...AGAIN- Mink Jaguar (Stop Records and Tapes)
A keen judge living in Mexico (that'd be Melbourne, as the band's from Sydney and we're in Australia) reckons these guys will be the next Swingin' Neckbreakers. While their dress sharp may not be as sharp as that of the New Yorkers, Mink Jaguar has the same swinging bottom end, loose tightness and affection for stripping rock and roll back to its organic base.
Having rifled through out their grandparents' Wanda Jackson and Johnny Burnette 78s on their debut album, the Minks are now into Mum and Dad's British Invasion 45s. An over-simplification but you get the drift. Economical, taught rockers with catchy melodies are de rigeur. If you're smart, you'll go along for the ride.
Now that they've ditched the semi-obscure cover songs (great as they were) that littered their debut, it's all-original all the way and the Minks prove to be as adept at crafting a punchy song as they are at cleverly spruiking their own shows. The churning garage-pop "Love To Love You" is a worthy opener but there's plenty more to come (and we can now probably safely say their best songs are no longer other people's.)
The withering but optimistic "You Got The Answers" is a cool little rocker, while "Some Other Girls" recalls The Remains and Paul Revere and the Raiders in its poise. "Millionaire" tackles class envy in a hand-me-down Kinks suit.
He doesn't have the same stage presence (few did) but guitarist Bill Quan sounds a lot like Jeremy Oxley in places and whips out some fantastic stunted lead breaks ("No Love Remains" and "No Love Remains" being prime examples.) His yowl on the explosive "Mother Phoenix" will wake your neighbour's cat.
Being a trio, there's a lot of focus on the engine room and the Ellis brothers (Joel on drums, Ariel on bass) once again rise to the occasion. For all I know they probably beat the shit out of each other as kids but - live and on record - they're as tight as a broke Scotsman's charity budget on the eve of pension day.
"Leave Us All Behind" is probably the poppiest jewel here, a swelling lead-in to an insistent chorus that kinda falls flat at the bridge but eventually takes us (and itself) home, but it's the burred feel of "All The Time" that brings me back more often.
It wasn't until I got to the end of the CD that I realised "Sheena" was my new favourite drinking singalong.
Proof positive that Sydney can match it with most, if not all, other takers in the garage stakes. Now for the prog-techno-psycore album the Minks have in them. Just joshing. .– The Barman
MINK JAGUAR - Mink Jaguar (Off the Hip)
For all the lamenting of the supposedly sad state of rock and roll in this Digital Age (especially in Sydney) there are some great bands if you dig deep enough. No-one can accuse Australian label Off the Hip of not doing their part to expose some (most?) of it, and here's another sterling example.
Mink Jaguar are a three-piece with a stage presence so unimposing as to be damn near invisible. There's not a lot of flashiness or showmanship in what they do; they hide under caps half the time and don't go out of their way to court their audiences. But for stripped-back, no-bullshit rockabilly-and-roll (emphasis on the roll) they're just about as good as anything Sydney has to offer.
It's hard to pigeonhole Mink Jaguar - and that's half their secret. They summon up all sorts of spirits from influences like Chuck Berry, the Sun label bands, the Cramps and any number of country rockers like Wanda Jackson. The other thing you need to know if they're all terrific players, with drummer Joel Ellis nailing the beat to a street corner where swing meets power (cock an ear to Hank Williams' "Window Shopping" or the strong-arm patterns on Buck Owens' "Rhythm or Booze" for proof). He's a powerhouse. His brother Ariel lays down the basslines that colour and fuel these tracks. Singer-guitarist Billy Quan provides the melodies and six-string strum and holds a tune in that classic journeyman style.
That these are simple tunes to hold and appreciate - it's no drawback on either score. Just under half the 15 are covers, but don't let that be a deterrent. Most are obscure enough for the Minks to assert ownership without the landlord noticing. And here's where the Cramps connection cuts in: the Minks are equally passionate about their '50s rockabilly and choose their covers well. From the visceral take on Mr Berry's chestnut "Let It Rock" to the killer chorus of "Hotter Than Mojave" (bet it would be a hit in Nashville, but I'm not sure Dement Iris sang it like this), these are songs played economically and with a rock sensibility that would melt their Mums and Dads' old vinyl collection (from where many were undoubtedly culled).
Originals like the poppy "Campsie City Line" and "Anywhere But Here" aren't as strong as the covers but don't let the team down either and that's hopefully a portent for the next album. Production is warm and live and another feather in the cap for Big Jesus Burger Studio in Sydney.
From the fake ring-wear on the cover slick to the outro of a record player arm lifting the stylus off the vinyl (nice touch) this is a great little disc. The only real criticism is the disc is too short at 31 minutes. Next time let's shoot for a double album boys, eh? This sort of timeless shit doesn't wear out its welcome easily.– The Barman
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