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Useless Splendour

Review by Craig Leahy

As you’ve probably noticed, here at Gone for Smokes, I value integrity and how my adoring public perceives me over everything. That being said, we got a couple disclosures I need to make before we get into talking about whatever the fuck Shoegaze is. Firstly, I’m like, really tight with the members of this band, have played in bands with some of them and even lived with one of them for years. So if I’m meaner than usual, it’s because I know these people more than you, and they’re much bigger assholes than you already think. Secondly, I have a really strange relationship with Shoegaze as a whole, strange in the sense that mostly I fucking hate it and I’m too old to have my mind changed by some pesky kids and their god damn scene revival. 


Alright look, it isn’t fair to flat out say I hate Shoegaze, because I truly don’t. Like, fuck me of course Loveless by My Bloody Valentine is the album I play when I want to cry in the bath, I will go out of my way to spin Distressor by Whirl when I want to cry in the shower, and how could I neglect Souvlaki by Slowdive, my go to album when I want to cry in my car. 


 But also let me ask you this, who the fuck is Shoegaze for? Like stick with me here, the whole aesthetic of Shoegaze is that grimy, effortless guy outside the bar looking lonely who seems dirty but like hyper-fuckable, you know the type. He walks in by himself into a show surrounded by the most beautiful people you’ve ever seen, and a band of all beautiful people are playing beautiful songs while the fuckable dirty guy cries then has free sex for the rest of his life because he's got a mean fringe and passable fashion sense. And that’s cool and all but why the fuck is it only stink ass nerds linking me this shit on Messenger in-between building a new PC and downloading 4K rips of Always Sunny in Philadelphia onto their Plex server? And why the fuck is it the weirdest punishers out back of Shoegaze gigs, who always smell like they just woke up, even though it’s 11pm? 


Far out, and if Shoegaze in 2024 really is solely for nerds, why the fuck are nerds even gravitating toward such a low energy, depressive genre? Are they tired from running around dressed like Batman all day or something? If they want to really feel Loveless they should just read their Tinder DMs (GOTTTEM). 


I don’t know man I just think in 2024, the Venn diagram of post-rock fans and shoegaze fans is just a big fuckin circle and you fucking cowards are too afraid to admit it. 

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I really want to talk about this album. Despite the previous rant, I fucking adore this album, and I’ll get to that, but first, you’re probably wondering,  


‘Man, who the fuck is Libbianski?’  


And to get a satisfactory answer to that question, we’ll need to do something that has yet to be successfully attempted, understand the mind of Kurt ‘Full English’ Williams. I’ve known Kurt for about 12 years now and he is truly a fucking anomaly man, I love Kurt like a brother, spent years playing shows with him, talking shit out back of bars, spent a few years playing bass in Tuscoma with him, being on long distance drives around the country being absolutely punished by him telling me what shoegaze bands I needed to check out while he hunts for bargains on the Fred Perry website, meanwhile I’m up front blasting early Cannibal Corpse back at him, calling him a cunt and wearing clothes that I found on the bus. Man, this really sums up his last few years – A guy in a tight turtleneck trapped in a sea of Monster Energy hoodies. 


And to this day, even after Kurt telling me about this genre for years, if someone told me Graham Coxon was the old guy from Succession, I’d believe them. 


So one day Kurt said fuck it, stopped unironically cutting the sleeves off Wiegedood tee shirts and decided to dust off a collection of tracks he’d been working on for years, assemble and fuckin’ primo lineup of Wellington’s least cargo shorts owning musicians and do the unthinkable, play shows not at Valhalla. 


 This lineup is bangin’ too man, we have the previously discussed Kurt on guitar, joined by the all-time queen Mina Perinskie on guitar and vocals, way more on Mina later. We have Tom Lahatte, who for real now that I type his name, I reckon there’s at least a 140% chance this cunt owns multiple pairs of cargo shorts, gut feel is at least one pair is camo too, Tom I know you’re gonna DM me about your cargo short collection, get fucked. Bass duties on the album were handled by notorious Wellington Impossible Meat salesman Sam Leamy, since the recording there has been a lineup change with Natalie Reid stepping in to handle bass duties moving forward. 


I’ve had this album for about a couple months, and I tell you what, this is a profoundly difficult album to talk about, there’s been moments where I’d sit down with my laptop to finally write how I feel about it, spend 15 minutes describing what I hear, only to hit a wall and delete it. This happened 5 or 6 times, and I really can’t figure out why. So, the other day I decide that I just have to get my thoughts into writing, even if they’re poorly articulated. I spend the day being 30% sadder to people in conversation, approached interactions with my fiancé with the vague indifference someone 80% more fuckable than I am would usually only be entitled to, you know, really get in that weird cunt recluse headspace that I figure would help me out a bit here. The next few paragraphs are from the evening of just putting my live thoughts to paper on Useless Splendour. 


When the first song, Shiver, hits, I kind of just forgot all my preconceived notions of what Shoegaze is, or what I expect it to be, whatever I’ve felt in the past about the genre was kind of just forgotten. Instead, I was overwhelmed with an immediate feeling of nostalgia, but for a band I’ve never heard and a genre I’m not overly familiar with, there was a comfort and a warmth in the riffs. The wall of fuzz coming from the guitar and bass was so fucking welcoming, the drum parts always felt like they were there to serve what is best for the music, not what will make Tom look like the man on some loser Drumeo video, fuck imagine how punishing the ‘Tom Hears Tool for the First Time’ YouTube video would be, Jesus.  


Everything felt familiar, without ever being derivative, they were overwhelmingly comforting, while still being really fucking heavy. This song, and all the songs for that matter, are simple from a form perspective, and played with such an obvious love and care for the genre while being played with such focused intent by the band members that it just oozes through the mix, what a great fucking opener. Shiver really sets the tone SO well for this album and what I hope is a long discography for the band. 


Settling in for listening to ‘Useless Splendour’ front to back is a really easy task, it clocks in at just under 40 minutes and every song brings something just fresh enough to reel you back in all over again, and honestly man, it’s fucking straight up so nice hearing Kurt play REALLY lovely music. For over a decade this dude was holding New Zealand hostage with discordant, primitive ape-man music for assholes in Tuscoma and Hollywoodfun Downstairs. Music that was written with pure hate for the listener and the desire to be nastier than anything New Zealand had going for it in the scene, and believe me, that is said as a compliment. I love both of those bands. 


But man, with Libbianski, Kurt is structuring these beautiful songs, like serene soundscapes to fuck to, as opposed to alienating, abrasive, hellscapes to be fucked to.  


First time I saw Libbianski play live, I went straight up to Kurt after the show and said “What the fuck there’s actual riffs on these tracks”, fuck I realise all this sounds like an insult but whatever fuck you man, I love violent noisy shit. But man, I tell you what, I fucking love Kurt in this role. Just a bro doing this thing he’s clearly been passionate about literally forever, and following through with these lush, beautiful tracks. 


This brings me to Mina, good fucking god where do I start. I’ve been a fan of Mina’s for the longest time, from back when I first saw her in Secrets of the Sun. I truly believe Mina is one of the most gifted singer songwriters in New Zealand, she’s fucking awesome man. She’s a straight up awesome guitarist, great presence on stage and that fucking voice man are you kidding me. I don’t know man, her voice has always just resonated so strongly with me. The track ‘Pity Platter’ really drives home what I’m trying to say, she’s so perfectly in the mix, her vocals are warm, delicate as while never sounding weak, and just fucking sincerely beautiful. I really love that she’s not pitch perfect the whole time too, there’s a realness to it that can’t be phoned in, this is a woman who is effortlessly just way fucking cooler than you. Dude how cool is it gonna be seeing her as a 60 year old woman just chain huffing cigs and playing her acoustic in Meow while people keep telling her to put out her cigs. Don’t you do it Mina, you keep smoking those cigs, fuck Meow. 


And of course, with tunes like these, you need a rhythm section that isn’t just a couple of fuckin’ show-ponies. Or in Libbianski’s case, you get a couple of show-ponies and tell them off until they really find what these tracks need. I love listening to these tracks and trying to pick the exact moments in each song where Tom would have wanted to blast beat on. Go listen to the track ‘Peak Panic’ and tell me that’s not the sound of a man, balls as blue as the sky, trying not to blast the fuck out of that tune. Gah, the fucking bass tone on this thing as well man, it’s straight up perfect. Sam is always exactly where he needs to be in the song, he often plays counterpoint to Kurt and Mina while never taking over the track, just a fucking outstanding performance. Really looking forward to seeing what Natalie brings to the band, but from everything I’ve heard from her it’s a lock on being dope as hell.  

So man, should you listen to this album? Yea honestly I don’t know what to tell you geeks, I know a lot of the people who read this website are the epitome of Valhalla punishers, in which case, the answer is fucking yes, maybe it will teach you some fucking social skills too. Honestly you don’t need to stand so close to someone to show them your shit bedroom demos on your phone, stand in the kebab place next door and never talk to me again, no one cares about your riffs.    This album will teach you humility and probably how to talk to women, and if you buy it on vinyl, it will teach you how to maintain better relationships with people in your life, except your mum, that ship sailed years ago.

As mentioned before, I rate albums on a scale of if this album could smack your head in during a fight. In this case, Libbianski wouldn’t fight you. They’d calm you down, ask you why you’re so unhappy and try coach you into forgiving yourself for all the bad decisions you’ve made in your life, but also two members of this band could beat the shit out of any one of you, and one of those isn’t Tom. So, yea you figure it out. 
Just figure it out while you’re listening to Useless Splendour.  
EDITORS NOTE - As I was hitting the button to upload this I thought to myself, ’Useless Splendour' sounds like a Nathan for You episode about a coffee sweetener that makes your coffee taste a bit worse.’ But it’s too late to rework a paragraph to fit that a new bit, so yea, one for you freaks out there I guess. 

Useless Splendour can be found HERE and on every digital streaming platform April 1st. 

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