Musings on Something for Kate, favourite songs and live music

I was pretty cool when I was 11 years old. I was always late to Auskick on a Saturday morning because I was watching Rage count down the top 50 singles on the ARIA Chart for that week. Some of my favourite songs at the time included “Teenage Dirtbag”, “It Wasn’t Me” and of course “Who Let The Dogs Out?”

I also used to buy the So Fresh compilations that came out each season and the Spring 2001 edition had some great songs on it – “Starlight” by The Supermen Lovers, “Purple H(P)ills” by D12, Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me”, Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice”. But there was a track on it called “Monsters” by a band I’d never heard of, called Something for Kate, and I was beguiled by it. Even more so when I saw the film clip on Rage as it made its mark on the singles charts. I wouldn’t know it at the time, but it was the first alternative song that I fell in love with.

That was back in 2001.

Paul Dempsey, SFK frontman, released a solo album called Everything is True in 2009, which I adored. I saw him twice on his solo acoustic tour for it, once at the Bended Elbow in Geelong in a tiny room upstairs, and then again at the Corner Hotel.

Both shows were fantastic and only intensified my fondness for the album and Paul. At both shows he played some cuts from SFK albums and at both shows I hoped and hoped for him to do “Monsters”, but he never did.

In 2011, Paul, his wife (and bassist) Stephanie Ashworth and drummer Clint Hyndman announced they were going back into the studio together to record the first SFK album since 2006’s Desert Lights. They released Leave Your Soul To Science in early October and it’s a very welcome return for one of Australia’s best bands. Vital, robust and showing a good range of variety, it will surely be among my favourite albums of the year when I come to do a year-end list.

I attended their gig at the Corner Hotel on Sunday night and it was in some ways a little surreal. Never have I had to to wait so long to see a favourite band. In the 11 years that have passed since Echolalia‘s release I’ve seen most of my favourites – leaving aside the impossibles, such as Pink Floyd, and the unlikelys, David Bowie – including U2, Big Boi, LCD Soundsystem and heaps of others.

The band did not disappoint. They mixed eight or nine songs from the new album seamlessly with some old favourites. The set opened with “Eureka”, one of the definite highlights from Leave Your Soul To Science, and also included first single “Survival Expert”, “Miracle Cure” and “This Economy” among others. My favourite of the new songs, “Star-Crossed Citizens” was every bit as electric as I was hoping it would be, while “The Kids Will Get The Money” benefited from the live atmosphere and Paul’s solo acoustic rendition of “Deep Sea Divers” was a sweet moment.

Older songs peppered in the set included a rousing rendition of “Electricity” from Beautiful Sharks, “Jerry, Stand Up”, “Say Something” and “You Only Hide” from Echolalia, and fan favourite “Deja Vu” from The Official Fiction.

An acoustic cover of Sam Brown’s “Stop” was a genuine highlight, showing off Paul’s huge range as a vocalist. It got one of the loudest receptions of the night. He is very adept playing solo acoustic, which is odd – most musicians are at their best when playing with a fuller band sound, but Paul seems to thrive from the more intimate nature of playing as a man with an acoustic guitar, taking the opportunity to loosen up and lighten the mood.

All this aside, as the gig slowly crept towards the two-hour mark, I have to admit I became a little antsy. Sometimes, when bands don’t play your favourite song, it doesn’t matter all that much. Broken Social Scene didn’t play “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” when I saw them live, but the rest of the gig was so good I had forgotten all about it. Likewise LCD Soundsystem – they played “All My Friends” and “Someone Great” but left out my favourites from 2010’s This is Happening. But I was having that much fun I doubt I’d have cared if they played “Watch the Tapes” 10 times.

But me and “Monsters”, that beautiful, melancholic ode to writer’s block and self-doubt, go back more than a decade, and I must admit I was gutted when they closed with “Begin”, from the new album, and left me wanting more.

I guess I’m cursed. Three SFK-related shows and no “Monsters”. Maybe I have been too eager in my desire to hear it live, and the universe is playing a cruel trick on me.

But live shows are fickle by their very nature and as I sit here writing this, the disappointment has begun to wear off. I’m replaying songs from the night over and over again in my head, and they get better each time. And I love that feeling you get when you listen to an album after hearing many of its songs played live – the studio versions of songs seem to rise in your estimations.

Something for Kate are genuinely one of the great Australian bands and it is terrific to have them back, even more so given they are still making very good music. Buy the album and see them live if you get the chance.

You might even get to hear “Monsters”.

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