RADIO ACTIVE - Mach Pelican (Bop! Records)
If to know the Ramones is to love them, more bands than ever count themselves among the besotted. It's the smart ones who know that when you're on the Road to Ruin, you better find your own path or be forever consigned to the fast-building scrapheap of unoriginality. The Riverdales or Screeching Weasel, anyone?

I wouldn't be the first person to tag Japan-via-Perth-and-now-Melbourne trio, Mach Pelican, "Ramones Clones", and probably won't be the last. Well, fuck that for a joke. If proof were needed that lazy stereotyping is out the window, "Radio Active" is it.

"Radio Active" bristles with buzzsaw guitars and churning rhythmic drive but the overriding take-out is strong-armed pop without added fizz or saccharine. There's ample grunt in the bottom-end and tonal variety in vocalist K Rock's guitar attack. That's to say, he plays the parts Johnny Ramone couldn't/wouldn't. Astu C Roll doesn't just pummel his bass like Dee Dee, he actually plays it, and Toshi 8Beat isn't as metallic a drummer as Marky Ramone. The pliability of the engine room works but they're still simple and economical, in the best punk sense.

Like their cousins The Spazzys (all three of whom provide guest vocals on the spiffing cover of "Love Is Strange"), the Pelicans know the value of a great hook - and more importantly when to apply it. The result is an album that's two rungs up the evolutionary ladder from all those Ramones re-workings with more attention to songwriting.

Gotta love a song like "Fashion Monkey". Its theme is all too obvious but it snarls like "Too Tough To Die" Ramones to make its point. "Warthog" style. "Words" could have been a Joey song and has just the right touch of sentimentality. Kudos also for the hidden track, "King of the Surf" (on which Joe Queer lends vocals) which rivals the Radio Birdman-backed Johnny Kannis single from 1977 for a salt-flecked good time. "Going West" marries an amphetamine-speed country shuffle to blitzkrieg boppin' guitars and a bouncy vocal, while "Mystery Queen" is simply irresistible in its guitar assault.

If it wasn't enough that Toshi does so much for the balance of trade between Australia and his former homeland by bringing out the best Japanese bands as a promoter that you'd almost forgive the bastards for whaling, but the entire Mach Pelican goes the extra yard in the cross-cultural stakes by dusting off a genuine Antipodean hit in Ray Columbus and The Invaders' "She's a Mod" and giving it a new lease of life. Who cares that Ray was a Kiwi that we claimed as an Aussie (just like Russell Crowe). This is an inspired cover whatever way you cut it, and a song that's been too long neglected.

Mach Pelican comes out on top by building on their influences, not stealing from them. The result is one of the best rock-pop long players to come out of Australia this year. – The Barman


2/3


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