At Adelaide’s Lion Arts Factory, lead singer Jack Bourke smirked as he told the crowd of 500 that is was time for one of their “really old ones,” before Pleasure and Consequence’s unmistakable guitar riff kicked in.
In the midst of a final album tour 12 years in the making, it was fitting to hear the track that announced the band as a genuine rock force ring out one last time.
The aforementioned track featured on the Melbourne quartet’s debut EP, Movements, in 2012. It hit the mainstream, even featuring on a promo advertising Friends, Will & Grace and other sitcoms for 111 HITS, a Foxtel and Austar channel.
Stephanie Hume for Ripe Music characterised it best when she said, “the aesthetic is chilled, haunting even, but it keeps your attention. By the 1:48 mark we are catapulted into a melee of electro and synth, then transported to a space-like surrounding in the corner of our minds. Above all this, Jack’s vocals shine through.”
Well ahead of its time, the booming vocals and echoing synth of Sense of Self and Dare and the thumping drums of Stay had eyes turned and ears pricked up – this was a band that could be anything.
Capitalising on their momentum to support the likes of Alt-J, Chvrches and Bombay Bicycle Club, the crew dropped their debut album In a Restless House in 2015 to critical acclaim.
A sold-out tour followed six months later, tunes like Border on Control, Rabbit Run and the title track cementing the quartet as one of the country’s premier rock bands.
Bourke’s distinct baritone-heavy vocals – often likened to The National’s Matt Berninger – made City Calm Down’s music instantly recognisable to a swathe of Australians searching for a band to wake Aussie rock out of its decade long lull.
Bourke’s voice – which compliments particularly juddering topics – found its home on Echoes in Blue. Debuting at 20 on the ARIA Album Charts last year, the sophomore album intertwines themes of disconnection and loneliness. At times mellifluous and soft, the emotion-filled release often erupts, catching the band at its most sentimental.
This year’s release Television signalled another change for the four-piece. Bourke shifted back to his more natural tones in a salute to Movements, while the anthemic indie rock sound is a gesture toward freeing themselves creatively as a band. While not at their most polished, City Calm Down were no longer boxed in as sadboy rock perfect for a Sunday morning recovery.
But 12 years together was time enough for the band, who announced an indefinite break to commence at the conclusion of their national Television tour.
From their dirty days in underground Melbourne to selling out consecutive Australian tours, the boys could ask little more of their music career.
Their break up was a point of disappointment for many, but the group made an apt statement in their farewell post, “bands are fragile things that require a lot of time, energy and sacrifice to maintain”.
Working through the first tracks of their final Adelaide set, it felt as if the band were reaching into their reserves, both giving their all and all that they had left to give. It took time for the crowd to warm up, but with five tracks from their first album, nostalgia did its part and the show picked up.
City Calm Down didn’t shake the room’s foundations, but a nonchalant bliss spread across those in attendance, stoked to be able to pay tribute to the band one final time.
Image by Rachael Sharman