Cong! is the freshly released debut LP from Melbourne-based international man of mystery Cong Josie. If you think hard enough and squint you may see the letters of Cong Josie rearrange to form the name Nic Oogjies, the heat beat maestro from the one and only NO ZU, but that might just be a mirage. Here at Cyclic Defrost we have bumped into Cong a few times in the last few months, and in order to celebrate the release of his debut album on local powerhouse It Records, we thought we’d throw Cong a bone and get him to list a few of his influential tunes. Between you and me, Cong’s music reminds me of that scene in Mad Max where Goose goes to the roadhouse nightclub filled with leggy singers, sizzling saxophones and Australian heat, and I wasn’t 100% surprised when Cong sent back their list of songs from the world of cinema and television. Spoiler alert – no Twin Peaks. Without any further ado, here is Cong Josie’s Cyclic Selects:
A lot, maybe most, of Cong’s influences come from music I loved in childhood/teen years. I’ve always been fascinated with music that moved me, perplexed me, scared me, overwhelmed me with emotion or coloured my world somehow when I was too young to understand what I was hearing. How innocent. Also, in interviews recently the influence of film came up a lot and really made sense to me when talking about the new album, Cong!. I guess in both childhood and in film, music has the ability to catch you off guard, ambush you, hijack you, and embed itself in your psyche in a different way than when you feel you’re in control and seeking the music out. This vulnerability is beautiful and exciting, I think. Your unspoken beliefs, values, titillations, fears, desires and ideas of beauty (and who knows what else) all yabba behind your back conspiring, zapping synapses and change you in the process. Wild.
So, I’ve made a list of songs from the screen (all big except one small). Not all of these are from my childhood. My mum wouldn’t have let me watch Wild At Heart and nor would I have wanted to (maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was out then, or Under Seige…). BUT! the ones that hit me in adult life just re-exposed all that subconscious graffiti where archetypes of cool and style – the 50’s/60’s revival periods through the 80’s and 90’s mainly – live and want to be loved and solidified them further. For better or for worse.
Moral is: Whatever deep diving into the cobwebs and dark alleys of your mind that you’ve gotta do to pull out a (fools) golden-voice that’ll make you a lot of money, you’ve just gotta do it right? We all know this singing game means big bucks, fame and fortune in this town and in that spirit here’s the list:
Nicolas Cage – Love Me (Wild At Heart)
My God. This scene is perfection though it could have done with some adoring male fans too – though I suppose it is playing/criticizing this ‘masculine’ I-wish-I-was-Elvis mirror hair-brush singin fantasy some of us may have *wink wink*… Nic can really sing and this sort of being out of step (50’s obsessed in the modern world – in this case) is something I think many of us can relate to, true? Also his line regarding the impeccable snakeskin jacket: “This is a snakeskin jacket! And for me it’s a symbol of my individuality, and my belief… in personal freedom.”. Yeah this is a very ‘Cong’ fantasy.
Ollie Olson – Win/Lose (Dogs In Space)
Well of course. We did a version of this… if only to sidle up a little closer to the footnotes of Australian post-punk history and to (in a microscopic way) continue to herald it and the greatness of this period of music. Seeing Ollie perform this song at a house party (in the film) was a key milestone moment for me. He is the underdog (to say, ‘Shivers’ or Iggy or Michael Hutchence on the soundtrack) and the real raw ready-to-go-set-up-anywhere-ness performance, was a type of musical freedom I craved at the time and have finally achieved through Cong I feel. Also — it’s our home town actually represented with dishevelled but glamorous visuals, music and dialogue, and presented as being a bit rough, but legitimately it’s own thing. I can do it too! So can you!
Olivia Newton-John – Hopelessly Devoted To You (Grease)
In primary school it was all Grease, the Grease megamix, the ‘Nutbush’ and maybe ‘Cream’ by Prince. That’s it. At least that’s how I remember it. Now this song of course wasn’t the mega moment of the film as presented in the magamix, but upon revisiting arguably stands up as the least musical-like (as in song and dance film ‘musical’) song – holding it’s own. Pretty saccharine sure, but those hooks and heart felt delivery by a faultless Olivia all lifted by silky country pedal steel guitar leaves me, melodramatically, breathless. *puts hand to forehead and faints*
Suicide – Surrender (Attenburg)
Yeah, yeah I like Suicide. Who doesn’t? I really was content with the first two records for some time. This song playing in this weirdo wonky film that is also a bit of a self-conscious love letter to Suicide’s music hit me. Alan Vega’s ghost-of-Elvis low warblings are so sweetly balanced by the romantic feminine vocals singing “I surrender”. It reminds me a little of the dynamic of Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhatten’, but not so (gloriously) cheesy.
Stud Cole – Burn Baby Burn (I Am Not OK)
(+ bonus) *Jack Starr – You Only Live Once
I think this show ‘I Am Not OK’ was/is on Netflix. After the final bingey cliffhanger, dramatic moment of one of the episode the screen cuts to black and this demon like distorted scream of “buuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrn” followed by some dirty blues and sleazy crooning ushers in the credits. Oh, I love those exclamation moments. They’re addictive aren’t they? Like Xray Spex at the end of a Handmaid’s Tale episode. Anyway, that sent me down a rabbit hole of discovering (or getting to know more intimately) Norten Records roster of wild-man rock’n’roll and rockabilly artists. Real outsiders. Early home recorders. Disrupters, upsetters and loose units. The Cramps should be credited hugely for promoting so many of these type of wackos and their music too. That feeds into where I see Cong’s place is among this music world I move in that I have no rightful place to be in at all. I’m just an imposter. I love the idea of being free enough to burn it all down for the gamble that some people might like the ruins. I guess it’s fine if they don’t too, but I still want to play shows and have new experiences so it requires some sort of handshake. I feel like that’s where people like Stud maybe were coming from.
Roy Orbison – You Got It (Boys On The Side)
OK, I did whatever I could here to add this song. I don’t know this movie and it looks pretty bad. Is it? Also, I needed Roy to be in this list, but I know how predictable it is to go on about Lynch films and I already have! Jorlando (Crying) is in Mullholand Drive and ‘In Dreams (AKA ‘Candy Coloured Clown’ according to Dennis Hopper’s character) is in Blue Velvet. Then there’s Pretty Woman, but let’s not go there. This song, ‘You Got It’ though, I stole the dynamic of the timpani hits from it for ‘Persephone’. As in, the idea of the big emotion ‘dummm dummm’ hits anyway. I don’t know, FM radio in the 90’s couldn’t get enough of this song and it made the hairs stand on the back of neck each time. Now, knowing more about Roy’s tragic life story (do look it up if you don’t know), his almost-tearful and somehow fragile/powerful voice makes so much sense. This song represents an incredible comeback musically for him too. My comeback will look more like a Tote front bar gig on a Wednesday in 2041.
Screaming Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You (Stranger Than Paradise)
I’ve gotta cool it on writing an essay with a vodka next to me for these next ones. Apologies if you have already fallen asleep. Really, just watch the vids and ignore me. Just quickly though, before you do – super hip film, I know, but this is the heaviest song out there and I love the use of songs in Jim Jarmusch films whereby a song or two or three are obsessed over and recontextualised in a way. Like how many of us get with some songs and then apply it to our day to day lives until they are locked in with moments and periods of time. This was the case for me with this song for awhile there. It’s magic (like it’s actually about magic of sorts) and it’s so heavy and swampy. I think the song ‘Lorelei’ from the Cong! album must have got it’s stomp from this somehow.
Them – Gloria (The Outsiders)
High school English studying The Outsiders. We finally get to watch the film instead of borrrring reading. This collision of undeniably super Brill-cream switchbladin cool with the sharp catharsis of ‘Gloria’ mixed with memories upon memories of hearing this on the Van Morrison best of (one of four CD’s my Dad had in his car) driving up to Kyabram and Rochester every school holidays looking out at sun scorched paddocks and Euro-invader land-destruction had an impact.
Crime and City Solution – Six Bells Chime (Wings of Desire)
Maybe my favourite film. Maybe because of the time in my life when I watched it (early/mid 20’s, quite serious, earnest, obsessing over Rowland S Howard, Lydia Lunch and affiliated gothy post-punk), maybe because it’s just beautiful, existential, universal, gentle and caring… and quietly funny too. When Margarita and I went to Berlin for the first time we bought a Wings of Desire map from some movie shop place and sought out locations from the film. i was trying to be transported to some dilapidated glamorous club where Crime and The City Solution and Nick Cave are performing… maybe Blixa would be there? I must have been a drag. It didn’t work. Oh, and to put these Australians in you super arty black and white ‘cultural’ film… once again, it gives you hope that you can come from here and do… something…
Wynona Carr – Please Mr Jailer (cover appeared in Cry Baby)
Oh dear, I keep writing. essays even when I promised I wouldn’t. The Cry Baby scene is so phenomenally campy, that anyone with a pulse that doesn’t enjoy it in the same way that we’d all, say, love to grab big hand fulls of popcorn and shove into our mouths everyday without the inevitable regret…. then, we can’t be best friends. We can still be friends though.
Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)
Mad Max, for some reason looks like it would smell like my uncles and their biker mags in the 80’s, Rochester, petrol and my Oma’s Drum tobacco. It has somehow become linked to a feeling in the way the smell can invoke memory. I’m not sure how real it is. Years later: playing at a very DIY bush festival in WA once with NO ZU, after the last band had played and only a few people remained mingling on the dusty open area, over the immaculate sound system and with freedom and adventure in the air, the DJ played an instrumental of this song and it all fit so perfectly. I just watched the Tina Turner doco too. Makes me love the song and her even more. Now to work out how to get, our very own, Nutbush City Limits into a Cong set. Did you know it’s only us bizarre Australian’s that do that line dance to the song?
The Crystals – He’s A Rebel (Scorpio Rising)
Just dangerous and sexy biker imagery set to pop from the pre-Beatles era. The sparkling piano introduction with the female gaze lyrics about a beautiful rebel boy paired with film of a leathered up greaser strolling down a street at night, intercut with old movie footage depicting Jesus and his disciples is too much. Loaded, you might say. It’s at once humorous, dark, Marlon Brando cool and iconoclastic. I guess I love symbols and that’s what Cong plays with too. Seeing how they rub and press up against each other and how they might reflect right now simply by nature of the time in history that they exist in…
Anyway, I hope there’s a cheap buck in all of this showbiz or I’m going to have to quit writing rambling indulgent essays on music and go back to selling shoes.
Cong! is released via IT Records. You can find it here.