Review by Vince Leigh
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Azim Zain moved to Adelaide at seventeen years old to finish high school then moved to Canberra to do a double degree during which time Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones became part of the Canberra punk scene, their notoriety stemming from their live shows, sing-a-longs, and community-focus DIY ethos.
Punk has always been about DIY. The ironic touch of Azim’s title is acknowledged: of course, punk was never meant to pay the bills.
Yet the title is but a mere title. Punk Don’t Pay the Bills is more shoegaze dreamy pop-punk than punk. The guitar distortion is of the jangly kind, the drums precise and thick with plodding appeal, the vocals adhering to the architecture of the melodies and the instrumentation makes for a full, fever pitch sound, quite polished in an indie kind of way.
Polished and persuasive.
With a series of inventive dynamics, the track soars, sways and assumes a myriad of moods, bringing into relief an element of measured melancholia yet retaining an attractive fervent core. An effete sense of sadness is there, amid the hyperbolic accents and studious silences: in Azim’s voice, perhaps most obviously at the song’s conclusion. Though this undercurrent of blue is most often cloaked by the almost joyous abandon in which the tale is told; it is a form of punk, I suppose, thrashing through the air with a determined, one-track combustible flourish.
The knowledge that Azim has geographical issues to consider, he is apparently not quite an Australian (in the legal sense) because of a visa mix-up, imbues the track or perhaps our perception of the track, with an added layer of cautious sobriety. The record has enough zest and earnestness to caress an emotional lever anyway but with this extraneous information this caress feels strangely more inviting. We like our punks to have issues. That’s the whole point.
And I would agree, for the most part, punk perhaps don’t pay the bills (though I wouldn’t necessarily leave out any of the other genres either) but I’m sure it has and does for some.
Perhaps Azim might be one of them.