides while staring at the wall – they return and set off at a Waiting For The Man chug. “I don’t like the movie, I don’t like the set. I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the photography,” Kuepper intones over Oxley’s sliding basslines and a thumping beat. And we believe him. While we’re here, let’s not forget Kuepper’s a fantastic lyricist. His rich timbre is perfect for the sardonic contemplation of loves lost, paths never taken and fallen women – film noir from a black heart.

Then it’s on to Little Fiddle. While this foray into blues-funk may sound alarming, rest assured each guitar stroke is a wasp sting, pushed so far he almost fucks up his amp. When the dynamics drop mid-song and Kuepper rears up above the audience there are nervous titters and the clang of dropped spoons. Then it’s back into the final furlong, with string scratching and eastern scales unleashed from that guitar. Occasionally the rhythm section ka-thumps down in different places (“Oh, the pressure,” Kuepper groans sarcastically as an intro is fluffed), but hey – that’s jazz. Oops.

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