Subtropical Metropolis?

by Rivermouth

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1.
Alarm Clock 04:28
This is not for mainstream consumption this is not background music this is urban mythology, dissident philosophy low-fi, DIY, unashamed honesty we are questioning fundamentals, seeking the transcendental sharing insecurities, tearing off our masks Google doesn't know these words exist AM/FM radios won't find this frequency audio-encoded antidote to the status quo counter-culture vibrations knock down that first domino let this be your alarm clock – shock paddles to your heart you wanna shake this system up? now's the time to start We are the batteries in your boom box, the fire in your pen skeleton key to all their locks, burn that flag again are you a radical? or just ripples in a stagnant pool? everything's hierarchical and everyone's too cool desert landscape, their wells are dry ditch that handbrake, take a swig of the sky you think your mind is open? you think you're liberated? seedpod on an ocean – your success is overrated you want a chorus? sorry mate, better find another station we aren't chasing fame or fortune, we seek emancipation every concept's cliché now, every melody bourgeois so the only hook you're gonna get is dadadidadada Mangrove mud, climb that cliff, watch the river flood water dragons in the drains, your revolution is a dud unless you bring the masses with you, and look beyond the window sill your rallies and marches are nothing but empty rituals You call that resistance? you ain't resisting shit no-one's listening to your speech, because they're drowning in your spit no-one's listening to your speech, deafened by your screeching no-one's listening to your speech, cos you don't practice what you're preaching you don't practice what you're preaching The act of protest has itself become a component of the system street marches are mere shadows of civil disobedience state-sanctioned, sanitised, commodified and thereby neutered the charade of democratic dissent legitimises coercive control “buy two Che Guevara t-shirts get 30% off your next megaphone!” the bird who can't see its own cage bars considers itself free your application for a protest permit has been refused you may lodge a written appeal within thirty days but no-one will read it do not adjust your TV sets we will adjust them for you the invisible hand now serves an ulterior purpose nothing is trickling down anymore nothing is trickling down anymore and your tombstone will read “this page was left intentionally blank” these gutters are cluttered with gratuitous wordplay but it'll all wash away when the rain comes down it will all wash away when the rain comes down it will all wash away when the rain comes down I could rap in triple-time if I wanted, but what's the point if you can't understand me? no plan B, we stand on stolen land and bicker over who's the enemy it's time to use your brain now, it's time to stop the blaming now it's time to kill the ego we know we only gonna grow if we quit the games now breathe, contemplate your own mortality this system's not invincible you mistake shackles for gravity sharpen those bolt cutters, break them chains and fly this ain't about building monuments, it's about asking why I lost count of the stories suffocated when they eradicated the counter-narrative their documentaries and history books are a pseudo-objective sedative that margin might seem empty, but there's lots it can teach you reach you through secret passageways before the matrix eats you eats you, listen to it feast static on the airwaves, warn the town: here comes the beast let this be your alarm clock, shock paddles to your chest lest we forget the genocide, lest we forget how many died at least if they do eat us, we'll be difficult to digest
2.
Maiwar 07:29
Before the beginning there is Moodagurra, the rainbow serpent, who creates Maiwar, the river that story isn't ours to tell but we pay our respects to those who were here before us, and to those still fighting for sovereignty and justice we acknowledge the weight of unfinished business that lies heavy on this city and we are mindful that actions speak louder than words In the early years of the invasion, Maiwar's waters are clean and clear the river roils with life enough fish to feed thousands tree-lined banks roar with the voices of a hundred thousand birds freshwater springs flow down through secret rainforest gullies and the mosquitoes swarming up from the swamps of Woolloongabba are merciless the city is not even a dream yet... The locals know the river's moods intimately its cycles intertwined with theirs it speaks to them in a language older even than their own but the invaders have a violent appetite trees are felled creeks are tamed cattle tramples the delicate landscape eroded topsoil clouds the water worse still are the massacres the rapes the arsenic and the noose false justice from the end of a rifle barrel slavery torture the word ‘genocide’ hasn't been invented yet but there's no other term that can describe such atrocities The city is born out of this apocalypse future generations will dream fitfully of Armageddon unaware that they already live in the shadow of recent catastrophe the great lizards and snakes are hunted almost to extinction sacred sites are desecrated once-quiet glades echo with gunshots and screams Yet even in these early days, there are those who fight to protect the special places that will soon be eaten by the metropolis there are those who question their people’s savagery and treachery in their dealings with Meanjin's rightful custodians many of these small resistances go unrecorded but already they're etching themselves into the cultural bedrock of the future city remnant artefacts of rebellion and uprising are washed into the river only to be dug up again and embedded in the architecture of the growing town Down by the river's edge where time flows slower like tree sap deciding whether to sink your toes into the mangrove mud weighing the risk of water-borne bacterial infection against the glorious liberation of connecting barefoot with something more powerful than yourself that's when all kinds of flotsam epiphanies wash up in the shallows surfing the waves of city cats and perhaps the greatest of these is that some stories are too big to tell too honeycombed and layered to fully comprehend they defy timelines and rigid chronologies we can only scratch the surface hoping, perhaps, to reveal some new aspect of the greater, deeper epic that connects us all but mindful that the larger portion of the story will always remain untold and that in fact the story is writing us see we wanted to craft a linear tale with a start and an end and a narrative arc but these musings on culture and counter-culture hegemony and counter-hegemony are bound up inextricably in the history of our city and time is less of a straight line and more like overlapping cycles and spider webs so we let each note and chord serve as reference links footnotes to a thousand unspoken anecdotes slotting our little pieces into the ever-mutating mosaic that is Brisbane humbled by the knowledge that the river will still be flowing, long after we're gone Remember this: the city is made of the riverbed and the bay for decades we dredged the bottom binding the river to the sea grinding that sand and silt into cement to build our walls and towers there is coral in the skyscrapers those big glass windows are made with beach sand Office blocks and parking lots retaining walls and shopping malls all that concrete came from the river and the bay tiny crustaceans skeletons of ancient shellfish fossilised leaves and branches pulverised and reassembled do they remember their past forms? do we remember where it all came from? fragments of Stradbroke Island now hang in bridges suspended above the river and when the heavy storms batter Minjerribah rolling in from the sea the buildings of the CBD vibrate in sympathy the old windmill the commissariat store all that stone from the quarries of Kangaroo Point mortar lime was oyster shells from Amity The concrete dreams of the river those apartments yearn to rejoin the ocean this longing infects the occupants who themselves begin to dream of the sea One day, years from now perhaps the concrete will get its wish dust to dust the river will claim back its scattered essence towers will erode and disintegrate bridges will commit suicide and still the water keeps flowing There is coral in the skyscrapers those big glass windows are made with beach sand
3.
Roots 2.0 04:07
Roots down, roots down, roots down, roots down my heart's buried deep under Brisbane town creek beds, hilltops, riding around cracking macadamia and putting roots down I am of this city its history is my history my scraped knee and my favourite tree and swimming lessons in the pool at Craigslea Primary and Oxley's expedition back in 1823 and our year 4 excursion to Saint Helena Island and those weather-worn tennis balls that we were always finding and the floods of 1974 and the invasion of 1788 and the park on the north side where I rode without training wheels for the first time and the frog pond of drowning Christmas beetles and Joh Bjelke-Petersen and hunting Easter eggs in the backyard and hunting kangaroos by Breakfast Creek and the roller coaster at the top of the Myer Centre that looked like a dragon and screamed at the madness beneath Roots down, roots down, this town, roots down my roots are tendrils tentacles reaching down below splitting concrete and bitumen digging in The soil is soft after summer storms and the roots grow quickly thickly but Brisbane's burbs are built on clay so once they're down they're down to stay Roots down, roots down brushtail growl hear that sound But now and then in this circus I encounter a clown who thinks that because he's got his roots in the ground he somehow gains the right to define this town and decide who else gets to put roots down see the surface seems sufficiently serene but if you peel back the bandaid you’ll see the gangrene And now I see you've forgotten I see your roots are rotten but this garden has no gardener that's how we got to where we've gotten the question on my mind is where we going? this city is growing sauropod construction cranes on every horizon jackhammer clattering drowns out the cicadas the relentless march of apartment towers makes suburbanites nervous so they build higher fences and mow their lawns weekly Roots down, stolen ground, dead trees, river brown I know something's awry in this city but I can't quite put my finger on it it's like we've outgrown the garden bed roots in a twist slumbering suburbs silence those who resist Vision blurring but now I hear them stirring climb Mt Coot-tha at midnight see them lighting candles and switching off TVs flying foxes in the trees stench of rotten mangoes gives way to a cool south-easterly Pumpkin vines wither and die but the passionfruit keeps growing skyscrapers sprouting up from the bedrock Wivenhoe overflowing Activists invade city hall and the clock tower falls silent in anticipation Change is coming to Brisbane town we feel it in the soil while we cracking macadamias and putting roots down
4.
Metropolis 05:10
Subtropical metropolis skyscraper shadows – no stopping this paved paradise, now we're knee-deep in bitumen hemmed in by highways, rent hikes, and greedy men storm cloud stagnation, taste the humidity sweat glues us to the couch, or is it apathy? streets mutating, the past erased evaporating community, we all displaced maybe one day we'll live and work in little concrete boxes and never see the sun talk to our computers but not to other humans paint bomb futility in 4101 the city is a playground, the city is a cage they say we're getting richer but you can't pay the mortgage on minimum wage change the frame but it's still the same picture They call it progress we call it madness take your pay cheque don't question this everyone become a predator in this metropolis progress we call it madness take your pay cheque don't question this everyone become a predator in this metropolis How many people sleeping outside? how many new apartments still unoccupied? subdivide and conquer, sunlight a commodity soon even public parks will charge an entry fee so we sign our names walk between the lines, pay their fines play their games, smother the small joys the busker can't compete with traffic and construction noise so the ibis and the crow tried to start an uprising they plotted revolution in overgrown, forgotten corners of suburbia moonlit macadamia meetings beside tangled creeks DIY philosophical zines distributed to Indooroopilly fruit bats in the hopes of fertilising a few rooftop guerrilla garden beds but the storm-soaked kindling failed to ignite Riverside mansions sit quiet and lifeless riverside mansions sit quiet and lifeless riverside mansions sit quiet and lifeless tinted windows and tinted minds KPIs and selection criteria air-conditioners and fluoro lights Coro Drive car fumes, river bacteria blood on the concrete from Wickham St fights the city is a paradise, the city is a sleeping pill melting bitumen keeps us on our toes we count the cranes from the top of Highgate Hill profiteers count their dough They call it progress we call it madness take your pay cheque don't question this everyone become a predator in this metropolis debt coalesces like storm clouds cracks in the concrete, cracks in the concrete The city is our slave and our master maybe this is Stockholm syndrome heat-struck Gympie Road cyclists inhale too much smog and hallucinate fantasies of New Farm home ownership better file a request to work more overtime the bank offers 30-year loans now radicals want change, but don't know what it looks like sun-bleached petitions, long way from a rent strike Eagle Street towers chew you up and spit you out weighed down by debt and self-doubt the crow and the ibis, burnt-out revolutionaries lone voices in the concrete wasteland they lost hope and found jobs in the bureaucracy seeking salvation from invisible hands maybe one day we'll live and work in little concrete boxes while the poor people drown intercom security and six foot fences money talks on the streets of your town maybe Brissie isn't ready for revolution last train home leaves at five past midnight we seek a subtler, deeper rebellion we'll be the moth and the candle-light They call it progress we call it madness take your pay cheque don't question this everyone become a predator they call it progress we call it madness take your pay cheque don't question this everyone become a predator in this metropolis [Interlude] Vocabularies of dissidence and rebellion pass from one generation to the next encoded in subterranean spray paint on the walls of stormwater drains far beyond the reach of the city council graffiti squad but down in the stagnant air of the concrete tunnels deeper questions linger... how can we denizens who seek a better world claim the right to transfigure and recreate this city while the gears of colonisation still turn relentlessly?
5.
I woke up in the park Musgrave and instantly felt unsettled the once-familiar surroundings seemed strange creeks and hills remained where they'd always been, and yet I saw them differently like my eyes were out of focus like a photo of a painting of a photo as though looking from above, I saw that the oldest, largest trees had once been planted in the shape of a union jack gunshot echoes on the breeze that below the park's manicured green surface the soil was stained blood red the beast was over-fed wailing curlews were the ghosts of the dead and the skeleton hanging near the toilet block had shackles around his ankles and the name of my grandmother's grandfather was engraved on the rusted metal I saw then that my shoes, family heirlooms passed down through generations were made of human leather taken from that same hanging skeleton and this is relevant, this is present-tense, and most of us are in denial how many Murris do we lock away, charade of a fair trial? I never pulled the trigger, but I inherited the gun and now I can't quite figure out how to get this taste off my tongue Are we the bad guys? maybe I don't want to know the answer sins of my ancestors perhaps best to avoid the question walking with closed eyes now where the hell would that leave us? our own history books deceive us retelling little white lies Bloodstained soil, bone foundations bloodstained soil, stolen generations bloodstained soil, murder for profit bloodstained soil, but we don't talk about it Removing my tainted shoes, I found the ground rocky and uneven across the park I saw a Murri woman being dragged by two policemen her cries for help went unanswered more coppers arrived swarming circling, predatory they too were wearing shoes made of human leather but seemed oblivious to the origins of the skin hobbling, barefoot I could do nothing to stop them they took her away to die and all I could do was film it they took her away and all I could do was capture it on video so that future generations might see why we burn that flag burn that flag burn that flag burn that flag the woman's children were removed by child services despite grandma's pleas meanwhile the ABC dutifully commemorated the anniversary of the apology with a “look how far we've come” retrospective over at the airport, more shoes made of human leather were distributed to new arrivals as long as they brought enough money in then all us non-Indigenous activists staged a protest but the cops diverted us down a side-street so no-one saw it it didn't make the news cos the footy scores were important the Musgrave woman is a statistic now brushtail possums still whisper her name and everywhere is mirrors when we try to find who's to blame Bloodstained soil, bone foundations bloodstained soil, stolen generations bloodstained soil, murder for profit bloodstained soil, but we don't talk about it Now us inner-city activists with a sticky quandary to ponder neither immigrant nor Indigenous this dissonance is mischievous the river is murky the banks are unstable and we built this city we built this city on stolen land the backs of slaves unmarked graves and now each year on Invasion Day when the young warriors scream “who owns this land?” “we do” “who stole this land?” “they did” I don't know what to say cos i'm descended from invaders but I know no other home I've got nowhere else to go no land that I can call my own Are we the bad guys? no-one wants to hear the answer we cheer the murri dancers but turn away when they start talking sovereignty are we the bad guys? I begin to think we might be this city has a dark history but it's the present sins that worry me Bloodstained soil, bone foundations bloodstained soil, stolen generations bloodstained soil, murder for profit bloodstained soil, but we don't talk about it I fell asleep in the park Musgrave but all my dreams were depressing [Interlude] There’s a gentle orange light that seems peculiar to our town unless you've lived round here you won't know the light I'm talking about a warm pinkishness that makes you wonder if you might be looking through a veil to another kind of city you should see it when it hits fallen jacaranda blossoms... it’s almost sacred but unless you’ve been safely inoculated this otherwise pure light has a sinister tendency to infect with forgetfulness those who bask in it too long start to remember where they came from as the city grows it devours yesterday swallowing history obliterating different pasts and different tomorrows
6.
Goodbye Son 03:44
You know this story: it's in our nation's DNA them cities are magnets, all the children move away just a couple generations, and they'll forget this place paper-chasing, rat-racing, nothing left to retrace goodbye son I guess we'll see you back here for Christmas I hope the city treats you well your mum's baked you biscuits here's some extra cash for the train ride and I know how email works now so you'd better write to us maybe one day you'll have children – they can come out here to visit and you can tell them that this is where you're from I know you won't move back here I know this town is fading like a photo but it'd be nice to be remembered They call it urbanisation all these one-way conveyor belts pointed towards the cities they call it progress our ancestors were stockmen, shearers, hunters but the urban amnesia is contagious the track to Gundagai is overgrown I sometimes think it's silly how we romanticise the bush getting all patriotic about jolly swagmen when the only billabong we ever visited was a clothing store see I'm a city kid my roots are embedded in bitumen but every now and then, I feel homesick for places I've never even been to scrutinising my grandparents' birth certificates I mouth the names of towns that Google now describes as “location not found” and gradually I start to understand... we are transplants broken boomerangs saplings struggling in unfamiliar soil no wonder we're so scared of change it's hard being uprooted not knowing how to answer when people ask you where home is I'm not sure why it makes me sad – people move all the time I guess I wonder what happens to the places left behind goodbye son they slip away like drops of water
7.
Suitcases 03:43
This world is crowded with spirits. Some are attached to places and objects, while others belong to individuals or even whole family lineages. If you stand very still and squint into the middle-distance, you can sometimes make them out, wandering around our city. They're easiest to spot about an hour before dusk, when the light is at its syrupiest, or else just on noon, when the sun hits its zenith and the heat haze rises from the bitumen. They come in all shapes... They're usually silent, and mostly transparent. There's a wombat the length of a bus who lumbers down Adelaide Street once a week or so. There are twin kangaroo brothers, each taller than a four-storey building, who can clear Breakfast Creek in a single leap. The river (who is also a spirit herself) is particularly crowded, not only with naiads and the ghosts of drowned ferry passengers, but with an ancient cruise liner-sized bull shark who journeys daily from Colleges Crossing to the coast, chasing after recreational fishing boats. Most of these have been here a very long time. But there are newer spirits also, who travelled here in the dark bowels of convict transport ships or squashed into the suitcases of ten pound poms (there's even a tiny yellow-brown dragon – originally from Beijing – who settled here in the year 1426 when a Chinese trading vessel was shipwrecked near present-day Redcliffe). I sometimes wonder whether these newcomers get along with those whose lands they've invaded. Do the fox and the quoll fight with one another? Or does the spirit world have enough room for both? There's one bird who visits me regularly in vivid dreams, but also sometimes while I'm half-awake. This being takes the form of a large owl, at least a metre tall, who somehow remains stationary in mid-air despite his huge silent wings beating far too slowly to keep him airborne. He's all that remains of a giant owl species that once inhabited northern Europe, but went extinct in the Middle Ages. In one dream, my mum points at the owl outside our window and tells me that the bird is an ancient Celtic spirit-guardian who followed her father's family over from Scotland almost two centuries ago. But outside of dreams, my mother has always denied any knowledge of the bird. I don't know what to make of this.
8.
Shovels 04:14
The rich get richer the poor get screwed the rich get richer the poor get screwed the rich get richer the poor get screwed we dig our own graves with rented shovels I've been chewing the inside of my cheek out of frustration futility I ended up chewing a hole right through the skin and now each night when I fall asleep a tiny elephant creeps in through the side of my face and takes a shit on my tongue (and that's probably a metaphor for something) but when I read about just eight people have greater combined wealth than the planet's poorest three billion wordplay seems kinda trite in comparison See our society has lost the ability to distinguish between the spider and the fly and the goddamned web it's just an ugly tangled ball of mangled insect limbs sticky threads, broken wings and an elephant shitting on my tongue Don't dwell on the negativity don't think about how screwed up this system is unhappy consumers are bad for business of course, happy consumers are also bad for business we're supposed to remain numb neutral apathetic Eagerly we swallow the myth of the meritocracy because “oh they probably deserve it” is a pleasant sedative as though that CEO is actually worth three million dollars a year and that ten-bucks-an-hour cleaner really doesn't deserve a pay-rise Meanwhile this poem has already been commodified by tomorrow it'll be up on youtube preceded by an unskippable 30-second Coca Cola ad that would be ironic if hypocrisy wasn't already cliche Winner-takes-all every dickhead for himself don't trust your neighbour fence out the poor people then charge them for the privilege of pissing in your gutter The myth spreads like lantana you try to uproot it you'll tear your hands it's a persistent sucker this ridiculous fiction that humans can't create anything useful unless they're motivated by profit and greed profit and greed The rich get richer the poor get fucked The rich get richer the poor get screwed...
9.
Is this what they call success? too many megaphones not enough ear drums who are we trying to impress? cake's getting smaller and we're fighting over crumbs trapped in the mirror, image obsessed world-wide popularity contest running up the down-flowing escalator and we'll never be satisfied How many likes did I get on facebook? how many bites of the bait on my fishing hook? insecure but plenty judgemental use it like a knife but it's still just a pencil does anybody know my name? if I die tomorrow how many will notice? nowadays no-one laughs like they mean it and we dance like the whole room is watching Are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the fool are we cool yet? are we popular? Are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the fool are we cool yet? are we popular? Everybody looking over their shoulder gotta get it all before we get any older click the thumbs up remember to share and if you don't take a photo you were never really there Mr politics seeking more power chasing votes like a dog after pigeons focus groups are his only religion now he's lost in the echo chamber tough decisions puts em off til later fixated on the lowest common denominator no need for detail, derail the vernacular he'll say what he needs to say to stay popular say what he needs to say and we follow like the road is one-way cos it's all about the image the personal brand scraping names in the dust this is not what we planned Are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the fool are we cool yet? are we popular? Are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the god damned fool are we cool yet? lost in the echo chamber Now all of us are craving affirmation like it's air and we're suffocating slaving for the greater good but really just masturbating who gives a fuck what they think about us? who gives a fuck what they say? think that's a ladder we're climbing? those rungs are prison bars we're moving sideways we've got expensive clothes that look real cheap botoxed nose, and a pop-top jeep edible credit cards plastic fruit and a guaranteed fair trade birthday suit barcodes on our eyelids hashtags tattooed on our wrists we only raise our fists when no-one's watching we only raise our fists when no-one's watching we bust our arses to make it look effortless and every day is judgment day we keep our songs upbeat, with a catchy chorus cos that's what the radio stations like to play Are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the fool are we cool yet? are we popular? are we cool yet? are we cool? playing the game or are we playing the fool are we cool yet? is this called ‘famous’? cos that’s what the radio stations like to play
10.
Dole 03:58
God damn it kid what the hell are you thinking? too many late nights and too much drinking clock clock ticking ticking clock clock ticking and you ain't no Peter Pan your friends all have full-time jobs your friends are getting married your friends are buying houses your friends aren't your friends no more you'll be renting til you hit your mid-forties it will be your fault if you end up poor if you end up poor Is this how they control us? Is this how they break us down? I had plans to save the planet but they got washed down a stormwater drain it's all too big it's all too hard dropped my guard and i missed the last train compass needle spinning now I'm lost inside my head work your arse off change the world it won't mean much once you're dead they judge you by the weight of your wallet I can barely pay the rent scrounging five cent pieces is this rebellion or this is a year misspent? shadows under hoodies you can't beat the computer forgotten by the present who gives a fuck about the future? Is this how they control us? Is this how they break us down? Is this how they control us? Watch me drown Our future is buffering casual hours, minimum wage I wouldn't call it suffering but it's a long way from utopia our future is call-centre hold music Centrelink interviews unsuccessful rental applications our future is buffering our future is unable to connect sorry child guess you should've carped a few more diems these kids could start a revolution if they stopped getting high but them feathers came unglued and they forgot how to fly Peg my elbows hang me out to dry watch me get brittle little wrinkles solidify I turned down a ride on an easy treadmill now I'm barely treading water Is this how they control us? Watch me drown And there's a million sorry suckers in the same damn rut hanging on, clock-watching til the next track's cut it ain't quite depression but it's a sick kinda melancholy what the hell did you come here for? what the hell did you come here for? it will be your fault if you end up poor if you end up poor
11.
We were lions once. We were once lions. And we were lions once... We used to laugh like thunder gods our mirth made the earth shake earthquake so much joy it made my stomach ache we were content we had never learnt what misery meant We used to run like bushfires fast and unstoppable the wind at our backs our backpacks were light and our feet were dark with street dirt. And we never got hurt. We used to ride like Mongolians standing up on the pedals always downhill broken brakes breakneck and when the dust settled we made chain grease war paint and thanked the sun for the day We used to fight like cyclones and we danced like warriors lightning limbs, we were giants fearless, three metres tall balls of raw energy weathered every squall See we were lions once I’m not sure why we aren’t lions anymore I know we didn’t grow any older but now the world seems colder and I miss the days... We used to love with our whole hearts now we’re more cautious too many false starts base-jumping makes us nauseous We used to light fires and fight liars with liquid lungs We’d pry open closed minds with a flick of our tongues We used to roar our convictions every note we sung We used to stand for something We used to stand for something We used to stand for something We used to yearn for revolution But now the world has turned and our revolts have dissolved into a diluted solution And we’ve devolved into the mirror people No longer able to admire the night sky cos our necks are sore from too much navel gazing As though being too small to save the whole world is a valid excuse for giving up altogether Bullshit We could be more than this We should be more than this We were lions once And now we’re motherfucking kittens Sitting in a windowless room Bob Dylan and/or Marley turned loud to drown down the sounds of our own hypocritical apathy Wilfully ignorant Washing our hands of the sins of the main stream While drinking from its tributaries Having forgotten that one raised voice is enough to start an avalanche Jaded idealists Introverted Epicureans We are lazy Powerless selfish wastes of space And we were lions once
12.
Burnt Toast 04:16
We made the most of burnt toast Roasting the fools who embraced apathy we drove out the ghost of amnesia, spreading butter on blackened bread, threading silk strands through the eyes of the dead, we raised them up, not to praise em but to learn from their mistakes, forsaking shopping trollies traded credit cards for rakes and spades, prayed, dug deep into the earth, sowed all sorts of seeds, didn't know what they were worth and now they grow and now they grow. How many glasses did we break last night? how many mirrors did we shatter? we started a party, underground out of sight and the beat’s only gonna get phatter and the beat’s only gonna get phatter and the beat’s only gonna get phatter We celebrate, not to forget, but to remember all the lessons, questions, answers turned to embers sparks found kindling we warmed toes by the fire then we all started dancing, we all started dancing all started dancing as the flames rose higher this is secret conspiracies this is seedlings in the spring we gonna stand up find a voice reset the network and the more they try to silence us the louder we'll sing You can jack up the price but you can't make us pay can't make us pay can't make us pay You can call in the cops but we won’t fade away won’t fade away won’t fade away You can jack up the price but you can't make us pay can't make us pay can't make us pay You can call in the cops but we won’t fade away won’t fade away won’t fade away We created anarchist bookshops, free universities gigs under houses, and pop-up art galleries jazz jams in the carpark veggie gardens on the rooftops hijacked the airwaves with 4ZZZ and everybody jumps when the beat drops and everybody jumps when the beat drops and everybody jumps when the beat drops You call it idealistic we call it visionary cos we can see this track don't lead to where we wanna be so flip this system phoenix take flight spray painting optimism while their fortresses ignite we're gonna reclaim the city infiltrate suburbia shatter their monopolies rewrite their false mythologies dumpster-dived our dinner now we're dumpster-diving the sun their margin’s getting thinner and this party's just begun You can jack up the price but you can't make us pay can't make us pay can't make us pay You can call in the cops but we won’t fade away won’t fade away won’t fade away You can jack up the price but you can't make us pay can't make us pay can't make us pay You can call in the cops but we won’t fade away won’t fade away won’t fade away What the hell are you waiting for? it's time to get political the future looked glamourous before you got so cynical we made the most of burnt toast we made the most of burnt toast we made the most of burnt toast.
13.
[Interlude] As green-tinged storm clouds gathered in both the east and west the world started to unravel evergreen trees dropped their leaves while deciduous species flowered out of season at random there were mangos growing on the neighbours’ lemon trees and ripe avocados peeking out from under purple jacaranda blossoms the full moon was bright and close there would be a king tide tomorrow
14.
The Goanna 04:05
Underneath our city hidden deep within the labyrinth of tunnels that mark the new paths of old waterways there lives a goanna The biggest goanna Seven metres long from tongue to tail a throwback to the ancient, gargantuan lizards that stalked dreamtime Sahul and walked war upon the crocodiles No-one can say for certain if she's descended from a last, secret line of those monstrous reptiles or if she's a once-in-a-millennia aberration who outgrew her brethren thanks to a healthy diet of feral cats and slow-moving swagmen The goanna has no name. Although she exists well beyond the cognisance of the average citizen she's as much a part of the city as the multitudes who crowd office blocks and jam the streets her age is indeterminable Throughout the previous century, workers in the stormwater drains had heard – or rather, felt – rumours of a massive reptilian presence haunting the cavernous passages beneath city hall. And she was still there at the turn of the age, when excavation work for the underground busway extension unearthed a lizard burrow the length of a train carriage. So-called experts declared that she was merely a large water dragon, her size exaggerated by the darkness and overactive imaginations, and the media paid her little attention. But those of us who were truly tapped in to the pulse of the city knew in our hearts that there was something more wonderful creeping around down there in the concrete blackness. Some say komodo, others crocodile, but I doubt a saltie could have survived the periodic droughts, when the tunnels under the city were bone-dry for months and years, empty and silent but for the gunshot echoes of cars speeding over manhole covers. The goanna is almost blind, and navigates her subterranean kingdom by smelling the air with her tongue. It's this sense of taste-smell that gives her an edge over any who wish her harm; some even say that she can detect malice itself. We heard tales of her as children –half-scoffing, half-trembling at the threat of encountering the legendary monitor if we pursued an errant tennis ball too far down a stormwater drain. It's claimed that she can predict weather better than the meteorologists, and that whenever the goanna enters the northern tunnels leading up to the hillier suburbs, heavy rains aren’t far away.
15.
This whole city is dollar signs Price tags on every square centimetre They build em higher now, right up to the boundaries These clouds are made of concrete and steel They never move, they never fade Shadow streets and wind tunnels Subdivide and conquer Replacing windows with mirrors intercom security, the walls are getting higher we don't know our neighbours' names no more Puppet-masters dressed as real estate agents Will my lease be renewed again? Will they jack up the rent again? And if you want your own apartment it’s a 25-year mortgage Six months of your life for each square metre Even the workers who build them can’t afford to buy them So where did all that money go? Where does all that money go? The public square is now leased out for profit Neither trees nor musicians are tolerated unless they’re good for business The posh restaurant guards its footpath dining territorially even when there aren’t any other customers We got the money for a motorway but not for public housing There are laws against sleeping in the park Laws against dancing in the street It’s easier to get permits for advertising billboards than public art projects They’d rather leave the walls grey You’ve got no right to this city You could rent here twenty years put down roots forge community But it don’t mean a thing when them wrecking balls swing It’s already been approved It’s already been approved, It’s already been approved there’s nothing you can do See they want us to feel powerless These towers just keep sprouting up from the bedrock We got jackhammers for alarm clocks Drowning in bitumen Choking on car fumes While their starting price is half a million dollars for two bedrooms So who defines progress? Who really runs the system? They curse us and evict us like there’s nothing we can do to stop them now them empty units multiplying but they still won’t drop the rent vacant shops and silent streets it’s all just profit for the one percent they can sterilise our culture confiscate our megaphones call us troublemakers just cos we don’t want a thirty-year bank loan we paint rainbows in the bitumen they whitewash monochrome But we’re never gonna stop fighting Cos this city is our home this city is our home I said this city is our home Them bankers price us out But we leave footprints in the stone
16.
The hour is upon us, the time is here downhill mountain bike kicking into gear tidal surge when the wind blows hailstones breaking windows no-one knows exactly what's going down but it feels like we gonna shake this town Queen Street still tranquilising but you can't deny that the river's rising maybe this is reveille maybe this is the wake-up call germinated in 4032 in the shadow of an ever-growing mega mall all us lonely urban rebels finally learning to act as a collective the masses weren't apathetic they didn't know they had an alternative but now they see it, and now they igniting now they believe that this is worth fighting and now they taste it, and now they won’t waste it from the roof to the gutter everybody embrace it We're taking back the power them bigshots won't control this town no more this city’s ours this is our home we’re fighting for They only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back this is love, this is unity, this is the underdog counterattack This is our home, these our streets if you want to evict us you can call the police you put up fences, we tear em down everyone’s a ringmaster, everyone’s a clown rebellion contagious, now we all caught it bubble bubble pop - still can’t afford it rooftop to rooftop, word now spreading bet ya in this heat them suits start sweating homes sitting empty time to get squatting bust locks when mangoes start rotting 4114 4305 Paint it on the wall, let em know you’re alive Bearded dragon with paper wing under the freeway roar, cicada still sings Subterranean serpent rising to the surface banks are a circus, your money is worthless We're taking back the power them bigshots won't control this town no more this city’s ours this is our home we’re fighting for They only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back this is love, this is unity, this is the underdog counterattack From this date forward, a standard workday will end at 3pm we’re going home at 3pm we are all going home at 3pm From this date forward, a workday will go from 9 in the morning to 3pm we're going home at 3pm we are all going home at 3pm Rattle rattle clang, rattle rattle rattle clang fifty-hour weeks, time to break them chains we paint a picture, share it like a virus prophecise a better future let that night sky inspire us I'm sick of rapping about racism I'm sick of rapping about poverty I'm sick of rapping bout oppression I only do it out of necessity So cut me some slack slack if I crave a little utopianism no looking back back we already got ample supplies of cynicism optimism is our rocket fuel, now we hitting ignition 5 4 3 2 1 we going boom like nuclear fission envision this, a whole city waking up and walking out no more landlords, no more debt, now the streets have learned to shout everyone gets ice-cream everyone gets paid everyone gets a visa and everyone gets laid We're taking back the power them bigshots won't control this town no more this city’s ours this is our home we’re fighting for they only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back they only call it class war when the poor fight back from the hilltop down to the rivermouth now everyone’s an insomniac The illusion of powerlessness is a potent sedative but once shattered, everything is possible we’re building the new in the hollowed out shell of the old blockade the coal trains, blockade the banks cracks in the concrete we are hungry for change
17.
[Interlude] When the newly liberated city began singing the warring factions wavered glitched and turned like flowers rotating to face the rising sun we climbed onto corrugated rooftops and the tallest tree branches watching the floodwaters invade the lobbies of banks and mining corporations Maiwar had brought seeds from the forests far to the west to deposit down every bitumen road and concrete gutter along with a heavy load of fertile river mud impregnating the concrete panopticon with a dormant jungle-in-waiting submerged purged purified and immediately recontaminated the tallest skyscrapers were already developing a primitive form of consciousness and now, three-quarters of the way up one of the oldest towers two lights, in separate offices switched on despite the power cut blinked a couple of times then stared at us inquisitively watching to see if we knew what to do next but already, instruments that had lain hidden in the cluttered caverns beneath peeling-paint workers cottages were being dusted off and tuned up in anticipation of the new songs that we would soon begin writing
18.
Storm moved on now we clear the debris Bathing in the afterglow redefine free Redefine identity, redefine me, redefine utopia we hoping that we gonna see a time when the debt slave trades close down when the river runs clean, and we run this town when the work days are short, weekends are long when the rent stays cheap, and the words of the song resonate like We’re all just pieces of the sun we are all just pieces of the sun kicking back, our work is done we’re all just pieces of the sun The jackhammers sleep, city is at peace seedlings sprouting, we all find release, sea breeze, smog dissipating creating new worlds, now we all levitating nostalgic, for unknown tomorrow cracking macadamia, discarding shells and sorrow close those eyes, stretch them limbs gets too warm we’ll go for a swim curry pot bubbling, cardamom and cinnamon ginger chai, put the kettle on and settle in honey from the hive, joy to be alive stoke the fire, watch the world revive We’re all just pieces of the sun we are all just pieces of the sun kicking back, our work is done we’re all just pieces of the sun Eroded micro-fragments of retaining walls and skyscraper foundations wash down the river with each cycle of the tide shattered windows disintegrate into grains of sand and now new coral beds are growing in Moreton Bay we are writing a new mythology bower-birding and cross-pollinating prefiguring revolution the future is not dead yet.

about

Subtropical Metropolis? has been a long, long time in the making. Most of the lyrics and grooves were written by the end of 2015, and we’d actually recorded a fair chunk of it by the summer of 2016. But we didn’t get around to recording and mixing the last few tracks and poems until autumn of 2019, and it took us another 12 months to finish the mastering and final interludes.

The extended production timeline is not because we’re perfectionists who spent weeks and months in the studio tweaking and redoing songs. We just got busy with other stuff.

Rivermouth has never really aspired to be a money-making project, and we’ve deliberately resisted the commercial pressures to write and produce music at a pace that could’ve turned the band into a source of stress. So it’s probably not that surprising that our first full-length album is coming out almost a decade after we started jamming in January 2011 (at the time of the flood that inspired our earliest songs).

The band has outlived many of the other creative projects we’ve been part of, and has bubbled away in the background for most of our adult lives. If we were measuring success by how many festivals we got into or how many downloads we’ve had, we probably would’ve given up years ago. But the river is still flowing, and so are we.

Many of this album’s lyrics are heavily inspired by the various activist movements that bubbled out of so-called Brisbane in the years following the 2014 G20 summit, which saw a massive expansion of police powers that were never completely rolled back. Some of the concepts and lines feel a little dated now, but for me they still speak to an important period of rapid growth and change within our communities and the wider metropolis.

As I write this, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown, thousands of people across our city are wondering how they’ll pay the rent or the mortgage, and the government has left many hanging. Talk of rent strikes and occupying empty homes is spreading. And our city just hosted one of the biggest anti-racism marches in living memory. The way we live has transformed dramatically in recent weeks, and the parameters of what’s considered possible have been redefined irreversibly. It’s hard to predict what will happen next, but many of the questions and ideas explored in this album feel especially relevant right now.

Subtropical Metropolis? is intended as a tribute to local storytelling, a call to action, and a love letter to a growing city that’s not quite sure whether it wants to be a growing city.

credits

released May 15, 2021

In releasing this album to the world, we’d like to thank our friends, family members and partners for their love and support. We particularly want to thank Anna Carlson for the kickarse album art, and Matthew Gray of Matthew Gray Mastering. Thanks also to Paul and Katherine Mackay for letting us use their grand piano for Goodbye Son, to Alchemix for use of their grand piano, to Hunting Ground Studios in Moorooka where most of the tracks were recorded, and to the Fat Picnic lads who just happened to be rehearsing in the neighbouring studio when we needed a few extra voices in the booth for some gang vocals.

A very special thanks to Luke Woollett of Hunting Ground Studios for his kickarse work as producer and mixing engineer, seeing this project through from start to finish over so many years. We definitely couldn’t have done it without you bro!

And finally, thank you to all our fans out there for listening and appreciating the work we do. Telling stories and making music wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun without a community to share with.

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Rivermouth Brisbane, Australia

Hi, we're Rivermouth
Our vocalist is a cross between a typewriter and a megaphone. Our keyboardist is a classically trained virtuoso mad scientist. Our bassist plays in the Richter scale. Our drummer's great-grandfather was a metronome.

Our music is a blend of spoken word, hip hop, jazz, reggae and excellent chai. Lyrics are critical. We want to tickle cerebra and tug heartstrings simultaneously.
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