REVIEW: Applespiel Make A Band And Take On The Recording Industry | CarriageWorks, Sydney
Applespiel is a Sydney (Wollongong originally, but don’t hold that against them) ‘performance collective’ that’s enjoyed, I understand, some little success at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as closer to home. On this occasion, Applespiel Make A Band And Take On The Recording Industry. That’s the name of their 60-minute show developed at Performance Space last year. The inevitable comparison is to Spinal Tap, as they shoot a live mockumentary which mercilessly lampoons the music business; just desserts, after years of inflicting empty hype and boring us senseless with a continuous avalanche popstar inanity only exceeded by sportspersons and their minders.
Applespiel, the band, enjoys a rapid rise to fame and they clearly have trouble dealing with it, like any self-abusing, fucked-up rock or hip-hop luminary. Inasmuch, there isn’t much that’s new here, which means its down to execution to keep it lively and entertaining. Fortunately, there’s plenty of colour and movement; especially the latter, since all and sundry switch from instrument to instrument, man handheld cameras, rearrange the set and so on.
It’s a nightmarish, labyrinthine feat of production and stage management. The blueprint for such must’ve looked like pure genius. The actuality, however, has plenty of lapsed cues and other minor mishaps which, unfortunately, make what could look so slick it would be worthy of acclamations and bravos in itself look just a little too amateurish, beyond the bounds of it adding to the amusement. An anally retentive, obsessive-compulsive technical director is what’s needed to really pull it together. At that point an original tilt on a nothing-really-new parodic theme, fortified by a clever script would become a quite brilliant production. At the moment it has all the inbuilt fun a billycart is meant to, except the wheels are sometimes in danger of falling off.
But there’s still plenty to laugh at, including songs that (ironically, even though out-and-out parodies) sound a whole lot better than some ‘real’, current hits. The versatility and talent of the Applespielers as actors, instrumentalists and singers is pretty damn impressive; in some cases more than others, for sure, but nonetheless.
For anyone that’s been following popular music (whether pop, rock, soul, metal, r ‘n’ b, or what-have-you) for a long time, resonant glimpses of Janis, Jimi, The Doors, or bands much closer to home aren’t hard to spot: it seems these young guns have done their homework. And let’s face it, when it comes to over-indulgence, addiction, egotism and sheer, unadulterated idiocy, they’ve no shortage of inspirations on which to draw.
The piece has plenty of pace and momentum and it’s almost enough of an entertainment in its own right to see these young performers dart and careen around the large stage in the attempt to pull off the linear logistical complexities they’ve designed for themselves. One moment they’re playing live; the next, doing interviews or shooting them on one of four video cameras. The audience can choose to watch ‘the making of’, or the instant, two-minute-noodled ‘finished’ product, on overhanging screens. There’s even some footage they prepared earlier. It’s a blur of virtual choreography.
One of the most successful and sardonic scenes is one in which several ‘spielers lay down o a patch of artificial grass, with only their heads in shot, symmetrically arranged, to commit one of their songs to a video clip.
Overall, the concept observes and explores just how quickly and easily a legend can be born; often of precious little. Think The Bay City Rollers. Or Milli Vanilli. Rock ‘n’ roll and swindles are a dime a dozen. And before you know it, like television Superman Jim Reeves, hey presto, the legendary band members are feeding on their own publicity and are poisoned by it. All of a sudden a suburban began is a rock god.
Thus, at the end of the day, it’s hard to tell the difference between Applespiel and, say, Metallica, if their docks are anything to go by. The members of the latter seemed not to have the slightest sense of their own ridiculousness. At least Applespiel still know how to get out of character.
More generally, Applespiel have hit upon a formidable way in which to ridicule the cult of celebrity, which has festered from a cult into a mainstream religion.
The details: Applespiel Make A Band And Take On The Recording Industry played Carriageworks from July 25 until August 4.