MAZINGA - Mazinga (Reanimator Records)
Chris "Box" Taylor , bass player from Scott Morgan's Powertrane, thrust a copy of this CD by his other band in my hand on a visit to Ann Arbor recently. It took a while to hit the CD player properly, post-trip, but it was worth the wait.

Mazinga have been slogging it out on the Michigan rock and roll merry-go-round since the mid-'90s, delivering what they term Maximum Cosmic Punk. Scrape away the anime artwork and the sci-fi references inherent in that branding and you'll find a band with a heartful of punk soul and an armoury packed with guitar. Plus, a goodly sense of humour.

Mazinga - the name comes from the robot hero of a Jap sci-fi movie - might wear the punk tag but their music is broader in scope, encompassing surf, garage and psych. "Gravity" is a case-in-point, propelled by Don Blum's driving polyrhythms and some solid intertwined surf and fuzz guitarwork from Box Taylor and Denzil Gray. (Box cedes the bass job to Tony O'Farrell in this band). Marc McFinn handles vocals and manages to keep pace with the varied nature of some of the material. Variety's a by-word - there's even a smell of hay to the country-punk shuffle of the closer, "No Reward".

Some other great tunes here, too. "Had Enough" is a breakneck break-up song full of nervous punk-ish energy, thanks in no small part to Blum's terrific drumming and McFinn's vocals. I'm guessing "Namorita" is probably an ode to a comic book heroine (artwork impressario Big Tony is a fan of the genre) and is as is catchy as hell. "One Rude Easter Bunny" manages to marry high-speed Dictators-style sounds with hilarious lyrics in an ode to a girlfriend behind bars.

"Only 15" is another flat-out foot-stomper, this time about jailbait, clocking in at just over a minute and it's bizarre what some songs do to you. (This one has just the slightest echo of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby" in one of the lines - which says more about annoyances lodged in my damaged memory banks than "Only 15". Thank god she's not a year older or - shudder - Dr Hook might have sprung to mind). "Satana" is another song worth sitting up and taking notice of. (None of the tunes herein are replicated on the split E.P. with Swedes Sex Sex Sex, which you'll find reviewed in the Singles Bar, in case you were wondering).

You have to give credit to a band that covers "Mongoloid" (surely Devo's best tune, pre-commercial success, and the spiffiest cover of that band since the Celibate Rifles put the knife through "Girl U Want" at a Sydney show a few years ago). I'm in the dark about some of the movie samples that bob in and out of the mix (I'm a "Godzilla vs Mothra" fan myself), but it's a solid-sounding production effort and the engine room and guitars up front.

Well worth chasing down if you feel like dropping the band a line and negotiating a price. - The Barman