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Mr Sterile Assembly - Album Review: HELLo

06 Feb 2024 // A review by Maggie Cocco

New Zealand's globetrotting punk rockers, drummer/vocalist Kieran Monaghan and bassist/vocalist Chrissie Butler, release their sixth and final album twenty-two years, two months, and five days from the date of their inaugural show.

In 2001, Mr Sterile Assembly was an unlikely three-piece; guitar, drums, and trombone. Over many years and manifestations, the band from the end of the world with something to say found people and places with ears to hear it. Collecting luminary musicians and collaborators like Aaron Lloydd, Cara Conroy-Low, Chris O’Connor, Dan Beban, Dave Mike, Elisa Kersley, Francesca Mountfort, Jana Te Nahu Owen, Jeff Henderson, Miles Climo, Sarsha Douglas and Vlada Plackic along the way, Mr Sterile Assembly (MrsA) went on to support famed acts such as Crass, Sabot, Jello Biafra, and Miss Moon. HELLo (alongside simultaneously released EP Goodbye) is the final note of a lauded run. 

Guest appearances include Hannah Salmon, vocalist for Unsanitary Napkin and Displeasure, Adam Tomasek - trumpet from the Czech group Uz Jsme Doma, long established noisenik Indra Menus from Yogyakarta, Indonesia and the fungi influenced electronics of P?neke based vegetable.machine.animal. Drums and bass were recorded by Vanya of scumbag college studios. All else recorded, except guest tracks, were recorded at Happy Valley. HELLo was mixed and mastered by Stephen Cole at What Studios Liverpool, UK

Catastrophic Engine sets a familiar tone for the new album with a relentless two note melody over driving cymbals and syncopated hits on the dry snareless tenor between seamless dips from the primary meter. Due to the mixtape nature of the collection, lyrics of the Orwellian monologue are less discernible by ear than in past releases but are well worth looking up! They read like poetry and sing like punk. Group singing underscores the communal nature of the project/movement with a variety of varied, cartoonish timbres reminiscent of a Rocky Horror Picture Show chorus. 

For some unknown reason, track number two on any album is always a favourite. Run Peter Run is a classic from statement to execution. The bass rips along like an engine giving pursuit beneath increasingly urgent, threatening, and varied utterances of "run, Peter, run." My first thoughts were of Beatrix Potter's "Peter Rabbit" and a vintage children's song called Run, Rabbit, Run in which "every Friday is rabbit pie day." Upon googling, I came across an apparently popular Christian song also called Run, Peter, Run which goes, "Run Peter, run! Go tell your friends! Run Peter, run! Jesus rose again!" Both potential references make fine political social commentary in my mind, but the final lyrics " - "'68 Olympic Game, Starters gun Outer lane, Silver race Winning fame, Dias rise Changing fate" - clarifies reference to the story of Peter Norman - Australian Olympian who stood solidly alongside fellow Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who became infamous for the Black Power salute on the dais during the medal ceremony. Norman's willingness to stand beside Smith and Carlos earned the ire of the institutionally racist Australian authorities. Forty years passed before the Australian government offered a posthumous apology to Norman for the treatment he received for standing in ally-ship with Carlos and Smith in the fight for justice. "The right act costs more, conscience like a crime, divisions laid open, where is your line?" The song's opening refrain, "Run, Peter, run" becomes even more sinister as one imagines the utterance from the lips of the law. 

Historical reviews that describe MrsA as "cohesive" and "challenging", "hardboiled but somehow never difficult to listen to", "at times is brilliant", and having "a slight sense of claustrophobia, a threat of some sort, with song subjects based in the harsher realities" still ring true. The gradual introduction of more electronic moments and motifs suggests the chronological evolution of the band and contributions of collaborators along the album. Topics which fail to escape the final judgement of Mr Sterile Assembly include conspiracy theorists, confirmation bias, classism, climate change, and the pitfalls of capitalism. The final note of the album and of Mr Sterile Assembly's notable career encapsulates all this in a song called Didn't. In a breathless, wailing, wall of driving bass and drums, Mr Sterile Assembly sums up their message for us. "We didn't survive [insert every aforementioned topic and more] just to roll over." MrsA leaves us with a final call for defiance, and hope. 

HELLo is available now on Bandcamp.

 

About Mr Sterile Assembly

The Mr Sterile Assembly (MrsA) is a Wellington based ensemble. Forming originally as a solo effort, the group developed from a need to create a new performance vehicle that integrated a large component of theatricalness.

MrsA has played a wide range of shows, from punk rock in the pub, punkfest, support slots for international acts such as Sabot, Jello Biafra and Miss Moon and memorial shows to academics in a university, to primary schools.

The continual problem of labeling the band has at the moment settled on Chamber Punk.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Mr Sterile Assembly

Releases

HELLo
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Run Peter Run
Year: 2022
Type: EP
Suppository
Year: 2020
Type: Album
The General Pathetic
Year: 2018
Type: Album
It's All Over
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Transit
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Setting Fire To Bob
Year: 2011
Type: EP
Bug My Ride
Year: 2009
Type: Album
15 Minute Crib
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Hulagu
Year: 2004
Type: Album
Pregnant Boy
Year: 2001
Type: Album
Hanging Out The Washing
Year: 1999
Type: Album

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