Swallow The Rat, Dictaphone Blues & Vor-Stellen – Whammy Bar: May 17, 2024

Swallow The Rat, recent slayers at SXSW, where they played at the “One day we’ll play there…” venue, sold out all the merch and made a ton of industry contacts. Tonight was their first show since their return, and alongside them, they enlisted two rather interesting acts. It could be said that tonight was the night of the three faces of punk, in a post-punk universe.


Past and present, the membership of the band screams mana, and the edifices they have populated are revered, but tonight it’s on the strength of the debut album released last year I ventured out into the flu/COVID-ridden streets of Tamaki Makaurau.  

Being a three-piece means plenty of space onstage to move, and the audio barrage emanating demands attention as the drum-driven rhythms fill the moderately filled room. Comparisons with Krautrock royalty Neu are unavoidable. But it is the clinical and precise drumming, eclectic guitar work, simple at times excruciating throughout that are balanced by the formidable bass playing.

Audience engagement peaks as the bassist drops tasty jazz runs in and out of the symbiotic allegiances with drums then guitars then drums again. Vor-Stellen are formidable, hypnotizing and finish far too soon. 

Dictaphone Blues

DB3Dictaphone Blues is based around multi-instrumentalist Edward Castelow and a medium for his retro rock ’n ’ roll. Unlike stoic Vor-Stellen there is a lot of chattiness in between the garage guitar 90s style power pop songs. Sadly the box of tricks for keyboardists come abracadabra-ism is faulty and survives just the first song. 

For the rest of the set the weirdness is lost and we are entreated to a set of guitar-driven songs. The enthusiasm doesn’t abate, and tuneful narratives about west Auckland life come hither to entertain in a post-psychedelic manner not too un-reminiscent of acts like recent visitors The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre

Swallow The Rat

Their sophomore album South Locust, released last year, still regularly graces my multiple music platforms with much frequency, and their recent video clip for Mind, had them back on my radar for tonight’s show.

StR3And South Locust features large in tonight’s tight set, the shared vocals (between bassist and drummer) again maintain fluidity, ensuring no sense of malaise. The band built up a wall of sound, and then, brick by brick took it down. Guitarist, nay maestro, Brian Purington, once again created mayhem and magic on his instrument, enabled by his trickery on his own wondrous rack of abracadabra-ism boxes.

Tunes like ZZK and Mind leapt out tonight, as they always do grabbing the faithful that inhabited the stage front area, and tearing inhibitions away as they swayed as post-punks inherently do (though one or two were a little more energiser bunnied) Perhaps they also played a new tune, maybe, but I did find myself wondering if the next step in their creativity was beckoning.

 No Swallow The Rat merchandise T-shirts are available tonight, a serious gap in my fashion wardrobe, and I already own the group’s two albums (as well as Vor-Stellen’s stirling debut) So the note with the Kōkako and sky blue mushroom stays in my pocket, as nick a show poster off the wall and climb the Whammy Stairs back into the cold, wet, disease-ridden inner city streets.

Simon Coffey

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