The Disco Machine have done it again, attracting well above the $15K in crowd funding that they needed to kick start the next album.
"I'd like to begin by saying thank you to you every last gold-hearted, deep-pocketed one of you who gave the Disco Machine bandwagon another coat of paint and a push back onto the freeway. You're all stars! Because of you, I've started scheming. Phone calls have been made. The map of world domination has little coloured drawing pins on it.
In 2014, engorged with your love and support, I staggered into the public consciousness like a drunk at closing time and made Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine – the band, the album, the tour - and managed to persuade Tim Rogers, Shaun Micallef, Tony Martin, Kate Miller-Heidke, John Safran, Julia Zemiro, Sam Pang, Lee Lin Chin, Liz Stringer, Kathy Lette and
the Bedroom Philosopher to join me for the ride.
Shaking my sorry ass was so much fun I went back to the broom cupboard and started work on new songs to do your vacuuming to – only this time, I widened my scope from the joys of 70s disco to 80s, 90s and 2000s disco – bigger choruses, bigger beats, bigger and cheesier hooks.
It would be a clarion call for everyone to ‘Get Yer Dag On!’
And I started imagining a fresh list of guest superstar cameos.
The first of these was Judith Lucy, who joined us on ‘Peachy’. I even made a crappy home video of it "
Shaun Micallef. Judith Lucy. Tony Martin. Adalita. The roll call featured on Cowell’s second Disco Machine album speaks to the esteem in which he’s held – and it’s a triumph.
BY Andrew Stafford
Damian Cowell was the guy in TISM. We know because he told us so, in a song called I Was The Guy In TISM. Anonymity can be a tough mask to shed, and it was one the seven-piece band clung to for over two decades, hiding their faces and donning fake names.
Think of Kiss without the war paint, or the Residents without the eyeballs: what lies behind the balaclava can only be a disappointment. Years ago, a friend of mine ripped off Ron Hitler-Barassi’s balaclava in a mosh pit. Stupidly, I asked him who it was. “Some guy,” he replied. Who did I expect?
But amid the constant clamour for TISM to reform (how many original members would it take? Who would know? Would anyone care?), Cowell, the artist formerly known as Humphrey B Flaubert, has been quietly building a catalogue that’s not far short of his old band. And if people aren’t as interested in listening to an advertising copywriter in his mid-50s as they are in TISM, maybe they’ll listen to him alongside a supergroup featuring the cream of Australian satire. Hence: the Disco Machine.
The first Disco Machine album boasted cameos from Shaun Micallef, Tony Martin, Kathy Lette, John Safran and the Bedroom Philosopher, along with a bunch of other celebrities and fellow musicians: Lee Lin Chin, Julia Zemiro, Tim Rogers and Kate Miller-Heidke. That, if nothing else, speaks of some serious pulling power and the esteem Cowell is held not just in Australia’s music community, but in comedy circles.
TISM were the rarest of joke bands (their first gig was poetically called The Get Fucked Concert), in that the joke has remained as obnoxious, funny and true as it ever was – and the music was frequently as good. They cut to the quick of Australian society and manners, pricking the left’s self-righteousness and the right’s mendacity in equal measure. Sometimes they even played it (almost) straight: The Philip Ruddock Blues is as good a protest song as anything by Midnight Oil, though they’d probably cringe at the comparison.
Get Yer Dag On! is the second Disco Machine album, and Micallef and Martin are again present, alongside another stellar roll call of guests: Celia Pacquola, Judith Lucy and many more. There’s a certain irony in there being a certain identikit anonymity about many of these pounding dancefloor grooves, but that doesn’t matter, because (a) irony is central to everything Cowell does, and (b) he can sing: his melodies and phrasing make many of these songs instantly memorable.
And then there are the lyrics.
It is honestly difficult not to quote some of these songs in their entirety. My favourite is 365 Lemmys, featuring Henry Wagons, which points out how everyone’s favourite rock’n’roll outlaw made fundamentally conservative music by never deviating from a proven formula: “Lemmy turned it up to 10 / Lemmy did it all again / And again and again and again and again / Lemmy was totally Zen.”
In a similar vein, Can’t Stop The Music* (*conditions apply) observes that the most common revolutions in rock now are in the modes of distribution and consumption.
Come On Waleed features Henry Rollins (who just gets the title line) and Melbourne songwriter Liz Stringer. It rattles off a list of fallen heroes, both artistic and sporting: “No means yes, I learned that from Lance Armstrong / And Pistorius left us no leg to stand on.” The chorus then begs the beloved polymath columnist/academic/musician/co-host of The Project, Waleed Aly, not to follow them down the celebrity S-bend: “Don’t go changing on me!”
Another inspired duet is between Micallef and Regurgitator’s Quan Yeomans on When You’re Incredibly Good Looking, which imagines a beautiful person’s secret fear that they might not have got where they were on the basis of merit alone: “Thank God I’m ugly!” goes the chorus.
Myf Warhurst guests on two songs: I Smell M.A.N., with Machine Gun Fellatio’s Pinky Beecroft, and My Baby Is Interested In Geopolitics But I Just Wanna Dance (with Tony Martin). The delight of these tracks is just how well she sings them.
Best of all is Barry Gibb Came Fourth In A Barry Gibb Lookalike Contest. Pairing Cowell with a purring Adalita, it shamelessly borrows its hook from Prince’s Controversy, and starts with an oblique reference to his own dilemma: “The truth is horrid / Never quite as good as fiction / That’s why we run away from it / How else do you explain religion?” Later comes this middle-eight: “Young girl with passionate views, says journalism is the calling for me / Then finds out that her job at the news is to keep the public stupid and angry.”
It seems sadly unlikely that TISM are about to get back together any time soon. But while Get Yer Dag On! might not reach the heights of Great Truckin’ Songs Of the Renaissance (what could?), it stands tall alongside much of what came after. Cowell is one ad man you can trust.
Photos and video of Damian Cowell's Disco Machine performing songs from the new album at National Gallery of Victoria's Friday Nights courtesy Carbie Warbie, Laki Sideris & Troy Walters.
The band launch the album across 4 dates in March/April 2017. Check dates & book tickets here.