We’ve been fellow travellers on Johnny Hunter’s rise and revitalisation of punk. They have taken the energy of legendary groups like Joy Division, Sonic Youth and the Cure, while modernising the sound. Now, they are back with a brand-new track that taps into the frustrations of Sydney’s musicians. It is deeply rooted in the band’s hometown, with the political backdrop of Sydney’s decaying nightlife permeating through the song.
Describing the track, they note “[Ashamed is] an introspective attack on the budget-grade hedonism that is known all too well amongst the punters of a dying Sydney nightlife, 'Ashamed' is the band's admission of guilt, as well as a barking indictment of all those around them; a top-down testimony of Sydney's slow decay.”
A growing convention in Johnny Hunter songs is a killer riff. Just like in ‘1995’, guitarist Ben opens the track with this solid riff acting as a foundation for everything else. When singer Nick yells the first lyric, “roll up”, it kickstarts what turns out to be a fast, heavy, heart pumping two and a half minutes. The verses are filled with the punk attitude of Johnny Hunter’s influences, relentlessly driven forward by Gerry’s thunderous drumming. Scathing lines like “hang your head on your chest, plastic dog tag teenage scumbag just like the rest,” and “wishing for somewhere new, they’ll tell you what to choose and don’t you try to refuse”, are perfect embodiments of the angry Sydney rockers’ powerlessness in the face of their beloved city’s decline. All this anger is then channelled into the energetic pre-chorus, where Nick’s intensity is matched by an instrumental crescendo. As a result, when the chorus does roll around it is comparatively calmer. The guitar slows down, coming back into the foreground, as Nick sings, as opposed to screams, the penultimate lyrics “we know we should be ashamed.” By contrasting the frantic pre-chorus with the gentler chorus, the band allows the audience to revel in their apathetic frustrations and shameless shame.
“This city that once seemed to inspire the creative endeavours of so many, is now better known for testing artist's mettle with political curveballs and erratic legislation that rarely makes sense to anyone affected,” highlighted the band.
Special mention must go to the music video. It is appropriately filmed at the Lansdowne Hotel, one of the last bastions of hope in the Sydney music scene. Cutting between the raucous crowd and the filthy, crowded, graffiti sprayed bathrooms, it is a necessary representation of this community. Despite the rough edges of this grungy scene, they love it. The video shows that the community knows they should be ashamed, but it won’t stop them from having fun.