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Track By Track: The Nation Blue, ‘Black’ / ‘Blue’

Vocalist/guitarist Tom Lyngcoln runs us through the Tassie trio’s new album pair.

Today, The Nation Blue mark their return from a seven-year hiatus with the release of a pair of distinctly different full-length albums. As editor-in-chief Matt Coyte explains in his review, Black is “experimental [and] rhythmically challenging”, with the traditional tact of the Tassie trio further fuelled by the formidable presence of political protest and fist-shook discontent. Blue shifts the focus slightly towards a more personal perspective of that same trepidation and distrust, complimenting the altered vantage point with violent bluntness and a consistent run of “two-chord upbeat ragers”.

Rolling Stone recently caught up with Nation Blue vocalist/guitarist Tom Lyngcoln for a full rundown of the songs from both of the new records.

All words below by Tom Lyngcoln.

‘Black’

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“I Have No Representatives”
“This rant was an afterthought thrown whimsically into an email before final mixing and received an overwhelming response from the rest of the band. It’s about a throne shaped piece of space junk called the Black Knight Satellite that orbits the earth. I Have No Representatives details its imagined re-entry into the atmosphere and charts its trajectory down the east coast of Australia. From Brisbane to Sydney and into the ACT where it finds it’s final resting place lodged firmly in the House Of Representatives.”

“Australian Of The Year”
“Australian Rules. A clusterfuck of diametrically opposed head trauma that shifts goal posts at will to include or exclude people based on their assimilation to a notion of Australianess. From racist origins comes an argument co-opted by conservative commentators about the suitable manner in which a black man booed for possession of a ball should show their displeasure.”

“Caroline”
“A song for somebody who we grew up with who didn’t make it through. You’ve got the choice of two doors; the front is an expansive warm cosmos and the back is a black hole. Some folks duck out for a smoke. This song hurts to play live. A carpel tunnel awash in the ping of a pummelling Ride Cymbal that flickers at its long end.”

“Come In Stinger”
“Simultaneously a nod to Kate Ceberano/ Wendy Matthews and Venom P Stinger. On every album since Damnation there has been a song written with the working title Venom P, such is the relentless influence of that band. Strung out elastics and rolling drums, this song was the first song we wrote together when we finally got back in a room together. It’s wild and unstructured drift sparked a forest fire of writing and while not too many other songs on either record have its looseness, Come In Stinger is a fulcrum point from which a new world unfolded. Gimmicky in that it features no cymbals until the deep wig out at the end. Side stepping punk music for soft power freaks.”

“Erectile Dysfunction
“I’m not a big fan of bandwagoneering feminism to promote a product. This song wrote itself and is pretty self-explanatory.”

“Rendition”
“Coil riffs and hypno toad dystopia. This song falls in on itself in residual echoes spiralling towards an offshore incarceration and once wrung dry of information, it’s dumped in the sea. The intro to the song is the rehearsal tape of the first attempt at playing it and shits the bed in transition but it seems fundamentally alright. You can really hear that hall in Kyneton in this one. It’s like the room is breathing in and out.”

“Australia Day”
People being worried about immigration and refugees when there are people in the country who are nationalist socialists but don’t know what that means. Wearing the flag as a cape is fucked. You’re not a super hero, fuckwit.

“CCTV”
“CCTV is about Military drone operators spying on black ops targets at their xmas party while the agency collects a dossier on their petty theft of stationary around the office.”

“Negative Space”
“This toe tapper is our band bio. It details our place within Australian music as a sea level pacific nation, alone in the ocean with a few good years of reasonable dry before an eternal salt future. Scene-less and negative but too belligerent to quit. Cockroaches with their hands in the air, feeding back into the synthetic fold. Negative Space is our GPS location after 20 years and features some octopus action from Drummer Dan.”

“Great White Death”
“Here’s a cheery number about a decorated Finnish sniper Simo Hayha who terrorised Soviet forces for 100 days in 1939-40 killing 500 men. It’s got the JAW’s theme as a conceptual chorus riff.”

“Nil By Mouth”
“Here’ a song about parenthood and how hard it would be to flee to another country from war and end up in detention. That this purgatory continues to prevail is our national disgrace. I tried to imagine my own life through this lens and quiet frankly I couldn’t. It’s too surreal for a white man from the wrong side of the Yarra to comprehend. Doesn’t stop me thinking about it constantly. Imagine your day to day existence was trying to keep your family safe as you leave your home and the hazardous journey that brings you so far only to be placed into an illegal and political detention. Think about all those people displaced and wandering around Europe trying to find somewhere safe to call home. Syria looks like the surface of the moon now. It’s a tragedy and our part in perpetuating the suffering of displaced people is shameful.”

“Wild
“Oh it’s time to go outside and slide away from the hive. A complete collapse / extinction debt, lets have a look at what’s survived. Fuck these great big companies with their lifestyle algorithms informing hand held prisons there’s a billion stiff in crane position. Destroying angel touch my face while a pressure cooker takes dictation. I want to live wild out of sight but sound of mind. Fuck these great great big companies eating yellow cake in the market place, ascending radiangels at the gallows but they don’t call my name. If its a stay of execution I want my reprieve commuted or i’ll style for exile I recognise I’m not qualified. I want to live wild. That’s the simplest explantation.”

“Nations Capital”
“Lobbyists and public representatives. There’s a lot of money for some whack agendas in Canberra. It’s not retail. You shouldn’t be able to buy the desired outcome.”

“Mansion Family”
“A meditation on the rotting summer of love and the southerly breeze that sent shivers through the affluent hills of Los Angeles. I don’t even know if you can drink fjord water but it seemed suitably exotic to my rough hand sensibilities.”

“Beat That Man”
“From a cell, a man considers violence and its outcomes and how those variations on a theme dictate futures within incarceration. Ultimately this is a celebration of the man who walks away from violence.”

‘Blue’

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“Blue”
“You don’t get to almost four decades on the planet without losing a few friends to depression. Its symptoms vary but it is so common. This song is for all the people in close proximity to those lives ended that suffer in the aftermath and never get answers to their questions.”

“Rotten”
“Basically a straight transcript of a conversation between two people, one of whom is really into crime.”

“Green Around The Gills”
“‘Green Around The Gills’ is just about sickness from radicalism to headaches. One time in NZ I went scuba diving with a friend who is prone to sea sickness and they started vomiting 20 minutes into the trip and didn’t stop until it docked again7 hours later. At one point during the trip we dove near a small island of cultural significance that it is strictly forbidden to set foot on that attracts a $10,000 fine and they made a beeline for the island, credit card aloft before being dragged back on the boat. There’s a sloppy metaphor at work here; if you’re sick, get off the boat. Or pay attention to the weather…anyway Green Around The Gills is a list of more nightmares in a modern age of consumer diplomacy. It’s weird how unshocking horrific events are in an accelerated news cycle.”

“Short On Air”
“Short on air is actually less about trying to breathe and more about being shot on live tv. There’s a mutation from ‘short on air’ to ‘shot on air’ which is subtle enough to warrant me spoiling the twist here.In 20 years we’ve never had a drinks break where Dan does a drum solo and I think that this song is a first manky toe in the shitty stream of that eventuality.”

“Tired”
“Tired does what it claims on the packet. It’s a song about fatigue…and black holes…there’s a bunch of stuff in there about blacks holes and event horizons and falling asleep, idling at traffic lights on the way home. This song set the bounce template for a suite of compositions on these two records. We wanted to change our movement from lateral to vertical despite the some of our knees being structurally compromised.”

“Blue Blood”
“As a kid the question of ‘what are you going to do after school?’ seemed an annoying constant. Most people detailed long lead transitions to death that mirrored their parents before them. Their plans were simple and weighted heavily with realistic goals that if desperate enough they could exceed. The rich kids though, stressless and removed from desperation said other things that stuck with me like ‘I might just travel’. I recognised the words but the implications were so foreign to me that I couldn’t even fake a response. Where? Why? How? All questions I didn’t ask but I knew that I couldn’t go too.”

“Blue Bloods”
“‘Blue Bloods’ is the simmering outro that dives into that shallow end of the pool in an effort to compete with a person of infinite resources for the affection of another. Like a shitty punk band supporting an international rock band in a stadium, there are certain situations that are ultimately unnatural or inaccessible to some. When you infiltrate these protected spheres wearing someone else’s lammy and dive in expecting to swim a couple of laps, a no-necked nature with deep ass pockets will rip you out of that pool faster than you can say ‘I’m with the band’.”

“Always Keep A Light On”
“As a new father, the majority of the past 12 months have been listening and watching for breathing. Like unfinished essays for university that dissolve under the desire for sleep, I still wake up in a cold sweat most mornings and stare at the 8-bit monitor for pixelated signs of life.”

“I’m An Ape”
“I’m an ape in the human race and it’s a race we’re losing. You need not worship Aztec or Hindu Gods of destruction these days as man has so widely dominated the planet that there are few reaches of this calcifying sphere that remain untouched by our toxic fingerprint. At some point the planet will press ctrl/alt/delete and start again with updated software but for now the trajectory is set. We crawled out of the swamp, stood upright and now we’ve backfilled it, developed it into high rise apartments and flipped it for a 250% profit. Now I am an upright man – that’s problematic if you walk on land. And I can cast out past the darkness.”

“Black Fax”
“A fax machine is an antiquated communication device about the size of a domestic fridge. It is used for transmitting illegible copies of documents down phone lines from one shitty office to another. Despite the development of a digital online platform called the internet and the advent of email, the fucking fax machine is still used by toner tweakers the world over. It’s missives resemble rorschach level mess and it’s environmentally sacrilegiously wasteful. Conveniently these devices are also incredibly easy to destroy as detailed in this fictional account of a wife and friend who decide to bankrupt her cheating husband’s failing business by black faxing the prick all night long. As claimed, if he was actually working late he would have seen the paper printing.”

“Paranoia”
“So in 29 songs we only leant on the action of others twice. The first being Bonnie Mercer’s paint peeling solo at the end of ‘CCTV’ and the second being the middle eight of ‘Paranoia’ where I lifted the same word from a yank band called CCTV. Their song is totally different to ours but the ‘Paranoia’ head mantra made me laugh and I wrote a whole set of lyrics so that we could do something similar / worse in our song. Reasonably proud of the ‘Small deductions on my credit card’ line.”

“Baby Blue”
“This song is pretty simple. It’s just about the transition from being reasonably nihilistic in regards to my imminent future to desperately wanting to stay alive for as long as I can to see my child grow up. That change was instantaneous. I am consumed with crippling love.”

“Soft Power”
“All out nuclear war? This song has some Mutually Assured Destruction in the choruses. ‘Oh my sweet atom eyes, black metal flower, soft power’. I like reading up on black ops and subversive tactics for manipulating the power balance between two parties. And less subtle practices like the testing of weapons and sanctions. It’s all transferrable all the way down the Frankston line of life.”

“Black Light”
“This song has had the working title of ‘Snow Town’ from the very start but I couldn’t bare to write about anything to do with that mess or taint any other words with that title. This song is another pearl that hatched from the initial collective writing spark. It was a one take wonder after a night on the vino and carbs in Kyneton and I think is our definitive statement. If this is the last song you ever hear by our band, I am happy with that.”

In This Article: The Nation Blue