Music / Features
Track by Track:
Alien Nosejob -
Once Again The Present Becomes The Past
Words by James Lynch
Wednesday 7th October, 2020
On Once Again The Present Becomes The Past, Melbourne’s busiest rocker Alien Nosejob (aka Jake Robertson) pulls another U-turn and veers back into grimy punk territory with a new level of focus, firmly gripped on war and history’s insistence on repeating itself.
If you’re a fan of Australian garage or punk and you don’t know who Jake Robertson is, you’ve got a fair bit of catching up to do. He’s been responsible for spewing up much of the most recklessly invigorating music to come out of the country over the past decade, consistently zigzagging between an inconceivable number of projects and styles (Ausmuteants, Hierophants, School Damage, Leather Towel, The Frowning Clouds, Swab, Drug Sweat…). In short, he’s a bit of a madman and he can’t be stopped.

Most recently, he’s taken to making music on his own as Alien Nosejob, which I doubt he’d call a solo project - it seems like more of an outlet to facilitate whatever wild idea he feels like unravelling next. Released earlier this year, his second album Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud plays like a purposeful celebration of this, as a thrilling journey across his varied musical tendencies between scrappy garage-pop, warped punk and synthy new-wave. Now just eight months on, he’s revealed his next full-length and flipped everything on its head again. Still as manic and hyperactive as ever, Once Again The Present Becomes The Past is perhaps his most focused record so far, firmly rooting itself in 70s/80s hardcore-punk and establishing a gripping and persistent theme - that history is forever repeating itself.

Save for a few synth interludes to ease the album’s breakneck pace, Once Again The Present Becomes The Past is a relentless and furious blitz, characterised by frenzied guitar antics, propulsive machine-gun drums and helmed by Jake’s frantic yelp. Early highlight ‘Airborne Toxic Event’ is quick to set the tone, the track heaving as layers of dirt-crusted guitar screech and splutter over a charging backbeat, and despite the more serious subject-matter, Jake’s reliable smirk still radiates from the sprawl of noise, notably as he howls “oxygen looks like smoke, water looks like diet coke”.

As the album powers on, Alien Nosejob remains as sharp and forceful as ever, especially so as the album’s weightiness begins to amount on itself and warp. Yet, as the frenetic and buoyant moments of ‘Spearfish Torpedo’ and ‘1984 Once More’ eventually become crustier to round the album out with the brutal one-two of ‘The Path To Extinction’ and ‘Mutilated Turtle’, it’s just about impossible to look anywhere else, and all there is to do is clutch on for the ride.

To help us dig even further into the album, Jake has walked us through each moment on Once Again The Present Becomes The Past.
Piano Prelude

Just a lil piano bit with lots of wind and space to set a somewhat peaceful atmosphere. I used the harmonic minor scale to give a melancholic feeling, as if the listener was remembering a brighter time. This intro was heavily influenced by a Japanese punk band called Gas.

Airborne Toxic Event

The opening pick slide into chord hit is meant to represent a plane dropping a bomb, confirming that the peaceful times of the prelude are gone. This was the hardest song to record. When you record everything yourself at home it is really easy to take shortcuts, so I made a rule prior to recording that I had to do complete takes of every instrument, I didn't want to 'drop in' any parts, so the songs still had a live and chaotic feel, even though they were all multi-tracked at home. I bet my partner Carolyn was pulling her hair out hearing the repetitious cycle of guitar riff > mistake > me swearing loudly. The song title was lifted from the Don DeLillo book White Noise. The lyrics were written on one of the worst days of the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires which probably explains why this song is set during a fallout. It is the first (of many) to mention ‘the present becoming the past'.

Spearfish Torpedo

This was the first song I wrote for this album. One of the slow, almost ballad-like songs Am-I-Right!?

When I was a kid my Pop would tell me battle stories of his time in the Navy. One tale I remember was about two Spearfish Torpedoes skimming along either side of his ship (HMAS Pirie), both narrowly missing. On the same day a cannonball decapitated his Gunnery Officer. (Pictures of the cannon shell holes which narrowly missed my Pop are available on the Navy.Gov website).

I vividly remember him telling me about this while I was playing with a toy gun, as it was perhaps my earliest thoughts of war being horrific and not glorified like it can be in an action movie. He also told me a nicer story of his Captain dropping a Depth Charge to kill a boatload of fish (Sounds like Apocalypse Now, right?) to offer the local civilians on an island of Papua New Guinea. They presented them the fish and set up a projector to all watch a movie together. He told me they were to reciprocate the following night by holding a dance party for the Naval crew.

Air Raid On N.T.

More horrific imagery of the instant a disaster hits. The second song I wrote for this album (which started its life as a concept album about the bombing of Darwin). In retrospect I was taking influence from Anti-Cimex's Victims of a Bomb Raid and Gas' No More Hiroshima Musically this one is the most 'Boom, Chick', pogo-y, straight drum beat punk song in the style of The Stalin or something.

Couple of bits of trivia:
-The solo for this song was influenced by the slinky/slidey sounds of CCR's ‘Effigy’ and the explosion sound is a slowed down version of the one from Love's '7 And 7 Is' (which itself was a slowed down gunshot).
-The ending of this song was very loosely based on Jimmy Smack's 'Hating Life’.

Pointed Shears

This song was written after one of many afternoons at Clint Chapman's house where he introduced me to Sacrilege's Behind The Realms of Madness LP. In my teen years I'd spent a lot of time avoiding crust bands, because their fans often shitted me. In a way I'm glad I was so ignorant when I was younger, because I'm now discovering great records that a lot of punk fans wore out when they were 17 (see also: Crass' Feeding Of The 5000). When I showed Clint this record, he asked me if it was just a coincidence that this track sounded like a certain Sacrilege song we'd been listening to a few weeks prior. Busted.

The Day After

Originally was meant to open the record, but I thought it was too long for today's attention span. Listen to those stupid synth tones - what is this, Game of Thrones??

Present Becomes Past

The song that lyrically encapsulates the album. History repeating itself like a snake eating its own tail. The riff in this song originally started off as a 60's garage rock, Back From The Grave kinda song (oh what a difference a drum beat makes). I added a vibrato effect to the lead guitar to give the whole song a feeling of motion sickness. "The twins will fall once more. Lightning strikes where it did before. Another year, another war. It happened before and it will happen once more.”

9:58 am

Token military drumbeat song. This one is trying to be Dead Kennedys, but probably ends up being sub-Subhumans (UK) kind of song. This was the hardest song to mix, because its only interesting factor is a snare drum.

Once More 1984

The good thing about writing a concept album around 'repetition' is that you can just say the same shit over and over again. Loosely inspired by a couple of Norwegian hardcore punk bands. I also make a little reference to the Zager and Evans song 'In The Year 2525' which tells the terrifying decline of mankind over 10,000 years and makes Barry McGuire look like Perry Como. "Men stand up on all fours beating at their chests, humans fighting humans until not one human’s left. 1984 has happened before and it will happen once more.”

I sent this song to Billy (Living Eyes/Anti Fade) to ask if the chord progression was too similar to Living Eyes - 'Fear of Heights'. He told me it reminded him more of 'My Pal' and I nearly left it off the album as a result haha.

Piano Interlude

Hahaha I forgot I put this on. What a scary and pointless 40 seconds.

Sound of Sirens

I thought I was a genius for the play on words in this title - then I googled it, 16,900,000 results. Oh well. I remember this song taking me so long to get even though it's one of the more simple riffs. The “fish on the land, humans in the sea" line was a somewhat bleak nod to Australian Crawl's 'Beautiful People' which had the line “the garden's filled with furniture, the house is filled with plants".

When I got the master back I realised I mispronounced “putrefaction". Re-recording it would mean I'd have to pay Mikey Young again. Yeah right, fat chance Mike. Ray Davies flew from New York to London just to change "Coca-Cola" to "Cherry Cola" in ‘Lola’ and I can't even be bothered changing a made-up word to a real word from the comfort of my own home. That's just one of the differences between Ray Davies (the greatest songwriter of all time) and me.

The Path To Extinction

The title is a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which for some reason I didn't read until last year. Different to the movie and just as good, if not better. Anyway, this isn't Goodreads. This song is about the end of the world, but not the next end of the world, this end of the world is based 500 years from now - because y'know (it happened before, it'll happen again etc.).

This song is a snappy little number that probably came to life from playing music with Blake (Ill Globo/Swab/Alien Nosejob live band) who draws lots of influence from Powerviolence (a genre I never got into, but I like it in small doses). I think I'm more trying to do a Gauze kinda thing, albeit, unsuccessfully.

Mutilated Turtles

This song is set after societal collapse. The rise of violence leading to barbarism and cannibalism. Humans have devolved back to slightly higher intelligence than the Manapes portrayed in A Space Odyssey. I also had The Maypole Song from The Wicker Man soundtrack and the mortifying turtle scene from Cannibal Holocaust in mind when writing this song. An image of apocalypse survivors holding hands, moving in a circle, singing songs of the past and songs of sacrifice to pagan gods. Another nod to Raymond Douglas Davies - where have all the good times gone? I don't know, but they're gone.

Dead Pelican

This album starts awfully close to where it begins. Lots of synthesised wind sounds and slow piano. The distant “oh my god, that pelican is dead" is a tip of the hat to the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters in Hamlet. Two characters that are largely forgotten about in the play. After the majority of main characters die in the final scene, two guardsmen report the news of the death of (the forgotten) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In the album, after the majority of the population is extinct, one of the survivors is shocked by the sight of a dead pelican. What a piece of work is a man.

Once Again The Present Becomes The Past is out now via Anti Fade Records - head to to grab the album on limited vinyl.