Dumpster Fire: Ausmuteants


Image Credit: f4.bcbits.com

Niccolo Bechtler

If you told me there was a concept album I needed to listen to, I’d probably imagine some complex heady thing full of swishy pad synths and existential questions. But punk band Ausmuteants’ 2019 record ” …Present the World in Handcuffs” is a concept album stripped of all pretensions while maintaining satirical cleverness and a memey Australian sense of humor. And, lest I forget, it’s loud as hell.

“…Present the World in Handcuffs” is an album about police brutality and abuse of power. In today’s landscape, the issue is grave and front­center in most people’s minds. Ausmuteants, then, could have written a self­serious album that unpacks the complex societal underpinnings of excessive force, and it probably would have been nice and angry.

But it also would have been kind of artificial or overthought, coming from a band whose past discography includes songs with names like “Pissed Myself Twice” and “Kicked in the Head by a Horse.” Instead, Ausmuteants wrote an old school New Wave­ punk record that makes a Monty Python­ish mockery of the absurd lives of police officers.

The album opens with “Favorite Cop,” which sets the tone with its first lyric, a Hulk Hogan­voiced scream of “cops rule!” overtop of a driving drumline. Right off the rip, we get a nice dumb joke that still has some cultural commentary to it. The song goes on to give us a look into the egotistical inner life of the album’s protagonist (antagonist?), an Australian cop who wants to know “how one man can have some much sex appeal.” “Take a look at this planet,” he says at the beginning of the album’s second track, “The World In Handcuffs.” “Doesn’t it make you want to vomit?” he asks. Ausmuteants embody the pent­up rage that drives people to seek power over others, to fix all of our problems by putting “the world in handcuffs.”

It’s a hilarious album, and I laugh aloud at least once every time I listen to it. (Plus it’s only 16 minutes long, so you really have no excuse not to give it a go). I especially love that Ausmuteants wrote the record specifically about an Australian cop; American police are too obvious, too culturally significant to be the butt of a joke like this, but Australian police are just goofy enough that it’s funny to imagine them taking themselves so seriously.

That seriousness has a place in the album too, though. As with all the best jokes, “…Present the World in Handcuffs” draws from a reality—in this case, one of violence—that we don’t like to think about. It presents to us a character who wants to fix all the world’s problems by himself, but has no idea how to actually go about doing it. He’ll “cuff every last piece of slime” in an effort to stop what he sees as the evil in the world, but it never works. He’s driven to self­destruction by his desire for power and order. He comes from a generations ­long line of cops, and feels that policing is his birthright; his entitlement comes from his rigid values and his upbringing. In this way, the album is actually a deep, empathetic portrait of its lead cop, despite its joking around at the first listen.

That intersection of comedy and commentary is what makes ” …Present the World in Handcuffs” such a good record. It has a sense of humor that makes you want to play it for friends, the same way that The Chats’ “Smoko” did when its music video went viral back in 2017. But unlike The Chats, Ausmuteants have some serious critical work to do, too. Why should you have to choose between jokes and big concepts? Get you a band that can do both. Go give Ausmuteants’ “…Present the World in Handcuffs” a listen and see what I mean.