If Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are the brains and Midnight Oil is the heart and conscious of the Australian music scene, Cosmic Psychos would be its shit-stained id. A band of heavy drinking, no-nonsense blokes from outside of Melbourne, this trio, alongside their mates in feedtime, perfected a hard-nosed, fuzzy, and blistering sound that helped influence ’90s rock gods like Mudhoney, L7, and Nirvana.
So what else makes this gang of self-proclaimed “yobbos” worthy of a feature-length documentary, rather than any of their peers or contemporaries? Much of it comes down to the personalities involved. Ross Knight, longtime front man for the group, speaks with the graceless ease of someone who has spent the better part of his life working on a farm. When he talks about writing songs or touring, you get the feeling that Knight approaches it all with the same attitude as tilling a field: it’s just something that has to be done. And as this film proves, Knight is singularly fascinating person. When we find him initially, he is matter-of-factly talking about the potential of losing his family farm in an impending divorce. And about two-thirds of the way through, we learn of Knight’s interest in bodybuilding and weightlifting. It was a hobby at first, but, sweetly, he speaks of keeping it up so he can help carry around his cerebral palsy afflicted son.
Knight’s personal story unfortunately gets shoehorned uncomfortably into the history of the band. And that history, as entertaining as it is, resorts to hitting all the usual notes of your typical music documentary. It starts with a montage of still pictures of the band intercut with talking head interviews with musicians like Eddie Vedder, Mark Arm (Mudhoney), and Buzz Osbourne (Melvins) talking up the greatness of Cosmic Psychos. From there, director Matt Weston takes us point-by-point through the band’s wonderful and sordid history, sticking mostly with the high notes. What drama there is — the dismissal of guitarist Peter Jones early on, the firing of original drummer Bill Walsh for possible financial improprieties — is skimmed over quickly so as to get to more shots of Vedder and former Mudhoney bassist Matt Lukin playing a game in which you try and drop a 50 cent piece in a glass using your butt cheeks.
Thanks to the continued presence of Knight, Blokes remains a fun diversion, and a nice feather in the cap of a band that has only ever achieved cult status around the world. And if it gets new fans scouring their local record shops for a copy of Go the Hack or their Amphetamine Reptile releases, then Weston has done a very good thing with this film, indeed.