Australian funk and jazz enthusiasts bring the spiciness of forthcoming third album Education & Recreation to the south coast
“We’re just a bunch of dickheads from Australia” is not the most awe-inspiring first impression you could give to newcomers but that’s how Coburg, Melbourne’s smoothest funk and jazz enthusiasts Surprise Chef chose to introduce themselves to a captivated audience at Patterns on Monday night. Such goofy self-deprecation appeared to be unnecessary and somewhat modest as they effortlessly brought the crowd, comprised of a zealous swarm of moustachioed Everpress T-shirt and Carhartt jacket bedecked graphic designers and greying record collectors in obscure label vintage tees, to a collective frenzy every time there was the slightest of temporal shifts, zigzagged chord change or minor stylistic volte face, of which there were a few.
Despite early announcements about predominantly sticking to playing tracks from their two available albums, 2020’s All News Is Good News and its hastily put out follow up Daylight Savings, the most interesting section of the evening came when the Aussie instrumentalists played songs that they have now rejected from their forthcoming third album Education & Recreation, due in stores in early October, including the feisty Friendship Theme which felt like a deep cut from Pauls Boutique by the Beastie Boys and another number whose striking similarity to cult auteur David Axelrod probably forced its exclusion, lest they succumb to hefty litigious action from his estate.
Their curious talent at mimicry and excessive impulses means that to the layperson, they may have a tendency for sounding a little contrived, a little bit funksploitation here, a whiff of sexploitation there, but by complicitly indulging in referencing musical content that has for decades been relegated to the role of background muzak or incidental ‘library status’, they revel in foregrounding the formerly banal and elevating it to reverential status.
Sending a shout out to their friend back home tasked with making sure said creature gets his meals, they play an emancipatory version of fan favourite Have You Fed Baby Huey Today and admit they only wait and play All News Is Good News because it happens to be their most streamed track and they want fans to stick around. Those fears are obviously unfounded as they put forward the possibility of an encore, first to the undecisive bandmembers and then to the audience who scream their desire to see the band do either Herbie Hemphill & Crayfish Caper. Unable to choose between tracks they managed to churn through both before concluding proceedings by showering their label Big Crown and early supporters, the legendary Brightonian label Mr Bongo with heaps of love and praise. Changing very little in their polyphonic recipe, they brought a little spiciness to an otherwise uneventful day.