TRIEZE (12) CIGARETTES - Mastica (Nicotine)
When you put Italy and music in the same context, you're more likely to end up in the world of opera than rock'n'roll. In fact, apart from the Mod love of Vespa scooters, Italian influence on, or relevance to, contemporary rock music is largely invisible except those geographically or culturally close to the Italian rock'n'roll subculture.

Mastica (which, according to Alta Vista's Babel Fish web translation service, translates as 'Chews' ... though I'm not sure that's completely accurate) certainly challenge those assumptions. Their album "Treize Cigarettes (12 Cigarettes)" is a colourful festival of European garage rock, with some occasional forays into blues flavoured acid-psychedelia.

My own knowledge of the Italian language is bogan at best; if it doesn't appear on the menu at the local pizzeria, it's unknown to me. So, apart from I Need You, I have absolutely no idea what these guys are singing about (but you can reasonably assume that it covers girls, cars, girls in cars, beaches, and maybe girls in cars at the beach). But given it's Italian, there's probably some elegant swooning poetry in there that I can't comprehend.

Thankfully the musical vernacular of driving guitar and frenetic drumming transcends linguistic barriers. There's large doses of the Detroit/Birdman/Rifles buzzsaw guitar attack throughout the album (Europe continues to be an enthusiastic - if frequently invisible – consumer of garage flavoured pub rock). In keeping with Italian musical tradition, the vocals are very polished, and rather than the tone deaf style usually associated with hard rock'n'roll'. There's bits of Led Zeppelin high-art rock guitar in latter stages of the album, while on slower tunes there's an almost Freddie Mercury influence.

This could be an Italian Celibate Rifles – if the Rifles came from Rome, and had a sense of Italian sartorial style (not the jeans and t-shirt uniform of northern beach surfies). It's fast and fun, and definetly an exotic variation on the well worn theme of guitar rock'n'roll. - Patrick Emery