Aman much wiser than I once said “I love it when a plan comes together.” And though I’m pretty sure that at the time this deeply perceptive soothsayer was chomping on a cigar and talking to Mr. T after landing a van inside an airplane, he could easily have been discussing Melbourne’s CIVIC.
Australia has a rich history of unbelievable unsung bands of the punk and pub rock variety, as for every AC/DC there are dozens upon dozens like Rose Tattoo, Coloured Balls, the Saints, and X. Bands that made major ripples in influence and created timeless records—shaping everything from punk to hard rock to Oil—but never got the credit they deserved.
Around five years ago, the excellent Teenage Hate radio show out of Melbourne was singing the praises of local band CIVIC and their New Vietnam EP. Besides being an incredibly melodic and well-crafted set of seven burners, it contained a fury and urgency that everyone attempts but no one quite executes. It quickly became one of the best releases of the year, an incendiary 20 minutes of garage-influenced punk perfection released on a local Australian label and never given a proper push in the States. A personal trip to AU later that year confirmed for me that not only did guitarist Lewis Hodgson have a great band in CIVIC, but his CUNTZ and Whipper projects also crushed. Ain’t nobody shocked.
As the years passed and we entered into the year of our Lord ATIKG (After Tame Impala and King Gizzard), interest in the Aussie rock scene grew more intense, with bands like Amyl and the Sniffers and the Chats taking off, not to mention an avalanche of incredible music coming from smaller punk and indie circles. And so began the feeding frenzy, as the A&R wolves sharpened their teeth and descended on the AU scene, thankfully emerging with CIVIC as a new signee to ATO. Lurther proof of the theory that for every reckless signing-spree acquisition like King Missile, there’s a nugget like Soundgarden in there somewhere.
It’s now 2023 and CIVIC are releasing their second LP, Taken by Force, building on the promise of 2021’s Future Forecast with meaner riffs and more melodicism, all with that snarky charm and a much stronger nod to underground Aussie greats. After self-producing their debut EP and LP, the band figured why not go to one of their heroes, Rob Younger of Radio Birdman, to man the console for their ATO debut.
“Well, we’d never even had a producer before—never even tried a producer out. But someone had suggested Rob Younger because he is mates with my partner’s dad,” recalls Jim McCollough. “I thought, ‘That’s not gonna happen,’ but we hit him up and he rang me. I respect him as much as Iggy or something, you know? So I’m talking to my idol on the phone and he’s like, ‘Let’s do it.’ Apparently he already knew who we were.”
With a half hour of lean and mean songs, an established legend by their side, and a soon-to-be legend mixing and mastering the effort (Mikey Young of Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, etc.), the odds are officially in their favor that they won’t just be talked about in hushed tones by crate diggers 20 years from now. CIVIC are standing on the shoulders of giants and ready for the challenge, the one laid before them by their ancestors—to swing for the fences in a way that they never could. Because as Hodgson freely admits, “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that we’ve always tried to bite Radio Birdman a bit.”
Yeah, you and every other good band.