SHOOT THE MESSENGER - The Bakelite Age (Spooky Records)
If past efforts were all over the shop, stylistically speaking, "Shoot The Messenger" manages to be no less so, yet sounds infinitely more coherent. A trick of the light or better songs? I'm too busy soaking up these sublime psych-punk sounds to make up my mind.

Mainman Link McLennan - aka Link Meanie of hyperactive pop-punkers The Meanies - has a musical track record longer than an identity thief's credit card receipt trail, and his output's marked by a sense of wacky quaintness or sheer oddity.

There's plenty off-the-wall weirdness going down on "Shoot The Messenger" - "Jesus Versus The Id" might be the strangest moment, lyrically speaking - and you'd be well advised to avoid the brown acid when within earshot of most of this.

"Shoot The Messenger" is first and foremost a guitar album with strong '60s overtones. Link's vocal is placed slightly back in the mix so his playing and that of lead guitarist Kieran Clancy is thrown into relief. Guest keyboardist Nick Finch adds textures and trimmings to neat effect.

Love-like opener "Camera Fizz" reverberates like the best West Coast psych before falling down a burrow of tangled guitars to leave just a metronomic signal fade-out. "Black Curse" sounds like a heavier Creation while the stately yet searing album centrepiece, "The Seratonin Sea", takes the raunch 'n' fuzz a step further in the psychedelic stakes.

"The Harvester" sounds more like the death march of a thousand scarecrows than a happening time down on the farm with a skittish beat dragging it on through a keyboard-studded field. Contrast with the warbling instro funk of "Hunted God's Future Shock (Exit Music)" or the Crampsian (and appropriately skeletal) howl of "Shedding The Pounds" and you'll know the word Variety a whole lot better. The sheer scope of "Shoot The Messenger" is a strength.

The closest this album gets to mainstream is the majestic pop of "Crawlin' Round The Cellar" which was unsurprisingly promo'd to radio, but a fair and just world would also see "Look Out, Body Snatchers!" and "The Seratonin Sea" given AM airtime.

Who cares if his neighbours think Link and his mates are weirtd? Celebrate uniqueness and buy it twice. - The Barman




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RETURN OF THE MAGICAL MOLERAT - The Bakelite Age (Spooky Records)
Link “Meanie” McLennan seems to have been a fixture on the Melbourne scene for decades. Wait a minute- he has. His good humour and casual attitude to life might just be a clever front for something steely inside- since the demise of former acts the Meanies and the Tomorrow People he’s kept the Bakelite Age on the rails for a few years now, and now they have managed to produce album number two. And it’s excellent.

Following a label change from In-Fidelity, this has been recorded & produced by Loki Lockwood, as are so many Spooky releases - and if there’s a better, more sympathetic producer working around town right now I’d like to know who it is.

The Bakers (as their friends call them) often seem to be working in a kind of goofy private code, and sometimes the lyrics sound like they were written on acid, but there is no denying the power of this set.

Although their name may conjure up images of art deco radios squawking out Rudy Vallee show tunes, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The sound they summon up ranges from fairly standard garage-y rock to a few darker and deeper moments, and there’s a bracket of three tunes planted smack in the middle of this disc that are as strong, catchy and interesting as anything you’ll hear anywhere else this year.

“Tinker Blues” is full of clanging off-key chords, but comes together every few bars for the choruses. There’s a lazy loping rhythm to “Cooler King”, which is mostly spoken rather than sung, and “Brotherhood of the Bowel” (no, I don’t know what that is, and I don’t really want to, thanks) is a careering bluesy thing.

There’s a lyric sheet/insert to help you decipher what this is all about but frankly I gave up- it’s better to leave it opaque, to snatch a line out here and there where you can- “I feel like Mother Theresa on Guy Fawkes night”, or “ Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a hooker by the toe”, for instance- and just enjoy the squalling of that home made rectangular guitar. - TJ Honeysuckle


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